Weekend Briefing No. 159
Welcome to the weekend! Hi from the Skeleton Coast of Namibia. It’s wild out here.
$40 billion – Value of China's new investment commitment to Nigeria, according to an announcement from the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister, Wang Yi. China has already invested or financed $45 billion worth of projects in Nigeria.
8.3x – The data tariff increase announced by Zimbabwe's telco authority will increase tariffs on data 8.3 times. The move has caused a stir on social media with Zimbabweans linking the new tariffs to an alleged government clampdown on free speech.
50% – The reduction in the East African Community's customs transaction time in 2016 as a result of new electronic and automated customs systems.
African Tech startups raised upwards of US$129 million in funding in 2016 and this is expected to grow in the coming years. South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are the top three destinations for tech investors in 2016. Two interesting startups to keep an eye on are: 1) Flare. This application aggregates available ambulances onto a single system, and allows patients or hospitals to request emergency help via smartphone. 2) Tutorama. The online tutoring platform connects parents with top quality local tutors in their area. Parents can schedule and pay for sessions as well as monitor the progress of their child online. Learn more at Asoko (3 minutes).
Turkey & Somalia
Since 2005, Turkey has significantly increased its presence in Africa, going from 12 embassies in 2005 to 34 today. Its aggressive expansion demonstrates a desire to fight for influence on the continent that is poised to be the fastest growing over the next few decades, adding 1.3 billion people by 2050. The general narrative is that China is the most important partner to Africa, but if Somalia is any indication, Turkey might be a real contender. Somali governments prefer working with Turkey rather than UN or aid agencies. The mayor of Mogadishu notes “If I request computers from the UN, they will take months and require a number of assessments. They will spend $50,000 to give me $7,000 of equipment. If I request computers from Turkey, they will show up next week.” I wrote this piece on a 2013 visit to Mogadishu, but it’s an interesting read. Learn more in Quartz (7 minutes).
Turkey & Tanzania
Turkey continues to extend its influence in Tanzanian as well. In January, Tanzanian president John Magufuli has asked visiting Turkey leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to support the country with a loan through Exim Bank of Turkey thus finalizing the construction of a section of the Standard Gauge Railway project. A Turkish company is on the short list of contractors to build the multi-million dollar project that covers over 1,200 kilometres from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza. This project plans on opening up easier access to global trade. Learn more at Construction Review Online (3 minutes).
AI & Christianity
While concerns with AI mostly center on economics, government, and ethics, there’s also a spiritual dimension to what we’re making. Creating sentient beings raises interesting spiritual questions like: Does a sentient robot have a soul? We’ve understood it to be some non-physical essence of an individual that’s not dependent upon or tied to their body. Would AI have a soul by that definition? What about sin? Christians have traditionally taught that sin prevents divine relationship by somehow creating a barrier between fallible humans and a holy God. Say in the robot future, instead of eradicating humans, the machines decide—or have it hardwired somewhere deep inside them—that never committing evil acts is the ultimate good. Would artificially intelligent beings be better Christians than humans are? And how would this impact the Christian view of human depravity? Can AI be saved? The Bible teaches that Jesus’s death redeemed “all things” in creation—from ants to accountants—and made reconciliation with God possible. So, did Jesus die for artificial intelligence, too? Learn more at the Atlantic (12 minutes).
Sex doesn’t sell anymore, activism does. Companies are now attempting to outdo each other with major acts of generosity, but there’s a catch; they’ll do good as long as they can make sure their customers know about it. There is no room for humility when a brand does a good deed. It’s difficult to separate the fact that while these brands are showcasing pedigree social responsibility, ultimately they are helping refugees because it sells milky lattes and cheap holiday accommodation. The crux of successful marketing is activism. Thus, brands are mediating our activism. Brands are allowing people to pat themselves on the back without them personally having to sacrifice anything. Learn more at the Guardian (6 minutes).
Revenge of the Lunch Lady
When celebrity chef Jamie Oliver arrived in Huntington, West Virginia - the most unhealthy town in America - it seemed like the latest insult in a lifetime of ridicule and humiliation. His show Food Revolution placed Rohnda McCoy, the school lunch lady, as the villain of the story. After the film crews packed up, this unassuming bureaucrat outsmarted Jamie Oliver and pulled off an honest-to-god miracle in one of America's unhealthiest cities. She committed to piloting new healthy menus then, tracking the data to pitch to the school base, slowly winning their respect and support. One such program is buying produce from student farmers. One of McCoy’s first student farmers, Zachary Call, was so successful that after graduation he continued to farm full-time—no small feat on the industrial western edge of West Virginia. Schools need an ambitious leader at the helm, one who understands both nutrition and how to manage complex operations. Dig in at Highline (18 minutes).
The Infinite Scroll that Consumes Our Life
A key element of this Namibia trip is about getting off the grid – to put down the screens and experience adventure, nature, and yes even boredom. One couple conducted a similar experiment banning screens at their home for a month. They believed that, without the noise and distraction and all-consuming mental suck of media, they'd suddenly have endless time and energy to cook together, have good conversations and indulge their creativity. That happened, but it wasn’t some Utopia. The takeaway: be deliberate with your screen time. The idea is purposeful use of technology because otherwise the infinite scroll consumes our life. Learn more at Motherboard (5 minutes).
About the Weekend Briefing
Thanks for making the Weekend Briefing a part of your Saturday morning routine. I love putting it together every week and love hearing your thoughtful insights. Feel free to shoot me an email with any feedback or suggestions. If you like what you’re reading, I’d be honored if you share it with your friends. Have a restful and thoughtful weekend.