With the world barely coming to a sense of normalcy, it seems like we have taken a huge step back as two new variants have spread with no end in sight. Companies are still trying to innovate and create product offerings to stay afloat and remain in business.
Focusing on the effects of the pandemic in Africa, we look at the major industries that were impacted because of the pandemic. From technology to healthcare, organizations in Africa have had to restructure to keep the economy afloat. Employers and their workforce have been cornered to adapt a hybrid/remote work structure. Getting Africa’s citizens vaccinated is another hurdle the continent is still trying to overcome. There was a silver lining this year, however. African high growth startups and early stage companies received almost $800 million in pre-seed, seed and series A funding, which is more than double the amount from last year.
In our ninth Versus report series, we delve into a targeted wrap-up of what has happened in 2021, and a peek at what 2022 could potentially hold for these industries following their activities during the pandemic. Also, we will highlight the industries from all over Africa that received early stage equity investments.
We all thought that the COVID-19 pandemic would not last more than a year, but here we are – living in what we now call the “new normal.” While some industries on the continent have struggled to adapt or even lost market share, many have come to life and are steadily disrupting. Using our proprietary tools, Versus Ask and Versus Listen, we created these report series to shed light on what different industries experienced when the pandemic hit.
From e-commerce, to healthcare, to marketing, and the future of work, this report covers what different industries have been experiencing in the pandemic, and what the future holds for them.
Social issues are also covered: from bans on Social Media and cryptocurrency in Nigeria, to the conflict in Ethiopia.
Let’s take a look at what happened in 2021, and what 2022 and beyond looks like.
• Telecommunication (Media)
• People vs Government
• Marketing Initiatives: Stand Out Marketing Case Study & Major Rebranding in 2021
• Future of Work
• African Music - At A Glance
• Early Stage Investment Trends
• Looking ahead in 2022 & Beyond: Key Topics & Industries
Various online sources via Versus Listen™ & Versus Ask™ Surveys
According to the WHO, there have been over 270 million cases of the COVID-19 infections reported globally and over 5.3 million lives have been lost due to the pandemic.
It also led to a near-total halt on the global economy with many countries going into lockdown and states of emergency, bringing global travel to a halt.
As of November 2021, many countries have weathered several waves of COVID, and vaccination proceeds very slowly with a lot of mistrust and misinformation surrounding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
To date, COVID-19 detection in Africa has focused on people reporting to health facilities with symptoms, in addition to testing arriving and departing international travelers, leading to large-scale under-reporting given the high percentage of asymptomatic cases on the continent.
Since the start of the pandemic and as of October 10th, it has been reported that more than 70 million (a fraction of the continent’s 1.3 billion people) COVID-19 tests have been administered by African countries. By contrast, the United States, with about a third of Africa’s population, has reportedly administered over 550 million tests, while the United Kingdom, with less than 10% of the population of Africa, has administered over 280 million tests.
As of October 14th, 2021, a new assessment by the WHO shows that only 14.2% (or one in seven) of COVID-19 infections are being detected in Africa due to limited testing, meaning the true number is likely much higher.
The reason for the under-reporting and lack of testing is the same: limited healthcare resources. Most African countries lack basic health care infrastructures, such as hospitals or even clinics outside cities, making COVID-19 tests and diagnoses harder to come by.
Less than 1 in 10 healthcare workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated and more than 128,000 have been infected with the virus.
According to Africa CDC, as of November 28th, 2021, there has been a total of 8,638,595 cases, 222,827 deaths, 8,089,604 recoveries, 82,148,236 tests, and over 145,314,195 vaccinations administered across the continent.
February 2020 is widely regarded as the ‘turning point’ for the world as that period demarcates the pre-COVID era from the COVID era.
Reports of happenings in Wuhan and China at large had just begun to fill our screens and radios with people questioning and debating if this would become bigger than the reports we saw and heard at the time. As the year and the virus took their course, the majority of the population could not have imagined just how much of an effect the virus would have on different aspects of life.
It is only now, almost two years later, that we can look back and take stock of how the world as we knew it, changed in its entirety. One of the most widely discussed topics has been the impact of the pandemic on various sectors of the economy.
January 2021 saw the global conversation characteristically change from the spread and impact of COVID to the discussion around vaccines for COVID. It is important to note then that by the end of February 8th, for the first time since the pandemic began, the air and travel sector experienced its first positive increase in market capitalization at 5.04%. The local movement also resumed as offices, some schools, entertainment centers, and destinations started opening up. Incidentally, by this same time, the automotive and assembly sector was having the highest growth in market capitalization since 2019 at 63.20%.
By June 2021, the Delta variant of COVID was seeing a surge in cases and the internet was similarly seeing a surge in distrust for vaccines. Uptake of the vaccine in most countries was being marred by global and local politics as well as misinformation and fake news - especially in Africa.
Using Versus Listen, we tracked the sentiment distribution (mainly across Nigeria and Kenyan based online conversations) of what people were saying about the Delta variant on social media.
Sentiment on the Delta variant trended mostly neutral. Tweets were mostly comprised of people sharing information. Mostly people informing others that even though they have been vaccinated, they can still get COVID, especially if they don’t wear masks, wash/sanitize their hands, and maintain social distancing. Of course, in the midst of certain validated information, there were unvalidated ones.
By October, many countries had abandoned zero COVID strategies after prolonged outbreaks as a result of the Delta variant. COVID vaccination continues to be a controversial topic both on the ground with continued misinformation and globally as African countries accuse the West of vaccine apartheid and the WHO recommends booster shots. By contrast, in 2020, there was a sense of unity globally as countries came together to fight the pandemic. It is clear in 2021 that things are returning to normal, or at least a new normal.
By the end of November, there had been over 261 million COVID cases and 5.2 million COVID-related deaths in two years worldwide. The world is now focused on the Omicron variant of COVID and only 7 billion vaccine doses have been administered. However, all but four sectors are seeing positive growth in global market capitalization since 2019: Consumer Services (-49.85%), Commercial Aerospace (-4.34%), Real Estate (-3.88%), and Telcom (-0.99%). Another four sectors are seeing over 50% positive growth in market capitalization since 2019: Logistics & Trading (54.86%), High Tech (59.49%), Advanced Electronics (61.03%), and Automotive & Assembly (77.98%).
Before 2020, tourism was a huge source of revenue for African countries as well as a major contributor of foreign direct investment. When the pandemic hit, African countries were forced to close their borders as did the rest of the world, plunging the tourism industry as with many others into free-fall. However in 2021, with the presence of the vaccine and many countries re-establishing international and local travel, the industry slowly began to recover.
May 2019 was Africa’s lowest month for tourism arrivals for that year with approximately 4.7 million international tourist arrivals; comparatively, in May 2020 there were approximately a little over half a million arrivals. In May 2021, there were approximately 1.05 million arrivals, an improvement from the previous year but a far cry from the numbers preceding the pandemic.
Similarly, in July 2019, typically Africa’s highest month for tourism arrivals, there were about 7.3 million arrivals while in July 2020, only 949,000 arrivals. In July 2021, there were about 2.13 million arrivals, also showing a slow increase in arrivals as more people used their vaccination status to allow them to travel.
In Kenya for example, 2021 saw a 57% drop in tourism numbers between January and March compared to the same period in 2019 (pre-pandemic) while South Africa saw an 80% drop in tourism numbers between January and June compared to the same period in 2019. Tanzania saw a 51% drop in numbers for the January to September period compared to the same period in 2019.
One may wonder what the real economic impact of these numbers is on the economies of the continent. In fact, of the seven countries most reliant on tourism, in the lowest (Rwanda), tourism GDP accounts for as high as 2% of the total country’s GDP; while in the highest (Mauritius), tourism GDP accounts for as high as 10% of the total country’s GDP. While many countries used 2021 as a period to boost local tourism, many countries rely heavily on international tourism. In Cape Verde and Togo, for instance, international tourism accounts for 93% of all tourism making them extremely vulnerable to lockdowns on international travel.
The Olympics (in particular the Summer Olympics) have never been canceled or postponed in peacetime, until 2020. Previous interruptions to the Olympics have been during the First and Second World Wars; making last year’s postponement to this year unprecedented.
‘Unprecedented’ seems to have been the buzzword for the entire COVID-19 pandemic. Nobody expected it would spread as fast as it did, that it would be as fatal as it was, or that it would affect the world as much as it did. It makes sense then that Japan, the host country for the 2020 Olympics did not anticipate the impact COVID-19 would have. Or did it?
Countries (and cities) usually bid to host the Olympics as it will be a source of national pride, tourism and a chance to demonstrate their development to the rest of the world. The hope is always that the Olympics will bring a bigger voice and better seat in the global scene as well as prosperity. However, evidence shows that it is often the opposite. Without even highlighting the number of stadiums and olympic infrastructure that ends up abandoned, the cost of hosting almost always overshoots the original budget.
The 2020 Olympics were no exception, with an added complication: they were postponed. The postponement alone cost Japan a whopping $2.8 billion dollars bringing the total cost to $28 billion dollars. Even without the postponement, it was still set to be the most expensive Olympics event in its history. However, this time, the heavy investment instead suffered setbacks with a closed event with very few spectators due to a spike in COVID-19 infections and a projection that the event would be a super spreader event, eliminating all hopes of making returns.
Despite the decision to make it a closed event, the COVID impact was still felt. The government was wary of connecting the surge with the Olympics but at one point in August 2021, Tokyo was topping 4000 daily infections. This in turn would continue to put a strain on an economy already grappling with the global economic shutdown as a result of the pandemic.
This Olympics event, like many before it, will have put a dent in the taxpayer’s pocket. It is yet to be seen if the stadiums and infrastructure will come to benefit Tokyo but if history is anything to go by, that will go the same way as Rio and Athens, leaving behind monstrous structures which perhaps are real-world symbols of the loss: a $28 billion cost with only a $6.7 billion revenue. Tokyo then joins Rio, Athens, London and Beijing among other cities whose Olympics cost outweighed the revenue by billions. In any case, the economic loss will not be unprecedented but the impact on public health will.
Even with the over $3 billion spent by local advertisers such as Toyota and Panasonic, the returns such companies expected were unmet. Following the postponement, it was hard for gold tier sponsors to anticipate their expected returns from the second most valuable sports event brand behind the Super Bowl. Instead losses of 25-40% were projected.
Many countries’ performance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 2021 were immensely impacted by COVID-19 and its restrictions. African countries were no exception. Many athletes failed to qualify for the Olympics and many did not have the government support they normally do as many countries were neck-deep in dealing with COVID-19. On top of this, athletes were not allowed to train together as a measure to curb possible infection, a factor that Kenyan athletes reduced morale and competitiveness.
In terms of numbers, Africa came away with 37 Olympic medals compared with the last Rio Olympics which saw Africa scoop 45 medals. The bulk of these medals came from Kenya which scooped a total of 10 medals compared to 13 medals in the Rio Olympics. Even Ethiopia and South Africa, which historically ranked in the Olympic medals, only won 4 and 3 medals respectively.
It isn’t just COVID-19 that affected many countries’ performance. In Kenya for example, athletes typically compete at the Olympics for global recognition and to add a notch to their athletic career. In many ways, financially they’re on their own and when they win, there isn’t any significant compensation or reward. So athletes prefer to compete in other marathons and heats with actual reward money. Many African countries’ Olympic committees have been marred by corruption further reducing the allure of Olympic participation. COVID-19 may have taken the fall for this year’s Olympic performance but it is this corruption and lack of recognition and reward that will affect African Olympic performance moving forward.
Africa continues to carry the highest burden of malaria globally. As of 2019, 94% of the global malaria cases and deaths came from Africa. Overall, developing countries continue to battle malaria as opposed to developed countries. As of 2019, several countries including but not limited to Nigeria, DRC and Uganda continue to deal with malaria and its impact.
It is estimated that out of the approximately 220 million cases of malaria each year, there are about 400,000 deaths.
Looking closer on the continent, of the countries that were malaria-endemic in 2019, five countries account for approximately 51% of the global cases of malaria: Nigeria (27%), DRC (12%), Uganda (5%), Mozambique (4%) and Niger (3%). Five countries account for approximately 51% of global deaths caused by malaria: Nigeria (23%), DRC (11%), the United Republic of Tanzania (5%), and Burkina Faso (4%).
Kenya accounts for 1% of all the cases of malaria globally and 3% of all the global deaths caused by malaria.
On a positive note, Morocco and Algeria stand out as exceptions having been certified “malaria-free” after 2010 and 2019, respectively. Also, Egypt has since not had any indigenous cases of malaria as of 2010.
These are closely followed by South Africa with 1.65 per 1000 people and Botswana with 0.59 per 1000 people at risk of contracting malaria as of 2018.
Using Versus Listen, we tracked the sentiment distribution of what some Africans were saying about the malaria vaccine on social media.
The topic of the malaria vaccine trended mainly positive because respondents are excited and believe that it will benefit African children, meaning less deaths.
These statistics emphasize how important the news of a malaria vaccine being approved is for the continent and other countries in the developing world.
“In clinical trials, the vaccine prevented about 40 percent of cases of malaria, and 30 percent of the most severe cases. That’s much, much lower than the success rate of vaccines for most other early childhood diseases. The measles vaccine, by comparison, is 97 percent effective, and the chickenpox vaccine prevents 85 percent of cases and nearly 100 percent of severe cases.”
“But with malaria killing hundreds of thousands of people every year, even a partially effective vaccine can be a lifesaver for many, many people. Recent research modelling the effects of a widespread Mosquirix rollout estimates that “5.3 million cases and 24,000 deaths could be averted” if we’re able to get the vaccine to the 30 million people at the greatest risk annually.”
Africa enjoys a fertile environment for tech entrepreneurs given the continent’s young and growing population, the rising internet penetration rate, as well as the application of emerging technologies that have the potential to improve access to healthcare, financial services, education, and various other sectors. This can help explain why financial backing was nearly six times faster than the global average for African tech startups between 2015 and 2020. In 2021, Africa has already surpassed previous years and has estimated over $5 billion in total funding.
Africa leads the way when it comes to mobile money, accounting for half of all mobile money services globally and over 60% of the transaction value. When the COVID pandemic took hold in early 2020 it was clear that mobile money would have a big role in providing safe, no-contact ways to transact for goods and services not only in Africa but globally. Examples of this include in Kenya where the government implemented a fee waiver on all transactions carried out via M-Pesa (East Africa’s leading mobile money product).
The African Unicorn companies emerged this year have mostly been Fintechs. Andela is the only non-fintech company out of Africa that is now officially of “unicorn” status.
Andela is currently valued at $1.5 billion following a $200 million Series E round led by SoftBank. Up from seven African countries and thirty-seven at the beginning of the global expansion, Andela now has engineers in more than 80 countries today following a shift to a remote workforce.
Nigeria’s MainOne has been acquired by global digital infrastructure company Equinix for $320M in a deal which is expected to close in Q1 2022. The West African data center and connectivity solutions provider with a presence in Nigeria, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast marks Equinix’s first step into Africa as part of their long-term strategy for the continent.
Over the course of the year, citizens have clashed with their governments across the continent. These incidents have been responses to cases of government repression across Africa. There has been systematic stifling of free speech as well as organised attacks on certain ethnic groups. There was also a clampdown on cryptocurrencies due to the perceived threat it poses to the economies of countries. These are some of those incidents:
(Please see our insight report on user perspectives on Nigeria’s Twitter ban)
In the wake of the indefinite Twitter ban in Nigeria in June 2021, Twitter users have circumvented this issue by using Virtual Private Network (VPN) services while awaiting the outcome of discussions by the Nigerian Government officials and the social network.
Breaking News/Update as of Jan 12th 2022:
The Nigerian Government is to lift the ban on Twitter for users in Nigeria from midnight of January 13th 2022, after agreeing to develop a code of conduct in line with global best practices.
In our outlook report published earlier this year, the trends in cryptocurrency, especially in Nigeria, had the country poised to become a major force in this global alternative investment phenomenon. It was becoming rapidly popular and widely adopted in the country as a true source of financial freedom.
In February 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) instructed commercial banks and other financial institutions to close accounts involved in trading cryptocurrencies. The CBN did not clearly state the reasons for the clampdown at the time but sent a memo across to financial institutions and didn’t give an avenue for the decision to be contested. With a global market value of over $1 trillion, cryptocurrencies have presented many Nigerians with an alternative to the Naira which has witnessed constant depreciation over the years. Rather than stamp out cryptocurrencies, Nigeria continued to witness an increase in crypto volumes with peer-to-peer trading becoming more popular amongst traders. According to blockchain research firm Chainanalysis, in May 2021, Nigeria received $2.4 billion worth of crypto compared to $684 million in December 2020. Nigeria also ranked 8th in the world on cryptocurrency adoption.
On October 25th 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria announced the launch of a new digital currency, the eNaira. This move was made to lure the public away from general “unsafe” cryptocurrency adoption and boost the GDP over the next few years. The announcement was also preceded by another instruction to banks in Nigeria to close down the accounts of crypto traders and place their funds in suspense accounts. A week after this announcement was made, Nigeria witnessed a 43% drop in P2P trading volumes as banks clamped down on traders.
On October 20th, 2021, brave young Nigerians marched out to commemorate the first anniversary of the Lekki toll gate shooting which signalled the end of last year’s #ENDSARS protests. There was a heavy police presence at the toll gate and peaceful protesters were harassed and denied their constitutional rights to protest. Journalists attempting to cover the protests were also harassed and prevented from properly covering the procession as seen by the harassment of the Arise news reporters and cameraman. One year after the protests, the Lagos State judicial panel released its report on the events of October 20th, 2020. The report by the panel concluded that the Nigerian Army massacred its citizens who were holding up the Nigerian flag and engaged in an elaborate cover-up of the events that unfolded that dark night. The outcome of the report was debunked by the Minister for Information and Culture Mr Lai Mohammed who stated that the report was a sham. Also since the contents of the report were made public knowledge, members of the panel have been persecuted by agents of the Federal government despite the government’s calls for public restraint.
On November 3rd, 2020, the Ethiopian government announced that it was going on the offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF was a political group of rebels turned rulers who had dominated Ethiopia for nearly three decades. The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to bring peace to his country had set about draining the TPLF of its power and influence. The TPLF forces launched an attack on a military base and attempted to steal weapons. This resulted in Mr Abiy ordering a military offensive against the region. The Ethiopian army which was dominated by Tigrayan officers was divided and in-fighting developed. To bolster the army, the PM deployed militia fighters from Amhara, south of Tigray -- these forces were accused of attacks on civilians. In November, the Ethiopian government announced a state of emergency as rebels advanced on Addis Ababa. The government asked citizens of the capital to take up arms and prepare to defend themselves and the capital. The TPLF has merged with another rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Army, and there have been reports that several Ethiopian army units had collapsed or retreated.
It’s no secret that Africa holds massive potential in natural resources such as land, oil, gas, wildlife, etc. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a body charged with leading strategic responses to environmental issues within the United Nations has also maintained that economic growth and wealth creation in Africa will depend largely on just how well her resources can be managed and utilized.
Much of the environmental damage experienced in Africa is caused by humans due to their everyday needs and activities. This is evident for example in Nigeria where as of August 2021, 17 facilities were closed by the NSREA for violating regulations put in place to protect the environment.
Several African countries are working with various international bodies to improve the countries’ response against environmental damage. Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, and Liberia are working with the United States Agency for International Development, which has partnered with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Mano River Union, and the Abidjan Convention to improve the management of forests and protect the species. Nations like South Africa have also partnered with USAID to make climate-friendly development a reality through methods such as training and the establishment of Renewable Energy-Independent Power Producers.
In Uganda, the Ministry of Water and Environment is working with the World Bank on several projects as well.
The increase in priority around sustainable development also begs deeper research into the impact of COVID on the environment and any opportunities that lie within sustainability in the environment:
Has COVID done more good than harm in Africa? It was reported recently that for the first time in 21 years, poaching of rhinos in Kenya did not happen in 2020. This could be attributed to the collaboration between the anti-poaching and intelligence-led operations, and linked to the travel restrictions and bans that were initiated in many countries. While this could be said to be a positive link, other happenings linked to COVID include the loss of jobs, increase in poverty, and pressure of debt. With regards to impact as well, some findings suggest that COVID-19 transmission is higher in polluted environments.
The office of the UNEP has suggested that the best way to battle environmental damage and COVID-19 linked recession is to invest in the sustainable use of natural resources to make clean and nature-based solutions - African Union Green Recovery Action Plan.
Thoughts and actions have been put forward towards creating a better environment and sustaining it through climate-friendly practices and one of them is The Circular Economy Model. Although the history and practice of this model are not new, the pandemic provides an opportunity for countries in Africa to bounce back economically using initiatives and opportunities stemming from the circular economy.
Packaging, especially plastic (the most popular type) causes visual pollution and has proven dangerous to aquatic life. The opportunities within this sector include better plastic collection systems and recycling. Popular brands and some of the biggest plastic producing companies in the world such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, Diageo, and Unilever recognized this and came together to launch the Africa Plastics Recycling Alliance in 2019. Regarding the built environment, the use of environment-friendly construction materials like recycled plastic bricks and timber is an opportunity. More on the various environmental opportunities can be found here.
We took a quick poll of 100 Kenyans, and asked them about their thoughts on the environment:
Over the course of the year 2021, local African brands and global brands in Africa went the full jugular on spending and used significant funds to improve their brand positioning and to create awareness for their brands. How did this translate? Does extra marketing money spent equal more users and adoption for African consumers?
Marketing spend was colossal on Big Brother Naija (BBN) Season 6 which premiered on the 24th and 25th July. BBN currently holds the title of the most viewed show on the African continent and its first edition was first aired in 2006. Since its inception in 2006, BBN has consistently proven to be a great source of entertainment for millions of viewers across Africa and the world with a 44% increase in votes from the 2021 edition polling over 1.3 billion votes, the highest amount of votes ever since the show launched in 2006, and the 2020 edition, polling over 900 million.
Given the continued success of Big Brother Naija, it has become “Africa’s Superbowl” in terms of sponsorship, marketing advertisements and branding that comes with the renowned pleasure and allure of watching the popular show’s activities, drama, culture, emotions and sizable cash prizes. With exponential growth in viewership and voting, the sheer appeal for brands is crystal clear. The winner of BBN Season 6 won a total of ₦90 million (about $220,000) grand prize including a ₦30 million (appx $73,000) cash prize and much more.
BBN has continued to grow in popularity and brands are increasingly eager to vye for airtime. Brands essentially compete to become sponsors for the show because of the massive visibility it provides and a perceived impact on customer acquisition and retention through brand adoption.
In May 2021, BBN’s owners, Multichoice, announced Nigerian based high growth early stage companies, Abeg and Patricia as the Headline Sponsors for the 6th edition of BBN starting in September 2021. Abeg is a peer-to-peer social payment platform launched in September 2020, that allows users to send, request and receive the money quicker and also doubles as a payment solution for users to seamlessly pay for goods and services at the point of purchase online. Patricia is a cryptocurrency trading company that facilitates the easy use of cryptocurrencies for everyday transactions. Abeg secured the golden headline spot which cost about ₦2 billion (appx $4.5million) while Patricia invested about ₦1 billion (appx $2 million) in the show.
In total, BBN 2021 housemates won over ₦64 million (appx $128,000) in cash prizes from the numerous challenges they had to overcome to entertain the viewers. The tasks also gave brand sponsors ample primetime advertisement. Viewers were also eligible for some winnings, with over 30 viewers winning ₦1 million (appx $2,000) each for making accurate predictions about the overall winner of the show. Other brand sponsors that opted to tap into BBN’s popularity included Innoson Motors, Darling, Guinness, Pepsi, Tecno, Munch It, Bet9ja, Airtel, Dano, Close Up and many others.
We polled 300 Versus Scouts in Nigeria using Versus Ask to see the impact of these advertisements on their viewers. Here are our findings:
According to an article in The Entrepreneur, brands and businesses often need to rebrand as a result of various reasons, including international growth, new management, a bad reputation or an outdated image. It is incredibly important for a brand or business to choose a brand name that’s adaptable and appealing to cultures worldwide if the brand or business plans to scale up and grow internationally. Other reasons why a brand or business may choose to rebrand include brand repositioning, acquisitions, mergers, de-mergers, changing markets, corporate identity management, similarities in identity or branding with another brand and development of brands.
An article in The Economist suggests that brands and businesses rebrand themselves simply to give consumers a fresh impression. The marketplace has an ever-changing nature and knowing if and when your brand or business needs a rebrand is the most important step in the rebranding process. On certain occasions, the signs of a need to rebrand are obvious especially with scale-up efforts and international growth while other times it’s more subtle with an instinctive gut feeling that a rebrand is necessary or is long overdue.
During the year, we witnessed several popular, top brands (both global with African presence and local African brands) and businesses embark on various types of rebranding efforts for various reasons and needs.
Since the pandemic started in 2020 and the world came to a complete halt, the workplace has had to adjust. Millions of people all over the world lost their jobs, and others had to quickly adjust to working from home as offices closed. Many other workers were deemed essential and continued to work in places like hospitals, grocery stores, petrol stations, and restaurants; but these workers had to work under new protocols to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Employers and employees in the corporate world used different video conference apps like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams for their meetings.
By the end of 2020, major African countries like Nigeria, saw unemployment increase to 33.3%, which had a ripple effect on many industries, leading to 33.3% of Nigerians losing their jobs and others being furloughed. Those who still had their jobs worked from home, allowing them to create their work hours, run errands, and save money on transportation and fuel. However, working from home has its inconveniences, as many African countries and its citizens still experience unstable electricity and Internet connectivity, distractions due to limited space, financial and societal problems.
As 2021 progressed, there was a semblance of normalcy that returned when people started going back to the office. A lot of employers have adopted a hybrid approach for their employees, where they work some days from home and some days at the office.
We polled 300 Versus Scouts in Nigeria using Versus Ask to ask their preferred mode of work:
But of course for the majority of African workers that are not in office jobs and part of the informal markets, without State government COVID restrictions or lockdowns, it remains business as usual. However, any lockdown measures introduced similar to the early days of the virus’ spread, will surely affect the livelihood of many Africans as this informal sector still accounts for 85.8% of the population on the continent.
E-commerce was the driving force towards managing and sustaining the various restrictions that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. It made a lot of the commercial activities still possible, as people quickly moved from in-person shopping for both essentials and other items, to shopping online using various channels. Unsurprisingly, the surge has been constant from 2019 through to 2021. The retail e-commerce sector can be seen as one of the biggest winners when it comes to online shopping as a whole.
Looking at the worldwide retail sales stats for the past six years, the sector has grown by over 33%, and is projected to increase by another 15% over the next three years, which gives it an almost 50% increase in 10years.
According to available data, there was an over 9% increase in retail e-commerce sales from 2019 to 2020, which is almost 3 times higher than the increase from 2018 to 2019. This number is also projected to increase at a continuous year-on-year rate of about 4% going forward from 2021 to 2024.
We can all agree that online shopping is one of the most popular online activities worldwide, which has brought a rise to social media platforms integrating the store feature, just to reduce the bounce rate from people going to other platforms to complete a purchase order that has been initially initiated on their platform (e.g Instagram Shop).
Africa in particular has seen its fair share of the e-commerce retail market, which is particularly driven by its fast-growing youth population, continuously expanding consumer power, thanks to the “gig economy” and foreign exchange earning opportunities. Despite the low penetration of credit cards and digital payments in Nigeria, the growth of e-commerce has been constant and continuous and still expected to grow, especially in the wake of the “new normal”.
In the last six years, Amazon has experienced steady growth that can be traced from their continuous stock price increase.
From 2019 to 2020, which marked the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a whopping 76% stock price increase, which speaks to the rather positive effect of the pandemic on the e-commerce sector, compared to the 7% increase that was experienced from 2018 to 2019, before the pandemic.
Jumia, one of Africa’s leading e-commerce platforms went public in April 2019, and by December 2020, their stock price had risen in december 2020, at the wake of the global pandemic. But unlike their U.S counterparts, Amazon, the stock price for Jumia has been quite volatile and still yet to stabilize on the stock exchange market. They are yet to be a profitable business and reportedly spent over $26.8 million in the first half of 2021 with $24 million alone spent in Q3 of 2021.
(Please also check out our Music Industry Insights Report)
2021 was a great year for music in Africa. Burna Boy and Wizkid won Grammys for Global Music Album and Best Music Video, respectively. Hit song “Essence” by Nigerian artists Wizkid and Tems entered the top 10 Billboard chart, making them the first African musicians ever to have a song on the Billboard top 10. The highly acclaimed U.S. Music Magazine, Rolling Stones also named the hit song “Essence” as the top song overall (in all categories) in 2021
South African music genre Amapiano has made it into mainstream music. In Spotify’s 2021 Wrapped -- their annual marketing campaign that allows users to view and share on their socials, a compilation of data about their activity on the platform over the past year -- DJ Maphorisa was the only local musician in the Top 10 Most Streamed Artists list for South Africa. He was listed among Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Drake and Taylor Swift.
These early stage investment trends continue to showcase the best budding opportunities to source for in Africa as well as indicate where consumer spending will most likely happen.
Africa received large foreign investments in various sectors in 2021 despite the pandemic -- with the top five being FinTech, E-Commerce, Big Data/Artificial Intelligence, AgTech, and InsurTech.
By October 31, 2021, based on our sample data on Pre-Seed, Seed and Series A equity funding, there was almost $800 million announced of privately owned early-stage companies across Africa alone. The African countries with the top investments in 2020 included the familiar names in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, and Senegal. As previously stated and according to Bloomberg, African startup funding (including equity and non-equity) is already closing in at $5 billion in 2021.
In both 2020 and 2021, as far as early stage private company funding, the Fintech industry was the most funded in Africa, followed by E-Commerce and Big Data/Artificial Intelligence.
In 2020, from the Pre-seed to Series A sample we used, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and Mauritius got the most equity-based funding (above $30 million) across Africa. However, as at October 31st in our sample, Uganda and Senegal (not shown on chart above) joined the list with Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, and Kenya, with $40 million and $203 million, respectively.
In 2021, Africa’s GDP was expected to increase by 3.4% after suffering from its worst recession in 50 years in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Leading indicators pointed to a recovery of economic activity, with the prices and demand for commodities such as energy and metals recovering from the mid-2020 decline.
The COVID-19 era is still upon us with several variants from Delta to Omicron, surfacing. Due to the variant outbreaks in many countries, it seems that these countries may move away from aiming for herd immunity to treating COVID as an endemic disease similar to influenza and others.
In Africa, the sensitization of COVID safety protocols and vaccines - their importance and eventual availability and where to get them - will remain an uphill battle going into 2022. Judging from responses we got from our randomized poll asking some Africans – their COVID status, thoughts on the vaccine, side-effects for those who took it, reasons why if they didn’t take the vaccine – it is very clear that most Africans are still skeptical about the effectiveness of the vaccine and its content.
Using Versus Ask we asked 300 Scouts in Nigeria several COVID related questions. Here are some of the questions and responses
We also polled 100 Kenyans, and these were our findings:
The telecommunications industry in Africa continues to show tremendous growth and prospects going into 2022. But at what costs to the end consumers?
First off, according to the Africa Report, internet data is still considered expensive across most of Africa. According to the UN, internet access is considered affordable when the cost of a gig is less than 2% of gross monthly income. However, on the African continent, data prices are 5.7% of gross monthly income compared to 2.7% in South America and 1.6% in Asia-Pacific. Based on this, that leaves only 14 of the 48 African countries having affordable internet access
Largely, a lot of telecommunication providers are a source of internet data for Africans. MTN, for one, is very popular amongst many Africans (especially Nigerians) as their preferred internet provider. MTN is only getting bigger and more influential in their largest customer segment in Nigeria, as well as expanding to other African countries. Recently, MTN Nigeria announced their public sale of 575 million shares, offering 1 free share for every 20 shares purchased. Not only did this prove to be a great way to involve everyday Nigerians in investing in their entity and improving retail activity for the Nigerian equity market, but it should increase customer loyalty in patronizing MTN voice and data services going into 2022.
Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) approved in principle, Payment Service Bank (PSB) licenses for both top Telco giants MTN and Airtel. As part of a continued agenda by the CBN to improve financial inclusion within the country, they have approved these PSB licenses to now initiate mobile banking as another option in the market.
Going into 2022, this will be a major topic to track as it will rival East Africa’s mobile money giants M-Pesa, who also just announced their 50 million active user mark earlier this year.
Africa has had a record year in 2021 looking at the startup investment inflow, mainly led by technology. From our early stage trends, it should continue to increase significantly. If we use total funding amounts (both non-equity, equity, acquisitions etc) ending 2020 and what is projected to end for 2021, it’s already well over a 600% increase.
That is why investors like TLcom Capital’s Maurizio Caio believes more African tech companies are ripe to produce IPOs and high-value exits within the next 1-2 years. Already, the massive and attractive opportunities are coming to light in education, health, and of course, fintech segments. Many are already betting heavily on sectors such as retail, logistics, talent, and automotive which are very big markets that already have demand, and still largely underserved on both B2B and B2C levels.
Google also announced it will be investing $1 billion in Africa over the next five years in startups that are supporting the continent's digital transformation and to help ensure faster, and cheaper internet access. This was announced when their $50 million Africa Investment Fund was launched which will not only invest in startups, but provide them with access to Google’s employees, networks, and technologies.
2022 will likely surpass the funding totals in 2021 by another 600% or more.
With easy-to-implement and reliable payment infrastructure, this could help usher in a large wave of exciting and innovative new start-ups that will address the costly and timely task of building their payments portal. Future ventures can now focus more on their product and marketing. Not only would this lead to job creation in new fields, but Africa can emerge at the forefront of the tech revolution given the young population which it is primed to capitalize on.
With the rate of mobile phone adoption continuing to grow within Africa, challenger banks are in a great position to swoop in and capture part of the unbanked and under-banked populace. They can now make ground on traditional banking institutes that fail to move with the times and heavily invest in online banking.
Surely there will be more players in the markets, but as this is easily Africa’s most mature tech segment with sizable funding and major exits already done, more attractive acquisition opportunities will arise in 2022.
In our wrap-up report from last year, we found that the pandemic forced school institutions and parents to depend on alternative ways for children to learn while the lockdown was in effect. At the time, 57.2% of Scouts surveyed were willing to hire a tutor while 40.6% of the Versus Scouts surveyed adopted homeschooling without any issues.
E-learning has been gaining major ground. South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Kenya have emerged as countries where e-learning is gaining the most prominence in Africa. The e-learning market in Africa reached a valuation of $2.20 billion last year and this number is expected to increase within the next 5 years. Edukoya’s massive funding announcement to end the year on December 15th 2021, already showcases the inevitable EdTech surge.
The exponential growth of the industry will naturally spur the creation and adoption of Educational Technology creations from businesses to facilitate easy learning for individuals. Online certification courses hosted on these platforms are becoming and will continue to become more practical to ensure learners truly understand what’s being taught and deserve their certificates.
A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) report predicted that sub-Saharan Africa will need about 17 million additional teachers to achieve universal primary and secondary school education by 2030 because of a severe shortage of teachers. With almost 60% of Africa’s population under the age of 25, it would be ripe to utilise EdTech to address the large market size; however, lack of infrastructure such as broadband internet greatly limits the extent to which EdTech can be used until internet access is improved.
As internet access grows in line with the impressive African techpreneurs that exist, more opportunities to address the need for more education professionals will surely emerge. In conjunction with this, ensuring everyday Africans are prepared for the changing tech/digital world, EdTechs that support this transition with helping individuals and organisations gain skills in this domain will be invaluable for Africa’s success in the coming years.
An eight-year-old McKinsey projection for Africa’s e-commerce market was for it to reach $75 billion by 2025, which was based on the continuous potential from internet penetration, despite the numerous obstacles that currently exist in the user journey of a prospective online shopper, both directly affecting the vendor and the buyer.
The interesting part of these above-listed problems is that it has turned the continent into a hub of innovative solutions. The continent has since seen an increase in payment gateways that are a walkaround and sometimes a complete solution to the existing payment issues, and there has been an increase in delivery options especially across major cities. Internet connectivity is a work-in-progress, and we are hoping for exponential growth in the next few years.
In all this, we should also seek to encourage the export side of things as a major player in our e-commerce sector. The fashion and lifestyle industry is already seeing a boost in international patronage from across the globe, and this can extend to other industries, to strengthen and boost our global trade.
Businesses may be moving towards a “delivery-of-everything” world. Currently in the US, there are already people who have their cars delivered, or clothes for a party. With the COVID-era seeming here to stay, contactless deliveries are also becoming the norm.
A large number of online businesses emerged out of Africa following the COVID outbreak. With Instagram and WhatsApp used as an additional online medium, many sole proprietors who offered different "cloud-based" services surfaced. So did the surge in a demand for reliable and affordable last-mile delivery for food and other goods.
Over the last eight months, the logistics sector in Africa has already raised funding worth $200 million. According to the Baobab Network, a social impact accelerator, the numbers this year are already on track to surpass last year’s total of $217 million.
Gozem from Togo and SEND technologies from Nigeria were two tech-enabled West African logistics firms that raised over $3 million, while Egypt’s on-demand warehousing and logistics platform, Flextock raised $3.25 million in a pre-seed funding round as the North African country saw increased activity in the sector.
As logistics (last mile delivery) improves, the underbanked and unbanked percentage of the population reduces, helping to allow these individuals to purchase goods online with greater ease. E-commerce will continue to grow (expected to grow to $37 billion by 2024 from $27 billion in 2021), which will also mean the payment gateways of these sites will also be the benefactors of this growth.
The Twitter ban in Nigeria caused a major stir and questioned the constitutional legitimacy of Nigeria’s democracy. Many deemed the government’s decision to ban Twitter as a violation of basic human rights and free speech.
Breaking News/Update as of Jan 12th 2022:
The Nigerian Government to lift the ban on Twitter for users in Nigeria from midnight of January 13th 2022, after agreeing to develop a code of conduct in line with global best practices.
Generally, following the ban, it only showed how much dependency many African businesses and individuals have on these social media platforms. In fact, the estimate of nearly $1.09 billion is how much is estimated to have been the total economic losses to Nigeria since the ban in June.
Then came the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram global outage on Oct 4th, 2021. It only then further amplified the topic of whether Africa itself deserves its own homegrown social media platform.
Using Versus Ask, we polled 200 Versus Scouts whether they would use an African social media alternative that was equally reliable and functional or remain on current popular non-African social media sites.
This will be an ongoing topic and we can expect more developments on new African social media alternatives that will emerge.
The cryptocurrency conversation in Africa will continue to remain popular with the masses, relevant to the global market and controversial with the regulators. Especially with the introduction of the CBDC, e-Naira in Nigeria and other African countries like Kenya, also considering adopting it.
We polled 300+ Versus Scouts in Nigeria using Versus Ask and asked them various questions about Cryptocurrency and their views on CBDCs. These were our findings:
We also tracked users’ sentiments and conversations online around the launch of e-Naira using Versus Listen. The sentiment was mainly negative. Conversations evolved around the perceived hypocrisy of the Nigerian government by choosing to ban cryptocurrency trade in Nigeria, but then creating their own digital currency and asking for investment. Even though our polls showed citizens would be open to trying e-Naira, they also felt that the e-Naira would end as quickly as it started, as they feel it does not solve the instability problem the Nigerian economy currentlyfaces.
For 2022, many experts estimate there won’t be a return to normalcy in the tourism industry until 2023 assuming vaccination continues to keep COVID numbers at bay. The optimism is further curbed by the increasingly dangerous variants of COVID being discovered in various countries, leading to on and off travel restrictions by countries.
Most recently, the Omicron variant saw several travel bans on African countries, throwing a resumption of Christmas 2021 season travel into disarray. Already, travel bookings amounting to $61.9bn were canceled in the wake of the travel bans as a result of the ban. If that is anything to go by, things look bleak for East Africa as Uganda confirmed nine cases of people with the Omicron variant a week into December 2021. As at December 14th 2021, the United Kingdom removed the 11 countries that were on their red list (which included a number of African countries).
If various variants of the COVID virus continue to be discovered, a continent already struggling with dismal numbers of vaccinations, will continue to stagger as tourism may take longer than 2023 to return to normalcy.
Even with the introduction of vaccines, between global distribution issues (especially in Africa), COVID still poses a huge risk to the global economy. Even as we’re seeing now, it will continue to be politicized which could even keep threathening diplomatic relations between countries affected.
Many countries’ corridors are restricted as a result of renewed fear of new variants of COVID. African countries need to build more capacity to survive and build their economies than be too reliant on help from the West or China.
Amazon is showing steady growth meanwhile Africa’s Amazon, Jumia, is fluctuating and now on a downward turn. It is evident judging from the superfluous sales and marketing spend, the convenience they offer might be marred by alternative options (which includes persistent preference to shop physically) available to the consumer market.
While the malaria vaccine is a great development for improving health for millions of Africans, availability of the COVID vaccines still holds priority.
Technology still remains Africa’s biggest success story and attracting major foreign investments to the major countries involved with Nigeria and Egypt leading the way.
Startup/technology investments in Africa will likely see an increase well over 600% in 2022.
African music is easily another clear cut success story showcasing an export that is generating major attention to the Afrobeats sound from the West and the emerging sounds of Amapiano from the South.
Africans seem ready for their own home-grown social media – a pure African social media platform that rivals Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
During the Facebook outage, most Africans we polled in Nigeria and Kenya didn’t feel they missed out on much.
From our polls and sample we covered, we identified that Kenyans are not as active investing in Cryptocurrency as Nigerians are.
Even though Nigerians are largely skeptical about the e-Naira implementation by the CBN, majority are open to using it.
When many Africans lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and certain industries that suffered, they took on more entrepreneurial challenges and set up online businesses.
The current global pandemic has forced organizations in Africa to gravitate towards remote working or a hybrid model. Collaboration and communication tools have now become mandatory in many organizations.
As many e-commerce brands have emerged, the logistics sector will inevitably see more players, innovations and hence investments.
Most Africans are still skeptical about the vaccine, its effectiveness and its content.
Mobile money is proving to be Africa’s best solution to solving for financial inclusion.
Cryptocurrency trading is still very attractive to Africans primarily because of the potential it provides for higher yields than other available investment options. There’ll still be continued growth and adoption despite attempts by regulators to restrict trading.