Hi Quartz Africa readers,
I’ve spent most of this week thinking about why artificial intelligence (AI) treats Africans and people of color unfairly. First, I searched Google Images for “ear” and almost all of the results were white skin tones. I repeated the search with “leg” and only white legs came up.
Technology has always been a very white, male-dominated space, and data representing white and male populations, rather than the broader user base, has become the default in building machine learning models. . People of color continue to be biased by the internet because global tech giants don’t have enough senior executives fighting to be included in corporate AI algorithmic training.
Even those in leadership positions in the industry can struggle to achieve results. For example, Timnit Gebru, an Ethiopian-American scientist, believes she was kicked out of her role as co-head of Google’s Ethical AI unit for exposing algorithmic bias.
In a moderate sign of progress in AI regulation, Google quietly banned fake deep algorithms from its Colab machine learning generator last month. I’ll be keeping an eye out for how Google plans to implement a new skin tone scale unveiled at its I/O event in May. It may not erase racism online, but it’s a small step in the right direction. —Faustine Ngila, East Africa correspondent
By the numbers
$49 billion: Remittances to sub-Saharan Africa in 2021 up 14% from pandemic-ravaged 2020
7.8%: Average cost of sending remittances to sub-Saharan Africa in the fourth quarter of 2021, the highest in the world
800 000 : Estimated size of Nigeria’s migrant population, primarily in the UK (220,000) and the US (375,000). Nigeria consistently records the highest remittance inflows on the continent.
6.7%: Cost of money transfers from USA to Kenya in 2021
80%: Share of Sub-Saharan Africa in the $12.7 billion in international remittances sent and received via mobile devices in 2020
Learn more about Nala, a Tanzania-based startup that is revolutionizing remittances in Africa, in the latest edition of the Quartz Africa Member Brief. To receive the Member Brief straight to your inbox, become a member for less than $1 a week.
Stories this week
American Express ventures into Africa. The strategic arm of the card payment network has made its first investment in an African tech startup. Unsurprisingly, it’s in a Nigerian fintech, reports Alexander Onukwue.
The future of technology in East Africa is female. Long known as a boys’ club, tech in East Africa is now seeing more and more women stepping into powerful roles. Faustine Ngila shines a light on women-led startups and incubators that are reshaping the industry.
Ethiopian fintechs face a dilemma. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is now opening the doors to foreign fintech investment in Ethiopia. Hawi Dadhi examines the obstacles local fintechs face when competition increases.
Africa defies global funding trends. Crunchbase data indicates that global venture capital funding is slowing, but Africa is seeing triple-digit growth – 150% to a record $1.8 billion. Martin Siele explains why this happens.
A tragic Sunday in Nigeria. According to Alexander Onukwue, the murder of dozens of people last weekend in a church was another reminder of Nigeria’s security problems.
Vaccines by Africans for Africans. Africa’s first large-scale vaccine manufacturing plant will be built in Senegal. The country recently secured $80 million in funding for the facility. Faustine Ngila studies how this could change the supply of vaccines in Africa.
Mapping the “soft middle” of venture capital financing in Africa
Defying a global slowdown in venture capital activity, African startups raised more money in each of the first five months of this year than in the same months in the past four years, thanks to mega -funding rounds of e-commerce platform Wasoko and others.
A new report suggests that despite the boom in funding for fast-growing startups, investors with an eye on Africa should not overlook African startups that have passed the seed stage but are not yet experiencing rapid growth . Alexander Onukwue takes a closer look at the numbers.
“I can’t raise the price of the Rolex, but I’ve reduced its size because my customers won’t buy my snacks, they say they don’t have the money.” —Zziwa Fred, a Ugandan fast-food vendor
Rolexes are getting smaller and smaller in Uganda as the East African country’s favorite street food feels the ‘shrinking’ effect of war in Ukraine, which has driven up the price of wheat and sunflower oil – key ingredients in the chapati and egg-based delicacy, Nakisanze Sekawa reports.
A big number
That’s the number of tech developers in Kenya, behind Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt.
Microsoft has opened one of two Africa Development Center (ADC) sites in Nairobi and is looking to hire at least 450 full-time staff. Google has announced that it is hiring more than 100 employees at the upcoming product development center in Nairobi, the company’s first such facility in Africa. Visa has just launched its Innovation Hub, one of six in the world. Amazon plans to launch an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Local Zone.
Martin Siele reports on how big tech is winning the battle for Kenyan talent.
African payment company MFS Africa announced that he would buy Global Technology Partners, a payment processing company founded in Oklahoma in 2003, to issue prepaid cards to its users. The deal is for $34 million in cash and stock. This is the latest in a series of transactions by MFS Africa following the acquisitions of Beyonic (Uganda) and Capricorn Digital (Nigeria) and the acquisition of a minority stake in Maviance (Cameroon).
GOMYCODEa Tunisian startup, raised $8 million from the Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund (CAIF) and Proparco. The company is a kind of school for young people to learn technological skills such as web development, digital marketing, data science and artificial intelligence. Prices range from $250 to $750 for its programs; it says it has 4,000 active students.
Indexa Nigerian fintech startup, raised $3 million in a round led by Global target with investments of Greycroftand RV companies. The company provides software to help lenders make decisions about providing credit to individuals. It was founded in 2018 by Yvonne Johnson, a former Nigerian banker.
What is the word to say that supply chains only pass through countries that are close political partners? Oh yes, friendshoring.
The word is newer in the supply chain lexicon, although the concept of friendship is not. While some political and business leaders believe friendhoring can make supply chains more resilient, the latest Weekend Brief will explain why it could actually make the seas rougher. Members receive the Weekend Brief in their inbox every Saturday. Register today.
Are we in a podcast bubble? Depends on who you ask! Podcasting’s low barrier to entry, as well as widespread interest in the format, means there’s a lot of attention on pod opportunities. But all that interest also makes it increasingly difficult to break through, let alone build a large following. Who wins and who loses when everything changes? 🎧 Learn more with this week’s episode of the Quartz Obsession podcast.
Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | embroiderer
Other things we liked
Aspirant thinks weeds and snakes will end Kenya’s problems. Professor George Wajackoyah, one of four presidential candidates in Kenya’s August general election, told voters he would make the country self-sufficient through large-scale cannabis cultivation and snake farming. Mwangi Muiruri and Onyango K’Onyango from the Nation report.
Explore Kehinde Wiley’s artistic residency in Dakar. For Vogue, Alice Kemp-Habib offers a virtual tour of the infinity pool, dusty roads and volcanic rocks that adorn Black Rock, the opulent edifice that houses the art residency run by the African-American artist.
Nigeria’s 2023 presidential race begins. Nigeria’s ruling party has elected Bola Tinubu as its presidential candidate to take on opposition Atiku Abubakar in next year’s elections. For African Arguments, Idayat Hassan gives the first glimpse of what will be an intriguing race.
$2 million to move school to WhatsApp. TechCabal’s Damilare Dosunmu explains why South African startup Foondamate thinks it’s time for online learning to move to more accessible platforms, WhatsApp and Messenger. He raised $2 million to fund the ambition.
The Women in Tech Mentorship Program is open. She Code Africa is calling for women interested in software, product and data engineering to apply for a training and mentorship program (June 19)
Apply for the Food Safety Awards. The World Food Forum Startup Innovation Awards 2022 are open to entries from those who have created agritech solutions to end world hunger. (July 15th)
🎵 This brief was made while listening to “Bolo Mala” by Habib Koite (Mali)
Our best wishes for a productive and idea-filled week ahead. Please send your news, comments, suggestions, ideas, great Rolex and WhatsApp classes to [email protected] You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.
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