Here are three major stories from Africa’s business landscape you should keep in mind this week.

Nigeria wants to splash on “free internet.”

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved ₦24.2 billion ($52.57 million) to provide Internet services at 20 airports, some educational institutions, and markets across Nigeria. According to Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, the cost of the project for “universities, some polytechnics, and the price for the contract which covers the airports and institutions of learning is ₦18.95 billion. The second approval was for the provision of broadband to some selected markets, at the cost of ₦5.25 billion.”

At first look, it seems like a noble move since internet adoption and speed are still low in Africa’s largest economy. But as usual, there are concerns hovering on this announcement. Nigeria has a track record of overspending and underdelivering projects. Will this one be any different? Time will tell.

Microsoft cut several jobs in Kenya

Early last week, rumours that the company had laid off staff at its Africa Development Centre (ADC) in Kenya started circulating on social media. But later in the week, it stopped being a rumour when Kipkorir Arap Kirui, a senior product manager, took to LinkedIn and Twitter to announce his forced exit from the company.

Although it is unclear how many people this move affected, TechWeez reported that the layoff impacted at least 20 employees. There’s also a popular belief that many employees might not say much about what happened because of non-disclosure agreements.

In 2022, skilled employees left local Kenyan companies in droves for Microsoft and other tech giants for wage upgrades. However, this turn of events is unsurprising because, at the start of the year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that the company would be laying off 5% of its workforce, about 10,000 workers.

MTN is going off South Africa’s national grid

According to CEO Charles Molapisi, MTN is accelerating investments in alternative power sources and expects to be completely off-grid at most sites in the future. The reason for going off the grid is to reduce cases of theft and vandalism, which have spiked during hours of load shedding.

Molapisi stated that MTN’s internal data shows that over 390 unique sites had been vandalised since January 2022 alone, with criminals returning to the same sites more than five times after each repair. In the same period, the Eastern Cape has recorded over 1,000 vandalism incidents, with cable, battery, equipment, and air conditioner theft on the rise. Other items damaged and stolen are doors, containers, fences, security systems, and locks.

Before this announcement, Molapisi had told the Business Times that MTN would have to raise prices to invest in backup power and theft-proofing their sites, further proof of the debilitating effects Eskom’s seemingly endless challenges continue to have on South African businesses.

ICYMI: Market Roundup

  • The Nigerian stock market broke its winning streak, with the NGX All-Share Index (ASI) dropping -1.20% at the week’s end. The top gainers were Oando (34.12%), Ikeja Hotel (18.45%), Champion Breweries (13.27%), Royal Exchange (13.04%), and UPDC PLC (11.46%). Prestige Assurance PLC (-11.11%), NCR (Nigeria) PLC (-9.79%), CWG PLC (-9.38%), Dangote Sugar Refinery PLC (-7.10%), and United Capital PLC (-6.67%) were the top decliners.
  • The naira closed the week trading at N461.38/$ at the Investors’ and Exporters’ Window.
  • The price of Brent crude oil is trading above $84 a barrel after jumping by more than 5%.
  • The crypto market had a flat trading week, starting Monday at $1.18 trillion. Bitcoin gained 1.57% to reach $28,348, Ethereum gained 2.70% to trade at $1809 and BNB lost 4.71% to trade at $312.9.
  • Payday, a neobank issuing global (USD, EUR & GBP) accounts to Africans, raised $3m to fuel its “future of work” initiative through borderless payment alternatives in major currencies.
  • HouseAfrica, a prop-tech startup providing real estate digitalization and transparency tools to property developers and their customers, raised $400k in seed funding.

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