BD Insider: Facebook's algorithm fuelled the Ethiopia civil war?

In BD Insider, Letter 142, we examine Facebook's alleged role in Ethiopia's civil war and why Wise suspended Ghana cedi transfers.

BD Insider: Facebook's algorithm fuelled the Ethiopia civil war?
A destroyed tank on a roadside in western Tigray in May. Credit: Ben Curtis/AP
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Twitter has banned the promotion of alternative social media platforms and third-party link aggregators such as linktr.ee, lnk.bio. According to a statement released by Twitter Support on Sunday (Dec. 18, 2022), "accounts that are used for the main purpose of promoting content on another social platform may be suspended". 

In BD Insider, Letter 142, we examine:

  • Facebook's alleged role in Ethiopia's civil war
  • Why Wise suspended Ghana cedi transfers
  • Kenya's latest crypto stance

and other noteworthy information like:

  • the latest African Tech Startup Deals
  • opportunities, exciting reads and more

The big three!

Facebook accused of fueling Ethiopia's civil war

The news: Again, Meta Platforms—Facebook's parent company has been accused of fueling violence in Africa, this time, it is in Ethiopia.

According to a lawsuit filed by Ethiopian researchers Abrham Meareg and Fisseha Tekle, along with Kenyan human rights group Katiba Institute, supported by legal nonprofit Foxglove, Facebook played a role in inciting violence during the Ethiopia civil war (also known as Tigray war).

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The Tigray war is an armed conflict that started in November 2020 and is being fought between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

In 2020, Tigray held its own regional elections that the Ethiopian government considered illegal and responded by slashing federal funding to the region, ultimately leading to the war.

The lawsuit which is calling for $2 billion in restitution describes Facebook's action as a "woeful failure to address violence on its platform" and its design that "promotes and prioritizes hateful, incitement and dangerous content."

Meta uses a recommendation algorithm on Facebook that promotes content that users are more likely to interact with in order to hold people's attention. This allows people to be served more ads so the company can maximize revenue.

Why it matters: One of the petitioners, Abrham Meareg is the son of Ethiopian academic, Meareg Amare Abrha, who was followed home by armed men on motorbikes and shot dead on November 3, 2021.

According to Abrham, his father, a notable member of the Tigray community, was killed after a spate of hate speech and disinformation attacking him spread on the platform. "If Facebook had just stopped the spread of hate and moderated posts properly, my father would still be alive," he said.

Zoom in: The petitioners want Meta to invest more in content moderation focused on Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, particularly in countries that are "vulnerable to war, conflict, ethnic cleansing and genocide."

Recall that in 2019, the company launched a sub-Saharan content review centre in Nairobi, Kenya to provide better content review services on the continent.


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Wise suspends Ghana cedi transfers

The news: Global payments company, Wise has suspended transfers in Ghana cedi. Per Reuters, this is due to the currency's appreciation against the dollar last week, making it more expensive to move money to the country.

The suspension which became effect last Thursday (Dec. 15, 2022) will be lifted "as soon as the situation has stabilised", according to the company's spokesperson.

Insights: The Ghana cedi was one of the worst-performing currencies in the world until last week when it went up by 47% against the US dollar. GH₵ 1 is equal to $0.11, this is according to the Wise FX calculator.

GHS to USD conversion between Dec. 18 and Nov. 18. Credit: Wise

Prior to the currency's appreciation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday (Dec. 12, 2022) reached a staff-level agreement with the Ghanaian authorities on economic policies and reforms to be supported by a new three-year arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) of about $3 billion.

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It is a staff-level agreement because it is subject to IMF management and the executive board's approval, as well as the required receipts and assurance from Ghana's partners and creditors. 

This loan will enable the country to put its debt under control, restore financial stability and help people most at risk from rising prices and other economic problems.

Ghana's former finance minister, Seth Terkper said that the performance of the Cedi against the dollar is an impact of the IMF agreement.

Zoom out: In October 2022, Wise halted dollar transfer transactions to Nigeria. At the time, Analysts speculated that the foreign exchange restrictions by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) might be the reason behind the suspension.


Kenyan authorities adjust its crypto stance

The news: A few weeks after an amendment (waiting for legislative passage) of the Kenyan Capital Market Bill suggested that cryptocurrency traders in Kenya will be required to pay taxes in 2023, the country's financial sector regulators have disclosed their intention to regulate digital assets and businesses in the sector.

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The Joint Financial Sector Regulators Forum (JFSRF) include: the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA), the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA) and the Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (Sassra)

According to a joint statement released by JFSRF, the forum has resolved to consider the National Treasury and Economic Planning recommendation on setting up a technical working group that will work on "the establishment of a comprehensive oversight framework on crypto assets activities and players in Kenya".

Why it matters: In July 2022, a report by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) revealed that 8.5% of the Kenyan population (i.e: 4.25 million people) own cryptocurrencies. UNCTAD asked Kenya and other nations to regulate and tax the crypto industry, in order to limit exposure to the meltdown in the crypto market and the threats of financial instability.

Zoom out: Recall that, CBK in March 2022 cautioned citizens about the risk of trading with cryptocurrencies. The Bank has been making this warning since 2015.

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This is not the first time that the Kenyan government is moving to regulate the crypto industry. In 2020, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) announced a regulation that required users of digital marketplaces (including crypto platforms) to pay digital tax. At a rate of 1.5% on gross transaction value, the tax became effective on January 1, 2021.

💰 State of funding in Africa

Funding deals (Dec. 12-18, 2022):

  • Taeillo, a Nigerian furniture e-commerce platform, raised $2.5 million in equity funding from Aruwa Capital.
  • Solar energy products provider, Sun King, secured a $70 million equity investment led by LeapFrog Investments. The funding is an extension of the $260 million Series D round the solar company announced this April.
  • Suplyd, an Egypt hotel, restaurant and catering procurement platform raised $1.6 million in pre-seed funding from Endure Capital, Seedstars, Camel Ventures, Falak Startups, Outlierz, Plus Ventures, Fort, Alex Angels, and other angel investors.
  • Kenya-based company Myhealth Africa raised $1 million in seed funding, the round was led by GIIG Africa Fund, with participation from Japanese-based Samurai VC, a family office, and existing investors.
  • Nigerian mobility fintech, Moove secured $30 million in debt financing from Sukuk issuance arranged by Franklin Templeton Investments (ME) Ltd.

Venture fund:

  • One year after pan-African VC firm, Ventures Platform closed the first round of its "$40 million pan-African found", the firm announced the final close of the fund at $46 million—above its initial target, last week.

Get FREE access to authentic African startup funding for 2022.


📚 Noteworthy

Here are other important stories in the media:

  • Visa wants to invest $1 billion in Africa by 2027: The CEO of Visa, Al Kelly has disclosed that the digital payments company will invest $1 billion in Africa by 2027.
  • Fincra's UK expansion and its impact on Africa: Wole Ayodele, Fincra's co-founder, and CEO talks about the company's efforts to build a global payment infrastructure with the UK expansion.
  • The biggest African tech scandals of 2022: Scandals rocked the booming African tech ecosystem in 2022. In this article, we curated the top six of these scandals—ranging from financial impropriety to sexual allegations.
  • Why ARCON is coming after digital content creators in Nigeria: The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) on Monday (Dec. 12, 2022) asked digital creators to seek its approval before advertising any product or service on their social media pages or any other online social channel.
  • 15 tech movies to watch this Christmas holiday: In the spirit of the Yuletide, Dara curated a list of 15 Christmas movies and documentaries that will not only entertain and educate you, but they will deepen your understanding of technology.
  • Agency Banking not affected by new CBN cash withdrawal limit: "Let me just correct an impression: not in any way are they (PoS agents) endangered,” the CBN’s Director of Banking Supervision, Mustafa Haruna, said during a live appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise on Saturday.

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