BD Insider, Letter 149: Chaos in Nigeria as citizens scramble for new notes

In Letter 149, we examine the cash shortage in Nigeria, Starlink's Rwandan launch and Yango's woes in Cameroon.

BD Insider, Letter 149: Chaos in Nigeria as citizens scramble for new notes
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele and President Buhari holding the new Naira notes
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No money bouquet this Valentine's! The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says that money bouquet—which are often used during Valentine, is an abuse of the Naira.

The violation of this law is punishable by fines or imprisonment; or both. Don't be a violator, we have curated a list of tech gifts that you can share with your loved ones.

In this letter, we examine:

  • Starlink's intended launch in Rwanda this quarter
  • Nigeria's capacity to print new Naira notes
  • why Cameroonian authorities suspended the operations of Russian ride-hailing company, Yango

and other noteworthy information like:

  • the latest African tech startup deal
  • opportunities, interesting reads and more

The big three!

The news: The Rwanda Space Agency (RSA) has issued an operational licence to Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet service. The company will begin its operations in the country before the end of Q1 2023.

Rwanda is the fourth country in Africa to issue a license to Starlink after Mozambique, Nigeria and Malawi.

Why it matters: The licensing agreement will allow Starlink to offer internet service to Rwanda residents through its network of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, delivering higher speed and lower latency broadband internet, compared to traditional satellite communication. As of December 2022, Starlink had over 3,500 satellites operating in LEO.

"We are confident that the high speed and low latency of the service will greatly benefit both citizens and businesses," Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation, said.

According to Ms Ingabire, Starlink's monthly subscription in the country will cost between Rwf20,000 to Rwf30,000 (that is, $18.45 to $27.67). However, the cost of the hardware device was not indicated.

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In Nigeria, Starlink's charge for the hardware device is $600 (₦274,098) and the subscription is $43 (₦19,260) per month.

"When you look at the cost, based on the output that is a half or a third of the capacity that Starlink provides, you realise that its cost is very low than the available products," she added.

Zoom in: Prior to licensing, Rwanda was among a few countries given the opportunity to test Starlink connectivity in Africa. In tests conducted at different points of the country, Starlink's speed reached up to 150 Mbps with a very low latency of 20 to 40 milliseconds.

According to the RSA, the Starlink technology will boost internet access in remote and rural areas where traditional wireless, cable and fibre-optic infrastructure is difficult to deploy.


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Nigeria has the capacity to print more Naira notes

The news: Last week, some media reports alleged that Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria told the National Council of State that the country does not have the capacity to print adequate new Naira notes. The CBN on Friday (Feb. 10, 2023) debunked this allegation.

"We wish to state categorically that at no time did the CBN Governor disclose this during his presentation to the National Council of State," Osita Nwanisobi, CBN's Director of Corporate Communications, said in a statement seen by Benjamindada.com. "We also wish to restate that the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC) has the capacity and enough materials to produce the required indent of the Naira."

Why it matters: The ongoing demonetisation process in the country has been faced with cash shortages and opposition from political parties and some civil society organisations. Last week, the nation's Supreme Court temporarily halted the process following a lawsuit by three governors from Northern Nigeria challenging the Naira redesign.

The Federal government has since filed an objection to the court's ruling.

Despite the Supreme Court order, some businesses and individuals across the country have started rejecting the old Naira notes.

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There have been protests and vandalisation of banks' physical assets because of the unsatisfied customers' queues inside banking halls and at ATMs across the country looking for new notes. In fact, CICO agents now charge 10x the fee for cash withdrawals. 

Zoom out: Weighing in on the issue, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) encouraged the CBN to postpone the currency swap process "in light of hardships caused by disruptions to trade and payments due to the shortage of new banknotes available to the public".

The ongoing chaos in Nigeria can be likened to the situation in India after Prime Minister, Narendra Modi outlawed 86% of the nation's cash in 2016.


Russian ride-hailing company, Yango suspended in Cameroon

The news: The Cameroonian transport authority has suspended Yango, a ride-hailing company operating in the country for failure to comply with regulations. Yango is owned by Russian tech giant Yandex.

"Activities of public transport operated via the Yango digital platform are suspended until they are brought up to standard," Cameroon's Transport Minister, Ngalle Bibehe Jean Ernest Massena said in a statement last week.

Why it matters: Yango is expected to obtain a licence from Cameroon's telecoms regulator, register with the tax department and open a local bank account. In September 2023, Yango was required by the local regulator to open an office in Cameroon, declare its fares and taxes and publish its terms of use to clients. At the time, Massena said that failure to comply would breach Cameroonian law and lead to its suspension.

Despite this suspension which has been backed by Cameroon's union of taxi drivers, the Russian ride-hailing company said that only the activities of service providers using its platform were affected by a government decision.

"The suspension letter is addressed to the partners of Yango, who are local transportation services providers using Yango Digital Platform, and it states that they should obtain additional licenses to work with the digital platform," a Yango spokesman told Reuters. "We at Yango were surprised by this ministry of transport decision and consider it a result of misinterpretation of the business model we bring to Cameroon."

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Yango's launched its ride-hailing services in Cameroon in November 2021, starting with the nation's capital Yaoundé and Douala, two of Cameroon's largest cities. The service, which also operates in multiple countries in Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East, came to Africa in 2018, first penetrating Ghana and Ivory Coast.

As of yesterday (Feb. 12, 2022), Yango's app was still active in the country, a Yaoundé-based user confirmed to Benjamindada.com.

Zoom out: In Nigeria, the Lagos state government in May 2022 announced that inDriver and Rida are “unlicensed” to operate in the state. Two months after the announcement, inDriver's Business Development Manager in Africa, Evgeny Kalinin said that the company is engaging with Lagos authorities to ensure compliance with local regulatory requirements.


💰 State of funding in Africa

Last week saw the first close of the largest VC fund in Africa. Partech Africa II reached an oversubscribed first close at $262 million, the fund is targeting not more than $300 million for its final close.

Amidst the global economic downturn which has led to a decrease in venture capital, this fund will be a booster to the African startup ecosystem. Partech Africa II will invest in over 20 Series A and B companies operating in fintech, healthtech, logistics, mobility and edtech, providing $1 million to $15 million in initial tickets.

Meanwhile, the table below details how African startups raised over $30.30 million in venture capital last week.

The BD Funding Tracker 2023 is live

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