No. 243 – Friday Reads

Ken Ofori-Atta: ‘What does an African finance minister do now?’ – A sobering diary entry by Ghana’s finance minister. In the entry, he lists the various calls he made that particular day. I couldn’t help but notice none were to titans of industry inside Ghana. Not sure what that means, but it doesn’t feel good.

Where to invest in Africa in the face of COVID-19 – The good sister Akinyi highlights three tech sectors that could be resilient in African markets as the continent goes through its turn dealing with COVID-19 – fintech, edtech, and digital health. I think this is right, though I am concerned about the long term resilience of the tech sector across Africa.

I worry African countries’ tech sectors won’t be as resilient in the long term if they don’t figure out how to capture different parts of the chain that enable apps to show up on our devices – server technology, chip development, data warehousing, and more. If this COVID-19 situation leads to more balkanization between countries around the world, it wouldn’t be a good look for African countries to be stuck with only a couple options for sourcing infrastructure for their tech industries.

I’d argue for more investment in more R&D at the research institution level to build a pipeline of researchers working on core technology that could position African countries for long-term resilience.

Amazon scientist Dr. Nashlie Sephus focuses on ensuring accuracy in machine learning – It’s real encouraging to that a black woman is on the Amazon Rekognition team. This particular product is being used by an increasing number of police departments to apprehend suspects. There have been lots of questions about the extent to which the technology could further the injustices in our criminal justice system. Let’s hope Dr. Sephus moves the need in preventing that.

He risked his life photographing the 1961 Freedom Riders. Theodore Gaffney just died from the coronavirus at 92.He risked his life photographing the 1961 Freedom Riders. Theodore Gaffney just died from the coronavirus at 92. I look forward to looking through Mr. Gaffney’s published photography. So much history.

China must pay reparations to Africa for its coronavirus failures – Dr. Oby Ezekwesili makes a strong argument here. On one hand, African nations definitely need help if they’re going to claw out of the economic hole this situation is likely to out them in. But, what’s the cost? China has fingerprints all over the continent that could put African countries in even worse position should they not be able to pay for them. If these countries are also getting money from China as so-called reparations, I worry it would actually turn out to be a vicious cycle of indebtedness.

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