While so many good things can be said about 2021, the past twelve (12) months did bring some bad news for stakeholders in Africa’s business landscape. The year wasn’t as tumultuous as 2020, and it seemed that COVID-19 was in the rearview mirror for a moment.
However, many bad things happened last year, and a list of everything that went wrong could fill a large book. Here is a list — and timeline — of the top five (5) tragic events that rocked Africa’s business landscape in 2021:
1. Kepple Africa Ventures announced that it had cut ties with Kenyan fintech startup Wapi Pay after founders allegedly assaulted women.
Wapi Pay co-founders Eddie Ndichu and his twin brother Paul Ndichu were recorded allegedly assaulting two women at a city hotel in Nairobi over the weekend. The twin brothers denied the allegations and said they stepped in to neutralise the fight between the ladies. However, Kepple Africa Ventures, one of the early backers of the Kenyan fintech, condemned the incident and announced its cutting ties with the startup.
“In light of the alleged assault on women by the founders of our portfolio company Wapi Pay, we Kepple Africa Ventures hereby announce that we have zero tolerance on such conduct and announce that we will relinquish all the rights of our investment stake in Wapi Pay,” Takahiro Kanzaki, founder of Kepple Group and general partner at Kepple Africa Ventures, said on Tuesday. However, the Japanese VC firm did not disclose any information about how it would unwind its investment in the startup.
2. Safaricom evacuates staff amid ongoing armed conflict in Ethiopia.
In November last year, Safaricom began evacuating some of its staff from Ethiopia after the armed conflict, and civil unrest between the government of Ethiopia and forces in the northern Tigray region threw the country into turmoil and threatened to disrupt the firm’s operations in the East African nation.
The Safaricom consortium, comprising Vodafone and Vodacom, UK’s CDC Group, and Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation, had won a U$850 million licence bid to operate in Ethiopia, defeating MTN of Mauritius, who bid U$600 million. However, the Kenyan network operator remains bullish on launching operations in 2022 despite the ongoing conflict threatening to disrupt its operations in the country.
3. Shoprite exited Nigeria’s retail market after 15 years, shut down operations in Uganda, Kenya, and Madagascar.
16 years after it opened its first outlet in Nigeria, Shoprite — Africa’s largest food retailer in 2021, sold its Nigerian stores to a company owned by a group of local investors led by property firm Persianas Investment, Ketron. The South African retail giant also shut down operations in Uganda (where it had five stores), Madagascar (where it had 10 stores) and Kenya (where it had two stores).
According to a statement from the company, Shoprite had been reviewing its long-term ventures across Africa over the past year as currency devaluations, lower commodity prices and high inflation have impacted disposable household incomes negatively.
The retail giant also noted that the rise of online shopping, which drove shoppers away from traditional brick-and-mortar outlets, and the significant costs incurred by the company to adhere to the COVID-19 pandemic might have been the final nail in the coffin.
4. Central Bank of Nigeria banned cryptocurrency trading despite Nigeria’s ranking as ‘Best-performing country’ globally.
On February 5, 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) released a circular addressed to banks and other financial institutions to stop the facilitation of all transactions involving cryptocurrencies. The CBN further instructed all banks and other financial institutions to identify individuals or entities engaging in cryptocurrency transactions within their system and shut down their accounts with immediate effect.
That CBN circular elicited varied reactions from the Nigerian public, with many youths expressing concern about the negative effect on the country’s growing cryptocurrency market and innovation in financial technology. Some stakeholders supported the ban while others questioned the goals of the policy, which they saw as stifling the livelihood of young Nigerians using cryptocurrencies to escape poverty and unemployment.
5. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, suffered a major loss.
Aliko Dangote lost his younger brother to death on November 14, 2021. Sani Dangote died in a US hospital after battling an undisclosed illness for months. He was the Group Vice Present of the Dangote Group and owner of Dansa Agro-allied Limited until his death.
Much like his elder brother Aliko, Sani was a major investor in several key sectors of the Nigerian economy. He also belonged to many chambers of commerce, was a Fellow of Nigeria’s Chartered Institute of Shippers, and the President of the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association (FERSAN).