How tech almost powered Nigeria’s elections

About Fatu
By Fatu Ogwuche

Top of Mind: Happy Sunday!

It’s still election season in Nigeria, so we’d be digging into how good intentions don’t always lead to great outcomes. Case in point – Nigeria’s Electoral Commission promised tech-powered elections and bungled it. Sheesh.

In fascinating news, Egypt is becoming a startup god, and Tanzania just signed a massive deal with Tesla!

Let’s get into it.

3 big things:

– INEC’s bold promises.
– Egypt’s latest unicorn.
– Tanzania’s biggest EV deal. 

How tech almost powered Nigeria’s elections

How tech almost powered Nigeria’s elections
Illustrated by Samuel Jolayemi

The short: Nigeria’s Electoral Commission dove into uncharted waters with its new technology and drowned swiftly.  

The progression: Nigeria introduced technology to the electoral process in 2011 when the Electoral Commission (INEC) launched an automated fingerprint identification system to prevent voters from registering multiple times – which had its unique brand of hitches.

During 2015’s elections, the permanent voter’s card and smart card reader were introduced. With the new additions – a voter’s identity was verified by matching their biometrics to the voter’s card. These gentle steps in the right direction contributed to the Commission’s credibility over time.

2023’s broken promises: INEC spent a year building anticipation of its new technology, promising voters that 2023 would be the year elections would be driven by technology. 

The technological highlights were the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the result viewing portal, IReV. Where it works as intended, it’s a match made in heaven: the BVAS read permanent voter cards and authenticated voters (via fingerprints) to prove their eligibility to vote at a specific polling unit, and the IReV platform displayed the results transmitted from the devices in real-time. 

The reverse was the case: Both technologies were successfully deployed in the governorship elections in Ekiti but led to overturned elections in Osun states thanks to the number of votes being south of accredited voters. Yikes. 

And, in 2023’s elections. They ghosted. The BVAS failed to accredit voters in most polling units, leading to disenfranchisement, and the IReV took some personal time off when it came to uploading results. In fact, most of the results were still being uploaded when the commission declared Nigeria’s President. However, I must point out that digital transmission doesn’t nullify manual transmission.

So why did it fail in 2023?

Scale: INEC blamed the transmission and authentication process on scale, stating it was easier for the tech to work in smaller state elections than power elections at the national level. INEC has a star team of engineers, so why the problem with scale wasn’t on their SWOT analysis was lost on the public.

Now, the outcome of the elections has grossly divided the public – with one side of the voting population doing a second round of victory laps and the other side deeply dissatisfied with the outcome.   

Final thoughts: INEC remains one of my favourite public institutions. One, because I built their digital department in my early 20s and met some of the most dedicated and brilliant minds that could ever grace public service. 

But they dropped the ball on this one. And I hope that 2023 provides the teachable moment needed to truly establish Nigeria as one of the biggest technology enablers – both in the public and private sectors. 

Africa’s newest unicorn!

Africa’s newest unicorn!

The short: Egypt’s MNT-Halan is Africa’s latest unicorn.

Journey to unicorn: MNT-Halan started as a ride-hailing platform called Halan in Giza, led by co-founders Mounir Nakhla and Ahmed Mohsen. But, its most strategic expansion was entering fintech through a share swap deal with Dutch microlender MNT Investments BV in 2021, officially rebranding to MNT-Halan.

From just a logistics company, it’s become a super app, reminiscent of China’s WeChat, providing unbanked customers with eCommerce and financial services. 

End to a drought: Africa has been in a unicorn drought this past year. The last startup that attained unicorn status was Chipper Cash, through a $150 million round led by the now-infamous FTX in November 2021. 

No startup struck billion-dollar gold from the continent last year, despite an uptick in total VC funding compared to 2021. The difference is alarming when we look at India and Latin America, which were able to produce 22 and 8 unicorns, respectively, in 2022. 

A beacon from Egypt: MNT-Halan isn’t Egypt’s first billion-dollar company. Fawry smashed the record in August 2020 when its market capitalisation topped $1 billion on the Egyptian stock exchange (EGX) one year after its initial public offering (IPO). 

At its peak in February 2021, Fawry was worth over $2 billion. But MNT-Halan’s feat as the first private company to hit the milestone signals to the world that Egypt’s startup ecosystem continues to dominate globally, giving established players like South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya a run for their money.

Fintech FOMO: If I had a dollar every time a founder said they wanted to bank the 350 million unbanked Africans, I’d probably be a unicorn. But as cliche as the statement has become, the gross underrepresentation of industries on Africa’s unicorn list proves they are onto something. 

Investors love fintech, 63% of funding in Africa in 2021 went to fintech startups. 

Would MNT-Halan have hit this milestone without dabbling in fintech? That’s a billion-dollar question. I’d like to see the continent get all its eggs out of one basket and build giants across other industries like social media and electric vehicles. 

Final thoughts: Egypt is a continent to watch. They are slowly edging out Africa’s big players in innovation and VC funding and adding 114 tech startups to their slate every year. It may be time to take a trip. 

Tanzania powers Tesla’s batteries

Tanzania powers Tesla’s batteries

The short: Tanzanian mining companies bag a huge Tesla deal.

The deal: Tesla has sealed a deal to buy anode active material (AAM) from Tanzania through a New York lithium-ion battery company, Magnis Energy Technologies Ltd, with subsidiaries in Tanzania, Uranex Tanzania Limited (Uranex) and Magnis Technologies Tanzania Limited (MTT), facilitating the deliveries. 

According to a statement by Uranex, Tesla agreed to purchase between 17,500 and 35,000 metric tons of AAM yearly from Magnis Energy Technologies, commencing in February 2025.

A win for who?: Tanzania has a lot of untapped reserves of nickel, copper, uranium, cobalt, kaolin, and platinum. These are all highly sort after resources, and the country has had its fair share of mining scandals. Nevertheless, the mining industry in Tanzania generates more than $2.5 billion annually and is responsible for more than half of all exports, contributing 7.3% of the country’s current GDP. 

Ethical issues have always plagued resource extraction in Africa. So, while this is a win for the economy and parties involved, I hope the workers share the same sentiment.

Final thoughts: It’s a big deal for Tanzania. This partnership is just one end of the EV market’s supply chain, but I hope to see a world where we extract these resources to power Africa’s own EV market. Baby steps.

Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear your thoughts about this week’s issue.

Please respond directly to this email or find me on Twitter @fatuogwuche 🙂

See you next Sunday!

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