There’s a reason we aren’t seeing as many lofty new-year projections as we did last year. Primarily, it’s because 2022 was full of uncertainty, and it proved that, in reality, no one knows anything. But it’s also because 2022 was a year of many firsts.
From trade to tech and even sports, the world saw many things happen for the first time. For instance, Meta reported its first quarterly drop in revenue since its IPO, Rishi Sunak became the first person of colour to head the British government, and a Middle-Eastern country hosted the World cup for the first time.
Africa also had its moments in 2022. So here’s a list of 10 things that happened for the first time in the African business space in 2022.
Startup Acts in Nigeria and DRC Congo
Startups have sprung out of Africa faster than ever in the last decade. However, one of the lingering challenges has been the regulatory climate. People are uncertain about what to innovate and what startups to build because government bodies might restrict or shut them down tomorrow. That’s why some countries, including Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, Ethiopia and six others, have a startup bill in the works. But only two countries — Tunisia (2018) and Senegal (2019) — had enacted startup acts before last year.
In 2022, Nigeria and DR Congo (DRC) signed their startup acts into law. DRC became the first country in Central Africa to have a startup act. Both countries seek to bridge the engagement gap between startups and regulators and ensure that harmful regulations don’t see the light of day. The Nigerian Startup Act has provisions for tax breaks for new startups and also provides tax incentives for foreign service providers. In the same vein, DRC’s Startup Act includes tax benefits and days off work for startup founders who are current employees.
Bitcoin became a legal tender in the Central African Republic
2022 was an exciting year for crypto, whichever way you look at it. Although it was inundated with valuation drawdowns, layoffs and fraud scandals, it still had a few pockets of progress. One of those positive points was when the Central African Republic (CAR) made bitcoin a legal tender.
CAR became the first African country to take this step and was second only to El Salvador. This move came as a surprise, seeing that CAR is not among the leading adopters of bitcoin on the continent. Ironically, African countries with the most bitcoin usage do not have crypto-friendly laws. Nevertheless, you can pay for anything with bitcoin in CAR today. People will accept it just as much as the Central African CFA franc.
MTN and others bought digital land in the metaverse
The metaverse has been one of the most controversial concepts in technology since 2021. The vague idea of a digital world where cryptocurrencies and NFTs play major roles still turns heads today. And it’s only in retrospect that most of the hype looks unnecessary.
Early in 2022, the media’s air was thick with optimism about the metaverse. FOMO spread like the flu and caught many, including the giants. In February, MTN, Africa’s largest telco, bought 144 plots of digital land in the Africarare metaverse Ubuntuland for an undisclosed sum. It was the first African company to do this. Then in September, Nedbank, a South African bank, followed suit, becoming the first African bank to enter the metaverse. Shortly after, Game joined the bandwagon to become the first African retail company on the metaverse.
A tech startup got listed via SPAC
Swvl, a mass transit and shared mobility provider, made history in March 2022 as the first company launched from Africa and the second Middle Eastern company to list on the Nasdaq via a SPAC merger. The Egypt-born and Dubai-based company listed its shares through a merger with Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, a women-led blank check company.
But it’s also notable that Swvl did not have a soft landing after this move. The SPAC listing valued the company at $1.5 billion, but since then, it has plunged to less than $40 million. Swvl was also one of the companies at the frontline of Africa’s mass layoff wave.
Africa had its first cannabis SPAC listing
Africa’s cannabis industry has been growing quietly over the past few years. A growing list of countries is becoming more receptive to the opportunities the once-forbidden plant can bring. And in 2022, it (quietly again) reached another milestone.
In September, Cilo Cybin Holdings Ltd. announced that it had received the go-ahead to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Via this announcement, the company made history as Africa’s fourth SPAC listing and the first from the cannabis industry.
Kenya more than doubled its solar power usage
2022 was significant for the global energy sector. The war between Russia and Ukraine led to high oil/energy prices. We also saw energy crises in several countries, including South Africa, with over 200 days of load shedding. However, renewable energy made milestone progress on the continent.
According to the World Bank, Kenya’s use of solar power for electricity increased by 218% in the first eight months of 2022. It was a great leap, seeing that solar power usage increased only 23% between 2020 and 2021. Also, Kenya became the second-most active commercial photovoltaic system market places in the developing world, behind only India.
Nigeria raised its interest rate four times in one year
Interest rate hikes were among the most intriguing global trends we witnessed last year. Central banks were caught up in a tiresome battle against unyielding inflation. And in most cases, they didn’t win.
Nigeria raised its benchmark rate for the first time in six years in May by 150 basis points to 13%. But that wasn’t enough, as inflation kept surging to new highs. So Nigeria’s Monetary Policy Committee raised interest rates three more times by a total of 400 basis points to 16.5%, making it the highest among Africa’s big five (Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco).
Africa got its first regional cybersecurity centre
2022 was a big year for Africa’s tech space. And one of the many strides was that cybersecurity started getting more attention. Africa’s cyberspace has been vulnerable to bad actors for long enough. So it was interesting to find out that the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) partnered with the Togolese government to build Africa’s first regional cybersecurity research centre.
The African Centre for Coordination and Research in Cybersecurity, based in the capital city of Lomé, will monitor, detect, and share cybersecurity intelligence with African governments, policymakers, law enforcement, and security agencies.
Morocco walked back on its crypto ban
In November 2017, the Kingdom of Morocco became the first North African country to ban bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Since then, many other countries in the MENA region have followed suit.
But last year, Morocco took a new stance by becoming the first North African country to move toward a cryptocurrency regulation framework bill. Morocco’s central bank, Bank Al-Maghrib (BAM), announced a partnership with the IMF and World Bank, seeking to curb social risks like terror financing and money laundering while fostering innovation and consumer welfare among crypto users.
A Nigerian became the leader of the World Medical Association
A Nigerian now leads the World Medical Association. Dr Osahon Enabulele, former president of the Nigerian Medical Association, became the first Nigerian and West African physician to be elected President of the World Medical Association since the birth of the global body in 1947.
Enabulele was sworn in as president in October at the association’s Annual General Assembly in Berlin, Germany.