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NIN and COVID-19 spike, Spotify plans Africa entry, healthtech funding up 404% 

This post is a delayed version of Techpoint Digest, a week-daily newsletter that rounds up major happenings in African tech. You can start receiving it hours before everyone else if you subscribe now

Good day,

Oluwanifemi and Emmanuel here

Today we are discussing:

  • The sickening cost of NIN registrations
  • Spotify’s play for Africa
  • Increased funding for healthtech, eCommerce 2020

NIN: Nigeria ravaged by COVID-19

On December 15, 2020, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) ordered all mobile subscribers to link their National Identification Number (NIN) to their Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards. People without NINs were to quickly register or risk being blocked by December 30, 2021.

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At the time of this order, there were 207 million mobile subscribers, and 47 million registered NINs. This seemingly sudden move was the outcome of months of ministerial orders and regulatory directives.

There had been warning signs

In February 2020, the Minister set a December 30, 2020 deadline for subscribers to link their SIM cards with their NIN; he also stated that they could not hold more than three SIMs going forward. My colleague, Oluwanifemi Kolawole, explained that meeting the new requirements would be challenging given Nigeria’s peculiar circumstances.

The effect? The West African giant has seen a scary 77,012 cases in the 67 days following the commencement of NIN registration. 67 days before this, Nigeria had just 14,959 cases. In other words, COVID-19 cases have increased by 414% since the NIN registrations commenced.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in February 2020, Nigeria has confirmed a saddening 153,000 more cases, over 50% of which have come since the NIN announcement.

The implication: The unhealthy costs of NIN registration raises several questions. How much provision was made to guard against COVID-19?  Should we still take the government’s COVID-19 numbers and initiatives seriously?

Or maybe correlation does not equal causation, and COVID-19 was always going to ravage the nation, NIN registrations or not.

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I dug deep into the circumstances surrounding Nigeria’s NIN push, measuring the unhealthy impact with available COVID-19 data. Go deeper.

Spotify enters new African markets including Nigeria

Featured image credit: downloadsource.fr via Flickr (cc)

The Story: Global music streaming platform, Spotify has announced that it will be launching its services in over 80 new markets across Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe, and Latin America in a few days, thus, establishing footprints in a total of 180 markets.

Big deal? True, Spotify is dominating the global music streaming industry. The last I checked, it had 144 million paid subscribers, and the company is clearly not resting on its laurels. Now, it’s adding 41 new African frontiers to the already existing five – South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt.

Playing catch-up: Spotify may have had a numerical advantage in other parts of the world, but it will have to work its way up the ladder in Africa, particularly in Nigeria.

Major streaming platforms – Deezer, Shazam, Audiomack, YouTube Music, and Apple Music – have already been battling in the arena before Spotify. In fact, some of them went the extra length to get Nigerian executives to oversee the affairs – Audiomack. Plus, there is a local brand that has been gaining grounds – Boomplay.

Always had eyes for Africa (or Nigeria?): In 2018, when Spotify launched in South Africa, Spotify’s Managing Director for the MENA region revealed plans to explore more African countries.

With other global companies present in most parts of the continent, it appears all eyes are on Africa and there’s a perceived large market for music streaming here. This is easy to expect probably because of the enviable music talent stream the region is producing, especially in Nigeria.

The harsh reality: But the current reality remains that all these platforms may be left to scramble for a fraction of the population that can access streaming services. Even though Africa is taking up relatively high smartphone traffic, Internet penetration is still low.

You should probably read this for some context: Subsea Internet cables and the race to connect Africa to the Internet

Healthcare funding grew 404% in 2020

In the last decade, eCommerce and fintech companies have received the lion share of funding activities, but in 2020, Nigerian healthcare startups witnessed a bit of a resurgence.

According to Techpoint Africa’s Nigerian Startup Funding Report 2020, Healthcare startups raised $32.5 million across seven deals, over 400% higher than the entire disclosed record ($6.3 million) for 2019. This accounted for 26.8% of the total funding raised by Nigerian startups in 2020.

This brings them second only to financial services companies in terms of funding size and deals in 2020.

The big reason: This massive upward trend coincided with the advent of COVID-19 in Nigeria. Though there’s good reason to believe that most of these deals began discussions before COVID-19, the perceived uptick in the value of health companies should not be discounted.

Online retail’s resurgence: Though eCommerce companies have struggled hard in recent years, VC confidence in online retail companies improved greatly in 2020.

Funding grew by 5,892%, accounting for 11.6% of the total amount raised by Nigerian tech startups in 2020.

Online retail dominated funding headlines long before fintech companies became investment darlings in 2017. But that changed due to the deep challenges the sector has faced.

Read further: Inside the deep challenges of eCommerce and logistics in Nigeria

Also, check out more details behind the spike in healthtech and online retail funding in 2020, and the important reminder for every startup.

What else is going on?

Though Safaricom released a statement that it had been shortlisted for Ethiopia’s telecom licence, the country’s communication authority has come out to deny that claim. Follow up.

South African agritech startup Skudu raises funding from AgVentures. Read more.

The Cofounders of Africa focused telecom company, Smile Telecom, have stepped down. Read.

What else we’re reading/listening to:

I wrote this newsletter while listening to Nina Simone’s Sinnerman masterpiece. Here’s why this song is still relevant today. Read.

Apparently, climate change is creating more problems across the globe. Read.

While climate change hits hard,  Space X vs Blue Origin on Wondery’s Business Wars showcases two mega entrepreneurs in a new frontline. Listen.


From Built in Africa archives – MainOne: 10 years building West Africa’s internet infrastructure


On March 25, 2021, Techpoint Africa will be hosting the brightest minds in decentralised finance/crypto at the Digital Currency Summit tagged “Building the money of the future” Click here for more details, registration and sponsorship. Location: Fourpoint by Sheraton, V.I. Lagos.


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