Tuesday 28 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 28/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Meaning business: Aliko Dangote

Image: Getty Images

Business / Mary Fitzgerald

Almost half of journeys within Africa require a visa. Why is it so hard for African entrepreneurs to travel in their own continent?

Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian magnate and Africa’s wealthiest man, made headlines recently when he complained that visitors with European passports have freer movement across Africa than he does. “As an investor, as someone who wants to make Africa great, I have to apply for 35 different visas,” Dangote told the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali earlier this month. He praised Rwanda, which phased out visas for all African nationals in 2023. Benin, The Gambia and the Seychelles also offer visa-free access to all Africans. Kenya, meanwhile, replaced its visa regime with an electronic-travel authorisation system in January.

Despite this progress, Dangote’s gripe resonated because almost half of intra-Africa travel still requires a visa ahead of departure. Those affected include not only high-level executives but also African creatives seeking to visit cultural hubs such as Dakar and Lagos, and African entrepreneurs who want to contribute to the continent’s burgeoning technology sector. Intra-Africa tourism also remains stunted.

African Union officials have long talked of the need for freer intra-continental trade, investment and movement of people to boost economic, social and political development. Regularising the movement of people across borders is a crucial part of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement signed in 2018 but implementation has been slow.

Several regional groupings and bilateral arrangements have resulted in visa-free access – and, in some cases, passport-free access. Within the broader East African Community bloc, for example, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya allow cross-border travel without passports. Botswana and Namibia have also signed a similar agreement. But there is much more to be done. As Kenya’s president, William Ruto, said last year, “When people cannot travel, business people cannot travel; we all become net losers.” Africa needs to act.

Mary Fitzgerald is Monocle’s North Africa correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Space

Tensions on the rise as Russian-US space race amps up

Russia has long been accused of using hybrid threats to destabilise the West. The country’s alleged tactics have included flooding Lithuania’s border with migrants and provoking unrest in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia. In the realm of conventional warfare, space is shaping up to be the next frontier, with tensions between the US and Russia becoming increasingly fraught.

Last week the Pentagon announced that Moscow had launched a low-Earth orbit space weapon. It is believed to carry an “inspector” satellite that can launch several other smaller ones. This technology has long been condemned by the international community for going against space conventions. In 2022 the US launched a classified surveillance satellite, USA 326, not long before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As military success becomes ever more dependent on technological advancement, this space race is likely to intensify.

Media / Japan

Sony strengthens its stake in the anime market

Electronics and entertainment group Sony has announced plans to expand its anime business. At a strategy presentation in Tokyo last week, Sony CEO, Kenichiro Yoshida, said that animation had, “grown from what used to be a niche genre into a world-class form of entertainment”. Sony will open an academy to nurture young talent and use state-of-the-art technology to enhance animation techniques. Japan’s anime industry has doubled in value over the past 10 years and is now worth an estimated ¥2.7trn (€17bn). Sony already has its own production unit, Aniplex, which was responsible for the monster hit Demon Slayer, and animation distributor-cum-streamer Crunchyroll, which it bought in 2021. With nearly half of all anime revenues coming from overseas, it’s a good time to focus on monetising a global business that has yet to reach its commercial potential.

Image: Getty Images

Film / Canada

Are the credits rolling on Canada’s documentary film industry?

Canada’s largest documentary film festival, Hot Docs Film Festival, has announced that it will temporarily close its Toronto-based cinema in June. The organisation has stressed that this is an opportunity to “regroup and engage in critical strategic planning” but the future of the venue remains unclear.

Filmmakers are becoming increasingly concerned about the sustainability of their industry. The closure of Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema reflects a more general deficit in funding for documentary films in Canada. According to one study, between 2016 and 2021, the production of non-fiction features fell from 60 to 35 overall. This is due to a combination of factors, from streaming platforms shifting away from the genre to a consistent lack of funding. For Hot Docs, things started to get particularly difficult when it was left out of the 2024 federal budget. Let’s hope that the Canadian government changes its tack soon.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / David DiBenedetto

Southern comforts: A new magazine celebrating the culture of the American South

Garden & Gun magazine is a celebration of the American South, featuring the best in Southern food, travel, art and sport. This well-crafted title is an example of the strength of regional magazines in the US. Monocle spoke to its editor in chief, David DiBenedetto.

Which aspects of the American South does the magazine cover?
I usually start by telling anyone unfamiliar with the magazine that it’s not about gardens or guns. It is a Southern lifestyle magazine; it’s about everything that I love about the South, whether you are talking about its people, stories or culture.

What’s the importance of making a magazine such as this?
I’m from the South but have worked in New York. I never thought that I would be able to leave the city and go to a magazine that has such quality and such content. What’s interesting about Garden & Gun is that 42 per cent of our subscribers are outside of what we would consider to be the South.

Is the magazine mainly subscription-based?
It does really well on the newsstand. We are in Grand Central station and LAX; we’re present across the country. What’s nice about us is that when somebody finds the magazine, they usually become subscribers.

You can listen to the full interview with David DiBenedetto on this week’s edition of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Films / Hospitality

Ikuchijima: Japanese island revival

The best hospitality projects delight visitors as much as locals. In this vein, businessman Yuta Oka transformed a series of historic buildings in the small town of Setoda into charming inns, a coffee roaster, a public bathhouse and more. Join us on a jaunt to the Seto Inland Sea.


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