Africa in the news: Billion-dollar valuation for Nigerian tech company, Kenya-Somalia relations, and new Zimbabwe bank notes

A man poses with Zimbabwe's new two dollar banknotes as customers queue outside a bank in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 12, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo - RC2J9D9ID88X

Nigerian financial technology company Interswitch valued at $1 billion: In a statement released Tuesday, November 12, Visa confirmed that it would buy a 20 percent stake in Nigerian financial technology company Interswitch, for a total of $200 million. This investment will result in a billion-dollar valuation for Interswitch, Nigeria’s largest electronic payments company, giving it the so-called “unicorn” status attributed to privately held startup companies valued above $1 billion.

The investment makes Interswitch one of the most valuable African financial technology businesses and Africa’s only current technology-industry unicorn, after previous Nigerian unicorn Jumia’s worth dropped below $1 billion in the months following an April initial public offering (IPO). Interswitch is still planning to pursue its own IPO, which is expected to occur in 2020.

Kenya and Somalia normalize bilateral relations

Kenya and Somalia agreed to restore ties on Thursday, November 14, after a meeting between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. The normalization of relations will begin with the restoration of visa policy that allows free movement of people between the countries. Aviation authorities will also work to restore direct flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu.

The agreement to normalize relations follows a months-long dispute over oil rights in the Indian Ocean, with the two countries contesting ownership of a territory thought to be rich in hydrocarbons. In 2014, Somalia sought arbitration from the United Nations International Court of Justice over this issue; Kenya has said it prefers an out-of-court settlement.

In other Somalia news, the top general for U.S. military operations in Africa, General Stephen Townsend, visited Somalia on Tuesday to discuss the fight against extremists in the country. Townsend discussed security developments with Farmaajo and the chief of staff of the Somali Armed Forces. The trip occurred as Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab released a video calling for its fighters to target U.S. interests worldwide.

Zimbabwe introduces new bank notes

This week, Zimbabwe introduced new low-denomination $2 and $5 notes and coins in an attempt to end the country’s cash shortage. The cash shortage, along with shortages of staple goods exacerbated by drought, has driven inflation to its highest level since 2008, estimated to be 380 percent year-on-year.

The introduction of the new bank notes faced several challenges. Although scheduled to be distributed on Monday, November 11, many banks in Zimbabwe did not receive their allocations of the new bank notes on this date. Additionally, bank customers were frustrated by withdrawal limits of $20 per week. Despite these withdrawal limits, money was alleged to be found on the black market shortly after being released to banks.