|Wednesday 15th of April 2020
Le propre du temps de guerre est aussi que ce temps devient infini. On ne sait pas quand cela va se terminer. Stephane Audoin-Rouzeau
La phrase la plus frappante d’Emmanuel Macron, lors de son second
discours à Mulhouse, a été celle qui a été la moins relevée : « Ils
ont des droits sur nous », pour parler des soignants. C’est le
verbatim d’une phrase de Clemenceau pour parler des combattants
français à la sortie de la guerre. La référence à la Grande Guerre est
explicite, d’autant plus quand on sait que l’ancien directeur de la
mission du Centenaire, Joseph Zimet, a rejoint l’équipe de
communication de l’Élysée. De même, pour le « nous tiendrons ». «
Tenir », c’est un mot de la Grande Guerre, il fallait que les civils «
tiennent », que le front « tienne », il fallait « tenir » un quart
d’heure de plus que l’adversaire… Ce référent 14-18 est pour moi
fascinant. Comme historien, je ne peux pas approuver cette rhétorique
parce que pour qu’il y ait guerre, il faut qu’il y ait combat et morts
violentes, à moins de diluer totalement la notion. Mais ce qui me
frappe comme historien de la guerre, c’est qu’on est en effet dans un
temps de guerre. D’habitude, on ne fait guère attention au temps,
alors que c’est une variable extrêmement importante de nos expériences
sociales. Le week-end d’avant le confinement, avec la perception
croissante de la gravité de la situation, le temps s’est comme épaissi
et on ne s’est plus focalisé que sur un seul sujet, qui a balayé tous
les autres. De même, entre le 31 juillet et le 1er août 1914, le temps
a changé. Ce qui était inconcevable la veille est devenu possible le
The most striking phrase of Emmanuel Macron, during his second speech
in Mulhouse, was the one that was the least noted: "They have rights
over us", to speak of the caregivers. It is the verbatim of a sentence
by Clemenceau to speak of French fighters at the end of the war. The
reference to the Great War is self-explanatory, all the more so when
we know that the former director of the Centenary mission, Joseph
Zimet, joined the Elysée communications team. Likewise, for the “we
will stand”. "Hold" is a word of the Great War, civilians had to
"hold", the front had to "hold", it had to "hold" a quarter of an hour
longer than the adversary ...This referent 14-18 is fascinating to me
As a historian, I cannot endorse this rhetoric because for there to be
war, there must be combat and violent death, unless the notion is
fully diluted. But what strikes me as a war historian is that we are
indeed in a time of war. Usually, we pay little attention to time,
when it is an extremely important variable in our social experiences.
The weekend before confinement, with the growing perception of the
gravity of the situation, the weather thickened and we only focused on
one subject, which swept away all the others. Likewise, between July
31 and August 1, 1914, the weather changed. What was inconceivable the
day before became possible the next day.
Le propre du temps de guerre est aussi que ce temps devient infini. On
ne sait pas quand cela va se terminer. On espère simplement – c’est
vrai aujourd’hui comme pendant la Grande Guerre ou l’Occupation – que
ce sera fini « bientôt ». Pour Noël 1914, après l’offensive de
printemps de 1917, etc. C’est par une addition de courts termes qu’on
entre en fait dans le long terme de la guerre. Si on nous avait dit,
au début du confinement, que ce serait pour deux mois ou davantage,
cela n’aurait pas été accepté de la même façon. Mais on nous a dit,
comme pour la guerre, que c’était seulement un mauvais moment à
passer. Pour la Grande Guerre, il me paraît évident que si l’on avait
annoncé dès le départ aux acteurs sociaux que cela durerait quatre ans
et demi et qu’il y aurait 1,4 million de morts, ils n’auraient pas agi
de la même façon. Après la contraction du temps initiale, on est entré
dans ce temps indéfini qui nous a fait passer dans une temporalité «
autre », sans savoir quand elle trouvera son terme.
The characteristic of wartime is also that this time becomes infinite.
We don't know when it will end. We just hope - it is true today as
during the Great War or the Occupation - that it will be over "soon".
For Christmas 1914, after the spring offensive of 1917, etc. It is by
adding short terms that we actually enter the long term of war. If we
had been told at the start of confinement that it would be for two
months or more, it would not have been accepted in the same way. But
we were told, as in the war, that it was only a bad time to pass. For
the Great War, it seems clear to me that if it had been announced to
social actors from the start that it would last four and a half years
and that there would be 1.4 million deaths, they would not have acted
same way. After the contraction of the initial time, we entered this
indefinite time which made us pass into an "other" temporality,
without knowing when it will end.
Je suis fasciné par l’imaginaire de la « sortie » tel qu’il se
manifeste aujourd’hui dans le cas du déconfinement, sur le même mode
de déploiement déjà pendant la Grande Guerre. Face à une crise
immense, ses contemporains ne semblent pas imaginer autre chose qu’une
fermeture de la parenthèse temporelle. Cette fois, on imagine un
retour aux normes et au « temps d’avant ». Alors, je sais bien que la
valeur prédictive des sciences sociales est équivalente à zéro, mais
l’histoire nous apprend quand même qu’après les grandes crises, il n’y
a jamais de fermeture de la parenthèse. Il y aura un « jour d’après »,
certes, mais il ne ressemblera pas au jour d’avant. Je peux et je
souhaite me tromper, mais je pense que nous ne reverrons jamais le
monde que nous avons quitté il y a un mois.
Pourquoi concevoir une telle rupture alors que, précisément, on n’est
pas dans un moment de brutalisation et de violence comparable à ce
qu’a été la Grande Guerre ?
I am fascinated by the imagination of the "exit" as it manifests
itself today in the case of deconfinement, on the same mode of
deployment already during the Great War. Faced with an immense crisis,
his contemporaries do not seem to imagine anything other than a
closure of the temporal parenthesis. This time, we imagine a return to
norms and "times before". So, I know that the predictive value of the
social sciences is equivalent to zero, but history teaches us that
after the great crises, there is never a closure of the parenthesis.
There will be a "day after", sure, but it will not look like the day
before. I can and I want to be wrong, but I think we will never see
the world we left a month ago. Why imagine such a break when,
precisely, we are not in a moment of brutality and violence comparable
to what the Great War was?
Les germes d’une crise politique grave étaient déjà présents avant le
Covid-19, mais je crains que demain, la crise politique soit terrible,
avec une reddition des comptes potentiellement meurtrière pour la
The seeds of a serious political crisis were already present before
Covid-19, but I fear that tomorrow the political crisis will be
terrible, with potentially deadly political accountability.
La fameuse phrase de Paul Valéry, « Nous autres, civilisations, nous
savons maintenant que nous sommes mortelles », dit quelque chose de
très profond sur l’effondrement de la croyance en un monde meilleur :
un effondrement sans lequel on ne peut pas comprendre le développement
des totalitarismes au cours de l’entre-deux-guerres. La Seconde Guerre
mondiale a constitué un second choc anthropologique, non pas tellement
par la prise de conscience de l’extermination des juifs d’Europe, bien
plus tardive, mais avec l’explosion de la bombe atomique qui ouvrait
la possibilité d’une autodestruction des sociétés humaines.
Paul Valéry's famous phrase, "We, civilizations, we now know that we
are mortal", says something very deep about the collapse of belief in
a better world: a collapse without which we cannot understand the
development of totalitarianisms during the interwar period. The Second
World War constituted a second anthropological shock, not so much by
the awareness of the extermination of the Jews of Europe, much later,
but with the explosion of the atomic bomb which opened the possibility
of self-destruction human societies.
À mes yeux, nos sociétés subissent aujourd’hui un choc anthropologique
de tout premier ordre. Elles ont tout fait pour bannir la mort de
leurs horizons d’attente, elles se fondaient de manière croissante sur
la puissance du numérique et les promesses de l’intelligence
artificielle. Mais nous sommes rappelés à notre animalité
fondamentale, au « socle biologique de notre humanité » comme
l’appelait l’anthropologue Françoise Héritier. Nous restons des homo
sapiens appartenant au monde animal, attaquables par des maladies
contre lesquelles les moyens de lutte demeurent rustiques en regard de
notre puissance technologique supposée : rester chez soi, sans
médicament, sans vaccin… Est-ce très différent de ce qui se passait à
Marseille pendant la peste de 1720 ?
In my eyes, our societies are today undergoing a first-rate
anthropological shock. They did everything to banish death from their
waiting horizons, they increasingly relied on the power of digital
technology and the promise of artificial intelligence. But we are
reminded of our fundamental animality, the "biological foundation of
our humanity" as the anthropologist Françoise Héritier called it. We
remain homo sapiens belonging to the animal world, attackable by
diseases against which the means of fight remain rustic with regard to
our supposed technological power: staying at home, without medicine,
without vaccine ... Is it very different from what was happening in
Marseille during the plague of 1720?
De même qu’on avait prévu la Grande Guerre, on avait prévu la
possibilité d’une grande pandémie. Par exemple, le Livre blanc de la
Défense de 2008 inscrivait déjà les pandémies comme une des menaces à
envisager. Mais, comme pour la guerre, il existe toujours une
dissonance cognitive entre l’événement imaginé et l’événement qui
survient. Ce dernier ne correspond jamais à ce que l’on avait prévu.
Ceci nous a rendu incapables de profiter des capacités d’anticipation
dont nous pensions disposer.
Just as we had foreseen the Great War, we had foreseen the possibility
of a great pandemic. For example, the 2008 Defense White Paper already
listed pandemics as one of the threats to be considered. But, as in
war, there is always a cognitive dissonance between the imagined event
and the event that occurs. The latter never corresponds to what we had
planned. This made us unable to take advantage of the anticipation
capabilities we thought we had.
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 2 Vanity[a] of vanities, says the Preacher
Vanity[a] of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens[b] to the place where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7 All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8 All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,[c]
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things[d] yet to be
among those who come after.
A Strange Braggart's Incompetent Naval Career in the Heart of Africa @oren_sa
The self-proclaimed hero of a little-known episode of World War I was
equal parts H. Rider Haggard, Fitzcarraldo and Monty Python. A
superannuated Royal Navy commander who fought an absurd naval campaign
on a lake in the middle of Africa.
English author Giles Foden recounted the bizarre story of Lt. Cmdr.
Geoffrey Spicer-Simson in his 2006 nonfiction book Mimi and Toutou’s
After hostilities began in August 1914 the European combatants quickly
expanded the conflict into their remote colonies. Africa became a
battlefield pitting Belgian and British troops against the Germans.
In 1914 Belgium controlled the mountains and vast forests of the Congo
and ruled them with a heart of darkness. Britain claimed a gigantic
swath of territory stretching for South Africa to Egypt and aimed to
create a “Cape-to-Cairo” railway.
Seeking its own place in the sun, Germany governed a huge chunk of
East Africa and augmented the unique riches of the region with a
cotton empire that rivalled the American South.
Separating the Belgian Congo from German East Africa, Lake Tanganiyka
stretched more than 400 miles from what is now Zimbabwe nearly to
Kenya. A mile deep and vast enough to experience tides, Tanganiyka is
the world’s second largest freshwater lake.
The Belgians planned to use their 90-ton steamer Alexandre de Commun
to carry the war across the lake to the German colony, but within days
of the war’s start the German gunboat Hedwig von Wissman shelled and
damaged her, leaving Germany in control of the vast inland sea.
John Lee, a British big-game hunter who’d fought in South Africa
during the Boer War, noted the German success.
He made his way to London where he informed the British Admiralty of
Germany’s conquest of Lake Tanganikya.
Lee proposed that the Royal Navy place armed motorboats on the lake to
challenge the German gunboats.
Success would keep a great section of Africa in Allied hands. It only
remained to get motor boats to the middle of the continent.
Because their onsite construction might be detected by the Germans,
Lee wanted complete vessels shipped to South Africa.
From there railways, tractors and gangs of native laborers would
transport the boats thousands of miles into the interior, over plains
and mountain ranges.
Impressed with Lee’s extraordinary but well-thought-out plan, First
Sea Lord Admiral Sir Henry Jackson sought an officer to command the
Naval Africa Expedition. Nearly all the Royal Navy’s officers we at
sea or in service already.
The man London chose to lead the Naval Africa Expedition lacked
modesty, tact and luck.
The oldest lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy had twice been
beached for incompetence—once from ramming a liberty boat with his
destroyer and again for allowing a German warship to sink a coastal
defense vessel under his command as he watched from shore while dining
with his wife.
To his failings as a naval officer, Geoffrey Spicer-Simson added
braggadocio and condescension.
During the voyage from Britain to South Africa he regaled fellow
passengers with preposterous accounts of his derring-do in Africa and
the Far East.
He didn’t merely shoot a rhino in the Gold Coast—where no rhinos
were—but received accolades from other hunters for its huge size, he
He took the astronomer-royal of Cape Town to task for his ignorance of
the stars in front of the liner’s astonished crew.
He threatened to take command of the ship—he hadn’t the authority—when
the captain ordered “no smoking” around the motorboats’ gasoline
The Naval Africa Expedition set off on its journey along John Lee’s
carefully surveyed and prepared route and after enormous effort
arrived at the tiny Belgian port of Luguka on Lake Tanganiyka in
Dr. H. M Henschal, formerly of the School of Tropical Medicine, kept
the crew in good health despite the Navy’s failure to send him off
with adequate medical supplies.
Lt. Wainwright, a Rhodesian colonist and former locomotive engineer,
kept the steam tractors going under difficult conditions.
At one point he refilled the boilers with help from 150 local women
carrying water pots on their heads.
The Expedition with its pocket warships struggled and sweated across
absurd obstacles on its long journey.
Wainwright supervised bridge-building, improvised boat cranes and
oversaw the tractors’ retrieval from swamps.
Spicer-Simson oversaw his beard, which he repeatedly grew then had
shaved by his manservant.
Upon arrival in the Belgian Congo Spicer-Simson rewarded John Lee for
his hard work and planning by dismissing him for dereliction and
drunkenness, which were fraudulent charges.
When the men and their boats arrived at the tiny port of Lukugua on
Lake Tanganiyka, he established relations with the local Belgian
authorities by insulting them.
In this hearty atmosphere the Naval Africa Expedition prepared its
warships for battle.
The two motorboats HMS Mimi and HMS Toutou were the smallest
commissioned vessels in the Royal Navy. Spicer-Simosn wanted them
named Cat and Dog but chose the French equivalents of Meow and
Woof-Woof when his bosses indignantly denied his first choices.
Forty feet long, eight feet in beam, Mimi and Toutou drove their
mahogany hulls through the water with 100-horsepower gasoline engines.
Three-inch guns mounted forward of their cockpits provided firepower
and a great deal of weight, which made the boats tricky to pilot.
German naval commander Frigattenkapitan Gustav Zimmer sent the gunboat
Kigani to Lukuga for reconnaissance.
His native allies, the Ba-Holo-Holo, a group living on both shores of
the lake, delivered less and less intelligence. Spicer-Simson’s
increasing eccentricities encouraged their shift in loyalty.
The British officer took to wearing a skirt—not a kilt but a
skirt—with his khakis and bared his arms and shoulders to reveal his
extensive and colorful tattoos, including snakes, butterflies and
other lurid designs. The tattoos mightily impressed the Ba-Holo-Holo.
His behavior further perplexed and offended his subordinates and
hosts. The Belgians began calling him “commandant de la jupe”—the
skirted major—to which Spicer-Simson objected that he should be
addressed as “mon colonel.”
When the Kigani finally approached Lukuga to give battle on Dec. 26,
1915, Spicer-Simson simply pocketed the note alerting him to the
warship’s approach and continued with the Sunday morning service. Only
when finished did he order his attack.
After a vigorous stern chase the Mimi and Toutou rounded on the Kigani
and stopped her flight with two hits on her upperworks.
The nine-fingered Scots soldier—not a sailor—at the helm of Mimi ended
the engagement by ramming the German gunboat with the wooden
motorboat, severely damaging Mimi’s bow and throwing Spicer-Simson to
After placing a prize crew in charge of the captured gunboat the
victorious commander returned to shore and a hero’s welcome, wearing a
ring he’d taken off the dead German skipper’s finger.
Although dazed and unsmiling, perhaps stunned by actually
accomplishing something heroic, Spicer-Simson soon returned to form,
telling everyone he personally had fired the shots that crippled the
Kigani. He hadn’t.
Once refitted and refloated the Kigani became HMS Fifi (!) and joined
Spicer-Simson’s tiny flotilla.
His command still had work to do—the gunboat Hedwig von Wissman still
prowled the lake and the Allies remained unaware of a much larger
German warship, Graf Von Gotzen.
In the meantime Geoffrey Spicer-Simson, now promoted to full
commander, became “Bwana Chifunga-tumbo,” or Lord Belly Cloth, to the
The tribespeople enjoyed Spicer-Simson’s bath rituals involving a
canvas tub, a smoking jacket and a stool set with a glass of vermouth.
When Hedwig Von Wissman appeared near Lukuga Lord Belly Cloth returned
to his naval duties and commanded the British attack with customary
elan and incompetence.
Even as the gas-powered Mimi roared ahead of the steam-powered Fifi
Spicer-Simson frantically signaled and screamed at Wainwright to
remain in formation.
Wainwright’s drive gave Mimi the first hits scored on the Hedwig Von
Wissman, whose front-mounted big guns couldn’t bear on the pursuing
Spicer-Simson ordered his crew to keep shelling the German warship
even though out of range. The recoil of Fifi’s big gun nearly stopped
the captured gunboat dead in the water. By the time the Fifi got close
enough she had only three shells left.
A lucky hit on the Hedwig Von Wissman’s engine room wrecked the ship
and the German crew abandoned the sinking vessel.
Spicer-Simson stopped to retrieve a floating locker before rescuing
survivors. The locker contained the first German naval flag recovered
by the British during World War I.
The sinking of the Hedwig von Wissman and the capture of its crew
elevated Spicer-Simson to god-like status among the Ba-Holo-Holo and
in his own mind.
The tribespeople made clay effigies of the eccentric Englishman. The
Admiralty transmitted its congratulations via wireless.
The vice-admiral’s flag Spicer-Simson had equipped himself with upon
arriving at Lukuga seemed merely just.
The Germans also mastered the art of dragging ships into the middle of Africa.
The 1,500-ton Graf Von Gotzen, built in Germany then disassembled,
shipped to Dar Es Salaam and carried by railway to Lake Tangaiyka
entirely without the Allies’ knowledge, threatened to reclaim the lake
for the Kaiser.
When the Graf Von Gotzen appeared off Lukuga Wainwright ran to
Spicer-Simson for orders. His commander studied the approaching
warship with his binoculars, said nothing and returned to his tent. A
flabbergasted Wainwright signaled the crews to stand down.
Korvettenkapitan Job Odebrecht, late of the sunken Hedwig Von Wissman
and now a POW, looked Henschal straight in the eye, said nothing and
returned to his quarters.
Lord Belly Cloth apparently had no need of further glory.
Mimi, Toutou and Fifi never engaged Graf Von Gotzen. Their commander
left the lake battleground for months on a trip to the other side of
Spicer-Simson wanted a British ironclad stationed at the mouth of the
Congo River. It too was eventually hauled across Africa to Lake
Tanganiyka … but by then the fight was over.
The final campaign involved taking the German bases at both ends of
the great lake. While Belgian forces struck Kigoma to the north the
Naval Africa Expedition supported the attack on Bismarcksburg to the
A column of Rhodesian infantry led by Lt. Col. Murray assaulted the
Beau Geste-style castle with vigor but met no resistance.
Spicer-Simson’s unwillingness to engage the fort from sea allowed the
garrison to slip away aboard native dhows. When the Rhodesians entered
the fort they found the German guns were mostly wooden fakes.
Murray was furious with Spicer-Simson and their meeting left the naval
officer shell-shocked. He retired to bed and left Wainwright and his
other subordinates manage the Expedition for the rest of its stay.
The man who had briefly been a god of sorts and a Nelson of Africa
returned to the dingy office he left once the Admiralty got better
information on his true performance in the field. He never held a
naval command again.
But even into the 1930s, Geoffrey Spicer-Simson retained his popular
reputation as hero, even as the battles of Lake Taganiyka faded into
obscurity and the clay effigies of Lord Belly Cloth crumbled in the
This Is How It Looks When You're Not Afraid @TheAtlantic
Law & Politics
Anthony fauci has been different from any other prominent official
Donald Trump has dealt with in his time as president. The difference
is that Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases, is not afraid. To put it in terms Trump might
recognize: What the hell does he have to lose?
But Anthony Fauci has dealt with a lot of presidents before Trump. And
as Michael Specter pointed out in a New Yorker profile of him this
“Some wise person who used to be in the White House, in the Nixon
Administration, told me a very interesting dictum to live by,” he told
me in 2016, during a public conversation we had at the fifty-year
reunion of his medical-school class. “He said, ‘When you go into the
White House, you should be prepared that that is the last time you
will ever go in. Because if you go in saying, I’m going to tell
somebody something they want to hear, then you’ve shot yourself in the
foot.’ Now everybody knows I’m going to tell them exactly what’s the
Fauci is a sophisticated bureaucratic operator, and he knows how to
“tell them exactly what’s the truth” as tactfully as he can. In his
repeated press-briefing “corrections” of Trump’s fantasies and
misstatements, Fauci has made it sound as if he is saying, “Yes, and
…” rather than “No, that’s nuts.” His occasional face-palm moments
while Trump is riffing are little glimpses of indiscipline while not
at the microphone. Onstage he is honest and polite.
PATRICK LAWRENCE: Our Post-Pandemic Future @Consortiumnews
Law & Politics
Will human civilization simply resume course or will we recognize the
need for numerous far-reaching reforms?
Full restoration or fundamental change: As the Covid–19 infection and
fatality curves at last begin to flatten, the entire world now asks
which of these lies in our post–pandemic future.
Will human civilization simply resume its course — its destructive,
inequitable course, along which lies too much suffering — or will
there be a sobering up, let us call it, a recognition that very
far-reaching reforms are needed in too many spheres to count?
Another way to pose the question: Is humanity any longer capable of
Or has the dreadful prevalence of neoliberal thinking denuded us — we
in Western, post-democracies, that is — of all will in the face of
circumstances that require it, along with a determination to act
imaginatively and bravely?
No one anywhere can credibly turn in an answer to this question — not yet.
But several months into the Covid–19 crisis, it does not seem we
Westerners are able to unmoor ourselves sufficiently from what can
only be called the perverse security of our too-familiar insecurities.
We do not appear to trust ourselves to depart from the the hellishly
precarious life for so many in a neoliberal world.
Expressions of hope for a different kind of future are everywhere. In
here-and-there fashion, there are signs it is justified.
I am not much for monarchies, but one must say the Queen rose
impressively to the occasion in her “We will meet again” speech to
Britain last week.
The grainy frames of all those wartime films depicting British
gumption seemed to flicker by. It was the right thing to do at the
right moment, especially given the prime minister (whatever one may
think of him) was then on oxygen in an intensive-care ward. It has had
the desired effect.
At about the same time, the British government asked for volunteers to
assist the National Health Service to attend to the most vulnerable
Whitehall expected 250,000 hands to go up — and got triple that number
“A stirring display of British national solidarity,” the
ever–Anglophilic New York Times called it. It was, one has to say.
In this same line, the Financial Times published an editorial last
week that has to be counted remarkable for what was said as well as
who was saying it. “Virus lays bare the frailty of the social
contract,” the headline announced.
The paper of City of London stockbrokers then laid out a program
worthy of left Labourites such as the late Michael Foote or the
recently defeated Jeremy Corbyn. Here is the pithiest paragraph:
“Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the
last four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will
have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public
services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to
make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the
agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question.
Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and
wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.”
Behind the FT’s editorial surprise lay another. The budget Prime
Minister Boris Johnson made public in February turned British politics
Here was a true-blue Tory committed to equalizing the UK’s economic
geography — “leveling up” is Johnson’s phrase — to the benefit of
disadvantaged regions that once were Britain’s industrial backbone.
A high-speed rail line to the rust-belt North, worker-training
programs, big new spending on the N.H.S. — Johnson’s plans amount to a
kind of Tory populism, all-out Keynesianism from the party of big
It is tempting to read into these developments in the money center
across the pond a harbinger of a fundamental shift — an imminent
abandonment at last of the ruinous neoliberal economic model.
Were this so, it would stand as the single most positive outcome
possible as the Covid–19 crisis recedes, whenever this proves to be.
But any such interpretation would be incautious, especially in the
It is more likely these events will turn out exceptions proving the
rule — the rule that nothing need change and nothing will.
Rather than international unity in the face of a common challenge, the
response to Coivd–19 among the industrialized post-democracies is
zero-sum nationalism, every nation for itself and implicitly against
The virus’s savage spread has already left the European Union a shambles.
“Solidarity becomes a hollow mantra,” as Shada Islam, a prominent
think-tank inhabitant, told The Guardian over the weekend.
So have the Brussels technocrats punted the exceptional vision of the
European project’s founders.
Prominent among the exceptions to this are those non–Western nations
now coming selflessly to the aid of the afflicted in Europe as well as
their allies in the non–West.
This is another tragic irony in the making, a bitter one: The
unenlightened responses to Covid–19 among the major Western powers are
likely to leave the world more divided, not less, once the threat
subsides — poor vs. wealthy, South vs. North.
America’s domestic response to the Covid–19 onslaught makes Europe’s
look like a model case study in some business school curriculum.
Bottlenecks are everywhere.
The trillions the Federal Reserve and Treasury have committed are
stuck in clotted bureaucracies and reluctant-to-lend banks such that
small businesses are going under and families are going hungry while
private-equity firms are pushing their way into loan programs not
remotely intended for them. Talk about free-for-alls.
Management expertise used to be part of America’s claim to
exceptionalism. “Can do,” a phrase from the first half of the last
century, proved out as the U.S. mobilized for the second world war.
By the early–1940s American shipyards were floating one new Liberty
ship a day, believe it or not.
The rest of the world noticed. In the postwar decades, the
missionaries of American management theory were welcomed as demigods
across both oceans.
And now? Who can imagine anyone taking an interest in American
management methods? Let’s put it this way: Surrendering our
chosen-people consciousness, whenever we are finally required to do
so, will inevitably be bitter.
Maybe America’s multiple failures since Covid–19 hit will set this
process in motion. This would be salutary, and of no small consequence
either at home or in global affairs.
Two other issues, resolved or unresolved as they may prove, will
define how well or poorly America emerges from this crisis. If
Americans cannot get a socialized health-care system on the back of
the Covid–19 fight, it is difficult to imagine what it will take to
achieve health-care justice.
If Americans cannot at least begin taming the Pentagon beast, ditto.
In neither case does one find cause for optimism, difficult as this is
to admit. There is hope and there is power, and we know how these
face-offs almost always end.
A Psychological Crisis
There has been no stirring display of American national solidarity, if
you have not noticed. We are all sitting around — more or less in
silence, so far as one can make out — while corporate captains and a
corrupt administration chart the course forward.
Why is this? Do not look for any answer in politics, or in economic
advantage or disadvantage. The problem transcends all such
Covid–19 is a health crisis, and very soon it will be an economic
crisis few alive today will be able to fathom. But it is above all a
psychological crisis. It is essential to understand this.
Americans are no longer the people who sent a Liberty ship a day to
sea. “Can do” is now closer to “can’t do,” “rather not,” or “why
The drug of material consumption separates us from that earlier,
Hula hoops and Mustangs have left us very sadly atomized, a vast
“lonely crowd,” somnambulant. And helpless to escape ourselves. Let us
not be mistaken: This is the true American crisis Covid–19 bares.
A friend forwarded an extract from a commentary Linh Dinh, the
wonderfully freewheeling Vietnamese–American poet, published in The
Unz Review over the weekend. It is pertinent to our case:
“With our plastic, skyscraping project imploding, perhaps we can
devolve into a breed that’s simpler, muddier and gnarlier, less
distracted so much saner, and more honest to those around us, since we
can’t escape them. Perhaps we’ll become men again.
Or maybe not. Cowed by fear, oozing despair and dependent on those who
have clearly betrayed us at each turn, we’ll become even more
catatonic in our cells. After lockdown, we’ll stumble like blind
fools, into this farce, again.”
Later in the day this same friend sent along a line from Don De
Lillo’s “White Noise” and I pass it on:
“Here we don’t die. We shop. But the difference is less marked than you think.”
06-APR-2020 :: The Way we live now
Law & Politics
It certainly is a new c21st that we find ourselves in. There is a
luminous and Fairy Tale feel to life in quarantine and as you know
most fairy tales have an oftentimes dark and dangerous and unspoken
undercurrent. I sit in my study and its as if my hearing is sharpened.
I hear the Breeze, birdsong, Nature in its many forms and the urban
background noise which was once the constant accompaniment to daily
life has entirely retreated. The Nights are dark, the stars are bright
and the neighbiours long gone.
There is a Passage in V.S Naipaul's A Bend in the River
“Going home at night! It wasn't often that I was on the river at
night. I never liked it. I never felt in control. In the darkness of
river and forest you could be sure only of what you could see — and
even on a moonlight night you couldn't see much. When you made a noise
— dipped a paddle in the water — you heard yourself as though you were
another person. The river and the forest were like presences, and much
more powerful than you. You felt unprotected, an intruder ... You felt
the land taking you back to something that was familiar, something you
had known at some time but had forgotten or ignored, but which was
always there.You felt the land taking you back to what was there a
hundred years ago, to what had been there always.” ― V.S. Naipaul, A
Bend in the River
One feels one must tread more carefully now, with a lot of
circumspection, that not just my purchase but all of ours is a lot
more precarious now and that there is something Karmic in this
#COVID19. When I saw a Video of a Pool Party in South Africa, where
everyone was chanting ''Corona Corona'' like a mantra, I recoiled, I
couldn't watch because I thought to myself, You can be sure of one
thing COVID19 will come. The COVID19 is invisible but it has already
defeated the most expensive Aircraft carriers, it lurks everywhere and
in silence and has put down Mecca, St. Peters Square and the Vatican,
Qom and everywhere else that we congregate and ask for succour. It is
not to be trifled with. Boris dismissed it and now speaks to the
Nation like a disembodied voice from a Bunker. [I wrote this before
the news about Boris Johnson's hospitalisation I wish him a speedy
Trump too thinks its another Trade and his luck which took him all the
way to the Presidency will hold out and watching his always surreal
White House Briefing has an added frisson of the waiting for him to
turn yellow. And I suppose we all wish we had an Angela Merkel because
at least then we might have a fighting chance.
Don DeLillo wrote "Everything is barely weeks. Everything is days. We
have minutes to live."
And it certainly feels like we are pirouetting at the precipice and
our Leaders are saying Don't Panic and I want to say ''look Chum You
are not Merkel and just a few days ago You were telling me its all
cool its just the Flu. Others might take you seriously on what basis I
know not but I don't.''
Venturing to the Supermarket is like going on a Safari. You look
around. You keep your distance. You want to leave. You think every
surface is potentially a Killer. You walk around the familiar and it
all feels so unfamiliar.
And what is clear is that we are all in our different but similar
quarantined experiences at an inflexion Point because COVID19 has
brought us all to an inevitable question. What is it all about? Can it
ever return to what it was? As I try and peer through into the Future
the one thing I do know is that its not reverting to what it was. We
are turning the Page here and the uncertainty is because we all know
collectively that's what we are about to do. The book is in front of
us and the page might turn itself but turn it will. The Question is
what is on the next page and I cannot answer that.
What I do know is this. Regime implosion is coming to the Oil
Producers and Trump can game the price a little more sure but its a
pointless exercise. Demand has cratered and a return to a hyper
connected 100m barrels per day world is not going to happen for the
foreseeable future. Putin will survive because he prepared for this
moment. Others are as good as terminated. I also know that we are
about to enter The Great Depression. The FED, The ECB and the all the
other Central Banks can print but at some point it turns Weimar
Germany. Before it turns Weimar Germany, it falls off a cliff in
Emerging Markets. We are watching the Great Decoupling unfold in front
of our eyes, from Brazil to South Africa to India. Twenty years of
good times are now ended. Africa is simply too dreadful to
contemplate. We are weeks away now from collapsing health care systems
and ''blow ups'' in our urban centres. Ramaphosa and Kagame might have
a chance but everywhere else I look, leadership is as clueless as
Trump is in his White House Briefing.
Welcome to the wild world of epidemic diplomacy. Customs rules waylay ventilators and masks. Relief planes fly home half empty. China diplomats force countries to give public thanks to China for selling PPE @nytimes @paulmozur
Law & Politics
On Monday, Mr. Trump signaled in a news conference that he may be
ending the détente with China when he used the term “Wuhan virus,” a
label despised by Beijing that emphasizes the city where the virus was
Chinese regulators, embarrassed by reports of shoddy medical equipment
sent to Europe, imposed a new rule on Friday mandating that customs
officers inspect every shipment of masks, ventilators and other
medical gear before they leave the country.
That was the latest in a series of regulatory actions that had begun
to hinder shipments. One American businessman said a new list of items
to be inspected was so broad that it even included cotton balls.
The country exported more than $1.4 billion of pandemic supplies from
March 1 to April 4, he said, and scores of countries had signed
The State Department appears determined to compete with China on
publicity over aid. Its website says it has given nearly $500 million
in foreign aid to help with the pandemic.
Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a call with
reporters in Europe that “there is no country in the world that will
provide as much aid and assistance through multiple forms as the
United States of America will.”
One new rule in China dictates that supplies heading to the United
States must have approval not just from the Food and Drug
Administration, but now also from China’s National Medical Products
Administration, which many importers do not have.
The regulations have threatened to disrupt ventilator supply chains
for companies like General Electric and have impeded shipments of
masks managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to
people familiar with the matter.
This week, a plane bound for Massachusetts took off with less than
half of the 10 million masks it was supposed to carry. Several major
makers of virus tests have struggled, too. One, PerkinElmer, has had a
large shipment delayed for days, the people said.
Often, Chinese officials tell counterparts abroad that they must
publicly thank China in return for the shipments, say Western
officials, executives and analysts with knowledge of the exchanges.
“What is most striking to me is the extent to which the Chinese
government appears to be demanding public displays of gratitude from
other countries; this is certainly not in the tradition of the best
humanitarian relief efforts,” said Elizabeth C. Economy, the director
for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“It seems strange to expect signed declarations of thanks from other
countries in the midst of the crisis.”
The emails had proposed drafts of the resolution that included lines
saying that “China has adopted unprecedented and rigorous measures”
and that the actions “have been effective in curbing the virus from
spreading to other parts of China and the world.”
One sentence said that China had been “transparent and quick” with
Mr. Roth sent back a one-word reply — “Nuts” — and on March 26
introduced a resolution in the State Senate that said that the
“Communist Party of China deliberately and intentionally misled the
world on the Wuhan coronavirus” and that Wisconsin stood “in
solidarity with the Chinese people to condemn the actions” of the
party. The Wisconsin Examiner first reported on the resolution.
The diplomat, Wu Ting, did not reply to a request for comment.
“Beijing may come to regret its rapid pivot from domestic crisis to
international triumphalism, for there is already a rising tide of
nationalist anger coming its way as citizens from countries around the
world face prolonged economic hardship and are in search of culpable
parties,” said Jude Blanchette, a China scholar at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies.
@IMFNews April 2020 World Economic Outlook by #WEO
Global growth is projected at –3.0 percent in 2020, an outcome far
worse than during the 2009 global financial crisis.
The growth forecast is marked down by more than 6 percentage points
relative to the October 2019 WEO and January 2020 WEO Update
projections—an extraordinary revision over such a short period of
Growth in the advanced economy group—where several economies are
experiencing widespread outbreaks and deploying containment
measures—is projected at –6.1 percent in 2020.
Most economies in the group are forecast to contract this year,
including the United States (–5.9 percent), Japan (–5.2 percent), the
United Kingdom (–6.5 percent), Germany (–7.0 percent), France (–7.2
percent), Italy (–9.1 percent), and Spain (–8.0 percent).
In parts of Europe, the outbreak has been as severe as in China’s
Hubei province. Although essential to contain the virus, lockdowns and
restrictions on mobility are extracting a sizable toll on economic
activity. Adverse confidence effects are likely to further weigh on
Among emerging market and developing economies, all countries face a
health crisis, severe external demand shock, dramatic tightening in
global financial conditions, and a plunge in commodity prices, which
will have a severe impact on economic activity in commodity exporters.
Overall, the group of emerging market and developing economies is
projected to contract by –1.0 percent in 2020; excluding China, the
growth rate for the group is expected to be –2.2 percent.
Even in countries not experiencing widespread detected outbreaks as of
the end of March (and therefore not yet deploying containment measures
of the kind seen in places with outbreaks) the significant downward
revision to the 2020 growth projection reflects large anticipated
domestic disruptions to economic activity from COVID-19.
The 2020 growth rate for the group excluding China is marked down 5.8
percentage points relative to the January WEO projection.
As discussed below, growth would be even lower if more stringent
containment measures are necessitated by a wider spread of the virus
among these countries.
Emerging Asia is projected to be the only region with a positive
growth rate in 2020 (1.0 percent), albeit more than 5 percentage
points below its average in the previous decade.
In China, indicators such as industrial production, retail sales, and
fixed asset investment suggest that the contraction in economic
activity in the first quarter could have been about 8 percent year
Even with a sharp rebound in the remainder of the year and sizable
fiscal support, the economy is projected to grow at a subdued 1.2
percent in 2020.
Several economies in the region are forecast to grow at modest rates,
including India (1.9 percent) and Indonesia (0.5 percent), and others
are forecast to experience large contractions (Thailand, –6.7
Other regions are projected to experience severe slowdowns or outright
contractions in economic activity, including Latin America (–5.2
percent)— with Brazil’s growth forecast at –5.3 percent and Mexico’s
at –6.6 percent; emerging and developing Europe (–5.2 percent)—with
Russia’s economy projected to contract by –5.5 percent; the Middle
East and Central Asia (–2.8 percent)—with Saudi Arabia’s growth
forecast at –2.3 percent, with non-oil GDP contracting by 4 percent,
and most economies, including Iran, expected to contract; and
sub-Saharan Africa (–1.6 percent)—with growth in Nigeria and South
Africa expected at –3.4 percent and –5.8 per- cent, respectively.
Following the dramatic decline in oil prices since the beginning of
the year, near-term prospects for oil-exporting countries have
deteriorated significantly: the growth rate for the group is projected
to drop to –4.4 percent in 2020.
Top creditors to suspend poorest countries' debt payments: France @Reuters
Some 76 countries, of which 40 are in sub-Sahara Africa, were eligible
to have debt payments worth a combined $20 billion suspended, out of a
total of $32 billion the countries were to spend on debt servicing
“We have obtained a debt moratorium at the level of bilateral
creditors and private creditors for a total of $20 billion,” Bruno Le
Maire told journalists.
The government creditors, including not only the Paris Club group of
creditors, but also China and other members of the Group of 20
economic powers, are to suspend $12 billion under the agreement, which
remains to be finalised on Wednesday.
Group of Seven (G7) finance officials on Tuesday threw their support
behind a push to provide temporary debt relief to the poorest
countries, if it was backed by China and other G20 countries, and
could be agreed with the Paris Club group of creditors.
Separately, a senior German official spoke of a debt moratorium by
official creditors worth up to $14 billion, which was the same number
provided by World Bank President David Malpass last month.
“We’re glad in particular that China agreed to participate in this
moratorium. All that will free up money for the countries that need it
the most,” Le Maire said.
Private creditors have agreed on a voluntary basis to roll over or
refinance $8 billion in debt, a French finance ministry source said.
Le Maire said of the total $32 billion due this year, the remaining
$12 billion is owed by multilateral lenders, mainly the World Bank, Le
Maire said, urging such lenders to join the debt relief initiative.
OIL MARKET MELTDOWN: @JavierBlas
WTI down 10% below $20 a barrel
Brent crude falls 7% to $29.5 a barrel
Prompt contango widening sharply
And North Sea physical market is crashig again.
CFDs falls sharply and DFL plunges even deeper (chart below)
06-APR-2020 : The Way we live now
What I do know is this. Regime implosion is coming to the Oil
Producers and Trump can game the price a little more sure but its a
pointless exercise. Demand has cratered and a return to a hyper
connected 100m barrels per day world is not going to happen for the
foreseeable future. Putin will survive because he prepared for this
moment. Others are as good as terminated.
"Oil creates the illusion of a completely changed life, life without work, life for free. Oil is a resource that anaesthetises thought, blurs vision, corrupts.”- Ryszard Kapuscinski, Shah of Shahs
“Oil kindles extraordinary emotions and hopes, since oil is above all
a great temptation. It is the temptation of ease, wealth, strength,
fortune, power. It is a filthy, foul-smelling liquid that squirts
obligingly up into the air and falls back to earth as a rustling
shower of money.”― Ryszard Kapuściński, Shah of Shahs
Brazil likely has 12 times more coronavirus cases than official count, study finds @Reuters
Researchers at a consortium of Brazilian universities and institutes
examined the ratio of cases resulting in deaths through April 10 and
compared it with data on the expected death rate from the World Health
The much higher-than-expected death rate in Brazil indicates there are
many more cases of the virus than are being counted, with the study
estimating only 8% of cases are being officially reported.
The government has focused on testing serious cases rather than all
suspected cases, according to the consortium, known as the Center for
Health Operations and Intelligence.
The center and medical professionals have also complained of long wait
times to get test results.
Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta has said that it is difficult
to distribute tests in Brazil because of the size of the country but
acknowledges that testing needs to improve.
Officially, Brazil’s coronavirus death toll rose to 1,328 on Monday,
while the number of confirmed cases hit 23,430, according to health
As of last Thursday, Brazil had had around 127,000 suspected cases and
carried out just short of 63,000 tests, ministry figures indicate.
A health ministry official on Monday said more than 93,000 tests are
still being processed for results.
Year to date, the number of hospitalizations for severe respiratory
symptoms has been over three times higher than usual for the time of
year, but only 12% of those have been confirmed as COVID-19, the
severe respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“The high degree of under-notification could give a false impression
about control of the disease, and consequently, could lead to a
decline in containment measures,” the center said.
The outbreak has stoked tension in the Brazilian government, with
right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro downplaying risks of the virus and
urging the country to return to normal, while his health minister,
state governors and local officials urge stricter measures.
The center has thus far been accurate in predicting the evolution of
the virus in Brazil, with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases
through March 30 falling within the range that the researchers
The researchers are now predicting that by April 20 the number of
cases will grow to 25,164 in its most optimistic scenario and 60,413
cases in its most pessimistic.
2-SEP-2019 :: the China EM Frontier Feedback Loop Phenomenon. #COVID19
This Phenomenon was positive for the last two decades but has now
undergone a Trend reversal.
The Fall-out is being experienced as far away as Germany Inc.
The ZAR is the purest proxy for this Phenomenon.
African Countries heavily dependent on China being the main Taker are
also at the bleeding edge of this Phenomenon.
This Pressure Point will not ease soon but will continue to intensify
@Glencore Feud Deepens as Zambia Moves to Revoke Copper Mines @markets
Zambia raised the stakes in its fight with Glencore Plc, threatening
to strip the company of its copper mines in the southern African
Glencore said last week it needs to close shafts at Mopani Copper
Mines Plc due to falling metal prices, disrupted logistics and travel
restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
It pressed ahead with the move in defiance of the government, which
described the closure as illegal.
“They’ve been given seven days to show why their license should not be
canceled or revoked,” Mines Ministry Permanent Secretary Barnaby
Mulenga said by phone.
A Glencore spokesman declined to comment, though the company said
earlier Tuesday it was in talks with the government about a way
The threat from Zambia to cancel the mining license of Glencore’s
local unit significantly escalates the conflict at a time when both
the commodity trader and country are battling slumping copper prices
as the coronavirus pandemic hits demand
Zambia has a track record for carrying through on its threats. A year
ago, the country placed the local unit of Vedanta Resources Plc in
provisional liquidation, accusing the company of skipping taxes and
lying about expansion plans. Zambia is the continent’s second-biggest
Mopani didn’t give required notice to place operations under care and
maintenance, state-owned ZNBC TV reported Tuesday, citing a government
letter to Mopani Chief Executive Officer Nathan Bullock.
The government intends to revoke the licenses for both Mopani’s Nkana
and Mufulira mines, ZNBC said.
Glencore has struggled to make its Zambian business profitable, but
the mines have been central to its plans to turn around the fortunes
of the giant African copper and cobalt business that also includes
mines across the border, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The company is in the process of spending billions of dollars at
Mopani to sink new shafts. Once fully up and running, the mines should
produce about 140,000 tons of copper a year, compared with just 51,000
tons last year. The mine had been expected to produce between 50,000
tons and 70,000 tons this year.
Glencore said last week that it will continue paying its permanent
employees, excluding management, and they will have continued access
to health care and other services. The company’s contractors will
receive payments exceeding those it’s legally obliged to make, it
It's been a tumultuous, loss-making year since the billion-dollar IPO of Jumia "Africa's @amazon ” @qzafrica
A year ago this week, Jumia, the largest e-commerce operator across
Africa, entered uncharted territory:
it became the first major African-focused tech company to list on the
New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Jumia’s listing was rightly heralded as a major milestone for Africa’s
fledgling tech ecosystems and for a company which had expanded to 14
African countries with businesses across several verticals since it
was first founded in Nigeria in 2012.
Ahead of its listing, investors with a track record of backing
e-commerce ventures in emerging markets predicted that the novelty of
an Africa-focused tech company listing on NYSE would initially prove a
draw, especially among retail investors.
And that turned out to be the case in the company’s first days of
trading. Jumia went on to raise $196 million through its initial
public offering (IPO) and its stock soared on its opening day of
trading, closing 75% up valuing the company at over $3 billion.
But one year later, those fortunes have changed drastically.
After peaking at a high of $49.77 within its first week of trading in
April 2019, the stock had crashed below its IPO price by August. Jumia
lost its “unicorn” status by September and the stock now trades just
over $3 or around $250 million in market capitalization.
That initial Cinderella run was the result of “a confluence of market
conditions, a scarcity of this kind of opportunity [an African tech
company listing in New York] and a lack of interrogation because they
were so many reputable anchor investors already in the business,” says
Aly-Khan Satchu, a Nairobi-based financial and investment analyst.
Those investors included Africa’s largest telecoms operator MTN,
French insurance giant AXA and Swedish telecoms operator Millicom.
Global payments giant Mastercard also invested $56 million in a
private stock sale ahead of the IPO.
Jumia also benefited from a “positive spillover effect” with other
high-profile tech IPOs also slated for last year, from Uber and Lyft
to AirBnB and Slack, Satchu argues.
“That point in time was about peak optimism about these [tech] opportunities.”
Jumia’s first PR battle amid its IPO came in form of a debate over its
identity. Despite being incorporated in Germany, listed in New York
and headquartered in Dubai, Jumia’s definition of itself as African in
its S1 filing prompted intense scrutiny from African industry
As Jumia CEO and co-founder, Sacha Poignonnec, told Quartz Africa at
the time, the company’s identity stems from its focus “to bring some
value to the African consumers.”
But while that debate was more about nuance, subsequent concerns
around Jumia were more about substance.
The company’s first post-IPO earnings call came on the heels of
damaging allegations of fraud and “material discrepancies” in its S1
filing by Citron Research, a small, controversial Los Angeles-based
stock short seller.
Those claims were brushed off by the company’s leadership which
maintained operations were “transparent” even as its share price
Four months later however, the claims of fraud came from within the
company itself as Jumia disclosed it had uncovered instances of
improper orders being placed and subsequently cancelled on its
Jumia claimed the fraudulent orders had no impact on its financial
statements even though they had wrongly inflated its order volume by
around $17.5 million.
Further, the company also revealed “several” class action lawsuits had
been filed against it over “alleged misstatements and omissions” in
its launch prospectus—a core claim by Citron Research.
Jumia has told investors it has a target of attaining profitability by
2022. It is still reporting major million-dollar quarterly losses but
not trending towards reducing losses.
In the fourth quarter of 2019, operating losses expanded by 15% to
€61.1 million ($66.5 million) year-on-year while full year operating
losses widened by 34%.
While Jumia has now stepped up cost-cutting measures, shutting down
operations in Rwanda, Tanzania and Cameroon in the last six months, it
has also doubled down on its existing markets, exploring ways to widen
its user base, order numbers and revenue.
Last July, it partnered with Vivo Energy (owner of Engen and
Shell-branded petrol stations across Africa) to set up pick-up
stations at Vivo’s over 2,000 fuel station outlets, allowing customers
place and pick up orders as well as make payments.
In addition to easing last-mile delivery challenges, the move also
aimed at capturing and on-boarding potential offline customers as
But while it continues to tweak its e-commerce and marketplace models,
Jumia is also betting on a fintech pivot to drive up revenues.
After months of testing and using Jumia Pay, its in-house payments
solution, within its marketplace ecosystem, Jumia has stepped up plans
to spin off the service and open it up to third party users.
The service which is now live in six African countries has already
shown promise with payments volume and value more than doubling last
year, according to Jumia’s financial statements.
In addition to payment processing for third party users, Jumia Pay’s
off-platform strategy also includes facilitating payments through QR
codes as well as powering mobile point of sale systems.
But competing in Africa’s already crowded fintech space presents
Jumia with a new set of challenges—and deep-pocketed rivals.
In Nigeria, for instance, payments services OPay and PalmPay received
over $210 million in funding predominantly from Chinese backers last
It’s yet unclear if or when Jumia’s long-term bet and investment in
African e-commerce will pay off for investors.
But one exit possibility could come in form an acquisition by a global
e-commerce player, Satchu claims.
“They do have a first mover advantage and with these sort of
valuations, it might be attractive for a bigger player to scoop them
up as a quick market entry point.” It’s an oft-cited exit theory among
local industry insiders.
But while that may yet be the case, the recent exit of Jumia’s
earliest major investor Rocket Internet, which sold its 11% stake at
the start of the month, may prompt watchers to do a double take.
“The valuation around which they got out was not a stellar one and
therefore counter-intuitively, the message they’re sending is that
‘we’re prepared to take what we get now rather than hang on for the
business to right-size itself’,” Satchu says.
”It was a very negative signal that one for their earliest investors
is prepared to cash out and run.”