Africans, Our Emperors are Naked!

As a young African who has had a fair share of scars from life’s cruel edges, I, inadvertently, find myself trying to do things in an attempt to make life better for those around me and generations to come. In this state, such questions as Which Way Now Africa? Become your lullaby, your laughter, your cry, your best enemy and your worst friend.

In my quest to find the answers, I bumped into this beautiful story.

Once upon a time, there lived an emperor who cared only about his clothes and about showing them off. One day two con men came to him and said that they could make him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth. This cloth, they said, was very special. The cloth was invisible to the stupid and the low-born.

Being a bit nervous about whether he himself would be able to see the cloth the emperor first sent two of his trusted advisors to see this special material. There was, of course, no cloth at all, but neither would admit that they could not see it and so they praised it.

As word of this special cloth spread, all the townspeople were now interested to learn how stupid their neighbors were. The emperor then allowed himself to be dressed by the con men in his special new suit, made of this special cloth, for the procession through town. Although he knew he was naked, he never admitted it for fear that he was too unfit and stupid to see that he was wearing nothing. He too was afraid that the townspeople would think that he was stupid.

Of course, all the townspeople wildly praised the magnificent clothes of the emperor, themselves afraid to admit that they could not see the clothes, until a small child said:

“But he has nothing on!”

The child’s parents gasped and attempted to silence the child, but the child would not be silenced. As he twisted and turned, pulling his parents hands from his mouth, he continued to say, “The emperor is naked!” Soon, a few of his classmates were giggling and joined in.”

After a while adults joined their children and began to whisper, “The kids are right! The old guy has nothing on. He’s a fool and he expects us to be foolish with him.”

Soon the whisper spread from person to person until everyone in the crowd began shouting, “The emperor has no clothes.”

The emperor heard it, of course, and although he knew they were correct, that he was stark naked in front of the town, he held his head high and finished the procession. Although he knew he was naked, he never admitted it for fear that he was too unfit and stupid to see that he was wearing nothing. He too was afraid that the townspeople would think that he was stupid.”

Most industry leads in Africa are typical Emperors with no clothes, surrounded by sycophants and lead by the edge of the sword.

I attempted to analyze the national budgets for different African countries. Kenya, my own country gave me a sucker punch right on my face. In a budget of 3 Trillion ($30 Billion), half of it goes to people who are employed by the government in form of recurrent expenditure; salary, travel, flowers and office snacks. In a country of about 50 million people, civil servants are less than 1 million. 49 Million People are carrying the burdens and ‘need’ of luxury for the 1 million. One state official spends 3.7 Million ($37 Thousand) a day to fuel the cars in his motorcade.

According to UNICEF, 42% of Kenyans live below poverty line (1$). World Bank says unemployment rate in Kenya has been roughly the same figure for the past 28 years now. Yet it is not uncommon to see top executives, in government or otherwise, take home hundreds of millions on the same day their pens wipe out tens of thousands of jobs. Just cameras and smiles, they tick that as a good day at work. Dreams shattered, families broken, lives ended. But who cares! Provided theirs is okay, life goes on right? …Wrong! If we don’t change, indeed one day, the poor will have nothing else to eat but the rich.

Our schools will never admit that they are not preparing our children for the real world, credence to Your Degree is Degraded, Your University is outdatedNeither the governments nor the industry leads will ever admit to failure. They will continue toasting to their lifetime of hereditary leadership in luxurious hotels after posting rosy success stories with theoretical figures showing economic progress, employment reduction, better healthcare and advanced infrastructure.

So what is the solution?

In the words of Shanta Devarajan, we need to ‘… overcome government failure.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that governments are evil or even that they are incompetent or ill-intentioned.  Analogous to “market failure,” government failure refers to a situation where the particular incentives in government lead to a situation that is worse than what was intended with the intervention.

For instance, governments finance and provide primary education so that poor children can have access to learning.  But if teachers are paid regardless of whether they show up for work, and politicians rely on teachers to run their political campaigns, the result is absentee teachers and poor children who don’t know how to read or write—precisely the opposite of what was intended.  We see similar government failures in health care, water supply, sanitation, electricity, transport, labor markets and trade policy.

Why do I say the problem is government failure, and not, say, lack of education or health or infrastructure?  We have known for some time that education, health and infrastructure are important for escaping poverty.  The question is: why has there not been more education and health and infrastructure for poor people?  The answer is not simply a lack of money.  The problem is that much of the money spent on these sectors is captured by powerful elites before it reaches the poor.  In Chad, this is literally the case: only one percent of the nonwage public spending on health actually reaches the clinics.  In other cases, it’s more nuanced, such as the teacher (and doctor) absenteeism mentioned above, or when trucking monopolies keep transport prices so high that African exports are uncompetitive in world markets.  In short, while education, health and infrastructure—among other things—are important, to get spending on these sectors to benefit the poor, we need to overcome government failure.

Overcoming government failure is difficult. These failures are the result of the interests of some powerful groups in society—including government officials and politicians—who will resist attempts at reform.  What can be done? Pouring money into a leaky bucket will not solve the problem.  And asking governments to reform—even if the request comes with the implicit threat of a cutoff in funds (sometimes referred to as “conditionality”)—is unlikely to work if the government itself is captured by the special interests.  Perhaps the most productive action is to reach the people who are losing out—the poor—and empower them with information—about teacher and doctor absence rates, the incidence of energy and water subsidies, the costs of labor regulations and protective import tariffs—so that they can bring pressure to bear on politicians.  Politicians can ignore technical advisers and external actors, but they can’t afford to ignore the citizens of their country.

To be sure, empowering poor people with information is not easy.  First, many work 15-hour days just to make ends meet.  Expecting them to attend village meetings or read the newspaper or listen to the radio is notstraightforward.

Secondly, information by itself may not be enough to empower poor people. They need mechanisms to hold politicians accountable. And third, governments may not welcome these efforts at making evidence available to the public; some will consider it incendiary, and attempt to block it.

But if we agree that overcoming government failures is key to ending poverty in Africa, we need to promote poor people’s access to information.  Today’s technology helps.  The fact that one in two Africans has access to a cellphone has made it easier to reach them—and for them to reach politicians.  In a sense, then, Jim’s social media campaign—and other open knowledge initiatives—are more than just ways of eliciting ideas about ending poverty: they are potential instruments to end poverty.’

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Your Degree is Degraded.Your University is Outdated

Ever wondered why #IBM, Bank of America, #Netflix, Apple, #Google and other futuristic companies, scrapped off the requirement of a degree to qualify for employment?

Because your Degree is degraded, and you University is outdated.

25 years ago, in 1995, if you were to assemble equipment that would give basic functionality of an outdated iPhone. You would need:

i.         All Weather Personal Stereo- $11.88

ii.         AM/FM Clock Radio- $13.88

iii.         In Ear Stereo Earphones- $9.88

iv.         Tardy 1000 TL/3- $1,599

v.         VHS Camcorder- $799

vi.         Mobile Cellular Phones- $199

vii.          Mobile CB- $19.95

viii.         Zomboplay Special Dial Phone- $29.95

ix.           Deluxe Portable CD Player- $159.99

x.           IO Channel Desktop Scanner- $99.95

xi.           Phone Answerer- $49.95

xii.           Handheld Cassette Tape Recorder- $129.99

Total= $3056.82 (In Today’s terms this would be approximately $5200)

iPhone X, the latest series of Apple phones, costs about $1050 and it offers multiple additional features besides the listed products with incomparable quality difference.

Here are my thought on how these company that shape our present and build for the future scrapped off the requirement of a college degree to qualify for employment:

1.       Speed.

This is every single college or university’s worse nightmare. Things are changing so fast and people are worried. Between Universities and Companies, who do you think finds out first that things have changed? Is it the Universities or the companies?

Your guess is as good as mine. It is the companies that detect the change in trends, tasked to keep up to date with the changes and innovate in real time. So these companies are asking, ‘Why should we wait for them (Universities and colleges) to pivot to us yet we are the ones with borderline knowledge of change? In fact schools delays real time innovation. They can only accept as much as their systems and syllabus can accommodate not what is actually needed. Anyone who went to school a decade ago wouldn’t find any much different in the education system today. They only need few days’ refresher courses and they will ace everything. Compare this with the level of technological advances in the past decade. See the difference? Schools cannot catch up with the speed that the current market place is going with. Hence Companies are increasingly finding them irrelevant.

2.       Memory is No longer needed.

There used to be a time when everybody had a smart uncle, aunt or parent or relative who was perceived to have the knowledge about everything. Now we have Alexa, Seree and Google. These replaced all the people with great memory. They instantaneously give you all the knowledge you want. This ranges from complicated multiple digit calculations to accurate historical events.

One doesn’t really need to spend endless hours in school to memorize such information since these tools make it available to us straightaway. All information is available at your disposal. Initially, you had to pay dearly to get just enough to make you go to the next level. Memorization is no longer that important.

3.       Computer Science Degree becomes Obsolete in 3 Years

Tech Gets Old Fast! No, I don’t mean like you’ll get sick of it fast! I mean, what you learn in first year of computer science degree will be, at least, partially outdated by year two, and might be completely obsolete by the time you graduate! That means that even with a CS degree, you can’t just say, “Well, got my degree, guess I’m done.”

Staying up to date on new web standards, modern best practices, the latest frameworks and user experience improvements, and other changes in tech means you’re constantly learning. You don’t need a 4-year education to get started! Instead, you can learn the basics in just a few months, and start working in tech right away. You’ll learn the practical skills you actually need as you go (there’s no shame in Googling how to do the things you don’t know how to do; trust me, everyone from armature to seasoned pros do this sometimes), rather than learning a bunch of theoretical stuff you may not remember by the time you graduate.

Related to that is the fact that things like coding, and to some extent even design, are becoming more automated all the time. Learning to use modern web development tools doesn’t require a computer science degree, because it’s not that complicated. Sure, knowing how to dive into code and figure out how to do things from scratch is valuable, and will make your life a whole lot easier in the long run. But you can also build a successful career in tech using frameworks, platforms, libraries, and other tools that do much of the heavy lifting for you.

4.       Lecturers need to go to school, not high school graduates.

Most Lecturers who make decisions and ‘run things’ in the universities are outdated. We have professors who got their degree in 1988. Some of them even use the notes they took 31 years ago to teach their classes. The same curriculum is just passed over from one generation to another with minor adjustments. Most of them use exact test questions they asked in a test 20 years ago.

Let me simplify it for you. Someone in the industry tells someone else to go and tell the government that time has changed, new curriculum is needed if they want to produce relevant graduates in their schools. The government makes proposals which take months to be approved. Then they start sourcing out funds to aid a group of people (‘Usually Same Outdated Lecturers’ that know ‘the right people’ in the government) to sit for months and come up with new curriculum. This curriculum is taken to the parliament and debated back and forth with non-experts in academics, who have partisan approach towards matters presented to them. In their wisdom, or lack thereof, they alter it depending on selfish interest. Eventually, they approve it.

The government then starts convincing unions to approve of the curriculum. These may involve bribing a few people and making a few compromises before an agreement is reached. These whole process may take years. Lecturers are trained on the ‘new curriculum’ for months. Finally, this is rolled out in schools for teaching. By this time it may be at least 4 years later. This is already outdated. In their ‘new status’ the lecturers will still be outdated.

In the era of peak technological advancements, we are taught about digital media by lecturers who cannot even use a smartphone. They are not even bothered to do any online courses in the subject. They dismiss this ‘millennial bubble’ craze. Yet we are spending millions to hear them teach about what they haven’t come to terms with.

5.       Companies Train you on specialized skills in 3-6 Months Vs 4-5 Years in Universities

A friend of mine has an MFA. ‘MFA is like a PhD in Fine Arts,’ he told me. So I asked, ‘For the 7 years you spent to get MFA, What did you remember learning that you use today?’ After humming and thinking for about 40 seconds he said, ‘Honestly I don’t know. But it was a good experience.’

These Companies don’t have time for such blunt lessons. Things are moving quickly. They’ve discovered it is worthless for you to go and waste your initially highly receptive brain on years of ecstasy, drugs, partying, swiping left to aid your licentious living and a bit of reading. They would rather hire you, teach you specialized skills in 3-6 months and make you relevant to the times we are in. It saves you time, resources, makes you readily prepared for the constant changes in the world amongst other endless items on the list of benefits.

6.       Companies are starting their own Universities

There are multiple Online Universities that one can get as much as they want in two clicks. McDonalds has McDonald University. Guess who their professors are? The employees. People who are at the forefront in the marketplace driving the changes we are seeing daily. Unlike most traditional Universities that have professors who have decades of experience teaching something they cannot do. Going to a University at Apple, IBM, Google or IBM and being taught by people leading change gives you an edge over all other Universities.

7.   Control the narrative

These companies are controlling the kind of ‘Brainwashing’ they want to see in their employees. Most schools first tell you that brainwashing is bad. Then they proceed to ‘instill’ some values and traditions of the school in you. They tell you about who went to the school and became somebody great in society and how you need to think to be like them. Students get brainwashed about how amazing the university is, they start walking around throwing the school’s name at every second sentence and proudly basking in the ‘rich history’ of success by their predecessors’. Mavi ya Kale, Hayanuki. (Overstayed Shit, doesn’t smell. – Swahili proverb)

Anyway, these companies are thinking, ‘ Wait a minute, if we are letting these kids be brainwashed by schools, why don’t we brainwash them with something that will make them relevant for our time. Tell them of how great of a company we are. We are actually making an impact and we can make them part of it. We have shifted paradigms. We have made new products. We have created jobs even for the most unlikely candidates by allowing people to use their natural talents and abilities to thrive by simply being true to their core. We are changing the world.’

The brainwash them into seeing how great the company is and how relevant they fit in the force driving the change. They are doing the exact things most Universities are doing worldwide. The only difference is that the Universities are using History to condition students to think in a certain way in order to change things they are not equipped for, while Companies are using real time impact to empower individuals and make them bring their uniqueness into the teams and lead change in a way that makes them serve the core of their humanity. I prefer being brainwashed as in the second case. If I have no way but to go to hell, at least make me feel I truly belong there and that my gifts play a role in the ambience.

‘Youths are passed through schools that don’t teach anything real about life. They are forced to search for jobs that don’t exist. And left stranded in the streets to stare at the glamorous lives advertised around them that they cannot afford.’ From THE QUAGMIRE OF YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT.

For these reasons I believe, your degree is degraded, and your university is outdated.

Crab Mentality, Beware Of This Dangerous Plague!

In Deira Market in Dubai, live crabs are stored in a bucket or pot. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the bucket or pot. Instead, they grab at each other in a useless ‘King of the hill’ competition which prevents any of them from escaping and ensures their collective demise. ‘Crab Mentality’ is a way of thinking best described by the phrase, ‘If I can’t have it, Neither can You.’ or ‘If I have it, nobody else should.” Unfortunately, most Africans are plagued by this. I used to wonder where it all begins until I joined University. 

I was shocked when a lecturer confidently beat his chest with pride and bragged about being the only professor in his field in East and Central Africa for more than a decade. He told us how busy he is traveling to Universities in the region to administer his services single handedly. To show us how ‘difficult’ his subject is, he gave rough statistics of the performance in his previous classes. About 98% of students in his class fail his subject. He went ahead to assure us that it wouldn’t be any different for our class. He made it clear that there was nothing we could do and there was nowhere we could take him. His word was final. He determines the grades. Whichever complaints we’d place, would somehow find its way to his table. And he would ‘come’ for you. I just stood there and wondered, ‘What a terrible teacher!’

You mean someone can be so horrible that they teach a subject for more than a decade and never inspire anyone else to take interest in it. And how demented would you be to take pride when people fail, more so in a subject you claim to be teaching. Little did I know that his was not the only case, most of the lecturers I would meet henceforth fell into the same category; measure their toughness based on how terribly students fail in their subjects. And the system is so skewed that grades are entirely determined by the teachers’ feelings, frail ego and self esteem issues not merit. As a result, students took to the unhealthy competition and would sabotage the other anytime they spotted a weakness. 

This partly explains the unhealthy #culture in most local companies in #Africa. Unhealthy #politics, constant gimmicks and unnecessary #conflicts. There is grave distrust at all level of #leadership. Top Executives happily taking home tens of millions on the same day their pens wipe out ten thousand jobs. They receive huge bonuses, while millions of people lose their jobs, their homes and their retirement nest eggs. Employees live in constant fear hence unable to give their best at any given time. People waylay each other when they sense potential #success.

Data from the Kenya Engineers Registration Board indicates that there are 1,323 registered engineers out of the estimated 6,323+ engineers serving a population of 45+ million. ‘Getting registered is a miracle that some of us my never see,’ says Joe, a masters student in Electrical Engineering.

At least every Kenyan student knows of people who have been attempting to get Masters or Phds in a field for 5+ years to no avail. The reason being, the supervisors want less competition in their field hence fake busyness, complicate simple processes, differ on baseless claims and eventually fail people undeservingly. 

Rihanna releases a lip gloss, people spend a fortune to buy it. Michael Jordan puts out some new trainers, people buy it. Dr Dre has new headphones, people buy it. Oprah promotes weight loss programs, folks jump on board, waking up against time zones just to follow. Beyonce has a concert, people get tickets worth a year’s house rent. 

Friend or family starts a new business, people are wary. ‘Not sure this is gonna work’, ‘I’ll give it 6 months’, ‘They’re a bit expensive!’ Why are we so quick to support someone we don’t know, who has plenty of money already but we find a million reasons not to support someone we know?

When building, nobody dares to like, share, follow, talk about or buy your products. Complete strangers are more inclined to help you succeed rather than people you actually know. They are more interested with Kardashians, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj etc yet when they are broke or in trouble they call you for help. ‘Why don’t you call Nicki Minaj?’ I keep wondering.

A #jew was asked why it is close to impossible to identify a poor jew on earth. He said money spent in a Jewish community remains in that community for up to a month before someone breaks the chain, and the money leaves for the greater economy, the fiscus, or overseas. In #Asian communities, it is said, the duration that locally spent #money circulates is two weeks. But the time frame for money staying in black communities that has been spent there on black-owned businesses is 6 hours!

Africa has over 100,000 US$ millionaires but listen to African tech bloggers complain how Silicon Valley VCs are only investing in white led African startups? What about our 100,000 millionaires? What is stopping them from investing in African youth? Why are we expecting other races to invest in our youth when we do not do so ourselves?

I once wrote an article about youth unemployment titled, The Quagmire Of Youth Unemployment and had less than 20 interactions on facebook. A prominent politician in the city copied everything word for word without giving credits and pasted it as his, on his profile. He got 40,000+ likes and thousands of shares.

Remember when you support a small business, you are helping families feed their kids and pay mortgage, not adding a few more zeros to a celebrity’s bank account. So next time you see a friend posting about their business give them a quick like, share or a comment, you don’t even have to buy the product or service. It all helps to gain more exposure for their business which really helps.

 A South African student, Ghaneshree Moonsamy, had her Masters thesis converted to PhD. This is an unimaginable occurrence that I never thought would happen while I am alive. Maybe change is not as impossible as our experiences tend to force us to think. Maybe it is possible. Maybe it comes quick when we are the change we want to see. Because we are not children of a lesser God.

JUGGLING BUSINESS & EMPLOYMENT

I will use the views we share with Dr.Tayo O to project how one can juggle employment and business. I run at least 3 businesses while working for a leading company. I rent an office space, hire employees and work with them remotely while doing an incredible job for my employer.
Let me first debunk an insidious lie that has killed many careers:
“Your salary is the bride they give you to forget your dream.”
This is a blatant Lie. 
“Your salary is what you earn while giving value to your employers and learning to run a business at their expense.”
We can’t all start a business straight out of University. Many of us have to work for food, clothing and shelter after graduating. Others need to support family members to at least get to their feet as well. Whatever your reason, don’t see paid employment as a betrayal of your goals.
Here are some of the essential steps I learnt that helped me build my business without compromising my outstanding service delivery to my employer.
Cultivate on relationships
In the end of your life, you will not regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with people, spouse, sibling, son, daughter or friend.
 
As you fantasize about opportunity falling on your laps, remember the final influence comes from a human being. I can’t emphasize how important relationships are in a business/ career.  As with all relationships, the most important factor in building strong business relationship is trust. Building trust is a critical factor in fostering quality business relationships. People prefer to do business with those they can trust to act in furtherance of, or at least not opposed to, their best interests. 
Don’t get caught in the insane lie that the selfish dot com shallow thinkers thrive on claiming, 
“Your coworkers shouldn’t be your friends, Get your money and go home.” So you only want to impress your boss and never care about other colleagues around you, slavery mentality. Cultivate healthy relationships with all your colleagues. Once they trust you, you will have endless free resource of knowledge, referrals, potential clients or even partners. 
Your coworkers are human beings like you, all human beings are relational by nature. If you build good relationships with them, they won’t think twice about being your ambassadors in their networks. Those networks eventually determine your net worth. Get rid of your earphones and your childish frail ego that only allows you to interact with familiar faces only. Break those walls you have erected around you blocking everyone from getting to know you in person. Start building bridges. Ask the old, extremely talented people who gave all their life to fulfill their jobs but retired feeling underachieved, what they regret the most about their formative years. This might help you know the value of building relationships. 
Don’t step too far from your core competence
If you work in banking, you probably understand finance better than most people. If you work for a Fast-moving Consumer Goods, retail may be your Forte. If you work in tech, you are likely to run a tech start up more efficiently. Find something that is in your natural sphere of influence. Once you attain consistent momentum, you can start incorporating other aspects into an already working system.
My first business was a tech development firm. We built business strategy implementation tools. I was a business leader implementing a new strategy for my paid employment. The tech we built was based on my experience delivering value to my day job’s board of directors. It grew rapidly and attracted the attention of major players in the sector. A leading company asked us to present our product to stand a chance of winning funds and mentorship. A rushed decision led us to overshare, we lost it. The company ended up implementing everything we presented on their new product which offered the same services as we did. But I used the lessons learnt from the start up in my paying job. This was well received by my supervisors. It got me double-promotion in a spun of three months. 
Start small but think global
There are no guarantees in business. Your business can fail despite the best laid plan and even topnotch implementation. Start small, then scale slowly until you can do it full-time.  Start with the least possible amount of money you need to run your fundamental operations while gauging your delivery against world leading brands in the field you are in. Exhaust all possible lessons you need to learn at that level and only scale up when the demand for your service/product rises. Prioritize lessons not profits.
I have a friend who started a restaurant in Lagos with about $250,000. He had the money and thought it would be a good idea to blow out the competition on day 1. Bad idea, He lost everything. It is never really about size. It is always about efficiency.
Work with a trusted partner
In this increasingly individualistic society which glorifies one-man-shows, never undermine the power of unity. Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable, swahili proverb.
It is equally important for one business partner to work fulltime in the business. If that’s not feasible, give a small equity holding to your most senior employee. That way someone in the business has ownership stake that binds him/her to the firm. At times, especially challenging moments, the only motivation comes from knowing that you are a part of something and that the bond goes beyond immediate financial gains.
Recognize the place of institutional support in your paying job
You are a star employee. That’s great. Corporations however, have strategies to help you succeed. Make sure you can deal with the uncertainties of entrepreneurship before making the jump. I have met incredibly talented young people who seemingly never achieve equivalent success because they have no sense of professionalism. Unfortunately, their version of ‘keeping it real’ means having no regards to structures and respect for others; clients, partners etc. However great your service/product is, you will never grow if your conduct invalidates people around you. Your clients will never come back. Nobody will want to be associated with you. Corporate companies help you discover the value of professionalism and give you safe environment to actively develop this.
Don’t leave your paying job until your business can pay the bills 
You’ve gradually built a business while working for an employer. Is it time to resign and face your hustle full time? Maybe. But be sure that your hustle can pay the bills before making the jump. I find it satisfactorily rewarding and motivational to use early returns to develop the business as opposed to paying personal bills. This is only possible if you have other sources of income.
Finally, don’t compete directly with your employer and don’t become a direct supplier to them. In my view, most businesses don’t violet direct competitive and supplier clause hence won’t get you in trouble. Phil knight ran Nike as a side business for about ten years while working at PWC.
In cases where an employers won’t tolerate your having a side business at all cost don’t worry, there is a workable plan. Your time is yours after 5pm. Trust me, even your MD has a side hustle. Give your employer your best till 5pm and then face your hustle afterwards. Keep it low though to avoid unnecessary confrontations which may affect your relationship. Nobody needs to know you are not going home to watch TV after work.

The humble sweet potato can help power Africa in the face of climate change


An interesting piece by Nane Annan: Forest fires during a record-breaking warm winter in Europe, Arctic cold in the US and melting glaciers are clear signals that climatechange is impacting all of us but it is in Africa where such extreme weather is having the most significant impact. More intense conditions are hitting the continent harder than anywhere else on the planet, bringing with it severe droughts, heatwaves, and at times, flooding.  This is only likely to get worse in the years ahead, posing a threat to food production and security at a time when hunger and malnutrition continue to blight many African communities: ‪TheAfricaWeWant BetterAfricaBetterWorld #IAmTheSonOfAfrica

 

Forest fires during a record-breaking warm winter in Europe, Arctic cold in the US and melting glaciers are clear signals that climate change is impacting all of us but it is in Africa where such extreme weather is having the most significant impact.

More intense conditions are hitting the continent harder than anywhere else on the planet, bringing with it severe droughts, heatwaves, and at times, flooding.

This is only likely to get worse in the years ahead, posing a threat to food production and security at a time when hunger and malnutrition continue to blight many African communities.

My late husband Kofi Annan and I saw first-hand the potential that sweet potato – a fast-growing crop rich in vitamins and micronutrients – has in improving diets, fighting malnutrition and increasing the incomes of smallholders farmers in Ghana. It was one of the inspiring stories we highlighted as part of the Kofi Annan Foundation’s Combatting Hunger programme.

Now, the ability of this simple staple food crop to support climate adaptation is becoming increasingly important.

And I believe we must fully exploit the potential of Africa’s staple crops for greater climate resilience, in particular the sweet potato and its orange-fleshed varieties rich in vitamin A.

In countries like Ghana, sweet potato is the fourth most important root crop after cassava, yam, and taro. Yet it is the staple root that offers the quickest nutritional returns in the face of increasingly challenging weather conditions. Instead of waiting up to a year for yam or cassava to mature, sweet potato – with all its nutritional benefits – is ripe and ready in as little as three months.

Making the most of these qualities to ensure good harvests, rising incomes and nutritious food in ever hotter and dryer environments is not easy, but efforts by the International Potato Center (CIP) and partners have shown promising initial results.

For example, CIP scientists have developed climate-smart sweet potato farming practices, which protect valuable sweet potato roots and planting material in drought conditions so that farmers continue to have vines for early planting when other resources are limited.

One method, known as “Triple S”, involves storing small sweet potato roots in dry sand after harvest and then planting out the sprouted roots two months before the rainy season to produce more seed vines for early planting and harvests.

Combined with the use of good agricultural practices, this method can boost yields and help provide food during periods when food stocks are low and other crops have not yet been harvested.

The valuable qualities of sweet potato, from high levels of vitamin A to its short harvest time, can be further enhanced through breeding to produce more drought-tolerant varieties that compensate for tougher climatic conditions.

This can have profound benefits for household food and nutrition security at a time when an estimated 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are at risk of blindness from vitamin A deficiency.

Not only then does sweet potato offer a resilient, consistent source of food in harsher climates, it is also highly nutritious, providing an incredible value for health in an otherwise challenging environment.

Just 125 grams of orange-fleshed sweet potato provides the daily intake of vitamin A needed to avoid illness, blindness and stunting, while its edible leaves are a rich source of lutein, essential for preventing sight degeneration.

Finally, harnessing the versatility of sweet potato to meet consumer demand for a whole range of different products – from breads and cakes to chips and biscuits – can also generate an additional source of income for millions of smallholder farmers and create employment opportunities for young entrepreneurs.

Steamed and mashed orange-fleshed sweet potato can replace up to 60 per cent of wheat flour in various baked products, and given that most African governments import the majority of their wheat flour, the benefits of an orange-fleshed sweet potato flour substitute should clearly resonate with policy makers.

As Africa Climate Week lays out the continent’s priorities ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit and the UN Climate Conference, decision-makers and donors should be paying close attention to the impact of rising temperatures on hunger, poverty and equality.

The challenges will become even more difficult as climate change intensifies, but some of the most effective solutions for addressing food and nutrition security may lie in simple staples.

To this end, I hope decision-makers recognise the need for more investment dedicated to research into breeding the most nutritional and resilient varieties of sweet potato, as well as developing initiatives that get them into the hands of farmers and families.

Supportive policies, such as nutrition counselling and vouchers for pregnant women, sweet potato included on school lunch menus or reduced barriers to markets for sweet potato products, can help generate a consumer demand for these valuable crops. Africa’s ability to feed herself in a warmer world could depend on it.

  • Nane Annan is a board member on the Kofi Annan Foundation

A guide to Africa’s ‘looted treasures’

During colonial rule in Africa, thousands of cultural artefacts were plundered. African countries want them back and major museums across #Europe have agreed to loan the famous #Benin Bronzes back to #Nigeria. Now #France has launched a report calling for thousands of African art in its museums to be returned to the continent.

A brass plaque under the Benin Bronzes collection

The Benin Bronzes, which are actually made of brass, are a #collection of delicately made sculptures and plaques that adorned the #royal #palace of the Oba, Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, in the Kingdom of Benin, which was incorporated into British-ruled #Nigeria.

They were carved out of #ivory, #brass, #ceramic and #wood.

Many of the pieces were cast for the ancestral altars of past #kings and #queen mothers.

In 1897, the #British launched a punitive expedition against Benin, in response to an attack on a British diplomatic expedition.

Apart from bronze sculptures and plaques, innumerable royal objects were taken as a result of the mission and are scattered all over the world.

A picture shows two artefacts from the Benin Bronzes collection, a long-beaked bird and the monarch's bell, returned to the Benin kingdom by a British pensioner during a ceremony in Benin City, Nigeria, on June 20, 2014.

The British #Museum in #London says many of the objects from Benin in its collection were given to it in 1898 by the Foreign Office and the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.

In October, top museums in Europe agreed to loan crucial artefacts back to Nigeria for the new Royal Museum, which it plans to open in 2021. #IAmTheSonOfAfrica #History

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-45406557

 

Study shows increased appetite for investment in Africa

A new #study amongst professional #investors reveals that 45 per cent view #Africa as an attractive investment #opportunity. This helps explain why 64 per cent expect foreign direct investment into Africa to increase over the next five years.

The research was commissioned by #UWIN (Unleashing the Wealth in Nations), a new #blockchain #business aiming to transform #farming and commodity trading in Africa and other parts of the developing #world.

The main reason why investors believe Africa will attract more foreign direct investment is because technological advances will help transform economies.

This is followed by 54 per cent who said it is because the continent will become more appealing to investors because there will be greater stability in the region, followed by 44 per cent who said it’s young and fast-growing workforce give it an advantage over many developed countries that have the opposite.

Lack of #infrastructure is seen as biggest obstacle holding back Africa – highlighted by 82 per cent of professional investors interviewed. This is followed by a lack of robust regulation (78 per cent of investors) and political risk (80% of investors). However, there is a strong feeling amongst investors that many of these issues are beginning to be addressed.

Much of the investment into Africa is also expected to go on improving the infrastructure of the region – 80 per cent of investors expect the use of Project Finance in Africa to increase over the next five years, and 88 per cent believe the amount spent on infrastructure overall will increase.

64 per cent of professional investors expect foreign direct investment into Africa to increase over the next five years.

46 per cent believe Africa will enjoy some of the strongest economic growth of anywhere in the world.

Biggest obstacles to Africa reaching its potential are a lack of infrastructure, #corruption and poor regulation.

Sandra Ro, Managing Partner and COO of UWIN said: “Despite the positive attitude towards Africa from many investors, the continent has many issues to tackle.

In terms of the biggest ones holding them back, 82 per cent of investors we interviewed cited a lack of infrastructure, and 82 per cent highlighted corruption. This is followed by a lack of robust regulation (78% of investors) and political risk (80% of investors). However, there is a strong feeling amongst investors that many of these issues are beginning to be addressed.” #technology #innovation https://www.newtimes.co.rw/business/study-shows-increased-appetite-investment-africa

Do you care that we’re losing souls daily?

A senior manager from a multinational, leading consulting firm just committed suicide today morning after jumping from the 17th floor of his office in Nairobi Westlands. A childhood friend of mine, a prowess soccer player that we named after a legendary footballer, Gaucho Ronaldinho; threw himself into a borehall and died yesterday. My in-law to be, from University of Nairobi school of medicine, told me the other day about a classmate who ended his life just earlier this week. Sometime last month we woke up to images of a young beautiful girl hanging by the neck on a fly-over bridge that marks the entrance to my home town, Kitale.
Avicii, one of the best talents ever walked on this planet, reportedly died from self-inflicted injuries after using broken pieces of a wine bottle to cut his veins. Two sources have said that Avicii cut himself on his neck. One said he just slit his wrist open.
Anthony Michael Bourdain, an American celebrity chef, author, travel documentarian, and television personality who starred in programs focusing on the exploration of international culture, cuisine, and the human condition committed suicide by hanging himself while in his room in a french hotel. He is considered one of the most influential chefs in the world.
I won’t even mention an incredible friend who committed suicide recently just after finishing school. He was about to graduate summa cum laude, in one of the best courses offered in the country. Not to mention he was amongst the top performers in the country in his high school exams, that is how we met. This article might end up to be a book if I listed all the suicide cases I have heard of just this year. If you pause for a while and recollect your memory, I am certain there are several images of similar cases you can attest to as well. Probably the suicide notes that people post online or something related to this. Do you care that we are losing these souls and more? What if tables turn?
About three years ago, after a heart to heart talk with victims of depression, I published a video, ‘We all Are Broken’ on my YouTube channel. I received 300+ emails of appreciation from people I have never met. That is when the reality hit me. There are so many people who are acting normally; smiling with family; friends or colleagues; working diligently and even delivering exceptional results but are dying inside. They are suffering from depression. Their souls are screaming but their facade is calm. And nobody can hear their cries.
Our society has been desensitized by violence in the streets, movies, games, social media. We have been taught to be aggressive, vicious, savage and care less about our actions and the implications to those around us. We are mean to everyone we meet. We use the slightest of opportunities to insult or disparage anyone we interact with. We walk around with frowned faces as though everyone else in the world just farted. We want to be seen as tough, no-nonsense people. We are chasing money and power. An we are willing to do anything it takes to get it. We have won our egos, but we are losing souls.

Employers just want results. You have to hit targets, perform better surpass their expectations, even if it means suffocating all other aspects of your life. They don’t care if your family is falling apart, your health deteriorating or whether you are physchologically depressed. Just deliver.
The school teachers and associates want zombies for students. Don’t ask don’t talk back don’t do anything to rock my boat. Let me come here for a few hours and collect my pay and be done with you. I’ll pretend to care but if you cause me any …slight friction you are out of here. Courts are full of good kids who have never crossed a bad line just the one that pissed off someone in the faculty and can’t afford justice. Parents don’t rock boat cause it is their baby sitting service, just a duty.
Doctors and nurses no longer offer care. They insult patients and trivialize their pain. Ironically, they are trained to be compassionate, to be able to empathise; but they don’t. Every day, they witness death, they see how patients suffer, the pain they go through. They see all the morphine they have to press every few minutes just to relieve their pain. They see them struggling with their oxygen breathing their last breath and all. But it is just a job. When they go to clinics every day, or to the wards, they take blood, give the medication but are the patient real to them? Not at all. It is just a job, they do it, get out of the ward, and can’t wait to get home, to do own stuff. Of course they know all the medical terms to describe how they feel, all the suffering they went through. But in truth, they don’t know how they feel, not until they become a patient.
1 out of 5 adolescents are diagnosed with a mental illness any given year, but only 20% of those that need treatment will receive it. In third world countries the number could be tripple. Moreover, children living in disadvantaged neighborhoods are much more vulnerable to mental health issues and less likely to have access to treatment.

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle. Be Kind Always. Life is hard enough to everyone you see. We all have something we are battling with or bleeding for, within us. Don’t be a cause to worsen the pain. Most people are crying for help as the pain of depression and mental illness surpress their voice and deprives them off normalcy. They are sorrounded daily by loved ones who are too busy finding ways to show love to them, but never still enough to listen to their silent cries. They wish just one person cared enough to be still and listen. Don’t be too absorbed in your world that you don’t feel other people’s pain. Look out and help someone. But If you can’t help out, at least don’t hurt them.

Remember the world goes round, when it rains, it pours.

Wake Up Young Girl!

A murder story of a top journalist who is behind bars after being caught up in a murder case committed by her lover is really saddening. A man who has reportedly been abusive, overprotective and constantly insecure about the status of the journalist finally confirms the fears her friends had expressed but she was too dumb in love to listen to ‘other people’ .

The man posed as a high end security guard but never identified himself with any official company. He didn’t have anything to his name, not even a bathroom to answer nature calls. Mysterious stories, shady deals and restless spirit was written all over his life. But ‘she loved him’.

The fateful day, he went and picked up another female friend from the airport, using his girlfriend’s car. He took her to her place in one of the leafy surbubs and had sex with her, leaving his DNA all over her body. He then turned into a beast and mercilessly slit open her throat from the left ear to the right ear, leaving her in the bath tub bleeding to death. He stole all her money plus the purse and escaped unnoticeably from the neighborhood. He went home and left the handbag in his girlfriend’s house. He then short himself to cover up and the loyal girlfriend set out to cover his tracks, took his clothes and burnt them, because he loved him. Now she’s in prison for aiding murder.

This reminds me of a shocking experience I had months ago when my good friend, Prisha, asked me to help her out reach out to some ladies from my country who could be interested in an event she was facilitating.

Prisha* is one of the youngest female professors of Asian decent in Software Engineering field. She lectures at a leading university in South Africa. The team she leads was largely involved in organising a Royal Engineering summit in Kenya.

This was her first visit to Nairobi. They had just concluded a crisis meeting two days before the event when she called me,
“Danstan, I need a big favor,” she proceeded in an anxious tone, “we have less than 10% of ladies who have registered for the event. The ambassador needs at least 40% of attendees to be ladies even if it means extending the venue. Would you help us get more ladies from accross all campuses in Kenya?”

Several names of potential ladies we considered able to mobilise more ladies popped up in my mind. I agreed to help. Based on my judgement, they presented good aspects of leadership and would greatly benefit from all that the summit had to offer.

I drafted an official message requesting for their email so I could share the links for special registration and forward Prisha’s details incase they needed further clarification. Boom! I thought my work was done.

A minute later, I receive a message saying, “I can’t talk to you, my boyfriend doesn’t allow me to talk to other men.”

This text blew my mind. I got so mad that my hair stood. Sweat tingles started popping all over my body. My hands started shaking. It got even worse when I asked whether this was forceful; she said it wasn’t. She is okay with all restrictions the boyfriend sets for her even if it means giving up her basic need for community to influence her general growth as a human.

Well first, “I deeply apologize if I look interested in you, I am not. I even find this really offensive that you’d think I’d be interested in you!” But that’s besides the point. It just never occured to me that in this age, someone would think of themselves as disabled by virtue of being in a relationship. It has gone as far as relinquishing common sense and freedom of expression or interaction. It is sickening that one would be okay being a slave to master and not feel a tad bit of delirium! But she loved him.

It just dawned to me how wicked our society has become. We sexualise women to a point of enslaving them under caves of our needs. We treat them like we’d do a dog just giving commands and they taking commands in humility. It is sadder that some of them have accepted this malady and live with it to appear ‘submissive’ and ‘wife-material’.

So nobody can interact with her because the first thought in her mind is licentious. She suspect you are making sexual advances. She won’t think if a possibility of an intention to engage her intellectually or professionally. When anyone reaches out to her, thats a threat. If it is man, he is interested in her. And if it is a lady, she is a hater.

This is disturbing.

Ladies, Because you didn’t want to lose him, you lost yourself in the process. You became a girl who kept being mistreated and you formed a habit of saying “I’m used to it”. You became a girl who kept being unappreciated and you began to tell yourself “It’s okay”. You became a girl who kept being undervalued and you learned how to say “I’m fine”. You became a girl who kept being put last and you naturally reacted with “It’s whatever”.

You became a girl who kept being taken for granted and you dealt with it by repeating “Everything’s okay”. You became a girl who kept being unhappy and you regularly told people “I’m gonna be fine”.

And if you’re reading this right now, then you need to understand that no guy is worth losing yourself for, no guy is worth suffering for at the expense of your happiness, and no guy is worth tormenting yourself over for the sake of making him happy. At this point, perhaps losing him is the only way you’d be able to get yourself back. Love is supposed to set us free, from our insecurities, fears and shadiness. To be the best and truest version of ourselves. As much as you wouldn’t want this to be true, he’s the only thing that’s in your way of finding yourself and he’s the only reason you’ve lost yourself for so long.

The sad bit about losing yourself for a guy is living to impress them all your youthful, only to lose him to a woman who protected her identity, stood for her values and made the world adjust to her reality. Or lose your life an end up in such despicable places as jail. But she loves him.

More internet access is coming to Africa, but the market isn’t always ready for it

The prospect of connecting Africa’s 55 countries and over one #billion people via better #road and #rail networks has often run into the challenge of raising the #billions of dollars needed to turn a decades-old #vision into reality.

While the #investment in #building and maintaining intra-country road networks has been slow in coming, connecting Africa via the internet has lately made more progress. This week, French telecom giant Orange struck a deal to invest in the West Africa-based Main One Cable company, whose landing stations are in #Nigeria, #Ghana and #Portugal. It will enable Main One to extend its  7,000-kilometer system to #Dakar, #Senegal and #Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire by mid-2019.

Liquid Telecom, a unit of Zimbabwe’s Econet #Wireless, has confirmed financing and #partnerships to expand its system over 60,000 kilometers from Cape Town through all #southern, #central, and eastern African countries up to the #Sudan- #Egypt border. This is the other Cape to #Cairo.

But what happens when these cable systems open for business? Remember internet access still has to be bought, packaged and resold to consumers via local telecom operators. Mobile networks are the dominant providers of internet access in Africa. On the ground, the reality is African countries have the world’s most expensive internet access, according to a study by the Alliance for Affordable Internet. Few African countries come close to the UN Broadband Commission’s target that a gigabyte of data should not cost more than 2% of average monthly income.

As we’ve noted, it’s a problem for many developing countries, but it’s particularly acute in Africa. One reason for this is a lack of meaningful competition in some countries, particularly smaller African economies that struggle to support more than a couple of network operators. Research by Ecobank showed the average cost of buying 1GB of data in countries with two or fewer operators is more than twice than in countries with four or more.

Competition is key, and it should not be measured simply by the number of operators. For example if a country with three or four operators is dominated by a dominant player with say 70% share (Hello? Kenya?), it’s what economists refer to as a market being too concentrated.

Building out infrastructure is undoubtedly a positive step in Africa’s development, but so is a functioning, competitive marketplace that will be able to deliver the best economic outcomes for citizens.