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The Nerve Africa; Oct. 28 2015.

Ethiopia’s economy has grown impressively over the last decade and the impact of the growth has been felt in the country where millions of the citizens have been lifted out of poverty. The East African nation’s GDP grows at an average of 10 percent these days and its light rail, the first of such in sub-Saharan Africa has started working, among other good things to have come out the landlocked country.

However, the gains made by the country are threatened by drought whose effects have been exacerbated by El Nino, a naturally occurring phenomenon that involves fluctuating ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. A drought in 2002 contracted the GDP of Ethiopia by 2.2 percent, according to World Bank data.

Oxfam warned late September that 10 million people, mostly in Africa, face hunger because of droughts and unusual rainfall patterns caused by a “super” El Nino. The condition has hit Ethiopia hard – in August 4.5 million people were reported to need food aid in the country because of El Nino, according to U.N. agencies. This number almost doubledweeks later.

Agriculture is very important to Ethiopia, accounting for 40 percent of output and over 80 percent of employment. The combined effect of drought and El Nino may soon take its toll on the economy. But the pains of the 1980s when famine led to more than 400,000 deaths are yet to be forgotten. The government has, therefore, taken action over the years to mitigate the effects of drought on the country. The government claims agriculture has become less rain-dependent.

President Dr. Mulatu Teshome, early in October, said the government, having learned from past experience, had “developed satisfactory responses in areas where no water conservation has been done. On every farmer’s farm there should be at least one type of water harvesting and water conservation work that will enable them to manage the damage caused by lack of, or erratic, rains”. But the reality on ground shows not much have been achieved in blocking the effects of drought which has already affected harvest and caused livestock deaths in parts of Ethiopia.

To cater for the 8.2 million now in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, the government has disbursed $192 million, according to Mitiku Kassa, secretary of the National Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Committee (NDPPC). Aid agencies and the government say more than $596 million is needed. With rain not expected until January, 15 million people may need food aid in 2016.

David Del Conte, the deputy country director for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ethiopia praised the government for showing remarkable leadership, having contributed a lot of funds, but noted that “we’re still in the early stages of what we believe will be a one-year crisis”.

Oxfam has been trucking clean water in rural areas of southern Ethiopia, where poor rains left water sources dry. OXFAM EAST AFRICA/flickr
Oxfam has been trucking clean water in rural areas of southern Ethiopia, where poor rains left water sources dry. OXFAM EAST AFRICA/flickr

While the world has celebrated Ethiopia’s economic growth and international agencies praised its response to disaster, some believe the leadership is the reason why famine has remained in the country and not climate change.  In his article on August 24, 2015, Dawit Ayele Haylemariam argued that the critical cause of hunger in Ethiopia is lack of rights and accountable government. He stressed the relationship between democracy and famine, citing a book by Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen. But as bad as authoritarianism may be, no one dwells too long on it when growth is visible. And for Ethiopia, whose ‘crazy’ growth aspirations are coming to pass before our very eyes, growth can cloudhuman rights abuses that critics claim are sometimes carried out in the name of economic development.

As critical as these issues are, they are not important for now. Yasin Mohammed Aliye, a farmer in Mieso, eastern Ethiopia and his family have been eating corn for a year, “and now we’re afraid of losing that, too,” he told New York Times. “But I will keep trying, and selling animals, until I finish everything.”

A 2014 study suggests that while the overall number of El Ninos is unlikely to increase, particularly strong “super” El Niños are likely to occur twice as frequently in a warming world. AlthoughAfrica contributes just 2 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, the continent usually pays more when the effects of global warming are being felt. El Nino is already ravaging the continent, with drought aggravating food shortages. Sadly, climate funding favours Asia.

“We need to look at how we’re dividing up (climate funding) to make sure the financing levels are high enough,”  Head of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina told AFP on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings in Lima, Peru.

“What Africa needs is funds for adapting. We have hundreds of millions of people who have no way of adapting to climate change. But unfortunately, on climate finance, today in the world… 76% of financing is dedicated to mitigation.

“This is an imbalance that needs to be addressed,” Adesina said.



Wildlife command crazy prices on the black market; Snake venom sells at $215,000 per litre

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“Wildlife smuggling has links with terrorism, certainly out in Africa with the ivory and rhino poaching,” said British investigator Tim Luffman when the UK Border Force nabbed some wildlife smugglers in June. “On a global scale we’re talking about a huge amount of money and it goes hand in hand with other criminality.”

The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth $19 billion and it’s expanding. This is why next year’s World Environment Day will focus on the menace. Although, there has been improved awareness over the years, much has been directed towards illegal ivory trade. But elephants and rhinoceros are not the only animal species threatened by the activities of daredevil wildlife traders, every animal that commands a fee on the black market does.

In September, the killer of famous lion Cecil, was arrested for attempting to smuggle 30 sables to South Africa from Zimbabwe. Also in September, three South Africans were caught by Zambian authorities trying to smuggle 29 sables. Six South Africans and a Zimbabwean were also arrested, in October, for trying to smuggle 12 sable antelopes.

Smugglers go through serious danger trying to move wildlife from one place to the other.  Many end up dead, others in prison. It makes one wonder why they expose themselves to such danger. The reason is simple: money. Wildlife is very lucrative on the black market. Some animals are even worth thousands of dollars when dead.

Global black market information website, Havocscope lists the prices of some exotic animals, based on publicly available information. The prices show why a wildlife smuggler would not think of the dangers of his job. There is also a readily available market, usually Asia, where wildlife of different types are either bought for medical reasons or as status symbol.

One of the most important animals on the black market is the tiger. A dead tiger costs $5,000 while a live tiger costs 10 times more. A baby tiger costs $3,200 while tiger bone costs $2,000. Its penis costs $1,300 while its remains may sell as high as $70,000 in China and its skin, $35,000.

Snake venom can also make an illegal wildlife trader very rich in a short period. A litre costs $215,175. Bear bile costs $200,000 per pound. The bladder of the totoaba fish costs $200,000 in China. Gorillas cost $400,000. The scales of Pangolin, the most hunted and trafficked mammal, cost $3,000 per kilogram. Polar bear skin can cost up to $9,000.

If you think these are hard to get, what about tortoises that cost $10,000 in Madagascar?

Orangutan costs $45,000. Ivory sells at $850 per kilogramme [Check others here]. With such prices for these free gifts of nature, the reason for the proliferation of illegal wildlife trade is obvious. Across Africa, more elephants have been killed in recent years than have died of natural causes, and for forest elephants in Central and West Africa, the population declined by an estimated 60 percent between 2002 and 2011.  At this rate, if nothing is done, some animal species are doomed for extinction. The United Nations, therefore, resolved this year, that illegal wildlife trade be treated as a serious crime both nationally and across borders. Angola is revising its Penal Code to bring in tougher punishments for poachers, just as other countries across the continent are working hard to block trade routes and arrest offenders.

The fight is going to be harder going forward, as traders will become more notorious as they try to resist efforts to stop them. The kind of money involved in illegal wildlife trade shows it is no business for ordinary people, it’s a trade where mafia rules and a network can be more organized than a drug cartel.

The Nerve Africa

The high-yielding asset class you should invest in next year

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Slower growth in the supply of Bitcoin will increase the price of the cryptocurrency in 2016 and demand outstrips the number of Bitcoins available.

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency not regulated by a central bank wherein encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify funds transfer. Bitcoin is the world’s first widely used cryptocurrency.

New bitcoins are formed as reward for proofs of work provided by participants using a data structure called the blockchain, a single global ledger maintained by an open distributed system. Participation requires the use of significant computational resources. A participant who proves to have exerted enough resources with a proof of work is allowed to take a step in the protocol by generating a block in a process called mining. Participants are then compensated with newly minted Bitcoins.

When the Bitcoin was invented in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto (the founder(s) whose identity remains a mystery), its program was designed so that the reward would be halved roughly every four years, in order to control inflation. This will happen again in July 2016. The currency is also designed to have a finite supply of 21 million bitcoins. This is expected to be reached in around 125 years. There are currently 15,007,925 Bitcoins in circulation.


source: blockchain.info

Although some governments are warning their citizens against the use of Bitcoins, demand for the cryptocurrency is rising, as more big companies and authorities are accepting payments in bitcoin while others are showing improved interest and investment in the blockchain technology. Just like the age-old principles of supply and demand, the price of Bitcoin is expected to surge in 2016.

Founder of NairaEx, a Nigeria-based Bitcoin exchange David Ajala sees a bright future for Bitcoin in the country.

“Bitcoin offers a good alternative to cash and I think it can also be used in payment methods for websites and other services that Africa and especially Nigeria is developing,” Ajala said.

A bitcoin was equal to $230 on September 26 and by October 26; the value had risen to $287. As at December 26, the price of the cryptocurrency has risen to $424.13 and by 2016, it could rise above $1,100 next year and $4,400 by the end of 2017. In many ways, the Bitcoin qualifies as an asset class; investors with high risk tolerance should take note of the trend.

The Nerve Africa

Congestion is reducing quality of life in Lagos and this may get worse

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As predicted years ago by the United Nations, the population of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve is now over 20 million. But despite its huge population, it has a land area of only 738 km2, equaling a population density of 13,405/km2. Unlike Lagos, Gary, one of its sister cities in the United States, has just 621.7 persons per square kilometer.

The current rate of population growth in Lagos is fast becoming a significant burden to the well-being of its people. Poverty is spreading, sanitation is worsening and the city suffers a lot of pollution. Traffic congestion in the city is one of the worst in the world. But this is just starting; Africa’s population is estimated to double to 2.4 billion by 2050. If more than 10 percent of the continent’s current population is from Nigeria and more than 10 percent of Nigeria’s population is from Lagos, there is a fair idea of what the population of Lagos could be in the next three decades. Sadly, development over the years has not matched population growth, leaving a strain on the available infrastructure which is largely inadequate to serve the people living in the former Nigerian capital.

Although Lagos, which has a higher GDP than Kenya, East Africa’s largest economy, attributes its high internally generated revenue (about $116 million monthly) to its large population; an out of control population will not enable quality living if resources are overstretched. It, therefore, came as no surprise to many Lagosians that the city was ranked as one of the least livable cities in the world, finding itself in the midst of war-torn cities like Damascus and Tripoli.

Albeit not the only port city in Nigeria, Lagos has the most preferable sea port for importers and hosts the head offices of most financial institutions and major corporations. It is also the centre of the Nigerian music and movie industry, and the only Nigerian state where the economy thrives without the federal government. People, therefore, troop into Lagos daily from within and outside Nigeria for several purposes, from business engagements to exhibitions, job search and even begging. Decongesting the city may be hard, as long as its status as the commercial nerve of Nigeria remains. But the number of people living in the city can be reduced gradually.

Cost of living in the city has done little or nothing to discourage people from trooping in. For those who cannot afford the ridiculously expensive houses in the city, the suburbs become a choice place of abode. Now occupied to its capacity, population in Lagos suburbs is spilling over to neighbouring state, Ogun. Many people working in Lagos who cannot afford the unreasonably high rent in the city or its congestion, live outside the state, usually in houses they own. While this would have solved the problem of congestion in Lagos, bad transport infrastructure has discouraged several others from living outside the city.

“I live at Mowe [Ogun State] and I work at Victoria Island,” Mr. Tinubu, a driver at a commercial bank told me. “I spend a total of six hours or more in traffic sometimes. Imagine the stress I go through everyday but I have no choice; I can’t afford a house close to where I work.”

Mr. Tinubu tells me that his colleague’s case is worse. “He comes from Ota [Ogun State] every day. He has a bus with which he carries passengers on the way. But besides the money he makes from that, I don’t envy him. He’s not living well at all.”

Mr. Tinubu and his friend’s situation would not be strange in Europe where a man went as far as Spain to live when he found out London where he worked would be too costly to live.


A recent research lays credence to Mr Cookey’s claim.  Cookey told BuzzFeed that the trip takes 5 ½ hours. An average Lagosian sometimes spends more time on the road daily.

The solution to the overpopulation of Lagos does not lie with Lagos alone; Nigeria has to remember its former capital.

“The sheer human traffic that daily throng Lagos for business certainly calls for additional allocation of resources to the state to absorb the pressure,” writes a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Afe Babalola.

“Part of what the federal government should do to redress the issue is to pay priority attention to road construction and rehabilitation and other social amenities in Lagos,” he adds.

The government should also focus on improving the transportation network in and around Lagos, as this will encourage many who cannot afford the city to live in nearby towns. Imagine a high-speed rail network that links towns in Osun, Oyo and Ogun States to Lagos.

Andre Dzikus, Coordinator of the Urban Basic Services Branch (UBSB) of the UN-Habitat also offers solutions to congestion in Lagos.

“Better integration of land-use and transport planning can result in compact and walkable city forms reducing the need for travel. Policies to promote this should be adopted,” he said.

But Lagos is far from ending its congestion challenge. According to the World Bank, Africa will have an additional 300 million urban residents in the next two decades. By 2050, 60 percent of all Africans will live in an urban area. More people are going to move to Lagos, especially with the slow pace of urbanization in other parts of Nigeria.


The Nerve Africa

Ending malaria will save Africa $12bn yearly

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From the Anopheles to the Culex, mosquitoes do the world more bad than good and it may not be a totally bad idea eradicating them. Think dengue feverchikungunyayellow fever and malaria; all spread by mosquitoes. Malaria alone costs Africa $12 billion per year.

At least one million people die from malaria each year, 90 percent of which comes from sub-Saharan Africa. 70 percent of the deaths are of children less than five years old — equivalent to one child dying every 30 seconds. About 40% of these deaths occur in just two countries; Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. People may even be dying from malaria more than we know as the World Health Organisation (WHO) admitted in 2006 that malaria deaths are the hardest to count. We have mosquitoes to blame for this carnage; they are the vectors of Plasmodium falciparum and its relatives causing malaria. They are also responsible for carrying viruses causing yellow fever, dengue fever, among others. We need to stop them!

British Scientists might have found a way. They developed a genetically modified species of mosquitoes that produce just male offspring.In lab tests by Imperial College London researchers, they modified mosquitoes to produce sperm that will only create males.

The genetic method, details of which was published in the journal Nature Communications in 2014 distorts the sex ratio of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, one of the most efficient malaria vectors known, and the main transmitters of the malaria parasite.

In the first laboratory tests, the method created a fully fertile mosquito strain that produced 95 percent male offspring. These were introduced to five caged wild-type mosquito populations. According to the study, in four of the five cages, this eliminated the entire population within six generations, because of the lack of females.

If this could be replicated in the wild, there is hope that the malaria-carrying mosquito population would crash and someday become extinct.

But American Public Health entomologist Grayson Brown is not a fan of mosquito genocide. In answering one of the questions asked about mosquitoes on a forum on Gawker Media’s io9. Brown wrote: “If mosquitoes went extinct: Mosquito larvae are very important in aquatic ecology. Many other insects and small fish feed on them and the loss of that food source would cause their numbers to decline as well. Anything that feeds on them, such as game fish, raptorial birds, etc. would in turn suffer too.”

Many birds and other insects eat mosquitoes, and many fish eat mosquito larvae. Because mosquitoes are so numerous, their extinction would in the short term affect these species. However, even in the intermediate term, populations of other insects might increase to take advantage of the space vacated by mosquitoes, possibly providing an alternate food source for mosquito predators. Of course, ecosystems are complicated, and it is difficult to predict what the removal of one common species would do in the long run.

While ending the existence of mosquitoes will be a first choice for many Africans who not only suffer itchy skins or malaria but also sometimes have to endure the annoying hum of the insect, they are part of the ecosystem and they need to remain. This is because anything that alters the balance of the ecosystem threatens the health and existence of that ecosystem.

North America battled with Malaria decades ago, until it was eradicated in the early 1950’s. Mosquitoes were not annihilated. In fact, the mosquito that carried malaria parasite in the United States, Anopheles quadrimaculatus is still common today. What happened was that the specific strain of malaria that was well adapted to transmission by that mosquito disappeared. This shows malaria can be eliminated without the guilt of ‘mosquitoral’ genocide.

Already, laudable efforts are on by several organizations across the globe to end the scourge. Since the turn of the millennium, prevention and control measures have increased, reducing global malaria mortality rates by 42 percent.

International disbursements for malaria control rose from $ 100 million in 2000 to $ 1.97 billion in 2013. But this is still billions away from the estimated $ 5.1 billion needed to fight malaria every year. Fighting malaria is a really good fight. For every £1 million ($1.5 million) spent on fighting malaria, we improve the African Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by £12 million ($18.3 million).

Vaccines may still be a dream (although the Mosquirix jab is ready) but the world has made gains in the fight against malaria through a combination of interventions, including timely diagnosis and treatment using reliable diagnostic tests and effective drugs; indoor spraying with safe, long-lasting insecticides; and the use of bed nets treated with long-lasting insecticide to protect people from mosquito bites at night.

According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “We have the opportunity to accelerate progress toward elimination [of malaria] in all countries by improving the delivery of existing interventions as well as developing new tools and new strategies that target not just malaria-transmitting mosquitoes but also the parasite itself […].”

The Nerve Africa

The billion-dollar game that helps you think and strategize

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“When I’m stressed, it helps me to calm down. When I need to think and strategize, a level does the magic. Even when I need to be relaxed enough to sleep, playing lulls me to sleep,” Mary told The Nerve.

The 24-year-old Administrative Officer at a Lagos, Nigeria-based Human Resources Consultancy says she could never forget the day a colleague introduced her to Candy Crush Saga — February 6, 2014. “Our love has grown stronger ever since.”

Mary, who asked that her last name should not be published, claims she is not ashamed of her “Candy Crush Saga”.

Although she plays at least thrice a week and spends an average of $5 a day to buy moves and lollipops, Mary J. insists she is not addicted to Candy Crush.

“I use the game to my advantage. It does not affect my productivity in any way.” However, she is now on level 808 and she says she isn’t bored yet. “I don’t even think there’s a chance.”

Mary is one of the millions of people around the world to have fallen in love with Candy Crush Saga, a match-three puzzle video game released by Irish social games company, King Digital Entertainment on April 12, 2012. The game is estimated to make $1,000,000 per day from its users, according to Appdata. In the last three months of 2013 alone, players spent $493 million on in-app purchases of extra moves, lives and power-ups, according to King’s IPO filing. The game has been downloaded more than 500 million times. The success of Candy Crush Saga reflects in King’s revenue which grew to $2.260 billion in 2014.


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The Hold-Up with Mobile Money in Nigeria

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Center for Financial Inclusion Blog

> Posted by Prateek Shrivastava, Global Director, Channels & Technology, Accion

The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria passed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act in 2007. The Act included provisions for the creation of the CBN to ensure monetary stability, issuing and maintaining legal tender, and promoting the implementation of best practices including the use of electronic payment systems in all banks across Nigeria.

In the same year, the CBN developed the Financial System Strategy 2020 wherein the need for electronic financial services (amongst many other reforms) to make Nigeria a competitive economy was identified. Since 2008, the CBN has been extremely active in developing and implementing guidelines and frameworks to support the digitization of financial services (for example, all banks and microfinance banks need to have core banking systems, and the use of ATMs is governed) including mobile money and agent banking. The Guidelines on…

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