Opportunities present themselves during recessions

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Nigeria is in a recession. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is expected to confirm this in less than two weeks when it releases the country’s second quarter (Q2) GDP results. The economy had contracted by 0.36 in the first quarter and it could not have done better in the second quarter.

“Recession is like a fish out of water and the best way to manage it is to take the fish to the water/pond or create a new pond,” says Kamran Azim Head of Operational Risk at Wema Bank Plc. “Locally, the economists and policy makers are on the mode “wait and watch or sitting ducks” which will not help the situation. Any wrong decision today can have a negative outcome for decades to come,” he adds.

Tension is high in the country as inflation continues to rise to record levels. Businesses are shutting down and unemployment soars as organisations reduce staff strength as part of cost-cutting measures. As gloomy as the situation seems, not all businesses will die as a result of recession, some will come out stronger. The difference between the ones that die (or go comatose) and the ones that come out stronger is, knowing what to do during a recession.

Many businesses are in a high state of confusion at the moment. Average running cost keeps rising but revenues continue to drop. Many workers bear the brunt of the situation and are being owed salaries for months. The brave business owners sack some of their workers to keep costs low. For entrepreneurs, the current situation is even worse. While they struggle to move through the arduous stages of setting up a business, recession makes growth almost impossible. During times like this, many startups die before they get any investment. In fact, investors are more careful about where they put their money during recession; only few are willing to take big risks.

Times are hard for businesses: big companies, growth companies and also startups. But there are important messages from Wema Bank that should help everyone through this time of recession.

Opportunities present themselves during recessions

Don’t look too far. Don’t chase too many big deals. What you are looking for may be right at your doorstep. If look well enough, you would see that there are opportunities you can exploit. If you did not know, some small businesses are recession-proof and they survive recession after recession. For example, bakery operators will always enjoy demand for their products, even when prices rise. The Lagos State Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria has increased the price of bread by 20 percent, but many families in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital will still eat bread as breakfast tomorrow. However, you should think beyond bread; there are several opportunities outside the bakery.

 Cash is king

Are you a new entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner, please remember that you need cash more than ever before. There is no doubt that uncertainty of the economy is high; it is therefore, wise to keep enough cash on hand to cover at least 30 days of monthly expenses. Of course, you know that cash on hand means funds that are immediately available to a business, as opposed to assets that must be sold to generate cash. Usually such funds are kept in Wema Bank where you can access them any time from the various available channels.

The amount of cash on hand determines what financial hardships can be absorbed without going into debt or arranging other financing. You sure do not want to accumulate debt during this period.

Rejoice! Your competitors will fail

That seemed rather harsh, but it is the truth; a lot of your competitors will close shop one after the other over the coming months. Pity them and move on; grab the opportunity to attract new customers. This is an excellent time for you to expand and take advantage of a larger market share. Don’t sleep on it. Do it now!

However, be careful not to be caught up in the euphoria of your new-found status as a ‘market leader’. Every business owner (especially small businesses) should continue to run his or her business with caution and absolute prudence. There will be more tough times ahead.

Don’t stop shouting

The good news is that recessions do not last forever. Once the current recession ends (some analysts predict December 2016), every survivor has a good chance of emerging stronger. Usually, survivors of recession become the market leaders during the recovery, but these are the ones who never stopped shouting. Whatever you do, don’t cut advertising. Studies by McGraw-Hill Research show that, companies that continue to advertise come out ahead after a recession. Keep telling people what you do and how well you are managing your business to remain profitable despite recession.

For startups, this is the time to be strong. Negative data keep flying around in droves but you cannot be discouraged now. What you need to do is to act! Ask for advice from people who have led businesses through a recession. You will find their experiences very valuable.

 

 

 

EL NINO THREATENS ETHIOPIA’S IMPRESSIVE GROWTH

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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.

http://thenerveafrica.com/277/el-nino-threatens-ethiopias-impressive-growth/

Sons, wives and associates: Here are 18 African Names we found on the Panama Papers

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Apr 4, 2016. The Nerve Africa

 German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) has released the Panama Papers, the biggest leak in the history of data journalism, publishing online 11.5 million documents equaling 2.6 terabytes, from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which showed how hundreds of thousands of people, including world leaders, celebrities, athletes, FIFA officials and criminals hid money using anonymous shell corporations across the world.

The Panamanian law firm, regarded as one of the world’s most secretive companies, according to the documents, has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax.

“Over a year ago, an anonymous source contacted the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and submitted encrypted internal documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that sells anonymous offshore companies around the world,” SZ noted. “These shell firms enable their owners to cover up their business dealings, no matter how shady.”

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SZ obtained further documents in an investigation involving “400 journalists from more than 100 media organizations in over 80 countries.” It analyzed the data in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian provider of offshore companies is at the centre of the stories that make up the Panama papers. It has dozens of offices all over the world and sells its shell firms in cities such as Zurich, London, and Hong Kong. These firms sometimes go at bargain prices, with an anonymous company going for as little as $1,000. “For an extra fee, Mossack Fonseca provides a sham director and, if desired, conceals the company’s true shareholder,” SZ reveals.

Abdeslam Bouchouareb was named in the Panama papers. He’s a member of Parliament in Algeria and the country’s current minister of industry and mines. Bouchouareb has been the sole owner of the Panamanian company Royal Arrival Corp., which was created in April 2015, since July 2015. The company is said to be used for business activities in Turkey, the United Kingdom and Algeria.

Through this company, Bouchouareb held a Swiss bank account at NBAD Private Bank SA. He managed Royal Arrival Corp. via a Luxembourg company, Compagnie d’Etude et de Conseil (CEC).

A Luxembourg financial firm that set up the company for Bouchouareb, confirmed his ownership. However, it noted that it “was constituted in all transparency” and was only set up to own and manage inherited property. According to the company, because of Bouchouareb’s ministerial position, “We, with his agreement, decided to delay any use of the company, and the opening of the bank account at NBAD Geneva was never finalized…Mr. Bouchouareb asked us to freeze this company for the duration of his public mandates.”

José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos has served as Angola’s Minister of Petroleum since 2008. He earlier served in the same position from 1999 to 2002.

In 2002, he was named one of two individuals who had power of attorney for Medea Investments Limited, a company incorporated on September 13, 2001 in Niue, and puts its own value at $1 million. The company moved to Samoa in 2006 but was inactivated on Feb. 16, 2009. While in Niue and also Samoa, the company was held by “bearer” shares, which belong to the individual who physically holds them, making it easier to obscure ownership.

José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos was contacted repeatedly to comment on the allegations. He never responded.

Ian Stuart Kirby has served as president of the Court of Appeal in Botswana since 2010. He was Botswana’s deputy attorney general from 1990 to 2000 and served as a High Court judge from 2000 until late 2003, when he became attorney general. Kirby was lead counsel for a commission that led to the creation of Botswana’s Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime.

His name came up as one of dozens of shareholders of seven British Virgin Islands companies, including as a shareholder of Bellbrook Estates Limited (May 2005), while he was attorney general of Botswana. The company undertook unspecified activities in the United Kingdom, according to a 2014 list by Mossack Fonseca of active companies for which it served as registered agent.

When contacted, Kirby said that the companies were special purpose vehicles formed by a joint venture to acquire, develop and resell a particular property in the UK, as an investment. According to him, he and his wife were persuaded to invest in the companies. In hopes of receiving a return on investment, they chose the minimum allowed. “One or two have worked out, but most not, because the worldwide recession intervened. Overall we have lost most of our investment,” he said. However, the couple, Kirby said, retained an interest in only two of the companies, one of which they hope will allow them to recover their investment and the other of which they hope may provide a modest profit.

Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua  is a Congolese politician who has served in the government of Congo-Brazzaville as Minister of Scientific Research since 2011. Previously he was Director-General of the National Oil Company of Congo (Société Nationale des Pétroles du Congo, SNPC) from 1998 to 2005 and Minister of Energy and Hydraulics from 2005 to 2011.

Itoua was in 2003 implicated in a massive diversion of SNPC funds. One of Congo’s creditors accused Itoua and the SNPC of conspiring to “divert oil revenues … into the pockets of powerful Congolese public officials.” After a U.S. federal appeals court ruled in 2007 that American courts did not have jurisdiction over the suit against the SNPC because it was a government agency, the creditor did not pursue its case against Itoua.

While he was energy adviser to the President of the Republic of Congo and CEO of SNPC, Itoua had power of attorney to represent two offshore companies. Denvest Capital Strategies Inc., based in the British Virgin Islands, and Grafin Associated SA, based in Panama, had previously issued unregistered shares which belong to the person who physically holds them. The companies became inactive in 2006 and 2007 respectively, Mossack Fonseca’s records show.

Requests for comments were denied by Itoua.

Jaynet Désirée Kabila Kyungu is the twin sister of Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is linked with Keratsu Holding Limited, a company incorporated in Niue on June 19, 2001, a few months after her brother became president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She appeared as co-director with Congolese businessman Kalume Nyembwe Feruzi, said to be close to her father Laurent Kabila. The company has owned stakes in one of the DRC’s major mobile phone operators.

Jean-Claude N’Da Ametchi is an associate of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, who was sanctioned by the European Union in 2011, for allegedly helping to fund the “illegitimate administration” of Gbagbo. A civil war broke out in the West African country after Gbagbo refused to accept his defeat in the 2010 presidential elections. About 3,000 people were killed in the conflict.

Cadley House Ltd., registered in the Seychelles in 2006, was at first held through so-called bearer shares, which do not list an offshore company’s owner, but emails confirm that the firm belonged to N’Da Ametchi. The company’s purpose was described as “management of personal assets…[and] ownership of a bank account in the Principality of Monaco.”

Alaa Mubarak is the son of former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. He owned the British Virgin Islands firm Pan World Investments Inc., managed by Credit Suisse. In 2011, the year his father resigned the Egyptian presidency and was arrested alongside Alaa and his brother Gamal,  BVI authorities told Mossack Fonseca to freeze Pan World’s assets, an order prompted by a European Union law.

The men were last May sentenced to three years in jail for embezzling millions of dollars in state funds intended for the renovation of palaces. Although a Cairo criminal court had last October released Alaa and his brother, acknowledging the time they served in jail since their arrests, they still face trial on charges of insider trading.

John Addo Kufuor is the son of John Agyekum Kufuor In early 2001, shortly after the start of his father’s first presidential term, Kufuor appointed Mossack Fonseca to manage The Excel 2000 Trust. Later that year, it controlled a bank account in Panama worth $75,000. His mother – Theresa Kufuor, then-Ghana’s first lady – was also a beneficiary.

The leaked files also connected Kufuor with BVI companies Fordiant Ltd and Stamford International Investments Group Limited. Both were registered when Kufuor’s father was president of Ghana and became inactive in 2004 and 2007.

Kojo Annan is the only son of former United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, who served from 1997 to 2006. He was hired by Swiss company Cotecna in 1995 for work in Nigeria. By early 1998, he had quit to become a consultant to the company. Months later, the United Nations awarded the firm a contract as part of Oil-for-Food humanitarian program in Iraq, prompting allegations of impropriety. Both Kojo and the company have consistently denied allegations of wrongdoing.

Kojo Annan was sole director of the Samoan company Sapphire Holding Ltd, originally incorporated in Niue in 2003, which he had used to buy an apartment (Argyll Mansions) in central London in 2003 for more than $500,000, according to U.K. records. Sapphire Holding used unnamed shareholders until 2015 when Kojo Annan became a listed shareholder with a Ghana address.

Kojo Annan was also a joint shareholder and director of two British Virgin Islands companies incorporated in 2002.

When contacted, a lawyer for Annan said that his companies “operate in accordance with the laws and regulations of the relevant jurisdictions and, insofar tax liabilities arise, they pay taxes in the jurisdictions in which taxes are due to be paid. In other words, any entity and account held by Mr. Annan has been opened solely for normal, legal purposes of managing family and business matters and has been fully disclosed in accordance with applicable laws.”

Mamadie Touré is the widow of Lansana Conté, the former dictator and president of Guinea. Although he was in power from 1984 till his death in 2008, Touré was his fourth wife and only became First Lady in 2000.

Touré was granted the power of attorney to Matinda Partners and Co. Ltd, a British Virgin Islands company, in November 2006. That same year, she began a relationship with a mining company that U.S. authorities alleged had paid her $5.3 million to help it win a disputed mining concession from her husband.

“Touré laundered the bribe payments through the U.S. financial system, making numerous transfers between bank accounts in excess of $10,000,” wrote Alexis J. Loeb, the prosecutor in the case.

Kalpana Rawal is a Kenyan lawyer and a Judge of the Supreme Court of Kenya.

Rawal and her husband were directors of two companies based in the British Virgin Islands before she joined Kenya’s Supreme Court. The family used other offshore companies to buy and sell real estate in London and Surrey.

Rawal said she has not been involved with the family businesses except for generally knowing they were involved in real estate.

She said has never had “any involvement direct or indirect and have no interest or control” in the other companies.

Mounir Majidi became the personal secretary to the King Mohammed VI of Morocco, in 2000. Two years later, the king appointed Majidi to be head of SIGER, the holding company of Morocco’s royal family with stakes in mining, agricultural and telecommunications businesses.

In 2006, Mounir Majidi received power of attorney privileges for SMCD Limited, which was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2005. In January 2006, SMCD Limited authorized the purchase of a luxury 1930s schooner “Aquarius W” and put Majidi in charge of handling the transaction. Renamed “El Boughaz I,” the schooner is now owned by King Mohammed VI. SMCD Limited was also used to make a loan for an unknown purpose to a Luxembourg-based company, Logimed Investments Co., Sàrl. SMCD Limited was liquidated in 2013. Majidi was also administrator of a Luxembourg company called Immobiliere Orion S.A., which borrowed $42 million in 2003 from a Mossack Fonseca-incorporated company to buy and renovate a luxury Paris apartment. It is unclear who owned the company that lent the money.

James Ibori, governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State from 1999 to 2007, pleaded guilty in a London court in 2012 to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offences. Ibori admitted using his position as governor to corruptly obtain and divert up to $75 million out of Nigeria through a network of offshore companies, including Julex Foundation. Julex was the shareholder of Stanhope Investments, a company incorporated in Niue in 2003. Ibori was also connected to Financial Advisory Group Ltd. and Hunglevest Corporation.

Emmanuel Ndahiro Ndahiro is a confidant of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, having served as the president’s physician, security adviser and spokesman. He became a director of British Virgin Islands company Debden Investments Limited in September 1998.

Mamadou Pouye is a childhood friend of Karim Wade, who is the son of Senegal’s former President Abdoulaye Wade.  Wade was sentenced to six years in jail in March 2015 by a judge who said that Wade had hidden away funds in offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Panama.

Pouye first appeared in Mossack Fonseca’s files in October 2008, instructing the law firm to open a bank account for the Panama company Seabury Inc. Between December 2008 and August 2012, two companies connected to Pouye — the Panamanian Latvae Group, of which he was shareholder, and Seabury, in which his role was unspecified — signed contracts worth about $35 million for consulting and advisory services relating to the port in Senegal’s capital, Dakar.

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Clive Khulubuse Zuma is South African President Jacob Zauma’s  nephew.  He was authorized to represent Caprikat Limited, one of two offshore companies that controversially acquired oil fields in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A spokesman for Fleurette, the owner of the two companies, said “the DRC benefits hugely” from “investment and long-term commitment” and noted “extensive benefits to local communities.” Zuma did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Ahmad Ali al-Mirghani was Sudan’s president from 1986 to 1989 when he was overthrown by a coup.

Al-Mirghani was the owner of the British Virgin Islands company Orange Star Corporation, created in 1995. That same year, Orange Star Corporation purchased a long lease of an apartment in an expensive area of London north of Hyde Park for more than $600,000 . At the time of al-Mirghani’s death, he held assets through the company worth $2.72 million.

Attan Shansonga was ambassador of Zambia to the United States between 2000 and 2002. He was arrested in the Zambian capital of Lusaka in 2002 amid an investigation into the diversion of millions of dollars out of Zambia when President Frederik Chiluba’s was in office. Shansonga fled Zambia in 2004 and, two years later, was accused by the Zambian government of receiving “misappropriated monies” and using offshore accounts to launder the loot.

In 1998, Shansonga became a director of Starflight Ventures Limited, Stacey Investment Holdings Ltd and Debden Investments Limited. The activities of these companies were not revealed. In 2005, Mossack Fonseca received court documents because it was the agent for Hearnville Estates Ltd., a British Virgin Islands-based company named as one of 20 defendants, including Shansonga himself, in a corruption case that the Zambian government pursued in an English court. The company, incorporated in 1998, was allegedly used to purchase apartments in Lusaka with money looted from the Zambian state.

Although Mossack Fonseca’s name is in the middle of all the leaks, and international investigations have pointed to Mossack Fonseca as one of the widest-reaching creators of shell companies in the world, the company says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and has never been charged with criminal wrong-doing.

“If we detect suspicious activity or misconduct, we are quick to report it to the authorities. Similarly, when authorities approach us with evidence of possible misconduct, we always cooperate fully with them,” the law firm said.

Gerard Ryle, director of the ICIJ, however, said the documents covered the day-to-day business at Mossack Fonseca over the past 40 years.

“I think the leak will prove to be probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents,” he said.

The papers also reveals a suspected billion-dollar money laundering ring that was run by a Russian bank and involved close associates of President Putin. The data from Mossack Fonseca also shows how Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson had an undeclared interest in his country’s bailed-out banks.

Other top personalities named include Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri, former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, King of Saudi Arabia Salman Bin Abdulaziz Bin Abdulrahaman Al Saud and President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, among others.

Ecofashion is expensive but it may be the only way to save the planet

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Nov 18, 2015. The Nerve Africa

Fashion is a big business. The global fashion industry is worth $1.2 trillion. This should not be surprising considering the population of the world – there are more than seven billion people on earth with varying fashion needs. What should be alarming is the extent to which the fashion industry threatens the existence of the planet.

The Chinese textile industry, which accounts for about 65 percent of global textile production, creates about 3 billion tons of soot each year. Also, the global fashion industry is often noted as the number two polluter of clean water – after agriculture. About 17 to 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment.

However, it is not only pollution that the world should be worried about. The fashion industry’s consumer-driven growth model has encouraged frequent overhaul of designs to psychologically induce impulse purchase. Production levels have, therefore, increased in response to increasing demand which the world’s resources are struggling to keep up with. Cotton, the raw material used in the apparel industry, is responsible for 2.6 percent of the global water use. Other parts of production such as washing and dyeing, also consumes huge volume of water. Sadly, with the current imbalance in demand for water vis-à-vis the supply, by 2030, demand may exceed supply by 40 percent.

The global fashion industry has also been found guilty of modern slavery and child labour, with unfair labour practices and poor working conditions leading to the death of several workers in the industry. One that sparked the collective conscience of investors in the fashion industry as well as consumers, retailers, and governments to know more about the people producing the clothes we wear and how they are treated was the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013. The event which led to the tragic death of 1,100 factory workers is now recorded as the second worst industrial accident of all time.

The several ills associated with the fashion industry as well as the need to preserve the environment have given rise to a design philosophy and trend of sustainability called ecofashion or sustainable fashion. The goal of this new thinking is to create a system which can maintain its productivity indefinitely bearing in mind the environmental and social impact it may have throughout its total life span.

Designers are increasingly incorporating sustainable practices into modern clothing. One of the first African designers to do this is Hazel Eki Aggrey-Orleans, the creative force behind the high-end London-based fashion-label Eki Orleans.

Aggrey-Orleans’s work and that of other designers with similar belief is fostering the growth of eco fashion, with the world market for textiles made from organically grown cotton worth more than $5 billion in 2010.

“I think it [ecofashion] is the way forward,” she told The Nerve Africa. “Anyone can make clothes or knows someone who can make clothes for them but it takes a more conscious brand to incorporate an ethical practice into their brand. It means you as a designer have values and you will not accept anything below that.”

She explains that eco fashion produces garments that are less harmful to the environment and also last longer.

“Ecofashion will also look to employ workers in under-developed countries to give back to a community in need. It is a less selfish way of designing garments, as you are thinking about your surroundings.”

The designer who was born in Germany but raised in Nigeria and educated in London said her design aesthetic has been strongly influenced by the diversity of cultures she has lived in. But her inspiration comes majorly from her West African heritage. Her love for nature ensures the environment is first on her mind whenever she designs clothing.

“When it comes to printing, we decided to opt for digital printing, as there is less water wastage,” she says, stressing her passion for ethical fashion. “Our patterns are designed in a way that causes the least fabric wastage. We recycle a lot of our textiles.”

With fast fashion growth spiraling out of control and disposable luxury taking over the rapidly growing fashion industry, ethical designers struggle to compete with top companies. But some of them are working hard to challenge the status quo through creativity, hard work, collaboration and creation of emotional bond with their customers. However, the prices of ethically produced apparel often discourage customers from leaving the cheaper mass production they are used to.

What many forget, however, is that materials used for ethical designs are high quality, combining a great look and feel to endure through many years of wear.

According to Cri de Coeur, maker of ethical shoes, “It’s also important to keep in mind that the cost of a product isn’t solely what’s on the price tag. Everything has a carbon footprint that it impacts upon our planet. While buying the sustainable, organic or fair-trade product may be slightly more expensive in the short-term, its long-term benefits are more than worth it.”

While arguments about sustainable fashion, mass production and how these affect consumers is expected to continue, especially with reports like THIS putting big labels on the spot, some designers have found their place and feel strongly committed to what they do.

“I personally have always been a believer in buying a few good pieces of clothing rather than fast throw away fashion, so it was only natural for me to develop an ethical and quality fashion brand with pieces that would last,” says Aggrey-Orleans. People who appreciate quality would agree.

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.

bitcoin

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

Four Things

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Four things I saw, four things I love

A godly mother who leads the way to God

Oh, how lucky a child is to be mothered by you

God’s precepts taught from infancy

Holiness a legacy to leave

 

Four things I saw, four things I love

A kind heart so big it accommodates all

Oh, what blessing to be associated with you

Always ready to help all in need

Revealing true humility by showing the gentleness of Christ

 

Four things I saw, four things I love

A hard working mother who never goes idle

Oh, what lesson to learn about life

How hard work propels to greatness

Coming from a great woman whose life is a lesson

 

Four things I saw, four things I love

A woman I can call a mother

Oh, what grace to have her

Someone that holds same values as the one who gave birth to me

On your birthday I scream “I’m blessed to have known you!”

Happy birthday Ma!

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