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How Lack of Clean Water is Driving up Diseases in Lekki

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Mike Owhoko Clean Water

By Michael Owhoko, PhD

Help! Lekki residents are exposed to water-related diseases engendered by sub-standard and unregulated sources of water supply. 

Increasing cases of dysentery and diarrhoea-induced pathogenic bacteria infections have sparked concerns on public health in the area.

Water is an essential element in human life, and the inability to have access to clean water makes healthy living a hazardous matter.

It is particularly worrisome for a cosmopolitan community like Lekki to live without guaranteed portable water, especially, during this COVID-19 era when the importance of regular washing with clean water is emphasized by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It is a fact that Lekki conjures an image of affluence and comfort, going by splendid architectural edifice and exquisite relaxation spots sprawling all over the place, but beneath these allures, is a menace – lack of drinkable water.

If water is life, yet, it is extremely difficult to source, it means there is no life in Lekki, and unfit to be part of the Centre of Excellence.

By Lekki, I mean the geographical area straddling between Tollgate and Victoria Garden City (VGC). Despite its aquatic location bordered by the sea and the lagoon, clean water is hard to find due to its peculiar topography.

Unfortunately, the Lagos State Government has failed over the years to address this challenge, and nothing on the ground to suggest it is a priority. There is no water infrastructure in Lekki. Of all the network of water mains and spur service lines that run throughout the state, none is linked to the area. And there appear to be no plans by the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) to build water facilities.

Regrettably, this has encouraged all manner of water merchants, using boreholes, tanker trucks and bottled water with questionable hygienic conditions lacking the capacity to pass purity test, to flood the area with their products.

With estimated water consumption of 90 million gallons per day (MGD) by Lekki residents out of the probable 800 MGD demand in the state, LWC is indifferent to the plight of the people as nothing to show succour is on the way.

Desperation to bridge the supply gap has forced residents to embrace these questionable boreholes, water tankers and bottled or sachet water, worsened by the absence of quality control and assurance by regulatory authorities. Therein lies the danger.

Take the boreholes for example. The peculiar topography of Lekki makes borehole water not reliable.  The water is characterized by a mixture of iron, salt and colour due to contamination induced, perhaps, by the non-availability of a thick protective layer. Even the recommended borehole depth of approximately 230 m to 260 m by the LWC is defied by the water table structure and does not guarantee purity.

Though a few of the estates in Lekki have boreholes and treatment plants and complying with the recommended depth of LWC, the water is not clean and fresh enough to reassure residents of its wholesomeness. Residents are, therefore, compelled to limit usage to other forms of domestic activities, save for drinking.

Ironically, Ajah, an area adjacent to Lekki, has a good water table with a thick protective layer. This has led to the emergence of water vendors who use trucks/tanks to deliver and sell water to Lekki residents. Notwithstanding, there are concerns about hygiene.

These tanker trucks are seldom washed and are prone to contamination. Some of these trucks have been in operation for over ten years, yet, operators do not deem it fit to wash them, thereby exposing residents to infections. Besides, in the course of dispensing water, tanker trucks pollute the environment through the generation of noise and carbon monoxide, causing health hazards.

This leaves Lekki residents helpless, confining them to bottled water, which they believe, are reliable.  But they are wrong! The risk of contamination in bottled and sachet water is also high due to adulteration and imitation fuelled by greed.

There are so many bottled water brands in circulation, all contending to capture the Lekki market share.  Those who believe their brands lack the capacity to compete, resort to producing counterfeit by faking notable brands already enjoying market patronage. That is why at party venues in Lekki, empty bottles of consumed water of big brands are quickly taken away by quacks for recycle.

The impact is manifested in poor sales returns for these notable brands when compared to their visibility in the market. This simply means that some of those known products are just synthetic of genuine brands. This has forced some of the honest big water firms to rebrand and redesign their labels, bottles, caps and lids. It is aimed at re-establishing their unique identity and retention of market share.

But has this rebranding strategy worked? Who can differentiate original from fake? Your guess is as good as mine. As the genuine ones rebrand, the interlopers are also quick to raise their bars by cloning the rebranded models. They too want to remain in business.

Despite a lack of full-proof purity, Lekki residents believe they are better off with bottled water than drinking directly from boreholes and tanker trucks. This desperation to consume any water in bottle has exposed residents to unprepared risk.

If the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) did its job proficiently and refusing any form of corruption infection, the activities of fake water dispensers would have been curtailed.

Recalled that in February 2016, a former Lagos Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, was reported to have disclosed that 25 children died after drinking pathogen-infected water at Otodo Gbame community, Ikate, Eti-Osa Local Government Area of the state. There are still many of such communities along the Lekki corridor with their peculiar water tales.

Implicitly, it is not by fluke that the biggest private hospital and, diagnostic and laboratory medical centre in Lagos State are located in Lekki. Obviously, the presence of these medical facilities is the outcome of well-researched feasibility studies. Even in elementary economics, proximity to the market is a strong consideration for the location of industries.

With water-related diseases on the rise in Lekki, there is guaranteed and fertile business for promoters of medical facilities. Patients are not only available, financial capacity of patients is also a reassuring incentive.

Rather than draw the Lagos State Government and the public to their plight, residents appear aloof, perhaps, overwhelmed by the mentality of “big boy”, preferring to endure the water hardship silently. There are also low-income brackets who live in Lekki. No class is immune from the water stress, which is exerting heavy health and economic toll on residents.

It is unhelpful for LWC not to have extended water mains to this area, as if it has a hidden axe to grind with Lekki. The only part of Lekki that currently enjoys a water supply from LWC is the segment close to the Tollgate, where services are either epileptic or not available.

It is the responsibility of LWC to provide water for residents, and the Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission (LSWRC) can ensure there is improved water supply, rather than paying more attention to the issuance of licences for boreholes. There is no consumer interest to protect where there is no water.

With a regular supply of water and a good billing system, LWC can generate more revenue. It is affordable.  I strongly believe Lekki residents are willing to pay for the cost of water if it can be made available. It is indeed depressing when you can afford a thing but cannot find it.

Water is as critical as other infrastructure. If LWC is incapable of piping water to homes, it should collaborate with private entities to surmount this challenge. Inability to supply water places a heavy burden on the corporation and its motto – “Working to serve you better.”  How do you serve people better when your delivery capacity is near comatose?

The Lagos State annual budget for water is particularly unhelpful and discouraging. It is not commensurate to the growing demand for water in the state, and it is suggestive of the government’s unpreparedness to improve on water infrastructure.

With implication on sanitation, it is indeed, a sad situation. Eko o ni baje.

Dr Mike Owhoko, journalist and author, is the Publisher of Media Issues, an online newspaper found at www.mediaissuesng.com.

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Buying Naira with Naira, Rantings And Musings

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the new Naira notes

By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

Under pressure we wail under pressure, under pressure black people under pressure, under pressure Nigerians under pressure. No food in we belly, no money in ah we pocket, no bed we lay we head.

The people dem are suffer, in ah ghetto, in ah city, everywhere dah me go oh, me see them, some are cry, some are die, some are weeping! Some are wailing! Everywhere dah oh eh. Under pressure we wail under pressure, under pressure everybody under pressure, Ras Kimono Under Pressure

You see the Nigerian looks upon Nigeria as a theatre and the entire population representing and manifesting the full spectrum of acts and actors. In this revelry, life is the theatre; the nation is the stage upon which we perform. The politicians and a few of us are the actors, very often mediocre. When stars appear, it is more often because a play must have a star rather than because the player is possessed of some dramatic genius. We saw it with Obasanjo, we saw it with Mr Yar’adua, and with the shoeless one, we are seeing it with the soon-to-end Mr Buhari. We falter and we muff our lines; sometimes our performance takes on an aspect of the grotesque-nobody takes this seriously because it is perceived as being the nature of the play. Our people become the audience.

I once watched with bemusement a deaf and dumb boy who caught his mom with a stranger in bed. When his father came home, the poor young boy was at a loss on how to communicate his discovery. After several futile attempts, the boy ceased trying. The father, on the other hand, patted him, walked into the bedroom and was scolding the wife, he asked her why she was sick, rolling on the bed and could not call for help from the neighbours or the family doctor.

I am not going to talk about the currency redesign brouhaha, because as good a policy as it supposedly is, again, it has exposed the gross behavioural nature of some Nigerians. The central bank, the commercial banks, the bankers, the PoS Operators and the general populace are guilty of varying degrees of culpability.

And, then the fuel palaver, the same one that once upon a time Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said: “This is the winter period. There is always more demand for refined products from petroleum during winter in colder countries. This is what we are experiencing now.” Today, I guess it is winter in those places again. And at the black market, the usual trend, is certainly high petrol prices, unavailable and weak Naira, low minimum wage and increasing poverty.

Legislators are neither here nor there; governors’ are not sure where they stand. In all the noise the product disappears. Transportation fare increases, food prices skyrocket…a nation that has a disconnect between the ruled and its rulers, like the deaf and dumb boy, his mother, the stranger and his father.

The fact is, our currency wahala, and fuel palaver are not the government’s problem. What are we really subsidising? Is it the high cost of energy or unavailable petroleum products? Nigerians are tired, hungry and not in protest mode. There’s no fuel scarcity but fuel criminality because leadership lacks the will.

Where are the refineries promised, all gone with the wind called Turn Around Maintenance! There is no PMS in the fuel station, but unregistered marketers/blackmarkers all have the commodity… a continued rationalisation and justification of absurdities like a commentator put it. It is even more disheartening when the intellectual effort and voice of elites are at the heart of such theatricals due to ethnoreligious cleavages birthed by economic disenfranchisement.

Our major problem is the lack of leadership manifesting itself in every facet of our human endeavours. Some of these areas may be fixable in future if we get the right people with the right policies but how do you fix the future of the mass population of our children who are not getting educated today?

The future of Nigeria is bright, and interesting but scary if we reflect on it. Teachers are illiterate; students can’t go to school because schools are closed down, and alternatives are unaffordable, the change is bleak…

The fuel management chain is a lucrative cankerworm of corruption, our banking system is not exactly different, a serious government can yet tackle it, it’s beyond committees and white papers. It’s action; only action can stop the rot. Nigerians can, I believe we can but we don’t know that we can, and doubt if we are ready.

The reason is simple…we are not just part of the problem, in some cases, we are the problem, when Sunny Okunsun sang;

Which way Nigeria, which way to go? I love my fatherland, o yeah, I want to know; Yes, I want to know. I love my fatherland, which Nigeria is heading to? Many years after independence, we still find it hard to start. How long shall we be patient still we reach the promised land? Let’s save Nigeria, so Nigeria won’t die. Which way Nigeria? Every little thing that goes wrong, we start to blame the government. We know everything that goes wrong, we are part of the government.

Which way Nigeria is heading to? Inefficiency and indiscipline is ruining the country now; corruption here there and everywhere, inflation is very high. We make mistakes in the oil boom, not knowing that was our doom. Some people now have everything, while some have nothing. Which way Nigeria, which way to go?

I end with this encounter, a politician was charged with profanity for calling an opponent a bastard: the politician retorted, “When I call him s.o.b I am not using profanity. I am only referring to the circumstances of his birth”. What is the circumstance of the birth of Nigeria, can anything be done to bring destiny and fate to conjure up some good for us all?

The elites are having a field day, but with each fleeting moment, three facts of life beckon, the rising of the sun, the setting of the moon and truth, only time will tell.

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AI Could Completely Transform Interactive Advertising

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interactive advertising Marcellus van der Merwe

By Marcellus van der Merwe

In recent months, you have probably seen a plethora of image and text posts produced by artificial intelligence (AI) applications, with DALL-E and ChatGPT featuring as the most popular in their respective fields. For the curious-minded, you may well have already experimented with these or other AI apps. Inevitably, as is the case with any new attention-grabbing app, follows a lot of media speculation on how the application could transform a variety of jobs and industries. 

But what about interactive advertising? This is a question worth asking. The sector is, after all, poised to be worth $123.3 billion by 2030. Advertising has also been at the forefront and the driving seat of many major technological shifts that have defined the past two decades. Search and social media, in particular, owe much of their growth and profitability to advertising revenue while also forcing the industry to evolve in new and exciting directions.

AI has the potential to be similarly transformative. While many marketing companies already use AI for numerous functions, including data intelligence and analysis, it’s also clear that marketing is just beginning its AI journey. In the coming years, AI could result in unprecedented evolutionary leaps forward for interactive advertising, especially in creative execution. 

Digging through the data 

With that in mind, it’s worth reiterating how big a role AI already plays in marketing, with its ability to understand and analyse large amounts of data, in a condensed amount of time. Remember, to provide truly personalised experiences expected from advertisers, large amounts of data are required. However, the task of manually pulling apart data and extracting useful intelligence can be incredibly time-consuming and expensive. AI automates a lot of that heavy lifting whilst ensuring that data is kept accurate and up-to-date. 

As a result, marketers alike gain a clearer idea of which channels are able to best deliver against the spend placed on them, as well as the types of messaging working for which segments. This is highly beneficial for an industry that historically had a hard time demonstrating precise value. 

It’s also worth noting that many of the platforms so successfully used by marketers are making successful use of AI. Spotify, for example, uses it to ensure its position in the market as the preferred audio streaming platform. AI analyses listener habits and builds custom playlists based on previous listening and serve them to the user on a daily basis, ensuring the music served is curated from previous preferences of audio chosen. 

The creative element

AI is already starting to go one step further. Increasingly, it plays an important role in helping marketers deliver creatively excellent, interactive experiences that meet the needs and wants of consumers.

A number of companies, for instance, are already making use of AI-powered chatbots to ensure their consumers are directed to the correct products or services. This approach recognises that marketing can play an important role in providing great customer experiences. It is also one that we can expect to see employed more frequently in the future, having been successfully applied to sectors as diverse as make-up and DIY.

But the text and image creation capabilities of applications such as ChatGPT and DALL-E could easily take those crucial steps further. The conceptualisation would still be done by humans, of course, but there is massive potential for a big shift in interactive advertising. Imagine, for example, being able to provide text, visual, and even audio-visual marketing experiences (the same AI tech used in deep fakes has legitimate uses, too) that are truly unique to every consumer who sees them.

With those abilities locked in, advertising agencies can surprise and delight customers in new and innovative ways. For example, with in-store or event activations, if consumers were able to see their own customised creative in just a few prompts, customers would feel like they’ve created something truly unique for their favourite brand.

Fostering individual connections

Ultimately, you have the potential to achieve a huge shift in how people perceive companies advertising to them. Whereas previously, questions may have arisen from consumers on exactly how companies know so much about them, instead now, they’d simply feel that a company actually ‘gets’ them as individuals. And essentially, instilling feelings of relatability and understanding is foundational to building the kind of real, meaningful, and lasting relationships that every company should strive for. 

It’s a future vision on the cusp of becoming a reality. As such, it’s something that all advertisers and marketers should be moving towards and striving to achieve from the get-go.

Marcellus van der Merwe is the Spotify Sales Lead at Ad Dynamo by Aleph

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What Tech Takeoff Could Mean for Industries Across Board

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MFS Africa Tech Takeoff

It’s no secret that technology across the continent is burgeoning at unprecedented rates. Homegrown innovations that speak to socio-economic bottlenecks are plenty due to increased access to resources, training and development, and investment. This can largely be attributed in part to the growing number of ‘technology hubs’ being established on the continent that are fostering innovation for startups and helping to bridge the gap to a more developed and economically sustainable continent. 

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF),  92% of Africa’s investment in technology is won by Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa, which account for a third of the continent’s start-up incubators and accelerators. While these four regions lead the way in terms of technology hubs, regions such as Zanzibar, Tanzania, through its new initiative ‘Silicon Zanzibar’ are joining the race to attract and relocate technology companies and workers from across Africa and beyond to the island. 

The continent has a long way to go if it is to reach the record figures raised by US startups. As we continue to bear witness to the continued rise of innovative solutions from the continent, here’s what an increase in local tech hubs could mean for industries and what to take into consideration:

Increased partnerships and collaboration

Africa has been at the forefront of world-class innovation for a long time, especially when it comes to homegrown technology solutions that speak to and solve socio-economic problems in communities across the continent. Countries such as Kenya and Nigeria have been at the forefront, but the likes of Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana are establishing intentional tech ecosystems that foster entrepreneurship and skills development, which will open up endless possibilities, particularly for fintech, an industry that is rapidly growing, evolving and one that has often relied on foreign investment.

“At MFS Africa, we have always believed that the only currency is access, and while we continue to, through our own efforts, create, advocate for, and partner to enable borderless transactions across the continent, the growing ‘tech hub’ culture in Africa will, in the long run, allow us to identify talent and collaborate with and partner with more start-ups. It also has the potential to increase dialogue with governments in regions like Tanzania, where we have partners, as we continue to transform the lives and realities of Africa and the diaspora,” says Cynthia Ponera, Regional Sales Director for East Africa at MFS Africa, a leading digital payments hub in Africa that works continuously with trusted global partners across Africa to connect African consumers to each other and to the global digital economy.

Sufficient power for the necessary infrastructure 

“When we talk about Africa’s quest to be a global tech hub, we need to ensure that we’re also considering the tech needed to power the foundational infrastructure that supports this ambition,” says Matthew Cruise, Head of Business Intelligence at Hohm Energy.

According to the United Nations, some 570 million people in Africa have no access to electricity, which drastically hampers socio-economic development or poverty alleviation for those without this basic human right. Renewable energy in the form of solar energy is the most viable option for addressing this challenge, as the continent holds some of the highest solar radiation numbers in the world. 

The inability of Eskom to meet the energy needs of Africa’s most industrialised country is widely known. But surprisingly, South Africa’s energy crisis has created opportunities for companies and investors to meet the demand for renewable energy alternatives. We see considerable innovation in solar solutions locally and throughout Africa for addressing power outages, and many of these will be replicated in Europe and other first-world countries as they, too, start to grapple with rising fuel costs and power outages. 

As the technology to harness this renewable resource becomes both more sophisticated and more cost-effective, governments and businesses alike need to embrace this as the solution to one of the continent’s most fundamental infrastructure challenges.

Attracting more investment through unique solutions

Tony Mallam, Managing Director of bitcoin micro-saving and investing fintech platform, upnup advises that “entrepreneurs wanting to leverage the potential opportunities of a global Africa tech hub wave should think about building solutions that are unique to Africa, such as the huge unbanked and the ‘Know Your Customer’ KYC’ed population, estimated to be at least 57% of the continent’s population.

“”The Opportunity provided by Africa’s high mobile internet penetration will allow investors to leapfrog last generation infrastructure into cutting-edge solutions. Governments would need to support this opportunity by providing the right infrastructure, a safe regulatory environment, minimal red tape and tax incentives,”explains Mallam.

Training, developing and upskilling will be crucial

Building the continent’s tech and digital capability needs to run parallel with skill development. The World Bank estimates that by 2050, half of Africa’s population of 1 billion people will be under the age of 25, suggesting that the workforce of the future is based here. But in order to effectively harness the potential of this workforce, we need to ensure we’re training, developing, and upskilling people in a relevant and sustainable way. 

Salesforce’s Authorised Training Partner and Workforce Development Partners in South Africa are committed to bringing fit-for-purpose skills into the ecosystem to meet the demands of the future workplace and to also ensure we’re leveraging technology for the greater good. And partnerships are central to reaching these objectives. 

“Indeed, if Africa is to realise its ambitions of being a global tech hub, it is imperative that all the various stakeholders—government, business, civic organisations and educational institutions – work collaboratively. At Salesforce, we believe business is a platform for change and thus has a central role to play in Africa’s tech future’” says Zuko Mdwaba, Country Leader and Area Vice President, Salesforce South Africa.

Access is key and healthtech is central to that 

It is imperative that any reference to tech on the continent makes special mention of health tech, where the room for growth is exponential. In fact, the African healthcare market is expected to be worth US$259 billion by 2030, pointing to an opportunity that cannot be ignored.

“Three thoughts come to mind of how healthtech can significantly impact the continent’s different markets for the better: It can provide access to cheaper healthcare, provide access to healthcare in your pocket (such as telehealth), and technology can play a role in bridging the skills gap and helping medical practitioners do more with less resources,” says Bongani Sithole, CEO of Founders Factory Africa. 

He adds that based on their own experience at Founders Factory Africa, these are problems healthtech can solve, with its ability to improve the lives of users. “In our portfolio alone, Viebeg is enabling hospitals to order medical equipment without paying for it upfront. Neopenda has developed a product – the neoGuard – that is a clinical vital signs monitor for infants and other patients in resource-constrained areas. Healthtech can be successful, especially when innovation is applied in ways that solve pain points of health users on a daily basis.”

Improved connectivity will improve competition in business

Africa’s internet penetration is currently half the global average of 62.5 per cent.This affects not only consumers but also small businesses across the continent.

This, along with findings that revealed that  South Africa saw a 66% growth in e-commerce in 2020 indicates that in order to compete and even scale, SMEs need affordable access to the internet. Currently, SMEs that have limited or no access to the internet are stunted in their ability to increase market share and reach new audiences. Head of Marketing and Communication at online booking platform Jurni, Tshepo Matlou says, “With more tech hubs in Africa, will automatically come increased connectivity. This  will in turn lead to more SMEs being able to embrace and leverage online opportunities ultimately allowing them to hold their own in a competitive market.”.

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