Information and news about nigeria

The Plight of Period Poverty in Nigeria
Period poverty occurs when someone cannot afford proper menstrual hygiene products, including tampons and sanitary pads. Health experts have labeled period poverty as the cause of why students, girls in particular, routinely miss school. Approximately 1.2 billion women across the world do not have sufficient access to these menstruation sanitation products. This typically leads to unhygienic practices, like using rough newspapers or cloth napkins in place of pads. According to reports by UNICEF, one in 10 African girls miss school due to their periods. This is akin to about 20 percent of a school year. Nigeria also places a heavy tax on menstrual products, with a pack of pads costing around $1.30. People who are facing extreme poverty, approximately 44 percent of the population, make less than $1.90 per day. Here is more information about period poverty in Nigeria.

Period Poverty in Nigeria

Period poverty in Nigeria has received little attention, but due to firsthand encounters with schoolgirls who struggle to make ends meet between school and their menstrual hygiene, more initiatives have sprung forward. In a conservative country where discussions on menstrual health are often taboo, these measures are important to start eliminating barriers to quality menstrual hygiene.

In March 2018, Ashley Lori, a health activist, began her advocacy efforts when she witnessed the impact of period poverty in Nigeria. She formed an advocacy campaign that focuses on three primary aspects: advocacy, sensitization and support programs. She developed and supported various efforts like the #1millionpadscampaign, Cover Her Stain campaign and Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28. The campaign has distributed sanitary pads to secondary students in the city of Abuja and other rural areas.

Menstrual Health Education

UNICEF developed the Menstrual Health Management (MHM) program based on its research in 2017. The program is an initiative to teach women and adolescent girls how to use “clean menstrual management material” to absorb menstrual blood and to provide access to readily available facilities to dispose of the menstrual material.

In August 2019, public health specialist and sexuality health educator Lolo Cynthia traveled to southwest Nigeria to teach students how to sew their own reusable sanitary pads. The material comprises of linen and cloth and each teenager was able to take home two reusable pads and additional materials to make more. This reusable pad initiative sparked a wave of discourse surrounding sexual health. Cynthia, the founder of social enterprise LoloTalks and a UNHCR Nigerian influencer, is from Lagos, Nigeria, where she witnessed the necessity to empower these communities with sexual education firsthand.

In her NoDayOff campaign, Cynthia focused on access, awareness and affordability to alleviate period poverty.  In August 2019, the campaign allocated more than 1,000 disposable menstrual pads in Lagos’ Festac Town. It was difficult to receive financial backing for her campaign, but eventually, the First Lady of Ondo, Betty Anyawu-Akeredolu, offered support. These organizations also petition for the government to take on the civic responsibility of reducing taxes or providing greater accessibility to sanitary pads.

Sanitation Initiatives

Other aid efforts include a sanitation initiative that Hope Springs Water developed. This organization emerged in Athens, Texas to increase access to drinking water and sanitation to the world’s poor. It also teaches schoolgirls how to make their own menstrual pads from sustainable fabrics. The project, SuS Pads, intends to help women make their own menstruation pads with sustainable fabrics. The organization hosted menstrual hygiene workshops, where schoolgirls learned about disposable pads and the importance of menstrual health.

Empowering women to make their own reusable pads not only improves sanitary conditions but also serves as an economic vehicle that can fuel more household income. It is an effective avenue for women to create their own businesses and profit off of making their own reusable pads. There are many countries that are taking steps in alleviating the financial burden of affording menstrual products. This includes Kenya’s implementation of a historic law in 2018 that would hand out more than 140 million pads to girls in its public schools. This will eventually boost girls’ education and give access to sanitary pads to 4.2 million girls in the country. Global support channels more awareness on the issue of not only period poverty in Nigeria but in other regions as well, which helps fight the plight of global poverty.

Brittany Adames
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Internet Access Helps Impoverished Nations
As of 2018, 4.1 billion people currently have internet access. This is roughly 95 percent of the world’s 7.1 million population. According to a data graph constructed by Our World in Data, the majority of this internet access is in North America and Asia. Comparatively, on average only about 20 percent of the population of Africa has internet access. Meanwhile, over 60 percent of India’s population lives under the poverty line and only 26 percent of the country’s population has internet access. Internet access can help impoverished nations, though, which is why there are efforts to bring it to places it is not available currently.

Connecting the Globe

Providing a country with internet access is more than just access to the internet. It is also about global connections. Internet.org is an organization that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg created, which explains that the internet should be a global right. This is due to the wealth of information that the internet contains. Global Citizen also asserts that if Africa had access to the information that the internet provided, it may be able to jumpstart its infrastructure.

Causes of Lack of Internet Access

Weform.org explains the following reasons for lack of internet access across the world:

  • Countries do not have the proper infrastructure to provide their people with an internet connection. According to the United Nations (U.N.), however, the establishment of 3G networks could be one effort toward improvement.
  • A 3G network currently covers only 60 percent of the world. By 2020, the U.N. expects that 97 percent of the world will have full 3G coverage.

  • Cost is also a major factor because 13 percent of the world’s population currently lives under the poverty line.

  • People in these countries do not always have the skills necessary to properly use the internet. Also, 13 percent of the global population is illiterate.

  • Eighty percent of internet content is only available in 10 different languages and less than half of the global population speaks these languages.

Looking Toward the Future

Internet access can help impoverished nations see major improvements. Google created a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots across the country of Nigeria in 2018. Global Citizen estimated that this could generate $300 billion for Africa’s total GDP by 2025. The Nigerian government is taking notice of the efforts led by Google. President Yemi Osinbajo visited Silicon Valley in 2018 and attended the launch of the Google hotspots, according to Global Citizen. This shows that an increase in technology not only improves conditions for a nation’s people but can also help local governments understand how internet access can reduce poverty.

Another way internet access can reduce poverty is by providing support for those suffering from poverty. Telecommunications company Vodafone launched Vodafone’s Farmers’ Club. Esoko states that the organization provides over 1 million farmers with phones. This allows access to numerous services including farming tips, weather updates and nutrition tips. According to Dela A. Kumahor, who served as a design expert on the project, research showed that farmers often feel restricted by their low amount of technology literacy and lack of business sense. According to The Guardian, Vodafone has done the research to show that mobile-focused agricultural services could lead to a $34 billion increase in 26 different markets by 2020. The service has also rolled out in Turkey, where 500,000 farmers have signed onto the project. This has led to a $100 million increase in farmer productivity.

Internet access can help impoverished nations that need relief. The internet provides jobs, services and connections that allow people, governments and industries the opportunity to help their countries fight global poverty. Improving agriculture and providing services are just two of the ways that internet access can reduce poverty.

– Jacob Creswell
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Sanitation in Nicaragua
In November 2018, Nigeria’s President Mohammadu Buhari declared a state of emergency in the country’s WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) sector. Sub-Saharan Africa ranks as having the most limited access to clean water and sanitation and the region is most significantly influenced by the situation in Nigeria. These 10 facts about sanitation in Nigeria explore the impact of poor living conditions and the current efforts it is making to improve WASH conditions.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Nigeria

  1. Access to Clean Water: Currently, only about 26.5 percent of the Nigerian population has access to improved drinking water sources and WASH services. The lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities is at the root of numerous issues such as diseases, malnutrition and poverty. Poor sanitation hinders development while exacerbating health inequalities and poverty.
  2. Contamination and Disease: Contaminated water gives rise to waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and typhoid fever. Limited access to clean water and sanitation is one of the most significant contributing factors to high mortality rates in children under 5 years old. Seventy thousand children under 5 years old die annually in Nigeria because of waterborne diseases and 73 percent of diarrhea and enteric disease cases in Nigeria are due to limited access to clean water and sanitation.
  3. Lack of Sewer Systems: Except for certain areas of Lagos, there are very little infrastructure and services to manage waste disposal. Seventy-one percent of Nigeria’s population does not have access to a sanitary toilet and disparities concentrate in rural areas. This means that often people will defecate in plastic bags, roadsides, railway tracks or bushes surrounding their communities for lack of a better option.
  4. Open Defecation: Currently, about 23.5 percent of the population in Nigeria defecates in the open. Open defecation is one of the main causes of water contamination. Because of the lack of governmental infrastructure, managing waste disposal is up to communities and individual families.
  5. Hospitals: The lack of sanitation in Nigeria directly impacts health care services. For example, 29 percent of hospitals and clinics in Nigeria do not have access to clean water or safe toilets. Patients’ immune systems are already weak, and poor sanitation significantly increases the risk of infection and complications.
  6. Lack of Political Infrastructure: One of the largest obstacles to increasing access to adequate WASH services in Nigeria is the lack of a unified government or political body. This makes it very difficult to mobilize communities and organize efforts. Issues such as the war on Boko Haram and corruption take priority for the Nigerian government because of the urgent safety threats that they pose. Investing in sanitation, however, is crucial for development and growth in the future.
  7. Economic Repercussions of Poor Sanitation: The Nigeria Water and Sanitation Program estimates that poor sanitation costs Nigeria $3 billion annually. This loss is primarily the result of premature deaths and sanitation access time. Estimates determine that each person loses 2.5 days each year trying to find a private location to defecate. The economic costs that result from poor sanitation disproportionately impact Nigeria’s poor, perpetuating a cycle of inequality and socio-economic disparity.
  8. Government Action: Currently, a disproportionately large amount of funding goes towards urban areas. In addition to the lack of financial resources, skilled workers rarely work in rural areas. Following the declaration of a state of emergency in 2018, the Nigerian government and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources launched the National Action Plan (NAP). This outlined a proposal for increasing coverage of WASH services in both rural and urban areas, as well as in schools and health facilities, by 2030.
  9. Sustainable Total Sanitation (STS) Nigeria project: With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WaterAid led the STS Nigeria Project to improve access to sanitation in the states of Ekiti and Enugu. This project included the development of the Water Easy Toilet (WET), an affordable and durable product. This is an example of SanMark (Sanitation Marketing field), which attempts to meet the demand for affordable sanitary products. SanMark is one of the main aims of the STS Nigeria project in order to increase access to sanitation technologies. The WET toilet can directly decrease open defecation rates and work towards improving WASH conditions in Nigeria.
  10. Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS): Along with SanMark, CLTS is one of the main interventions within the STS Nigeria project, aimed at educating communities about the negative impact of poor sanitation and open defecation. Both of these interventions target open defecation and try to offer alternatives or come up with solutions for specific communities. CLTS is a method that engages communities to analyze practices such as open defecation on their own. The reasoning behind CLTS is that communities need to understand the negative impacts that open defecation can cause because simply providing communities with toilets does not guarantee that they will use them. In Nigeria, CLTS has shown to reduce rates of open defecation in the poorest communities.

Improving sanitation in Nigeria is crucial to making progress in health and allowing for economic development. These 10 facts about sanitation in Nigeria illustrate the severity of the current situation and the many ways in which progress is possible. While access to WASH services in Nigeria has decreased since 1990, new technologies and projects such as the WET toilet and CLTS are working towards improving sanitation in Nigeria. Despite the political instability in Nigeria, the National Action Plan that the government launched shows initiative and potential for stronger political action toward universal access. Educating and engaging the communities themselves can influence change and encourage governmental action.

 – Maia Cullen
Photo: UNICEF

cancer in developing countriesMajor progress has been made in recent years in combating leading threats to global health such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. However, there is a lesser-discussed global health problem that is growing in developing nations. Eight million cancer cases across the world occur in developing countries, accounting for 57 percent of all reported cancer cases worldwide. Ami Bhatt and her coworkers at the School of Medicine at Stanford University are working to change these numbers by reducing cancer in the developing world.

Background on Ami Bhatt

In 2009, Bhatt became aware of the growing danger of cancer in developing countries through her work at Harvard University. She knew that something had to be done. She started a nonprofit with another fellow in her program, Franklin Huang, who became equally as passionate about this topic. The organization, called Global Oncology (GO), has launched numerous programs and projects since its start in 2012. All of them are aimed at creating better care for cancer patients in low and middle-income countries through new technology, education and medical training. In 2014, Bhatt started her work at the Stanford School of Medicine. Since then she has mobilized her coworkers to further explore the pandemic of cancer in the developing world and find ways to combat it.

Educational and Tracking Resources

Working with a design firm in sub-Saharan Africa, Bhatt was able to develop materials with simple messaging and visuals to help patients in developing nations understand potential treatment options, side effects and complications. Many patients in these low-income areas drop out of treatment because they do not fully understand the process of treatments like chemotherapy. These materials are aimed at solving this problem and keeping more patients in treatment. They are currently being used in cancer wards across Rwanda, Botswana and Haiti.

GO also partnered with the National Cancer Institute to develop an interactive map of cancer researchers and program managers across the world. This resource is the first of its kind and has increased interaction and collaboration between those working in the field. The map gives experts equal access to contemporary knowledge and technology being used to combat cancer in the developing world.

Work in Nigeria and Rwanda

In 2017, Bhatt and her colleagues at GO collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria to identify two hospitals that could make a huge impact by taking their cancer care programs to the next level. The northern portion of Nigeria is Muslim-majority while the southern area is Christian majority. For this reason, they chose ABUTH hospital in the north and Lagos University Teaching Hospital in the south.

The programs implemented at these hospitals were aimed toward outlining potential opportunities for hospital faculty to carry out improvements in their cancer programs. After this program had been in place for a few months, Bhatt and a few of her colleagues traveled to Nigeria to complete a comprehensive needs assessment. This formed the foundation for the recommendations to the Federal Ministry of Health that were included in the Nigerian 2018-2023 National Cancer Control Plan.

While teaching classes to physicians in Rwanda, Bhatt discovered that patients with leukemia were being treated with hydroxyurea, a drug that only prolongs a patient’s life for about five years. She found out that the country had lost free access to an alternate drug called Gleevec, which can prolong someone’s life for up to 30 years. Bhatt and her Stanford colleagues spent weeks lobbying the Rwandan Ministry of Health as well as the drug manufacturer to restore free access to Gleevec in Rwanda.

Sixty-five percent of those who die from cancer yearly live in developing countries. Ami Bhatt recognized the existence and implications of this statistic in 2009. She has made it her life’s work to battle cancer in the developing world ever since. As more and more people recognize cancer as a major problem in the developing world, Bhatt and her team get closer and closer to winning the battle.

Ryley Bright
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Corruption in Nigeria 
People most commonly define corruption
as the “abuse of entrusted power for private gain,” and government officials and citizens feel its effects on an everyday basis. It is a growing political issue around the globe, but developing countries like Nigeria often struggle deeply to control or combat corruption. The most reliable source that measures corruption is the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Nigeria often ranks in the bottom quartile of this index, with the scale being zero (most corrupt) to 100 (cleanest). Below are 10 facts about corruption in Nigeria.

10 Facts About Corruption in Nigeria

  1. Nigeria has two main political parties: the All Progressive Congress party (ADC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). These parties are almost identical in platforms but still oppose one another. Each party often increases corruption in Nigeria by utilizing misappropriated public funds to run opposing campaigns.
  2. A survey from 2013 showed that over 75 percent of journalists admitted to accepting financial gifts from politicians. These bribes often lead to editors and journalists manipulating stories and coverage to create media corruption in Nigeria. Despite this, the country still maintains an almost completely free press.
  3. Corruption in Nigeria has neither improved nor declined in score over the past several years. Typically, the country’s score varies from 25-28 any given year. Although there has not been a sharp increase or decrease, Nigeria still ranks below the average of 32 for the sub-Saharan African region.
  4. Former petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke used a $115 million bribe to secure an election victory for the PDP in 2015. The ADP and PDP collectively spent almost $2 billion on his campaign in the same year. This spending came from public funds and contributed to higher electoral corruption in Nigeria.
  5. Entrepreneurs generate 50 percent of the GDP in Nigeria but often face extortion and racketeering from police forces. Federal legislators have diverted $433 billion to vague projects in the past several years. This hurts small businesses in the country and allows corruption in the government to continue.
  6. Before the 2015 elections, the removal and distribution of $236 billion to 24 state governors occurred without explanation. Nigeria originally opened the fund to provide inexpensive loans to small businesses in the country. As of 2018, there is evidence to suggest that this money has been almost completely embezzled throughout the years.
  7. Nigeria has conducted a fixed exchange rate for its currency, the naira, in hopes of preventing further inflation from corruption. The naira is currently one of the lower performing currencies in the world largely due to continuing corruption in Nigeria. This new rate has caused prices of imported goods to double and inflation to spike.
  8. The Buhari administration has proposed a budget with plans for investing in agriculture and mining while battling corrupt business practices. However, projects like these often consume large quantities of public funds. This appropriation of funds to industrial projects often leads to higher levels of corruption in Nigeria.
  9. Between 2011 and 2015, over $3.6 billion disappeared from Nigerian public coffers. Unfortunately, this stolen sum resulted in a loss of potential roads, schools and homes planned for construction. This includes a loss of 500 kilometers of potential roads and around 200 potential schools that required only one-third of the stolen funds.
  10. Corruption in Nigeria affects poorer families most severely. These high levels of corruption could cost individuals $1,000 per person by 2030 if the country does not address it. Further, the levels of inequality continue to increase in the country due to corruption

The country still has many steps to take in order to successfully defeat corruption and continue developing. A presidential advisory committee has recently established to combat corruption in Nigeria. Nigeria also now legally requires banks to issue universal identification numbers to individuals. This process works by tracking multiple accounts owned by an individual and identifies missing or misappropriated funds. Citizens must speak out against corruption and governments must be held accountable in order to fully combat the issue. Additionally, governments must strengthen their institutions and close loopholes that allow for corruption in Nigeria to continue. For now, Nigeria is taking action in hopes of at least decreasing corruption in the coming years.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

Stock Market Participation in Nigeria
People have considered online fraud a major problem in Nigeria for a long time now. One popular online scam, known as a 419, is to send an email, letter, text or social media message wherein the sender offers the recipient money. The offer includes a request to help transfer money in exchange for a monetary reward. Although people now practice this scam worldwide, it originated in Nigeria.

As a result, many Nigerian stock investors have a difficult time opening stock accounts. Part of the account opening process involves selecting their nationality. Oftentimes, once they select Nigerian, they flag the account without opening it. One way people try to boost their assets is by investing; however, this effectively cuts Nigeria off from the world stock markets. Nigerians continue to face exclusion from the rest of the world and its stock markets. Of African countries, Nigeria makes the most from its movie and entertainment industry and is the top in the continent. It has also become a popular place for venture capital activity and the creation of startups.

Increasing Stock Market Participation in Nigeria

Since Nigerians are not able to open a stock account on these trading platforms, Chaka created a new platform. Chaka has a design to meet Nigerians’ needs; however, it is also open to everyone. It enables Nigerians to participate in foreign stock markets, including those in the U.S., U.K., Japan and Australia. One of Chaka’s drivers is to break down global investment barriers that block Africa from the rest of the world. This makes it easier for foreign investors to invest in Africa and vice-versa.

The platform works in partnership with DriveWealth, where Nigerian investors receive an affordable way to invest in stock markets with fractional shares. They only need an email to sign up and they start with a minimum of 1,000 Naira (or $10 USD) in their digital wallet. They can then begin investing in over 40 countries and over 4,000 assets, including major companies such as Google and Apple. Local trades cost 100 Naira and global trades cost $4 USD. Although the exchange rate of the Naira does fluctuate often, Chaka solves this problem by converting it to USD. The rate is set at 9 AM and continues until 2 PM for all transactions.

Security and Regulations

Chaka is locally and internationally regulated and provides bank-level encryption for all data and transactions. A local brokerage firm provides regulations, working with the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) and Nigeria’s Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC). A U.S. brokerage firm that follows the regulations of the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and SEC provides international regulations. Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) protects all website traffic and keeps all transactions confidential.

Users

Currently, many Nigerian stock investors are looking for foreign investment opportunities to maximize potential profit. Chaka has become the go-to trading platform for Nigerians, causing its user base to skyrocket. Chaka already has between 1 and 2 million users, a number which is growing daily.

Chaka’s future plans include branching out to other investment products from its app, such as mutual funds, fixed income products and cryptocurrencies. In a five-year partnership with NASDAQ and Airtel Africa, it will be upgrading its platform to include more listings and improve digitization. It has also received an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, but it has not provided the exact amount.

Chaka has also partnered with DriveWealth, a company that provides Chaka with the access that it needs to U.S. markets, as well as a series of digital products. DriveWealth also allocates Chaka with some of the best technology for Nigerian stock investors to use in international trading. Thus far, the merging of the two technologies has been simple. Further, Chaka believes the partnership will last for a while. Another organization that plans to help Chaka is Citi Investment Capital Limited (CICL), which is a local stockbroking firm that can make brokerage transactions easier. In return, Chaka has assisted CICL with improving its digital products. These combined efforts will aid the country in accessing foreign stock markets and provide more opportunities for stock market participation in Nigeria.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Zenvus Nigerian startup for farmers
Nigeria is a country located on the western coast of Africa. Unfortunately, Nigeria has the highest number of people living in extreme poverty in the world with 86.9 million. People can attempt to deal with such poverty by making improvements to agriculture. Nigerian startups such as Zenvus have already begun to take initiative. Zenvus is a Nigerian startup for farmers that aims to fight poverty by improving farming conditions.

Products Zenvus Provides for Farmers

Zenvus is a Nigerian startup for farmers that aims to fight against extreme poverty. This company is able to do so by providing an app as well as services that lead to better crop yields and farming productivity for its customers. Farmers can attain better farming productivity through a range of products that Zenvus sells.

Some of the products that Zenvus sells include SmartFarm and Yield. SmartFarm is an electronic sensor that is able to keep track of important soil components such as humidity, temperature, pH, moisture and nutrients. This product collects data on a machine that is solar-powered. The machine sends information to the user’s desktop or mobile device. Being able to receive this information at any moment will enable farmers to be able to grow healthier crops.

Yield is a camera that one can use to capture images of their crops. The app can take these images and provide helpful information in regards to dealing with stressed crops, droughts, outbreaks, pests and diseases. This camera allows for farmers to prevent situations that could significantly weaken their profits. The information provided through data that the SmartFarm sensor and camera from Yield give will allow for much less guessing when it comes to farming in Nigeria. The further productivity that the Zenvus brings should improve the economy.

What Services Does Zenvus Provide?

Along with the products that Zenvus sells, it also provides a number of services. These services include zCapital, zCrowdfund, zInsure and zMarkets. All of these services aim to improve the lives of farmers and their crop yields. In order to raise money for their efforts, farmers can use zCrowdfund to get loans from local people in exchange for food. This app also makes selling one’s products much easier. Through zMarkets farmers can use the app as a digital market to sell their food. Farmers can buy farming insurance through zInsure in order to protect their assets. As these services go to show, this app aims to allow for larger profits in terms of agriculture.

Why is it Necessary?

A Nigerian startup for farmers such as Zenvus is important to have in Nigeria. Zenvus aims to fight against extreme poverty by improving agricultural production. A focus on agriculture is so important due to the amount of potential it has to improve people’s lives. The U.S. Government’s Global Hunger & Food Security Initiative reported that agriculture employs 75 percent of Nigeria’s total labor force.

One of Nigeria’s most grown products is cassava. Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world, accounting for 20 percent of the world’s total production. As these numbers go to show, agriculture is already quite present throughout the lives of many people in Nigeria. This goes to further show why apps that aim to improve farming, such as Zenvus, are so important.

Within recent years, the production of agriculture in Nigeria has increased. Since 2010, Nigeria has seen an increase in quarterly profits from agriculture. In the first quarter of 2010, numbers were as low as ₦’2,594,759.86, whereas, in 2019, there were reports as high as ₦’5,408,978.92 in the third quarter. From the years 2011 to 2014, the national food production in Nigeria grew by 21 million metric tonnes. During this period, a rise in jobs related to farming also occurred. From 2012 to 2014, 3.56 million jobs related to farming emerged.

These numbers show that agriculture has the potential to help fight poverty and create jobs throughout Nigeria. A Nigerian startup for farmers such as Zenvus can make a significant amount of farming in Nigeria easier. Zenvus claims to be providing the same products and services as big brands for 10 percent of the cost. Another major thing that Zenvus’s products are able to accomplish is a 70 percent reduction in water usage for crops.

Since first coming out in 2014, the SmartFarm has been able to reach over 500,000 farming entities throughout Nigeria, Botswana, Ghana and Rwanda. Zenvus has been able to reach a large number of people throughout western Africa at reasonable and low costs.

Agriculture already plays a significant role in Nigeria and has the potential to grow even further. As of 2017, agriculture was the third-largest part of Nigeria’s GDP, at 20.85 percent. In order to deal with the pressing issue of poverty, it would be smart for the government to invest in agriculture as well as a Nigerian startup for farmers, such as Zenvus, that provides innovative products and services.

James Turner
Photo: Flickr

Innovation Capabilities
Innovation is essential for countries to develop, but there are countless barriers to innovation capabilities. Innovation capabilities are the parts of a production process that people cannot buy but are critical to supporting and driving innovation. Companies must learn and develop these elements. These elements include basic organizational skills, human resource management, planning routines and logistical abilities.

The Importance of Innovation

Without innovation, companies cannot evolve and be sustainable. This, in turn, impacts the progress of whole countries. A lack of innovation leads to people being unable to leverage their resources.

According to the World Bank, many developing countries suffer from low innovation. Low innovation includes the following:

  1. Weaker managerial and technological capabilities and the lack of ability to cultivate them.
  2. Weaker government capabilities.
  3. A general lack of physical, human and knowledge capital.
As a result, developing countries often have a difficult time progressing through innovation. In 1900, many now developed countries were in a similar state to developing countries today. These developed countries were able to capitalize on their innovation capabilities and successfully manage new technologies. This is what developing countries must now do to progress.

Innovative Examples

There are several examples of how developed countries have capitalized on innovation, compared to those still developing:

  1. Brazil was able to upgrade technologically after a slump in its iron industry.
  2. Japan took its textile technologies and modified them for the needs of different locales. It also diversified into machinery, chemicals, cables, metals and banking. This enabled Japan to establish its first leading manufacturing industry.
  3. The United States leveraged its copper resources. It pushed the frontiers of metallurgy and chemistry through a combination of high-level human capital and a network of universities and laboratories.

Developing countries, however, have had trouble reaching the same goals. While Norway was able to leverage its oil and gas deposits with its high-tech sector, Nigeria was not. Spain and Chile were unable to successfully identify and adopt new advances in mining and metallurgy for their copper industries. This eventually leads to these country’s selling out to foreign interests who could.

Production Capabilities: Management and Government

Two subsets of capabilities directly impact innovation including production and technology. Production includes management and government, while technology includes incentives and the environment.

Management focuses on the organization and maintenance of a company. Developing countries tend to have weaker managerial capabilities than developed countries. In these developing countries, managers tend to not have as much education. This greatly impacts their capabilities to properly identify and understand high-return on potential projects, take responsibility for long-term planning and implement new talent.

Limited competition can prop up inefficient companies. A lack of government support, however, makes it difficult for more efficient companies to effectively incentivize their workforce and upgrade their technologies.

A country’s productivity can illustrate an example of the effects of different management practices. There is a 25 percent difference in productivity between developing countries and those in the United States.

Governments organize and support how effectively companies run. In developing countries, governments generally do not have enough human resources or they are unable to efficiently organize policies. The organization, design and implementation of these policies help to rectify market or systemic failures and promote innovation.

These capabilities are the rationale and designing of a policy, efficacy of implementation, comprehensibility for the National Innovation System (NIS) and consistency. Most developing countries, however, are unable to meet these requirements.

Technology and Innovation: Organization and Environment

Governments and management often work to organize companies. It is the organization of the company itself, however, that allows it to implement and expand new technologies. Companies must incentivize workers so they can receive the tasks that make them the most productive. This also empowers workers to brainstorm new ideas and improvements for products or systems.

This type of organization creates an innovation-friendly environment for the company. These incentives show positive influences on creativity and innovation in workers and the company as a whole.

An example of innovation at work is the Aquafresh company in Ghana. It dealt with fierce competition from Asia, eventually discovering that the best way to confront this competition was not to address it at all. Aquafresh started as a clothing company but later reinvented itself, turning to soft drinks. This was possible due to its innovation-friendly environment and organization. This environment eased the transition and sustained them through the change.

Solutions for the Barriers to Innovation Capabilities

Adopting better managerial and organizational practices can push companies to innovate in products, processes and quality. This can also inspire companies to create innovative projects, which can lead to new products and technologies.

Access to human, knowledge and technological capabilities increases a developing country’s innovation potential. This renders foreign aid less important as the countries learn to become self-sustainable.

Companies in developing countries need help with overcoming the barriers to innovation capabilities. If the National Innovation System could focus on supporting companies with better capabilities, investing in higher-level human capital and management and the development of capable governments, a larger innovation system could come into fruition for developing countries. This, in turn, would benefit the entire world.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Although there is a vaccine, Polio is still a global problem. Here are some facts on eradicating Polio in developing countries.
People often think of polio as a disease of the past; but for many in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, it is still a very real threat. Poliomyelitis, more commonly known as Polio, is an infectious disease that can result in base level symptoms similar to the flu, or on the more extreme end, it can invade an individual’s spinal cord or brain causing paralysis. Paralysis is the symptom people most commonly associate with Polio because of how deadly it can be. As the disease progresses slowly, the individual eventually loses function across their body and requires outside assistance to do even the most basic task of breathing. Without medical assistance, the individual will asphyxiate. Here is some information about eradicating Polio in developing countries.

Eliminating Polio

Vaccination is the only way to eradicate Polio. Children’s bodies become prepared to fight the disease more effectively with vaccination. Almost all children or 99 out of 100 will have protection from Polio as long as they receive all recommended courses of the vaccination.

However, sanitation also plays a key role in preventing the spread of Polio in the interim. The virus lives in individuals’ throats and intestines, so open sewage systems can leave a community more vulnerable to the spreading virus. The virus can thrive in feces for weeks before dying, leaving plenty of opportunities for people to come into contact with the virus and spread it.

Eradicating Polio is highly dependent on herd immunization, so it is integral that mass vaccination initiatives go to all corners of a country. By immunizing everyone who can take the vaccine, the risk of the disease spreading and those unable to take the vaccine contracting it reduces.

The Reasons Polio Still Exists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria

Though there have been major advancements in eradicating Polio in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, they still remain vulnerable due to the fear that the vaccine may cause fainting spells and death in children, which are false claims. Additionally, open sewage systems in rural areas and the difficulty to dispense full courses of vaccination to individuals in rural areas play a role in the continued life of Polio.

There is also the issue of spreading. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the majority of new cases of Polio are often in the tribal areas surrounding the shared border of the two countries. The unchecked border often has people traveling back and forth so they are hard to pin down to receive their full course of vaccinations. This also allows for the virus to spread faster and makes it more difficult to isolate the infected.

Nigeria is doing relatively well with the fight towards eradicating Polio. The country no longer has an active outbreak, but it is at high risk of having an outbreak. This is due to active initiatives within the country to assure widespread vaccination and hygiene education to prevent the spread of the virus.

Mutations

Another massive issue these countries and doctors are having with eradicating Polio is that the virus is mutating. In June 2017, there were 21 cases of vaccine-derived Polio in the world. This has been caused by remnants of the oral vaccine getting loose in the environment where it is regaining strength and infecting people. The oral vaccine is from a weak form of the Poliovirus that allows the recipient’s immune system to fight off the virus and become more adept at fighting the active virus if it ever enters their body.

Many also consider the mutated and strengthened strain of the vaccine-derived disease to be more deadly as it has a higher risk of causing paralysis in those infected.

Solutions

The organization, Global Polio Eradication Initiative, is a public-private partnership working in tandem with national governments and private partners including the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, they are attempting to roll out vaccines and education programs to aid in eradicating Polio internationally. The organization works with 200 countries and 20 million volunteers to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a life free of the pain Polio brings upon individuals and communities.

As of 2019, it has vaccinated over 2.5 billion children, and the number is only growing. This is an incredibly important program, as the alleviation of the threat of infection for every reduces the stress on government health programs. There is also a reduction in the personal and financial burden of contracting and surviving Polio from the shoulders of millions of families.

Through vigilant vaccination distribution and educational programs, the hope is that in the near future, people will be able to live in a world free from the crippling implications of the Poliovirus.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Schistosomiasis and Poverty

Schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia) is a disease that is rarely heard outside of scientific circles. This has less to do with the severity of schistosomiasis, and more to do with the fact that its parasitic sibling, malaria, is a far more common and well-known illness. The largest concentration of schistosomiasis in the world, a staggering 90 percent, is in Africa.

Schistosomiasis: What is it?

While schistosomiasis tends to be overshadowed by its well-known cousin malaria, there is still a wealth of information on how it functions, spreads and affects the human body. Schistosomiasis is caused by parasitic worms that inhabit the bodies of some freshwater snails. Humans are infected when they interact with bodies of water containing these snails. Common recreational and domestic activities like swimming and washing clothes in and near infected waters are attributed to the spread of schistosomiasis.

Schistosomiasis comes in two different types: urinary schistosomiasis and intestinal schistosomiasis. Urinary schistosomiasis is characterized by extensive damage to the kidneys, bladder and ureters. Intestinal schistosomiasis is characterized via symptoms of an engorged spleen and liver, which leads to intestinal damage and hypertension in the abdominal blood vessels. The first symptom of schistosomiasis is a light skin rash known as “swimmers itch.” Once a human is infected, symptoms (chills, aches and coughing fits) can appear within one to two months. However, many infections are asymptomatic; the infection is there, but no symptoms appear.

Schistosomiasis is transferred from person to person when an infected individual’s excrement reaches a water supply. The parasitic eggs from then hatch, infect another snail (or human) and the cycle begins anew. Proper sanitation and potable water are the main ways to prevent the spread of this disease.

The disease schistosomiasis does not always result in death. Schistosomiasis commonly ends in stunted growth and anemia in children, and can even lead to infertility in cases of urinary schistosomiasis. Children can also find themselves with a reduced ability to learn due to the crippling symptoms this disease comes with.

There is no vaccine to cure schistosomiasis and no antibiotic has proven effective in preventing infection. However, there are effective means to diagnose and treat schistosomiasis before the infection truly takes hold. The drug, praziquantel, has proven useful in removing the worms and their eggs from the human body. Although there is poor access to praziquantel, this treatment has reached more than 28 percent of people around the world.

Where Schistosomiasis Congregates

Africa has a truly staggering number of schistosomiasis cases compared to the rest of the world. Nigeria has the most cases out of any African country, with approximately 29 million infected. The United Republic of Tanzania has the second-most cases of infection at 19 million with Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo tied at 15 million.

Schistosomiasis and Poverty: The Correlation

Schistosomiasis is predominantly found in areas of extreme poverty; where ever this disease goes, destitution soon follows. Schistosomiasis and poverty are intrinsically linked, and the most common reasoning for this occurrence is that extreme poverty often restricts access to clean water sources, which in turn causes people to use unsanitary water sources where schistosomiasis thrives and infection occurs. From there, the infected individual will succumb to the crippling disabilities that schistosomiasis infection eventually brings. This leads to reduced productivity in the community as the disease continues to spread, ensuring no end to this vicious cycle of poverty without outside intervention.

What Next? The Future of Schistosomiasis

There is hope, however, as NGO’s like the SCI foundation (founded in 2002) have dedicated themselves to the eradication of parasitic worm diseases. The SCI foundation’s biggest success in the fight against schistosomiasis is in Mozambique, where SCI has treated more than 30 million people of parasitic worm diseases. Further, SCI has already treated more than 12 million people in Tanzania alone since 2004. The foundation also recently (as of 2016) started to extend their treatment programs to Nigeria. With more than 2 million people already treated in such a short time, the SCI foundation can be trusted to reach Tanzania levels of treatment soon enough.

The future is bright for communities burdened with schistosomiasis and poverty, as many countries have been able to eradicate this disease from their lands. Tunisia and Japan were able to completely eradicate schistosomiasis within their borders, and China, Brazil and Egypt are well on their way to reaching that end goal.

Given this information, and the fact that Africa has the backing of a great NGO like the SCI foundation, a schistosomiasis free Africa is certainly on the cards.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr