How local startups are getting tech wrong in Nigeria

Entrepreneurship is not only on the rise in Nigeria, but tech is increasingly adopted in local enterprises, especially new enterprises.

While this is suppose to be good news for the country, there is also a growing trend of tech misuse in most of these enterprises. A trend that might have a bizarre effect on the enterprises and the nation in the long term.

Recently, a friend of mine who owns a business support startup attended a tech entrepreneurship event in Lagos and lamented about one of these issues. According to my friend, one of the speakers at the event who owns one of the popular and successful new tech startups in the country, while delivering a talk on digital marketing strategies, said that pulling email addresses of people and organisations off their social network profiles for use in email marketing campaigns is also among strategies entrepreneurs and digital marketers could use to up their digital marketing.

I was at the digital marketing department of a new tech company sometimes too and the head of the team was instructing a team member to crawl the web and his personal phone contact for phone numbers of people and organisations for use in their WhatsApp marketing campaign.

These practices are already widespread. We have a lot of overnight social media growth among local entrepreneurs, fuelled by the costly and unethical strategy of ‘buying followers and contacts’. A lot of local tech entrepreneurs and digital marketers are using tech without any compliance with privacy and other cyber laws.

Apart from what such practices will translate to in the long term, in terms of cost of acquisition or operation, the reputation of the brand in the face of the public is gradually being eroded away. Before long all these will begin to tell on the growth and performance of the enterprise and contribute little to national revenue, except local entrepreneurs and digital marketers change their strategy.



On the rise: American rappers anticipated to shine in 2017

THE NEWSGHOST, NIGERIA – A radical change is going on in the music industry globally. The industry has become decentralised. Technology is reshaping and shifting the norms.

The barriers to entering the industry is now lower than ever before, plus the ease of recording and getting heard is ridiculously higher.

The next big rap star can come from anywhere, anytime. A music blogger explained that, ‘Without a record deal, a nebulous ‘co-sign’, or a publicist, a teenager in Miami can have a hundred-thousand loyal fans, eager to buy merch and support a ‘movement’, whatever that may entail.’

These new, fast-rising American rappers are proof of the change going on and they are likely to be the next big American rap stars:

Young M.A

In 2016, Young M.A’s hit single ‘Ooouuu‘ stunned rap fans and changed the vibe. The young Brooklyn rapper has preferred to stay independent despite record label’s interest in signing her up.

M.A turned down an opportunity to star in the famous TV show Empire playing Freda Gatz, but she chose her rap career. She must be far from regretting her decision, following the success her rap music has recorded in a short time.

Ooouuu‘ hit no. 19 on the Billboard charts and has been remixed by French Montana, Remy Ma, Tink and other music acts.

6lack (pronounced black)

6lack’s vocal is a mix of Drake and Frank Ocean. The Atlanta rapper’s debut album released at the end of 2016. His breakout single is an eerie jam titled ‘Prblms‘.

Aminé

It is rare to find an influential rapper in Portland. But that is about to change with Aminé’s growing influence. His hit song ‘Caroline‘ found its way up to no. 12 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and a record contract with Repulic Records.

Aminé was raised in Portland, but he is the son of Ethiopian immigrants. He even raps in Amharic in some his songs.

Russ

Russ is a New Jersey-bred, Atlanta-residing artist who performs, writes, produces, mixes and masters every of his song. His versatility has earned him a strong following. On Soundcloud his songs regularly reach a million plays. Fan comments are full of admiration for his top knot.

Nav

Nav is a Toronto singer, rapper and producer that seems to have an unspoken affiliation with The Weeknd’s XO record label. Currently having a total of nine songs, his songs get millions of listens on Soundcloud.

Koran Streets

Koran has been in the rap game for a few years already, but had no big break until his debut album ‘You.Know.I.Got.It (The Album)‘dropped last year and got picked by Rolling Stone for their list of the year’s best rap records.



Stealing from customers: Airtel’s grand theft strategy in Nigeria

Airtel is stealing from customers in Nigeria but is refusing to accept it is doing so.

Last year, around August, I purchased an Airtel mobile network sim card, registered it instantly at the vendor who sold it and slotted it in my new tablet phone. I never expected to have any troubles with the network. But less than four weeks after that, I realised I was wrong.

The first ugly experience I had was a series of airtime deductions on my line. I noticed a ₦15 deduction, then another ₦15 and another ₦15. I got disturbed and felt cheated. I rang Airtel customer care centre to report the problem, but there was no talk of settlement. The customer service officer that answered my call explained that there was a mobile dating service subscribed for on my line. I told him I never subscribed for any service and I use the line for night browsing, not even calls. He claimed the company was not responsible for it either. I insisted on getting my airtime refunded since I did not subscribe for the service by choice. The officer said I could not get an airtime refund because the service was already delivered. He offered to disable the service for me. I also complained about the flash messages that pop-up at very centre of the phone screen asking you to subscribe for several Airtel added mobile services with a ‘Cancel’ and ‘Ok’ button hanging at the end which may result to accidental subscription to any of those services. He offered to remove that too. I hung up feeling much more disappointed however.

A few weeks later, Airtel was back at me again. I subscribed for Airtel SmartTrybe night browsing service at around 12:55am. The service is available to customers as from 12am. I subscribed for the 1.5G at ₦50 package and the charge was deducted from my airtime balance. All was fine till I connected to the internet via my laptop and opened the internet browser. The Google search homepage loaded on screen and I typed a url and hit the ‘Enter’ button on the keyboard. Instead of the page loading on the screen, the browser displayed a message on the screen that read:

‘No internet connection.’

I rebooted my laptop and phone, reconnected to the internet again and it was the same. I was disappointed by Airtel again. I went on browsing on my regular mobile data on Etisalat network. I tried browsing with the Airtel later again before 5am when the night browsing service would expire, but still no internet. Later that day, I called the customer care centre to report the problem. The customer care officer told me that the record on their system shows that I subscribed for 1.5GB data on the night browsing service and used it up. I was shocked. The officer said I could not get a refund because the service was delivered. Those same words. I did not want to hear those words this time around. I asked that I must be refunded. But the officer said nothing could be done. I promised to blow the whistle on the whole matter for the whole public to be aware and for action to be taken.

I had no strong hope on reporting to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the regulatory body responsible for controlling telecommunication services and providers in Nigeria, because corruption has compromised most regulatory agencies in the country already.

Just three days ago, another Airtel added mobile service named SOCCCER7 was subscribed on my line and I did not know how or when I made such subscription. I only got an SMS notification that I had subscribed for the service and charged ₦40 for 7 days access. I called the customer care centre immediately to complain and reverse the subscription. The customer care officer that I spoke to said that ‘the service was already delivered’ and no refund. This was just less than 90 seconds after I got the SMS notification. He asked if I wanted him to help me stop the service but I asked him to leave it so that the service can actually be delivered. To my surprise, two days went by and I never got any soccer message. After another two days, I got an SMS informing me that the SOCCER7 service subscribed on my phone would be renewed on a certain date (the 7th day of the subscription, I believe) except I stop the service.

I am not the only one experiencing these kind of problems with Airtel. There is a large community of dissatisfied, robbed and helpless Airtel customers our there. I did some research and discovered that several other Nigerians using Airtel mobile network have been victims of similar problems. Click here to see a long thread of discussions about similar cases by different people on a Nigerian online forum. Click here to see a very recent thread of discussions.

The population of mobile phone users in Nigeria has grown to about 94 million of the over 170 million total population of people in the country. Now let us do the maths. If at least 20-30% of the 94 million mobile phone users are Airtel customers. Imagine just how much extra money Airtel would make from recurrently charging a sixth or tenth of its customers for services that were never delivered or for services subscribed without customer knowledge.

There is no assurance that I or the other victims could get a fair settlement anytime soon or ever even if these cases were reported to appropriate regulatory agencies. But blowing the whistle publicly will surely spur the kind of collective awareness, both locally and globally, that will in turn compel the people and government to take proper actions against Airtel’s strategic stealing from customers.



Why everyone needs tech for work

I have met a few people who think tech is only useful for a small group of workers. Maybe only for elite business people and employees of giant corporations. I observe that these people’s thought of tech is often based on blind assumptions, lack of technical knowhow and uninformed opinions from other people.

Everyone needs tech for work of course. There should be no argument about this.

Why?

Because the technological change going on around the world and the increasing adoption of technology everywhere, especially at workplaces, are creating increasing demand for some tech skills from people, young or old, poor or rich.

A team of economists and technologist facilitated by the World Bank explained in their article titled ‘Everyone needs tech skills, not just youth‘ that, ‘We need to make sure that older workers and those already in the work force have the skills to take advantage of technological change.’

Based on two studies centered on Poland and India, the team suggested that, ‘In Poland, the changes in the task content of jobs have been substantial. But they have also created jobs. In India, the capital-augmenting technological progress has reduced labor share in gross value added, but also increased incomes of highly skilled, non-production workers. However, in both Poland and India, low skilled, production workers, and older workers have been disadvantaged as employers and economies adopt technology.’

The rise of the digital economy is gradually rendering non-tech savvy workers obsolete as you can see. As it is, the skill gap among workers is also resulting to income gap in the new economy. And except everyone is skilled in tech to some extent, there may be more inequality in the distribution of jobs and income.

Apart from this, tech makes work easier and saves a lot of cost. It allows more work to be done at a particular time without using up much money or resources. Currently, the growing concept of internet of things is fuelling tons of tech applications for day to day tasks which were usually handled by humans. One good example is drone technology. Drones are remote-controlled flying tech objects and they are already in use in agriculture, transportation, security and warfare, and many other areas of life in some parts of the world.

Drop that idea that not everyone needs tech work if you have always believed that was true. Do not be left behind, the change is fast happening already. Get skilled in tech.



Witch market: The wicked dynamics of Nigerian markets

From years of experiencing and subconsciously studying the nature and behaviour of Nigerian market, I have come to the conclusion that Nigeria is the perfect evidence that there is no ideal. The common principles and structures of markets taught in today’s colleges and universities do not really apply here.

Nigerian markets are very difficult and dangerous. They feel like a real witch market, a market of wicked people, end to end.

The condition of a market often comprises of the nature and behaviour of the market players I believe, the market would always reflect this nature and behaviour consistently in varying forms.

Nigerian markets are what they are because Nigerians are difficult and dangerous people themselves. On the supply end, employers, service providers and manufacturers are ruthless and bent on making profit at all cost, with or without integrity and standard. Meanwhile, on the demand end, employees, customers and consumers are desperate, uninformed and vicious, and would stoop to any low. There are several past and current cases that show and prove this.

In Nigeria you will find people trading suya (grilled spiced beef), akara (beans ball) and yam fries over stinking gutters, a Nigerian journalist noted these as one of those ugly experiences in local food market.

The same journalist highlighted how a Lagos resident he spoke to described the rot of the bread-baking industry that serves a huge mass of the local population. He said he was told that: ‘If you visit bakeries where Agege bread (the popular name for bread produced by local bakeries) is processed, you may not want to touch that commodity again. Some workers wipe off their sweaty arms into the dough when mixing it, arguing that the heat from the oven will kill all the germs. Most have no labels on them. A lot of them are hawked in open spaces beside the woman selling akara by the gutter’.

Several times I have refused to buy Agege bread because the seller grabs the naked bread with bare hands to bag it in the nylon. Most of these sellers either tell me to ‘buy or go away’ or rain insults on me. They clearly have no appreciation for quality product and service, no basic understanding of hygiene either.

Those are examples of one of such market abnormalities experienced daily.

The journalist mentioned earlier also pointed out that a manager with one of the fastest growing fast food outfits in Lagos also said that after having worked in a fast food outfit, he would not risk his life eating in any one of them. The manager said:

‘About 99% of these outfits prepare their stew, rice, fish, chicken, rice, porridge with large doses of saccharin, a substance with suspected adverse effect on human health.

‘What you see in the cozy room where customers eat is a stark contrast to the kitchens where the meals are prepared. They use cheap ingredients, cheap labour and make their employees work long hours.’

Even at that, people still walk into fast food outlets to buy and employees still agree to work at these kind of workplaces under such unpleasant conditions. Very sad, is it not?

For me, the worst of all is how the government and regulatory agencies continue to be passive about these market problems and pay lip service to making reforms.

Foreigners who are entering Nigerian markets must be ready to deal with all these problems if they intend to remain and record any success in the market. Change is a long way as far as I can tell. Survival is the only option for now.

The facts: Why the world needs abortion and contraception

THE NEWSGHOST, US – Given the growing debate on the ban of abortion and contraception, these are some of the facts worth considering:

FACT: Abortion lowered the crime rate significantly since states began its legalization in the 70s. This is due to the overall reductive effect abortion has on unwanted children who are faced to grow up with little to no parental guidance and education.

‘The researchers estimate that, for every 1,000 extra abortions in 1973 to 1976, there were 380 fewer property crimes, 50 fewer violent crimes, and 0.6 fewer murders in 1997. Overall, the abortion effected accounted for one-half of the drop in crime from 1991 to 1997.’

Source: https://ideas.repec.org/p/wop/jopovw/104.html

Source: http://freakonomics.com/2005/05/15/abortion-and-crime-who-should-you-believe/

Source: http://scholar.harvard.edu/barro/files/99_0927_crimerate_bw.pdf

FACT: Unwanted children (orphaned or fostered) are several times more likely to commit crime, be incarcerated, suffer disease, use drugs or commit suicide.

‘Statistics have shown that of these youth only 4% are admitted to universities, 50% fall into a high-risk category, 40% become involved in crime, 10% commit suicide, 33% stay unemployed, and 20% become homeless.’

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3125465/

Source: https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/featured/suicide-and-the-foster-child/3317

Source: http://www.rcws.org/aboutus_statistics.htm

FACT: There are not even close to enough parents willing or able to adopt children who would otherwise be aborted. Adoption is not a solution to abortion.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2014/10/20/adoption-universal-alternative-abortion-matter-anti-choicers-say/

FACT: From 1993 through 2002 there were 107 recorded deaths; there are approximately 400,000 children in out-of-home care, in the United States. Almost 10% of children in foster care have stayed in foster care for five or more years. Nearly half of all children in foster care have chronic medical problems. 8% of all children in foster care have serious emotional problems, 11% of children exiting foster care aged out of the system, in 2011. Children in foster care experience high rates of child abuse, emotional deprivation, and physical neglect. In one study in the United Kingdom ‘foster children were 7–8 times, and children in residential care 6 times more likely to be assessed by a pediatrician for abuse than a child in the general population’. A study of foster children in Oregon and Washington State found that nearly one third reported being abused by a foster parent or another adult in a foster home.

Source: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213499000964

Source: http://www.casey.org/northwest-alumni-study/

FACT: An average of about 50 million children are aborted globally.

*If abortion was somehow banned globally in just 20 years the world population will have increased by ONE BILLION people AT THE VERY LEAST (this is excluding the many more that will result from exponential growth.) This would quickly lead to a severe overpopulation crisis.

Source: https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide

So what do these foster care statistics have to do with abortion? Well, if you would imagine, many women who choose to abort do so because they are not physically, mentally or financially capable of raising the child if carried to term. Forcing these fetuses to be carried to term and be born would undoubtedly result in an already overburdened foster care system to be pushed far beyond its capacity and lead to many of the critical problems described in former points.

FACT: In most cases making abortion illegal does not reduce number of women having abortions.

Source: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)30380-4/abstract

FACT: Banning abortion (or reducing access) leads to an increase in medical costs for nations.

Source: http://populationandsustainability.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/PSN-Family-planning-benefits-and-cost-effectiveness-May-2015-FINAL1.pdf

FACT: The fetus is not capable of perceiving pain until the third trimester.

Source: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/201429#

Source: http://www.livescience.com/54774-fetal-pain-anesthesia.html

FACT: There is no evidence for the existence of god or that fetuses have souls.

Source: Common sense rationality brought to you by your sane secular community

FACT: The vast majority of women who receive abortions are LESS likely to suffer mental health problems than women denied abortions.

Source: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128832

FACT: Abortion does NOT increase women’s risk of mental health problems.

Source: https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2013/06/still-true-abortion-does-not-increase-womens-risk-mental-health-problems

FACT: Abortion gives pregnant women the option to choose not to bring fetuses with profound abnormalities to full term.

Some fetuses have such severe disorders that death is guaranteed before or shortly after birth. These include anencephaly, in which the brain is missing, and limb-body wall complex, in which organs develop outside the body cavity. It would be cruel to force women to carry fetuses with fatal congenital defects to term.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/us/09down.html

Source: http://abortion.procon.org/

FACT: Women who are forced to carry to term and raise a child are more likely to end up unemployed and have to rely on public services such as welfare. They are also more likely to be victims of domestic abuse.

Source: http://io9.gizmodo.com/bumping-it-up-269021023

Source: https://apha.confex.com/apha/140am/webprogram/Session36974.html

FACT: Banning abortions would result in more taxes and/or budget deficit.

Source: http://jezebel.com/shock-of-shocks-banning-abortion-would-cost-taxpayers-1680928734

CONCLUSION:

Banning abortions would have a CATASTROPHIC effect on society and individuals. And children forced into existence are much more likely to have a significantly lower quality of life. Providing safe abortions reduces healthcare costs, taxes and reduces the number of women who die from unsafe self-administered abortions.

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Top choice for next Nigerian president: Babatunde Fashola, Oluremi Sonaiya

Recently, we ran a 7-day poll to find out who Nigerians will endorse for Nigerian president in 2019 or 2013. The poll recorded 24 votes and Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola scored the highest vote.

Nigerian playwright and poet Wole Soyinka, Governor of Ekiti Ayodele Fayose and former professor of French Language and Applied Linguistics Oluremi Sonaiya were among the candidates in the poll.

Oluremi Sonaiya scored the second highest vote.

Although the number of votes recorded in the poll is too small to be relied on for accurate analysis and judgement, but it gives us a rough view of who Nigerians will likely endorse for president in the next row of elections without the unhealthy political influence usually exerted by political parties on nomination of election candidates.

Ayodele Fayose recorded the least endorsement in the poll. Given his controversial political dossier, this is no surprise. Even,if the total number of votes collected in the poll was larger than what we have, Fayose will most likely get the least endorsement.

Here is a shot of the poll results:

If you missed this poll, you can still let us know who you will endorse as next Nigerian president among these candidates by leaving a comment here or on Twitter (add the hashtag #NextNGPresident in your tweet).

The American elections are over, but much anxiety remains moving forward

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As the year comes to an end a lot of Americans are looking forward with angst as President-elect Donald Trump is taking office. His election marks the end of what was a very difficult election in the USA as some of the worst candidates were pitted against each other making citizens vote out of fear with many choosing what they feel is the ‘lesser of two evils’. Add in corruption, political scandal, and media favoritism and this election has been a political drama deserving of its own book. As time goes by the left-wing politics and right-wing politics become ever more extreme opposites with many reluctant to compromise for the spirit of co-operation.

Many of the people who voted for Trump were desperate people concerned with the ever growing poverty in America but with his election he has already put in top positions more CEO’s and billionaires than any other president in history effectively cementing the control corporations have on the law.

What’s also deeply concerning is the ongoing record high temperatures and drought being seen across the world as climate change continues to progress spelling disaster for the world’s ecology including humans who often seem to think they are above nature. Trump and his political associations are climate change deniers; they deny humans have any role and some refute its existence at all. His team includes people deeply corrupted by oil companies actively fighting against climate regulations put in place to reduce the damage we do to the environment.

Let it be noted that its not just Republicans (Trump’s party) to blame for his victory, blame also lies in the millions who nominated Hillary Clinton to run against him. Many Bernie Sanders supporters (Bernie was Hillary’s opposition in the Democratic primary) knew Hillary was a terrible choice for a multitude of reasons. The DNC ran a wealthy oligarch corrupt with scandal as its nominee and so its easy to see why many simply chose not to back her in the general election. The mass ignorance, cyberbalkanization, disrespect, generalizations and identity politics that were found amongst the majority of voters have sealed America’s fate. Nobody is sure what can happen but common sense says the poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer as civil unrest and climate change intensifies to the point of global economic and social collapse. And America has chosen its fate, the consequences were fully earned by people on both major political fronts. This is no accident.

What local technology means for local businesses in Nigeria

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Nigeria is a large consumer of foreign technology. Most of the hardwares and softwares used in day-to-day work are imported, especially because local technology remains undeveloped and limited.

And the benefits of this for local businesses is way less than the losses. So much that it is necessary for Nigeria to start developing its own local technology.

Here are some of what local technology means for local businesses:

Cost

Local businesses must deal with the cost of acquiring foreign technology. This cost is usually a function of variables like exchange rate, tax, market price of actual technology and expertise required to transfer that technology. The cost is usually huge, compared to what it would have cost to use local technology.

For example, as exchange rate is currently very high, the cost that local businesses have to pay for foreign technology is proportionately high. A software that cost $100 would be worth ₦19,900 when $1 exchanged for ₦199. Now that $1 exchanges for about ₦320, that would be worth ₦32,000, which is over ₦12,000 difference.

Capital flight

A lot of money that should go to local spending often goes to foreign pockets because of the demand for foreign technology in the country. This is what is technically called ‘capital flight’.

Between 2000 to 2014, through policies to control the flow of foreign technology into the country and the development of local technology within the country, the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion said it saved about ₦188.8 billion from leaving the country.

This ₦188.8 billion is an approximate measure of the money the country spent on foreign technology in that period. It is also a measure of the money that the country could earn from local technology in that period.

Economic competitiveness

Local businesses cannot be economically competitive if the cost they pay for foreign technology used in production or operation is very high, because this cost of production or operation has to be factored into the pricing of the goods and services they create.

Businesses that spend lesser on technology, like businesses in countries that use local technology, will have a lesser cost of production or operation and can offer goods and services at more competitive pricing.