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hope for Africa

The present lock down has got me thinking, how can my dear country rise up from the ashes of Covid-19, a lot of problems are looming, from increased cases of robbery to domestic violence at home among couples to civil disobedience. Some citizens in some states refused to stay at home and even the places where lock down is enforced by the military the citizens are doing selective rampage in areas where the security personnel can’t protect. The citizens are security operatives cannot be on every street or patrol every street hence they are implementing selective demilitarized zones of mounting road blocks at strategic locations.

Two questions burn my mind. First, when and how do we return life back to normal post corona virus. Secondly, why are all the models our leaders are borrowing from the west not working? Then I remembered a passage in the ancient book of wisdom, Isaiah 31:1-3 where it asked why does the world (Israel) run to Egypt? Then Egypt was the west, the cradle of civilization.

‘31 Woe to those who run to Egypt for help, trusting their mighty cavalry and chariots instead of looking to the Holy One of Israel and consulting him. In his wisdom, he will send great evil on his people and will not change his mind. He will rise against them for the evil they have done and crush their allies too. For these Egyptians are mere men, not God! Their horses are puny flesh, not mighty spirits! When the Lord clenches his fist against them, they will stumble and fall among those they are trying to help. All will fail together.’

There are so many things that make the western solution work for them, Chief among them is DATA. They know the number of citizen, location and characteristics of every individual in every region, thus planning for their need and reaching them is simple.

They also have constant power, buying and storing things for long is affordable. Most importantly, most of the citizens have solve their greed level, only the poor will queue up for financial aim designed for the poor.

I honestly don’t know why African countries western models recklessly without thought. Social distancing also means you don’t live in a slum, get to work in congested public transport, have disorganized markets. Lock down means you aren’t homeless, don’t earn per day, have electricity etc.

Malawian high court just ruled against the president lock down order, saying, “Social distancing means you must have three weeks food in the fridge. Clean your hands means you must have water and soap.” You can lock people at home without making provisions for them

I laughed hard, when I read that states demand their workers to stay and work from home in Nigeria. The modules operandi in the government circles are still file and pen, so how do they work from home?

Secondly, even if the ministries are so tech enabled that they have their data stored in the cloud, where is the internet and power for the staff that earn less than USD200 a month to work, considering all other things are constant.

Data is very expensive and working from home is typically unrealistic for civil servants across Africa. Interestingly, children in US public school all have laptops they use in school, do we have such in Nigeria?

I was discussing with my cousin in the US and he confirmed that the schools sent the laptops to each student to them at home, loaded with learning materials and assignment for the term. They were also requested to quarantine the devices for some days and disinfect the devices before us.

So as the Corona is forcing our kids to stay at home and watch cartoon from dusk to dawn here in Nigeria, their counterparts in US are still in school and not loosing study time.

Anyways, how do we build a functional model that can work and help up?

First we need to build our own solution starting from affordable power, this will in no small easure increase the GDP of the nation across all verticals of the economy. While bringing down the power monster; we need DATA, DATA, DATA!!!

We must declare a state of Emergency on data acquisition and record keeping in all human endeavoir, from agriculture to rainfall, to number of childrend in secondary school to number of boys in kindergatern.

Then we must end hunger by making food available with affordable healthcare cover for all.

All policies rely on data, food and health to work.

We need to have our own

  1. Robust search engine;
  2. Robust science and tech programs to encourage research and development;
  3. Functional Satellite in orbit to provide cheaper internet

I am working on a application to can automate the dispensing of disinfectant on people at public places, imagine if thousands of link minds across the country are also building solutions during this lockdown, can you quantify the ripple effect, but unfortunately, only a few are working, while most are locked into the fantasy of getting the next meal.

Government cannot provide all our needs, but they can make policies that prohibit the importation items that strain the demand for dollars. When we reduce the demand for forex we will have a more sustainable economy.

We need to wake up and end self inflected neo-colonization. We are deliberately inviting neo-colonial imperialism, foreign company exploitation, and ultimately subjugating our sovereignty and wealth to the West.

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Africa spends $35 Billion and Nigeria about $5 Billion annually on food importation to cushion its production deficit, even though we have a great weather condition and large expanse of arable land that support farming, we still have a very large army of poor small holder farmers. These farmers complain majorly about access to affordable finance and market price volatility as reasons for the shortfall and poor economic status. They are also faced with frequent drought, unpredictable rainfall, degraded soil, pest and diseases and all of these in no small measure has made lending to farmers a huge challenge.

It’s also unfortunate that banks find it very risky to lend to farmers because there are no proper tools for monitoring and evaluation of loan compliance. They need to visit the farms periodically to access activities on the farm, a very huge expense on the cost of providing credit to the farmers. The reluctance to adopt to ICT adoption in their operations makes lending to them harder, not to mention their old farming methods and ideologies.  

African Development Banks (AfDB), reports that less than 3 % of the total loans in Africa goes to the farming sector which accounts for over 70% of employments and more than 40% of the overall GDP of Africa. It’s obvious farmers are neglected in the share of researches to optimize growth.  

Governments across Africa are making policies to encourage the farmers especially the small holder farmers. In Nigeria for example, the federal government is insisting that lending to deposit ratio must be 65-35%, this has put more pressure on banks to lend out money or not accept deposit. But unfortunately, banks prefer to lend to manufacturing and retail sector because of faster turn around and predictable revenue.

The Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) is pushing the limits, they gave close to 30Billion Naira to over 100,000 farmers in 2018, but we must be quick to mention their pains of monitoring and evaluation of loan compliance as It’s humanly impossible to visit all these farms during cultivation and post cultivation operations, this inability to actively monitor the operations on the farms seriously affects ensuring the farmers use the funds in compliance to the purpose of the loans.

Several studies has been conducted on the use of remote sensing and geographic information science/technologies in monitoring farmland activities, most of them were focused on using Sentinel 2 and Landsat 1-8 satellite imaging technologies which works with optical sensors. Optical datasets derived from optical sensors are very efficient for monitoring farm activities in areas with less cloud cover or non tropics but not ideal for regions in the tropics or areas with high precipitation. The limitation of optical satellite in capturing data during peak season necessitates the need to proffer another solution to monitor changes in vegetation in times optical sensors cannot capture datasets. This research would be focused on the less investigated option of using sentinel 1 datasets (it is not susceptible to issues like cloud, darkness and fog which hampers the reliability and availability of optical satellite datasets).

Satellite images are getting cheaper with better resolutions and shorter revisit period and no cloud cover issues. Consequently, the aim of this study is to build a model that would combine microware satellite data (Sentinel 1) and machine learning algorithms to detect changes in vegetation in line to the expected farming operations throughout the planting season for lending institutions to use as a decision support system for loan performance monitoring and evaluation. The model combines Interferometry Synthetic Aperture Radar (INSAR) a type of satellite image that is not inhibit by elements of weather planetary wide.

The objectives would be to;

  1. Extract the farm fields to monitor
  2. Classify the images to identify the crops being grown on the fields
  3. Determine the NDVI for the farmland
  4. Examine the farm compliance status from the NDVI

In the next article we would share the step by step procedures we used and explain the results.

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Free Cooperative Manage Solution

Cooperative associations are a gift to mankind, especially in Africa. Staffs of organizations and members of non formal associations come together to contribute and share a common wealth inform of loans and targeted savings. In Nigeria alone, cooperative groups will contribute 30% to national GDP by 2025 . Despite it’s big impacts, most cooperative groups lack automation. Many of their operations are still run using pen and paper or at best, a crude ledger system. This deny members the benefits of accessing their savings anytime or even using the savings as collateral asuch they are denied financial inclusion, credit ratings and access to other financial services.

We launched Coopify to digitize cooperatives across Africa with one goal, of making the life of cooperatives managers easy. Coopify is a simple tool that helps cooperatives group automate their entire operations for free. Before we launched, our bespoke cooperative management solutions (Probitycoop) served clients across 2 leading banks, public sector and FMCGs staff cooperative with over 10,000 members and managing members contributions in Billions of Naira. After 3 years of tweaking on developments we pleased that our codes and algorithms can handle the needs of a few cooperators to thousands of them.

The platform is free to use* and there is not cap on the number of users, It uses the cooperator’s banks USSD portal to process payments and in the coming months we would launch our own USSD platform to support complete processing via feature phone with no internet access.

One of the biggest benefits cooperatives get is that they can now remove the hassle of payment collections by giving users multiple options to pay their contributions (using their bank USSD, card and bank payment. Our simple API has enabled us to also lock down a deal with a leading bank to provide API services for them, these would enable them provide cooperative management solution to their 10,000 plus cooperative customers.

How do we make money, we only charge a token standard for all payment processing as transaction fees for helping you to collect, process and reconcile loans, contribution and disbursements with settlements by 10pm same day (business days only). However, excos can still use our solutions for free, do the collections offline and manually reconcile their records.

Our business model is agency friendly, we share 25% of our earnings throughout the lifetime of the cooperative with you for each transaction we process for the cooperative. Starting with Nigeria our goal is to cover the whole continent kindly visit: http://coopify.africa  to get started or mail: hello@coopify.com.ng to become an agent.

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