Nothing excites me more than visiting an open-air market and sampling some succulent, juicy pineapple, or a yellow-ripe sweet banana amidst small chit-chat with the friendly women vendors. These pleasantries are no longer the norm. With all of us wearing masks, I can hardly recognize my vendors and they cannot make out their customers. I don’t taste the fruits until they are washed in soapy water.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that while open markets are a key component of a sustainable food system, they aren’t built for a crisis like this one. Urban food markets in Africa often lack adequate infrastructure, resulting in over-crowded spaces and massive amounts of food waste. Vendors have little or no control over the hygiene practices of their suppliers and customers, making food safety protocols difficult to follow.
Various governments in Africa, have provided guidelines to help secure the food supply during this challenging time. While this is a good short-term measure, we need to be thinking about the long-term changes that will make our markets more resilient for the future. African countries can develop prototypes for “smart” markets fit to our context, designed to ensure health and safety, and equipped to meet our food needs now and into the future. The big question however is, what could an African Smart Market look like?
Firstly, the vast roofs of markets are a perfect place to install solar panels, enabling markets to run on sustainable energy. The power generated could also serve surrounding consumers and businesses.
Secondly, modern African markets provide the perfect opportunity for water harvesting infrastructure. The roofs of the markets could collect water during rains and would help keep the market well-sanitized and supply customers and vendors with clean drinking water.
Good water supply goes well with sanitation facilities. Water, sanitation and hygiene facilities are critical to limiting infection spread and protecting health. Clean facilities, maintained by private sector partners, could offer services such as sorting bays and improve hygiene by sanitizing surfaces for vendors.
Nigeria is the second largest tomato producing country in Africa with production of 1.5 million metric tons per annum with an estimated demand of 2.5 million metric tons. Unfortunately, 50% of the harvested tomatoes go bad after harvest. This mainly because of the use of raffia baskets that are piled on top of each other and the lack of cooling trucks during long distance transportation. Improving storage infrastructure and sharing storage best practices can increase the availability of food on local and regional markets, leading to improved food security and increased resilience for smallholder farmers.
Through the YieldWise Initiative, and in partnership with TechnoServe, The Rockefeller Foundation has trained farmers on post-harvest loss reduction technologies as well as linked the farmers to processors and buyers of fresh tomatoes.
Safeguarding human health, food safety and traceability must be a priority throughout the food system. While subsistence production, informal distribution channels, and traditional community markets make it difficult to implement large-scale food safety interventions, smart markets could promote a shift in consumer attitudes by designating a section where traders only sell certified and traceable produce. This could be a big step toward creating consumer demand for food safety and traceability and lay the groundwork for future reform.
Therefore, a carefully considered market design is the final piece of the puzzle. For example, traders in the sunniest and windiest spots often cover their stalls in dirty sacks, introducing the unnecessary risk of contamination. Markets could be optimized to have clear entries and exits and take into account the direction of the sun and wind, minimizing the need for extra work and unsanitary makeshift solutions.
As we think about designing the markets of the future, we should also explore business models to help markets become self-sustaining.
We must take COVID-19 as an opportunity to think creatively and help our markets evolve to be more hygienic, more sustainable, and more resilient to future shocks and disruptions. By doing this, we can help protect our local vendors’ livelihoods and ensure that millions of Africans have secure access healthy, nutritious food.
Writen by Bola Adekoya
The role of healthy communication in the workplace
To foster a healthy work environment, employers should take communication more seriously.
Profit is the purpose of every business organization. The best way to sustain profit is to strengthen the “Employer-Employee” relationship and the “Buyer-Seller” relationship. The profit of every business organization depends on these two. The success and failure of every business organization also depends on these two.
Communication is one of the major concerns in an organization and it is very necessary in our workspace and among people around us. Constant communication helps to build a strong connection in the relationship between an employer and an employee. It is crucial to the growth and success of your business and it allows everyone to provide input and feel that their ideas are valued.
Everyone can communicate as long as it is with words. In an organization, both the employer and the employees should develop good communication skills.
Your employees are part of the vision of your company and their opinions and innovations should be considered. This will go a long way in building a positive workplace culture.
Communication can be in oral or written form; and while written communication is the preferred form of communication in organisations, oral communication should neither be limited or downplayed. As an employer, your employees should be able to communicate freely with you. Communication reminds your employees about the goals of your company and helps you to delegate responsibilities effectively.
According to research, 57% of employees report not being given clear directions. A survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees cited an average loss of $62.4 million per annum because of inadequate communication between the employer and the employees.
It is the responsibility of an employer to communicate the organisation’s vision, mission, goals and objectives to employees. Goals must also S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely). Where communication is absent or ineffectively handled, employees can become unproductive, unresourceful, demotivated, and disorganised. There may also be high employee turnover which ultimately affects the profitability of the business. Without effective communication, an organisation will most likely be unable to retain its star performers or motivate average-performing employees into becoming highflyers.
Communication in organisations should not be left only to the Human Resources department, but feedback should also be encouraged from employees. Where there is a gap in communication, employees are left with no choice but to fill these gaps with rumours, (wrong) assumptions, gossip and the spread of misinformation. This creates an unhealthy work environment that is detrimental to the business.
To foster a healthy work environment, employers should take communication more seriously. They should not only learn the art of effective communication but should also encourage and be receptive to feedback from their employees.
Why NNPC’s Borno power plant may not materialise
The glaring security challenge cannot be overlooked in considering a major power plant project in Borno State.
Only a few days ago, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, led a delegation to Borno State to meet with the Governor of the State, Babagana Zulum.
In the conversation with Zulum, Kyari promised the establishment of a gas-fired power plant in Borno State within a maximum of 4 months to solve the recent blackouts that resulted from insurgents cutting off Borno from the national grid since January this year.
In Kyari’s words, “We have talked to each other and we think it’s very possible to establish a dedicated power plant in Maiduguri which will serve current needs of power supply not only in Maiduguri but to other parts of the neighbouring cities.”
Yet, there is a significant possibility that the power plant promised by Kyari may not materialize for many reasons, the first of which is security. In the meeting with Kyari, Governor Zulum had noted: “The ongoing insurgency has cut off the entire Borno from the national grid in the last three months. We put all our efforts and restored it back… but unfortunately, after 48 hours, the same group of insurgents went back and destroyed the main tower again.”
This glaring security challenge cannot be overlooked in considering a major power plant project in Borno State, particularly noting that the State and its surrounding communities have been the hot zone of insurgent and terrorist attacks by Boko Haram insurgents since 2009. Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have particularly been states where the insurgents have set up shop and carried out various activities, including kidnap, extermination of entire communities, burning of markets and religious buildings and the attack on the United Nations compound, in each case claiming tens or hundreds of innocent lives.
One report reveals that at least 37, 500 people have been killed by the insurgent group since May 2011, a modest number, some say. Also, till date, some of the secondary school girls kidnapped in the April 2014 Chibok incident are yet to be returned to their families. It is then bewildering how Kyari intends to see to the construction and operationalizing of this gas power plant.
Additionally, while the Minister of Petroleum for State, Chief Timipre Sylva, announced last year about the discovery of oil and gas deposits in the North, we have not seen any exploration and production kick-off. It then begs the question of where the gas for the Borno power plant intends to be sourced. The only gas pipeline that runs through the North – the AKK- is still in its first phase of construction out of three phases and has been earmarked at the earliest, to be completed in 2023 – not counting the typical delays the project will experience along the way.
Should the AKK by some stroke of luck materialize much earlier than the target date, the pipeline route is a considerable distance from Borno. It runs the route of Ajaokuta-Abuja-Katsina-Kano, its endpoint, a striking 481km from Borno State. Thus, there would have to be construction of a tie-in pipeline almost as long as the AKK from Kano to Borno State to get gas to Borno.
Optimists may reference the oil and gas discovery in the North and how production may start soon, thus obliterating the need for a 481km pipeline. This optimism however is not well-founded, as insecurity has been shown to be a major risk to oil and gas projects everywhere in the world. One of the major reasons the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline proposed to run from Nigeria to Algeria was abandoned was due to security challenges posed by Nigeria’s Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Tuareg guerilla movement in Niger and other insurgent groups along the proposed route of the pipeline.
These increased the risks across board, including for completion and operations through the lifecycle of the project. As such, failing to fix the security threats in northeast Nigeria makes any proposed gas plant project a pipe dream. Transporting gas via LNG trucks is not a better option, given that the drivers and their cargoes would be in danger of being kidnapped, shot at or bombed. The risks for both personnel and investors are high.
In any event, promising a power plant in 4 months for the people of Borno is unconscionable, since a typical gas power plant will take between 1 to 6 years to construct in relatively peaceful regions. What the government needs to do instead of making promises it cannot keep is to work arduously to fix the security challenges in Northern Nigeria and at the same time consider using decentralised solar power to provide power supply to homes, government institutions, schools and businesses while plans to produce gas in the region or transport gas to it are underway.
Nairametrics | Company Earnings
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- Union Homes REIT proposes final dividend worth N465.03 million for shareholders.
- GT Bank Plc holds FY 2020 investors presentation.
- Cornerstone Insurance Plc notifies stakeholders of late submission of financial statements.
- NSE approves delisting of 11 Plc shares.
- Berger Paints Nigeria Plc reports a 67% decline in Profits in FY 2020.