Coronavirus and Food Security in Nigeria

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In this interview, Agriculture Expert and Entrepreneur, John Akerele, shares his views on what Nigerians can do to guaranty food security in the country.

#COVID19 #FleeingPatients #COVID19 #Lockdown

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How I Came to Own the Largest Virtual Assistant Agency on the African Continent

The year was 2008. I had started my own business due to a request from an ex-client at a previous full-time position.

Now what was I to do? I had already accepted and started a full-time post at another corporate and didn’t want to miss that opportunity.

And there, an entrepreneur was born. Back then I had not heard of the term “Virtual Assistant” and yet, that was apparently what I was offering my clients. To me I was offering marketing support on an ad hoc basis and loving the idea of running a side hustle whilst working.

It took quite a bit of juggling, yet with the help of an assistant I was able to do this quite successfully. And then that business folded. The emotional attachment I had to that brand was natural for a first time business owner.

It took me quite a few years to get beyond what I perceived was an absolute failure. Little did I realise then, but know now, was that failure should be embraced and seen as an opportunity to learn and to grow.

Out of what was left of that business I did learn a few business lessons. One of the things I learned was that although outsourcing was at its infancy stage, especially in South Africa, there was still a demand for it. Virtual assistance was only surfacing in our market, even though our international counterparts had been making use of this service for 2 decades by that stage.

Fortunately I forged ahead. For some reason I just had this feeling that I needed to make this work. Now to really understand the full picture, I had no idea of really running a business, the importance of having proper contracts in place, a decent invoicing system, a marketing plan or any of those essentials required to run a successful business.

I was of course up for the challenge! Building my business was my learning ground.

I was thrown into the deep end when it came to sales and discovered a natural love for this environment. Having always worked in a sales and marketing arena on the admin side certainly did open doors for me in terms of growing my business.

Then I discovered that having the ability to market oneself was a huge blessing. As it turns out, one of the key skills lacking in this industry is the ability to craft a winning marketing plan to gain new clients. I’m very grateful for those Virtual Assistants-turned Coaches and Trainers who were willing to share their expertise with the rest of us. Being able to learn from them helped pave the way to a successful agency.

…and the interest to join my team.

I started realising the value I could bring by helping other entrepreneurs and business owners with managing their day and time. At the end of the day I truly want to see everyone around me succeed, whether it be colleagues or clients.

How much the landscape has changed since 2008, when apps like Slack and Dropbox were unknown. And now we can hardly run our businesses without it.

We went from running an ad on an online directory, to creating a full-blown marketing campaign using platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. These platforms have brought the four corners of the world closer together, allowing us to engage and improve the lives of those around us, no matter where we find ourselves.

Now we can revel in the delight of working remotely. You could very easily go for a cup of joe and sit at the coffee shop for a couple of hours getting your work done and your client would be none the wiser, as the quality of work still remains high.

I’m so grateful that I was placed on this path in 2008, with an innocent request from a client to handle his account. If it weren’t for him, who knows where I would find myself today.

Learn more about Karen and her business here!

Karen Wessels is a business woman and co-founder of VA Connect, the largest Virtual Assistant Agency on the African continent.

Karen comes from a sales, marketing and admin focused background, so she really gets how to build a business successfully from the ground up.

Karen hosts regular sales strategy workshops to assist other entrepreneurs with building and growing their businesses. Her passion for people and helping them succeed is the essence of VA Connect. As a working mom she understands the need for an extra pair of hands and has built this agency around that vision.

VA Connect’s exclusively South African VA’s are in high demand and they service an international client base. For more details on how VA Connect can add time to your day and get you working ON your business instead of IN your business, then visit their website.

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Apple Card faces probe over discrimination complaint | ABS-CBN News

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Something curious happened when a husband and wife recently compared their Apple Card spending limits.

David Heinemeier Hansson vented on Twitter that even though his spouse, Jamie Hansson, had a better credit score and other factors in her favor, her application for a credit line increase had been denied.

The prominent software developer wondered how his credit line could be 20 times higher, referring to Apple Card as a “sexist program” (with an expletive added for emphasis).

The card, a partnership between Apple and Goldman Sachs, made its debut in the United States in August.

“My wife and I filed joint tax returns, live in a community-property state, and have been married for a long time,” he wrote Thursday on Twitter. “Yet Apple’s black box algorithm thinks I deserve 20x the credit limit she does.”

Hansson’s tweets caught the attention of more than just his 350,000 followers.

They struck a nerve with New York state regulators, who announced Saturday that they would investigate the algorithm used by Apple Card to determine the creditworthiness of applicants.

Algorithms are codes or a set of instructions used by computers, search engines and smartphone applications to perform tasks, from ordering food delivery to hailing a ride — and yes, applying for credit.

The criteria used by the Apple Card are now being scrutinized by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

“Any algorithm that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class violates New York law,” an agency spokeswoman said in a statement Saturday night.

“DFS is troubled to learn of potential discriminatory treatment in regards to credit limit decisions reportedly made by an algorithm of Apple Card, issued by Goldman Sachs, and the Department will be conducting an investigation to determine whether New York law was violated and ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex,” the statement said.

An Apple spokeswoman directed questions to a Goldman Sachs spokesman, Andrew Williams, who said that the company could not comment publicly on individual customers.

“Our credit decisions are based on a customer’s creditworthiness and not on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other basis prohibited by law,” Williams said.

David Hansson did not respond to an interview request Saturday night.

His wife’s experience with the Apple Card, the first credit card offering by Goldman Sachs, does not appear to be an isolated case, however.

Steve Wozniak, who invented the Apple-1 computer with Steve Jobs and was a founder of the tech giant, responded to Hansson’s tweet with a similar account.

“The same thing happened to us,” Wozniak wrote. “I got 10x the credit limit. We have no separate bank or credit card accounts or any separate assets. Hard to get to a human for a correction though. It’s big tech in 2019.”

In addition to Goldman Sachs, Apple partnered with Mastercard on the Apple Card, which the companies hailed as a revolutionary “digital first” credit card that had no numbers and could be added to the Wallet app on the iPhone and used with Apple Pay.

A spokesman for Mastercard, which provides support for Apple Card’s global payments network, did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.

David Hansson, a Danish entrepreneur and California resident, is known for creating Ruby on Rails, a popular computer coding language used to create database-backed web applications. He is an author and decorated race car driver on the Le Mans circuit, according to a biography on his website.

In a subsequent tweet, he said that the Apple Card’s customer service representatives told his wife that they were not authorized to discuss the credit assessment process.

He said that customer service employees were unable to explain why the algorithm had designated her to be less creditworthy but had assured his wife that the bank was not discriminating against women.

An applicant’s credit score and income level are used by Goldman Sachs to determine creditworthiness, according to a support page for the Apple Card. Past due accounts, a checking account closed by a bank for overdrafts, liens and medical debts can negatively affect applications, the page stated.

On Friday, a day after David Hansson started railing on the Apple Card’s treatment of female credit applicants, he said his wife got a “VIP bump” to match his credit limit. He said that didn’t make up for the flawed algorithm used by Apple Card.

He said many women had shared similar experiences with him on Twitter and urged regulators to contact them.

“My thread is full of accounts from women who’ve been declared to be worse credit risks than their husbands, despite higher credit scores or incomes,” he said.

2019 The New York Times Company

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Bernie Sanders and the 2020 age debate

(CNN)With only120daysuntil the Iowa caucuses, the 2020 election will be here before you know it.Every Sunday, I round up the5BIG storylines you need to know to understand the upcoming week on the campaign trail. And they’re ranked — so the No. 1 story is the most important of the coming week.

5. Trump, unleashed: Donald Trump has spent the last week talking and tweeting almost nonstop as he tries to fight his way out of mounting allegations over his pressure campaign to get the Ukrainians to look into debunked allegations of wrongdoing against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
And the rhetoric from Trump has gone to previously unseen heights — even for Trump. He’s accused Rep. Adam Schiff (California) of treason, he’s attacked Mitt Romney in deeply personal terms — more on that directly below — and he’s repeating, repeating, repeating long disproven lies.
All of which means that when Trump travels to Minneapolis on Thursday for a “Keep America Great” rally, well, look out. Trump is always at his most, well, Trump-y at these campaign rallies — and, given the walls closing in on him in Washington, he could well use the Minnesota rally as a venting session the likes of which even longtime Trump observers rarely see.
Stay tuned. It’s going to be a doozy.
4. Any other Mitt Romneys out there?: Republicans have, almost uniformly, closed ranks around Trump even as a second whistleblower has emerged regarding the President allegedly using the power of his office for political gain during interactions over the summer with Ukraine.
Only Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) has publicly criticized Trump in any way, calling the President’s urgings of China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens “wrong” and “appalling.” Trump immediately struck back, referring to Romney as a “pompous ‘ass'” (I have no idea why he put “ass” in quotes) and suggesting that the 2012 Republican nominee was “begging” to be his secretary of state.
Any Republican who was weighing speaking out about Trump’s behavior with Ukraine (and his plea for China to investigate his main rival for the 2020 nomination) now can have no illusions about what such criticism will be met with: Pure, unadulterated anger from Trump — and likely vilification from the President’s base.
Is any prominent Republican other than Romney willing to risk speaking out when that reaction is assured? Principle vs. politics, anyone?
3. Fundraising losers…: With the third fundraising quarter ending at the close of last month, most of the major candidates have released how much they brought in and how much they spent between July 1 and September 30.
Let’s go through the losers first.
* Joe Biden: When you are a former vice president and the race’s frontrunner, you need to be at or very close to the top of the money chase. Biden’s $15 million raised in the third quarter is well off the pace and a significant drop-off from when Biden raised $21.5 million from April 1 to June 30 — his first three months of active fundraising. His numbers will re-ignite the debate over whether he has real grassroots energy behind his establishment candidacy. Think about this: The mayor of South Bend, Indiana — Pete Buttigieg — raised $4 million more than Biden in the third quarter and has now out-raised the former vice president for six months straight.
* Cory Booker: The New Jersey senator’s plea for $1.7 million in the final days of the quarter — in order, he said, for him to remain in the race — drew a ton of publicity. Even though Booker met his goal, he still only brought in $6 million for the entire three-month period. That likely means he will be facing another dire financial deadline in the not-too-distant future.
2. … and fundraising winners: 
* Bernie Sanders: Even as his poll numbers have stagnated somewhat, the Vermont senator’s small-dollar, online fundraising network continues to deliver. Sanders topped the field in the third quarter with more than $25 million raised and has now raised more than $71 million this year. That ensures he will not only have real organizations in all of the early states but will also be able to continue fighting for the nomination for months.
* Elizabeth Warren: While Sanders edged out Warren for the top spot by about $500,000, Warren’s third quarter fundraising is yet another data point proving how much momentum she has built behind her candidacy. Warren already has the best organization in Iowa, and fundraising like she put on the board over the last three months ensures her campaign will be able to fund a (TV) air assault as well.
* Andrew Yang: The tech entrepreneur raised $10 million in the third quarter, which, at least to me was the single most surprising result of the fundraising race. Yang’s total put him well above what Booker, as well as Sen. Michael Bennet (Colorado) and Gov. Steve Bullock (Montana) raised, and within shouting distance of Sen. Kamala Harris (California). That’s a stunner, and shows how far he’s come since the year started and almost no one knew who he was.
1. The age/health debate is here: It was probably inevitable, given that the four most likely candidates to be president in 2021 are 70+ years old, but Bernie Sanders’ recent heart attack has officially injected the issue of age and health into the 2020 campaign.
After several days of uncertainty, Sanders’ campaign confirmed that he had suffered a heart attack on the campaign trail and, following his release from the hospital late last week, he has returned to Vermont. His campaign has canceled its events until further notice but has said Sanders will be at the next debate — set for October 15 in Ohio.
While the relatively advanced ages of Sanders (78), Joe Biden (76) and Elizabeth Warren (70) has been a sort of low buzz in the background of the Democratic race so far, those days are now over. All three candidates had previously pledged to release their medical records before the Iowa caucuses on February 3, 2020, but the urgency of those releases is significantly higher now than it was even a week ago.
(Remember that Donald Trump was the oldest person ever elected to a first term when he won the presidency in 2016 at age 70. During the campaign, his personal physician released a letter proclaiming that Trump “would be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Trump is now 73. In January of this year, he underwent a physical which found him in “very good health overall.”)
In a May Pew Research Center poll, just 3% of Democrats said their ideal candidate would be in their 70s. A near- majority — 47% — said a candidate in their 50s would be best. On the other hand, more than 6 in 10 people told Gallup in May they would vote for a presidential candidate over 70 years old.

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Africa’s favorite smartphone maker wants in on China’s hot new tech market

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Hong Kong (CNN Business)Chinese budget smartphone maker Transsion is already dominating Africa with its Tecno brand. Now it’s ready to raise its profile even more by joining China’s splashy new market for tech stocks.

An IPOcould push Transsion’s valuation above $4 billion. It would also take the company public on a market that got off to a stunningly positive start this week.
Analysts say it’s an early win for the Star Market, whichwants local investors to support Chinese tech companies, rather than lose those businesses to markets in Hong Kong or the United States.
    “China wants a rejuvenation of the nation through technology and innovation,” said Mark Huang, an analyst at Bright Smart Securities. “That’s why they launched the board.”
    He added that Star Market “surely hopes there could be a snowball effect” — but that it’s not yet certain whether bigger tech companies will jump on the bandwagon.
    “After all, the board is still in baby size and some rules are still at a trial stage,” Huang said.
    Transsion’s office in Shenzhen did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN Business.
    Transsion, which was founded by Chinese entrepreneur Zhu Zhaojiang in 2006, wants to raise at least 30 billion yuan ($436 million) to build smartphonefactoriesand research and development centers in Chongqing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, according to its prospectus.
    It plans to issue at least 80 million shares, though it hasn’t set exact terms yet. That would give the company a valuation of at least 30 billion yuan ($4.4 billion).
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    Transsion —which also makes, Itel and Infinix phones — doesn’t do business in China, despite being based there. In Africa, it describes itself as an African company.
    Itcontrols nearly half of the African market, according to IDC figures — putting it way ahead of rivals Samsung, Huawei and Apple (AAPL). Transsion also has nearly a 7% share of India’s market, making it the fourth-largest cellphone vendor there.
    In 2018, it sold 124 million cell phones worldwide, generating 22.65 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) in revenue.
    Public documents also spell out why Transsion says it has done so well in Africa. The company said in its prospectus that it has features that “highly suit our target market” — including phones that use nighttime photography settings that are designed for darker skin tones.
    Transsion Tecno: Africa's top smartphone brand could IPO on China's Star Market - CNN
    Transsion’s technology also includes heat protection for electronics and cellphones that have a large battery capacity. In Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia, for example, the government frequently shuts off electricity to conserve power, leaving people unable to charge their phones for hours. 
    Price is another advantage. Transsion sells phones without smart features foras little as $9. It sold nearly 60 million Itel phones at that price last year. It also sold more than 30 million Tecno phones at about $11 each.
    The company’s smartphones are more expensive, but still cheaper than its rivals. In 2018, Transsion sold 34 million phones for between $45 and $91.
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    There are challenges, though. The company admittedin its prospectus that other smartphone vendors, including India’s Lyf,are also sellinglow-priced devices.
    Rivals like Huawei, Xiaomi and Samsung are also pushing harder into Africa and India.
    Huawei, for example, has launched an e-commerce platform in South Africa through which it sells phones and other products. And Xiaomi has partnered with African e-commerce website Jumia to sell phones.
      “We face risks of losing our customers and market shares if we can’t maintain innovation … and increase investments in technological research and development, brand management, marketing, after-sale service and supply-chain management,” Transsion wrote in its prospectus.
      The company is responding to competition by pushing into new territories, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam. It also started sellingdigital accessories and home appliances. And it is relying more on mobile internet services as a source of revenue.

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