Tag: Africa

Eat, pray, live: the Lagos megachurches building their very own cities

Redemption Camp has 5,000 houses, roads, rubbish collection, police, supermarkets, banks, a fun fair, a post office even a 25 megawatt power plant. In Nigeria, the line between church and city is rapidly vanishing

Ha-lleluuuu-jah, booms the distinctive voice of Pastor Enoch Adeboye, also known as the general overseer.

The sound comes out through thousands of loudspeakers planted in every corner of Redemption Camp. Market shoppers pause their haggling, and worshippers some of whom have been sleeping on mats in this giant auditorium for days stop brushing their teeth to join in the reply.

Hallelujah is the theme for this years Holy Ghost convention at one of Nigerias biggest megachurches, and all week the word echoes among the millions of people attending.

As evening falls on Friday, Adeboye, a church celebrity, is soon to take the stage at his vast new auditorium to give the conventions last, three-hour sermon. Helicopters land next to the 3 sq km edifice, delivering Nigerias rich and powerful to what promises to be the night of the year.

Thousands of worshippers surge up the hill towards the gleaming warehouse. Shiny SUVs, shabby Toyota Corollas and packed yellow buses choke the expressway all the way from Lagos, 30 miles away.

The
The congregation prays during the Redeem Christian Church of Gods annual Holy Ghost convention

But not everyone has to brave the traffic. Many of those making their way to the auditorium now live just around the corner. The Redeemed Christian Church of Gods international headquarters in Ogun state has been transformed from a mere megachurch to an entire neighbourhood, with departments anticipating its members every practical as well as spiritual need.

A 25-megawatt power plant with gas piped in from the Nigerian capital serves the 5,000 private homes on site, 500 of them built by the churchs construction company. New housing estates are springing up every few months where thick palm forests grew just a few years ago. Education is provided, from creche to university level. The Redemption Camp health centre has an emergency unit and a maternity ward.

On Holiness Avenue, a branch of Tantalisers fast food chain does a brisk trade. There is an on-site post office, a supermarket, a dozen banks, furniture makers and mechanics workshops. An aerodrome and a polytechnic are in the works.

And in case the children get bored, there is a funfair with a ferris wheel.

A
A funfair located inside the Redemption Camp

The camp is becoming a city

Set up 30 years ago as a base for the churchs annual mass meets, as well as their monthly gatherings, Redemption Camp has become a permanent home for many of its followers. The camp is becoming a city, says Olaitan Olubiyi, one of the churchs pastors in whose offices Dove TV, the church television channel, is permanently playing.

Throughout southern Nigeria, the landscape is permeated by Christianity of one kind or another. Billboards showing couples staring lovingly into each others eyes, which appear at first glance to be advertising clothes or condoms, turn out to be for a pentecostal church. Taxi drivers play knock-off CDs of their favourite pastors sermons on repeat, memorising salient lines.

Im a Winner, read the bumper stickers that adorn the fancier cars, declaring their owners allegiance to Winners Chapel, a grand white megachurch whose base, Canaanland in the Ota region, is all neat fences and manicured lawns.

Where Im from, people long for tractors to farm with. Here they just use them to cut grass, exclaims one visitor, driving through Heavens Gate. It is a world away from the throng of people, fumes and rubbish outside.

One
One of the Nigerian commercial banks operating in the camp

Canaanland has banks, businesses, a university and a petrol station one of a number of churches beginning to offer these services.

But none can match Redemption Camp for scale. Daddy GO as the charismatic Adeboye is affectionately known by his followers has been perfecting the package for the past decade.

If you wait for the government, it wont get done, says Olubiyi. So the camp relies on the government for very little it builds its own roads, collects its own rubbish, and organises its own sewerage systems. And being well out of Lagos, like the other megachurches camps, means that it has little to do with municipal authorities. Government officials can check that the church is complying with regulations, but they are expected to report to the camps relevant office. Sometimes, according to the head of the power plant, the government sends the technicians running its own stations to learn from them.

There is a police station on site, which occasionally deals with a death or the disappearance of a child, but the camps security is mostly provided by its small army of private guards in blue uniforms. They direct traffic, deal with crowd control, and stop children who havent paid for the wristband from going into Emmanuel Park home to the aforementioned ferris wheel.

Mechanics
Mechanics attend to a 25-megawatt gas turbine plant that powers the camp

Comfort Oluwatuyi is a foodtrader in the Redemption Camp market. She says she pays a very low rent for her little lock-up shop and can make up to 10,000 naira a day in profit much more when a convention is on. The market formed seven years ago, when women in the camp petitioned Mummy GO Adeboyes wife, Foluke to build it so they would not have to cross the eight-lane expressway every time they needed some tomatoes.

Oluwatuyis 10-year-old daughter, Emmanuelle, helps her pour palm oil into plastic bottles and stack potatoes in tin dishes. Emmanuelle and all her siblings were born here. Its quite possible for a child to be born in this camp, grow up and be educated here, and then live here, Pastor Olubiyi says.

Outside the Holy Ghost convention, Redemption Camp has the peaceful surroundings and conveniences of a retirement village in large part because the power plant, fed by its own gas pipeline from Lagos, removes the need for the constant thrum of diesel generators.

My generator is on vacation. In the morning, I can hear the birds sing, says Kayode Olaitan, a retired engineer who moved his family here from Lekki, one of Lagos most upmarket areas, two weeks ago. He loads his pink-frocked granddaughter into the car, ready to drive to the all-night service.

Olaitans neat 78,000 bungalow has been built on what used to be a swamp. Workmen are scraping up concrete from the paving slabs, putting the finishing touches to the 75 identikit houses on Haggai Estate Nine.

Comfort
Comfort Oluwatuyi selling palm oil in a grocery shop in the camp market

Haggai, the churchs property developer, is named after the prophet who commanded Jews to build the second temple of Jerusalem. Almost all the houses on Nine have been sold, and Haggai is about to move on to Estate Ten. There is no perimeter wall around Redemption Camp, so it can expand indefinitely.

Mortgages are arranged through Haggai bank, headquartered in Lagos. There has been a knock-on effect on surrounding areas: in some cases, the price of land near Redeemed Camp has increased tenfold over the past decade.

For years, people have owned houses here to stay over after conventions and the monthly services. But increasingly, families like the Oliatans find themselves wanting to live full-time with people who share their values, in a place run by people they feel they can trust. We feel were living in Gods presence all the time. A few days ago, Daddy GO took a prayer walk around here, Oliatan says.

While you have to be a Christian and a church member to buy and live on site, there is no such requirement for doing business. The FCMB bank is one such business that has set up shop here, with bright white mock-Corinthian columns installed just behind the auditorium.

Cars
A line of traffic leading to the Redeemed Christian Church of God auditorium

Outside, a young woman in elaborate sunglasses and a polo shirt with MILLIONAIRE emblazoned on the chest has persuaded Tayo Adunmo to open an account. The bank employee is normally based in Lagos, but has been at Redemption Camp for Holy Ghost week, and says she has signed up 500 people already.

Adunmo already has a bank account, but decided to open another because the minimum withdrawal amount is 200 naira (about 55p) a fifth of the minimum at her current bank. Shed love to live in the camp, she says, but cant afford it unless she finds work there.

Like all the other businesses on site, banks are attracted by the infrastructure and the sheer numbers in attendance its like having a stall at a music festival. But the tentacles of the Redeemed Christian Church of God reach much further: it says it has five million members in Nigeria, and more at its branches in 198 other countries. Its in virtually every town in Nigeria, and that means some business, Olubiyi says. Anywhere you have two million people congregating, banks are interested.

This also means business for the church, of course. Daddy GOs private jets dont appear out of thin air, though there is plenty of cash flowing in from collection plates which these days are often just card machines.

Religious institutions are tax-exempt in Nigeria. Redeemed authorities say that its income-generating arms pay tax, but it is hard to say where these end and the church begins. In any case, the church has powerful members, so it would take a brave tax-collector to look deeply into its finances.

Pastor
Pastor Adeboye, the general overseer of the Redeem Christian Church of God, is projected live on big screens during the annual convention

In fact, Daddy GO is a former mathematics lecturer, and has clearly not lost his head for figures. He is constantly dreaming up new enterprises including a printing press, hundreds of holiday chalets on the site and a church-owned window manufacturer, which imports the components from China and assembles them to sell or use in camp projects.

This is our peak period. We have produced 200,000 copies of different books and magazines in the past three months, says Ben Ayanda, head of Redeemeds press, dressed in a bright yellow and green tunic and matching trousers.

He plucks Daddy GOs Gems of Wisdom Part V from a pile of papers. If you bring anything less than the tithe of all, you miss the blessings because He is very good in mathematics, one line reads.

At the convention, the last stragglers hurry past the hawkers selling Hallelujah handkerchiefs and a billboard advertising Hallelujah cooking gas, to be there when the headliner comes on.

You can usually tell when Daddy GO is about to appear he is preceded by his personal saxophonist.

Finally, the man who keeps the money coming in, who gives this entire neighbourhood its raison dtre, the de facto mayor of what is effectively an entirely new piece of city, takes his place on the vast stage and picks up the mic. The 75-year-old Daddy GO wears a grass-green short-sleeved suit, bow tie and gold watch. After praying on his knees at the lectern, he climbs to his feet.

Will somebody shout Hallelujah?

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/sep/11/eat-pray-live-lagos-nigeria-megachurches-redemption-camp

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Breaking the code: how women in Nigeria are changing the face of tech

Female developers are emerging as influential forces in the countrys booming technology sector but the stigma persists that computing is a male industry

The Nigerian tech scene is booming. Last year, Lagos-based startup Andela received $24m (18.5m) in funding from Mark Zuckerberg. In 2015, financial technology startup Paystack one of the first Nigerian tech companies to be accepted into renowned California-based startup accelerator Y Combinator secured approximately $1.3m in seed investment from international investors.

Within this growth, women are emerging as influential forces, and changing the face of technology in Africa, especially in the fields of agricultural and financial tech. This is despite the fact that, as recently as a decade ago, women were grossly underrepresented in and excluded from the industries they are now helping to shape.

I think those who are joining the tech world today have an easier path to tread, says Nnenna Nwakanma, a Nigerian activist for accessible internet. There were situations where people would refuse to recognise my authority, but would patronise or objectify me, or refuse to fulfil contracts they had willingly entered into all because of my gender. Despite this, Nwakanma co-founded the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA) and is now a senior policy manager for the World Wide Web Foundation, where she supports digital equality and promotes the rights of Nigerian women online.

The negative attitude towards womens involvement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) is starting to change, thanks partly to initiatives such as the Stem outreach and mentoring programmes established by the Working to Advance Science and Technology Education for African Women (WAAW) Foundation, which operates in 11 countries. There is also Intels programme She Will Connect Africa, which has trained more than 150,000 women in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya in digital literacy since it launched in 2013.

The demand for tech talent is now such that it cannot be met by men alone. Rapid digitalisation in Nigeria is heavily concentrated in the countrys metropolitan megacity, Lagos. Here, the startup culture flourishes, while big business have moved in: in 2015, global tech supplier Bosch opened a subsidiary in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos region, and Microsoft has an office in the affluent Lagos neighbourhood of Ikoyi.

Ire Aderinokun the author of web development blog bitsofco.de, a front-end developer and Nigerias first female Google Developer Expert says her love of tech started as a hobby. I used to play an online game called Neopets, which had some HTML capabilities. From there, I got really interested and continued to learn more. But, despite Aderinokuns enthusiasm, her interest was not always encouraged. Its definitely not what society expected of me. I studied psychology for my undergraduate and law for my masters. When I said I wanted to pursue this, there were many people who told me not to.

Rukayat Sadiq, a software engineer and a technical team leader at Andela, also faced opposition. She chose to study electrical engineering a subject in which a class of 150 students might include only 15 women to the surprise of friends and family, who had expected her to become a doctor.

While women entering and participating equally in the labour market is commonplace in Nigeria, computing and engineering are still industries dominated heavily by men. But many women who work in the tech industry are keen to offer support to those coming up. Aderinokun, for example, is funding full scholarships to five women for online programming nanodegrees. These qualifications do not guarantee employment, but they give those who have earned them a distinct advantage in the workplace and are endorsed by top employers, including Google, AT&T and Amazon. Sadiq also spends time teaching and mentoring newbies.

Removing the stigma and assumption that tech is only supposed to be for men is necessary, and I think we need to start from as early in childrens lives as possible, says Aderinokun. We should work towards eliminating negative statements and mindsets that perpetuate the myth that women cant be involved in Stem.

It is hopeful that we will one day get to a point where tech-related fields are level playing grounds for both sexes.

It is a challenge that continues around the globe, but it is one Nigeria is well equipped to handle.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/14/breaking-the-code-how-women-in-nigeria-are-changing-the-face-of-tech

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Using maths to outsmart mosquitoes – BBC News

Image copyright SPL

Researchers at Strathclyde university are working to combat a deadly tropical disease – using mathematics.

Dengue fever is caused by a virus carried by Aedes mosquitoes.

The number of cases has grown dramatically in recent years with close to 60 million people catching it every year.

Although it is fatal in only a small proportion of cases, it means deaths are still in the tens of thousands.

Image caption Millions of people catch dengue fever every year

The World Health Organisation says 500,000 people a year need hospital treatment for dengue in Africa, the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean, southeast Asia and the western Pacific.

The currently favoured approach is to search and destroy the mosquitoes using methods such as spraying fogs of insecticides.

But the authorities in Malaysia wanted something more environmentally friendly which did not increase the mosquitoes’ resistance and kill their predators.

Which is why the Strathclyde University team, led by mathematician Dr David Greenhalgh, has been working with its Malaysian partners to assess the effectiveness of a new type of mosquito trap.

The exact design is still under wraps but I can reveal that it looks a bit like a yogurt pot.

That belies its huge potential in a new approach to fighting tropical diseases: don’t use search and destroy – outsmart the insects.

“The trap contains a chemical solution that attracts female mosquitoes into it,” Dr Greenhalgh says.

“There’s a piece of paper leading into the chemical solution.

“The female mosquitoes that are attracted to the trap lay their eggs on the piece of paper and the chemical stops the eggs developing.”

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito

Mathematics comes into the process because Dr Greenhalgh and colleagues have built a computer model of how the disease spreads.

From that they can simulate how the trap affects the spread of the virus among people and mosquitoes.

He says people go through different stages of the disease.

“There are four different types of dengue, four different serotypes,” he says.

“Usually the infection with the first serotype is quite mild.

“But if you get a second infection with a different strain it can have very serious effects.”

Dr Greenhalgh adds: “As well as modelling how the people go through those different stages, the mosquitoes also go through different stages.

“So you’re trying to model how these populations interact, with mosquitoes biting people, with the disease spreading from people to mosquitoes and vice versa.”

The variables in the mathematical model include the number of traps, the area’s history of dengue infections, plus the numbers of mosquitoes and breeding sites.

Global scale

So far the indications are that both the simulation and the real life traps are working well.

In a small-scale test in three blocks of flats in Kuala Lumpur the number of dengue cases was reduced from 53 in 2013 to 13 the following year.

In 2015, after the trial was over, the number of infections rose again to 57.

Dr Greenhalgh warns that these are small numbers but also promising ones.

Further research is now examining the effectiveness of the trap in different conditions.

The collaboration is between Strathclyde, Malaysia’s Institute for Medical Research and the Kuala Lumpur-based business One Team Network Solutions, which designs low-tech pest control devices.

The UK delivery partner is the British Council Malaysia. The project is being funded by the UK government’s Newton Fund and the Malaysian government’s High Impact Programme 2.

If the trap and its mathematical model work on a large scale it will have implications for health on a global scale.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39353752

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Using maths to outsmart mosquitoes – BBC News

Image copyright SPL

Researchers at Strathclyde university are working to combat a deadly tropical disease – using mathematics.

Dengue fever is caused by a virus carried by Aedes mosquitoes.

The number of cases has grown dramatically in recent years with close to 60 million people catching it every year.

Although it is fatal in only a small proportion of cases, it means deaths are still in the tens of thousands.

Image caption Millions of people catch dengue fever every year

The World Health Organisation says 500,000 people a year need hospital treatment for dengue in Africa, the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean, southeast Asia and the western Pacific.

The currently favoured approach is to search and destroy the mosquitoes using methods such as spraying fogs of insecticides.

But the authorities in Malaysia wanted something more environmentally friendly which did not increase the mosquitoes’ resistance and kill their predators.

Which is why the Strathclyde University team, led by mathematician Dr David Greenhalgh, has been working with its Malaysian partners to assess the effectiveness of a new type of mosquito trap.

The exact design is still under wraps but I can reveal that it looks a bit like a yogurt pot.

That belies its huge potential in a new approach to fighting tropical diseases: don’t use search and destroy – outsmart the insects.

“The trap contains a chemical solution that attracts female mosquitoes into it,” Dr Greenhalgh says.

“There’s a piece of paper leading into the chemical solution.

“The female mosquitoes that are attracted to the trap lay their eggs on the piece of paper and the chemical stops the eggs developing.”

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito

Mathematics comes into the process because Dr Greenhalgh and colleagues have built a computer model of how the disease spreads.

From that they can simulate how the trap affects the spread of the virus among people and mosquitoes.

He says people go through different stages of the disease.

“There are four different types of dengue, four different serotypes,” he says.

“Usually the infection with the first serotype is quite mild.

“But if you get a second infection with a different strain it can have very serious effects.”

Dr Greenhalgh adds: “As well as modelling how the people go through those different stages, the mosquitoes also go through different stages.

“So you’re trying to model how these populations interact, with mosquitoes biting people, with the disease spreading from people to mosquitoes and vice versa.”

The variables in the mathematical model include the number of traps, the area’s history of dengue infections, plus the numbers of mosquitoes and breeding sites.

Global scale

So far the indications are that both the simulation and the real life traps are working well.

In a small-scale test in three blocks of flats in Kuala Lumpur the number of dengue cases was reduced from 53 in 2013 to 13 the following year.

In 2015, after the trial was over, the number of infections rose again to 57.

Dr Greenhalgh warns that these are small numbers but also promising ones.

Further research is now examining the effectiveness of the trap in different conditions.

The collaboration is between Strathclyde, Malaysia’s Institute for Medical Research and the Kuala Lumpur-based business One Team Network Solutions, which designs low-tech pest control devices.

The UK delivery partner is the British Council Malaysia. The project is being funded by the UK government’s Newton Fund and the Malaysian government’s High Impact Programme 2.

If the trap and its mathematical model work on a large scale it will have implications for health on a global scale.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39353752

Technorati Tags: , , ,