All posts by Sadiq Gulma

4 Things to do to Secure a Job After Your Service Year

Last week saw some thousands of young people conclude their NYSC in Nigeria. In a few weeks too, another thousands would finish (Batch B Stream 2 I think). This would be the first time many of them would be facing more real life situations. The one without frequent money gifts from parents and guardians. The one that would leave you broke. The one that would keep you trying to get a hang of things but you would not easily get that. In a nut shell, the one that it won’t be as easy and straightforward as you think it should be.

My fear for most of them is the habits they will cultivate as they await their coveted dream jobs. They will prepare CVs (not all will do but still hope to find a job then submit their CV after getting the job and it totally works). Some will pound the pavement, others will reach out online, on social media, etc. And that’s actually a better thing to do, instead of waiting for an employer to visit your home and hand in your employment letter wrapped in sweet smelling envelope.

However, everything worth doing is worth doing well. There is a way of doing something, and there is an effective way of doing something too. Many people do job hunting but they do it in a really terrible way. This might get them rejected a lot or delay them getting a job for an unusually longer time. So many of us write us our CVs ourselves without ever knowing how to write an effective/good CV or even getting a feedback on the one we write ourselves.

I might not be the most experienced person or HR or career coach to advise people on writing CVs or getting a job, but I have been there done that five years ago or so. Thus, I think speaking from experience and the many CV writing workshops I attended and listened to online gives me some credence.

If your intention is to find a job and not to proceed for another education, you can learn from these highlighted to-dos.

Ps: This advice goes to those hoping to secure jobs in purposeful organizations and not the many government offices where zoologists are hired in IT organizations or where hiring employers mean hiring those without requisite qualifications because you have relatives in powerful and influential positions. There are many organizations that hire you without any connection or ‘super’ connection. I am one and I know many others who got that too. It’s all about the package you are made of or branding, as one of my mentors like saying.

I have bulleted some to-dos here condensed in 4 actions;

  1. Prepare a very good CV/resume

This will take you some days to do and you are done with it 99%. The 1% is needed to tweak your CV a lil bit for different job applications. Writing a good CV is a skill. It is what many will use to get invited for an interview. Determine your unique selling point and include it in your CV. There are good cv templates out there if you aren’t a good designer. You can equally hire someone good to write your cv for you and a graphic designer to design it for you; enabling you to strikingly differentiate your cv from the thousand others who may be applying.

If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, I advise you gets one today. It pays to have an online profile.

  1. Prepare a job search strategy

Yes. Figure out how, and when you will be applying for jobs. Online, through connections (asking parents, relatives and others to help) or pounding the pavement (visiting offices in person). On weekends, every morning or biweekly. Having a job search strategy will clarify your actions and way forward for you.

It is really tasking applying for jobs, that’s why a strategy can ease it for you by giving you a structure you can habitually practice.

Whatever job you applied to, keep track of it.

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A job search can be as complicated as this maze. Getting in is one thing. Getting out, can take you forever. (Image credits: astrology.org)
  1. Engage in some volunteer work/internship

This is my best advice as I think others would do 1 and 2 in any case. Many people will stay at home and catch up on all the sitcoms and movies they have missed while waiting for their employment. Go out there and find a company/firm doing what you studied or would like to do. Request to intern (without any compensation), they will be quick to accept. While this might not be possible for some of you, if it is for you, go ahead and do it. You will gain real valuable skills and experience needed on the job. Your new friends at the firm you are interning might be the connector to your paid job. If it is a weekend volunteer job with a non-profit, sure go ahead and devote your time. You might just hear someone talk about the firm that is currently recruiting and maybe they know a person there or two.

If you are the entrepreneurial type, start a business or learn how to start one. Look for business classes around; incubators, accelerators, seminars etc. there are my out there in Nigeria and many available online. Bottom line is don’t stay idle. It shows you are not an initiative taker.

  1. Get a career mentor

I love this one too. Many of us try to figure out things on our own. Some don’t even know how to figure out things. How they should begin, what to do and the likes. Having someone you look up to and with more experience than you can be the impetus you need. Through consultation, the mentor can inform you what the industry needs, good skills to have, and how you can better position yourself. I am currently working with some colleagues on a portal where young Nigerians can sign up and request for a mentor in their field. If you want to stay up to date with our launch day, follow me across social media channels to find out about the announcement.

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A mentor can support you make that leap to your new job

Wrapping up

Sign up to job ad sites like Hot Nigerian Jobs and ng careers to receive emails with advertised jobs. I got my current job through the latter. So did my brother and many others. They are legit jobs.

A few months back, I reviewed applications for an open position at the firm I work for. It was sad to say that more than 50% of those who applied weren’t even considered because failed to follow the instructions for application as required of them. Many simply send generic CVs and don’t do other stuff required of them like writing a cover letter. Read the instructions on how to apply carefully and abide to it 100%. If there is a cover letter needed, please write one. And don’t send a generic one, make sure each letter is tailored to the job ad you are applying.

You will find tons of other advices out there on finding your dream job I guess. Read them all and learn what you can. I urge you to read this brilliant article by Hays CEO on How to Start Out as a Fresh Graduate. I have tried not to repeat what he has mentioned though.

These four things are for sure not commandments. But I think they give many of you a clear step forward of what to do next.

All the best.

If this helps you or know anyone it might, kindly share with them.

Sadiq.

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Will AI Take Our Jobs in the Emerging Economies of Africa?

“No one can expect to do the same thing for life.” Jing Bing Zhang

Daily, we are being reminded of how artificial intelligence (AI) would render many jobless in the nearest future. Simple reasons; cost is reduced, efficiency is better.

As much as 137 million people are about to lose their jobs in Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia, as reported by a recent report of International Labour Organization. That is about 56% of their workforce.

A Swedish firm has invented a technology to milk cows. McDonalds is starting to use automated kiosks at their eateries to take orders via computers. Can you imagine how many jobs would be eliminated if that happens to all the McDonalds eateries?

Conversely, AI also creates jobs for humans, but maybe not exactly in equal number as they have removed. That’s why the disruption is real.

As I try to understand and answer the big question, would AI take our jobs in Africa? I reflect on the following scenario.

Automated Waiters in Tokyo

About 3 months ago, I facilitated a session generally aimed at honing the creative skills of the participants during an environmental festival. In my illustrations, I mentioned how a restaurant in Tokyo uses AI to eliminate the job of waiters. The only people working at the restaurant are the cooks and someone to facilitate your payment. Food orders and delivery are done via a tablet computer found at every table and delivered via conveyor belts respectively.

The creative lesson in that illustration is using an idea that has worked somewhere and applying it in your work. The idea of the restaurant is a borrowed one from the way Amazon works. When someone browses for a book on Amazon’s website, after a while, the website suggests items similar to what he/she has searched for earlier. For the restaurant, when you order a food with a particular taste, the tab suggests to you other meals that have similar tastes. That’s really innovative.

However, as our festival was promoting sustainability, environment wise, I was trying to promote use of innovative ideas for solving environmental challenges. The takeaway point is to borrow ideas that have worked elsewhere and apply it in solving an environmental challenge.

A participant was not comfortable with the use of AI though as she thought it defeats sustainability. It doesn’t promote a strong pillar of sustainability, people. That’s quite right.

Sustainability is relative. What is sustainable in Japan might not be a sustainable solution in Nigeria. The societal, social and economic conditions are hugely different. Very true.

Whatever be the case, AI means a lot of economic sense, and since entrepreneurs are expected to provide solutions that would create jobs, they would go for efficient services.

Phone Airtime Resellers in Nigeria

I cannot ignore but share this same message I regularly get on WhatsApp. To ignore buying airtime using hot naira codes from our banks and walk outside to resellers wherever they maybe to purchase one so they don’t go out of jobs. A clear case of passion over strategy.

This wouldn’t work. Its tedious, inefficient and costlier. Those resellers should become innovative and see AI as a tool they can use. They should manipulate how they can still resell airtime and make profit. How does this fit into this era which cashless transactions are continuously promoted?

Simply asking people to be passionate without putting a sound strategy of achieving a result would not yield good results.

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What Should We Do

Should we advocate for non-application of AIs in some places or promote people get the skills needed to survive the future of work?

It is time to start creating jobs that would not be overtaken by AI. “Automation and robotics will definitely impact lower-skilled people, which is unfortunate. I think the only way for them to move up or adapt to this change is not to hope that the government will protect their jobs from technology, but look for ways to retrain themselves. No one can expect to do the same thing for life. That’s just not the case anymore.” Mentioned Dr. Jing Bing Zhang, a renowned leader in the field of AI.

The necessary employable skills one needs to possess in the future does involve elements of AI, to have digital/IT skills. What one needs to is to carry out a SWOT analysis of oneself. In your threats section, does AI have the potential to overtake your job? If yes, I think it’s time to redefine your strategy and improve your strengths and most importantly, your weaknesses. Especially since your digital skills are weak.

And on a general note, Nigeria, as a federal government should promote digital literacy in secondary schools to make sure it is preparing its citizens for the future of work.

What To Do With Abandoned Buildings in Our Cities

Lagos and Abuja are homes to many abandoned buildings and undeveloped plots of lands for the latter. These buildings are not part of the 50% of the residential estates in Abuja that are not occupied due to no buyer or rent demand. The buildings I refer to are mostly old abandoned uncompleted or completed buildings and a bit dilapidated at times. Although some are in good conditions, but haven’t been occupied for a very long time. As long as 5 years or more.

They are unused for many reasons; closure of the business/company that occupied it, inaction by the property owners either due to insufficient funds or lack of ideas of what to do next, court orders due to many reasons such as establishing rightful owner of plot (such disputes are common in real estate booming Nigeria) etc.

In Abuja, surprisingly, there are many undeveloped plots of land in the inner core of the city; Maitama, Wuse and Central Area. This is hard to come by in Lagos though.

The data is hardly available for the number of such abandoned buildings or pieces of lands in Nigeria. In Lagos, there could be as much as 200 on Victoria Island alone, Engr. Mohammed who resides in Lagos confirmed to me as we drove on the island. A Daily Trust article published November last year stated that the Lagos State Government confiscated 89 abandoned buildings in Ikoyi/Victoria Island axis alone. In a growing Abuja, city council recently did a survey and came up with about 436 abandoned buildings. For cities in the US like Philadelphia, Baltimore and Detroit, there are 54, 000, 15, 000 and 10, 000 abandoned buildings according to an article posted on CBS News website.

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Abandoned building in Victoria Island

Why Abandoned Buildings Shouldn’t Be

Newspapers frequently reports such buildings are normally used as hideouts for criminals. Others engage in other acts like preparing hard drugs, rituals or even rape minors. Unfortunately. I recently got a forwarded message from a resident in Lagos thats says Lagos just got a new Commissioner of Police. Part of his action strategies to curb criminal activities is to comb abandoned buildings regularly. See how serious the situation is.

These two major reasons of redundancy and using it for illicit acts by criminals should propel city officials to take a regulatory stand on it, especially Abuja where crimes are on the rise. Such regulations should spur economic benefits for the owners and the citizens, especially now that jobs are hard to come by in Nigeria.

What To Do: Innovate

How can building owners leverage their unused buildings as they wait for bigger funds to do as they wish or simply an idea to do something?

Innovations like that of the Northeast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) of Minneapolis in the US is a great source of inspiration. NEIC buys abandoned buildings in their neighbourhoods and lease them out to businesses. Not gentrification by the way. In 2011, the residents, 90 of them, pooled in $1,000 each to acquire a building. They repeated same in 2014 with more than 200 members now as part of the cooperative. They later rented it out to 2 companies; a brewery and a bakery and sold one of the buildings to a bike recovery shop.

It is a common characteristic of cities to have such unused spaces and ‘abandoned’ buildings. Innovations in the form of urban agriculture have brought back life to unused plots of lands and buildings in cities like Malmo in Sweden. Urban agriculturists go into a lease agreement with land/property owners of say 5 years and thereafter move in to start growing food, either from the ground or in containers.

With such assurances, urban agriculturists can easily settle and move to plan a business with anticipation of moving after such agreement.

It is a win-win-win for city council, property owners and citizens. City owners do not have to deal with the eye sore of dilapidated or undeveloped pieces of land and also curb the probability of crime. Property owners earn some money while waiting to take a decision of what to do with the building. Citizens can start a business or grow food in the city or start any business saving them cost of traveling to rural areas.

In hustling vibrant Lagos, security officials guarding abandoned buildings provide accommodation to many people at night only and charge them a fee, without the permission of the owner. This shouldn’t be.

Unfortunately, the typical attitude of asserting authority of public servants had hindered them from providing innovative solutions like the ones mentioned above. Instead, Lagos State Government is confiscating properties. What did they do with it? To whose benefits? Why can’t there be an amicable discussion with property owners and authorities to find a win-win situation for both parties?

Property development code in Abuja says you should complete your construction in 2 years. There are opportunities of extension though. However, what is not allowed is change of use from say residential to commercial. Property owners must apply for a change in use.

An initial conversation with the department of urban planning for the city of Abuja showed that farming is not allowed in the city. But is already going on, informally. The good thing with urban agriculture is it can be done in beautiful ways even the city officials would crave to include as part of future districts designs.

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We can have these indoor plantations and it cant hurt the city

For cities like Lagos that have no land to build or farm, it is a great opportunity to advance sustainability in the city. Growing food in the city is a great part of ensuring food security and quicker access to healthier food.

A different mindset was assumed when designing our cities. With sustainability advocated in all spheres, especially cities, we should incorporate in all our design and development thinking. SDG 11 is about sustainable cities and communities.

A Day at Yankari Game Reserve

It will take more than a week to tour the whole of Yankari Game Reserve, the guide mentioned to us. He spoke knowledgeably about the reserve, like they all do, and passionately. I always admire them when they do so. They give you hard facts and details I can only have in my memory when I know I am sitting for an exam tomorrow.

We could only see the reserve for about two hours due to the time we had. We drove past different species of antelopes; deer, waterbuck, African Antelope, etc. At one point, we had to get off the truck to walk on foot in the reserve. The guide wanted us to see the Marshall Caves. Some caves archeologists believe to be occupied by human beings a very long time ago.

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There are lots of interesting stories about the caves. There is the city centre and where you have a story buildings of caves. In the building, the caves are interconnected making it easy for the owners to move from one cave to another, and from first floor to the second. Thy were 59 of them in total. By virtue of the location of the caves, the guide mentioned it was difficult for anyone to spot the people there. Perhaps it was a hiding spot carefully chosen by the people to hide during the slave trade.

The best thing I enjoyed there was visiting the Wikki Warm Springs, which I learned has a year-round constant temperature of 31.1 C. Yes, point 1. The guide mentioned. He couldn’t miss that.

It is a beautiful natural warm spring. You cannot visit the reserve without seeing it, or better, swimming in it. It is like going to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower or visiting Cairo without going to the pyramids. It’s the best thing in the reserve. Seeing the natural warm spring is one thing, swimming in it is something else. It was that great of an experience for me and my friends!

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Me swimming in Wikki Warm Spring!

There are other side attractions in the park aside the Marshall Caves and the natural warm springs. There are more than 20 water wells I heard being sunk a long time ago. Different bird species. A museum of artefacts of animals found in the park. From the park, you can reach the borders of Taraba State, Plateau State and Gombe State. At some point, the animals have to be pushed back into Bauchi when they start moving farther away.

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The government recognized the revenue potential for the reserve and is currently building a landing strip. Not sure how this will affect the ecology of the park, considering aircrafts would be making a lot of noise.

The easiest way to reach the park is to fly to Gombe, then travel by road for about 2.5 hours to the park. The airport in Bauchi has no scheduled commercial flight. Except if you choose to charter an air plane like an Arabian Prince or book a small size chopper from Abuja. For those with minimal budget, Bauchi is accessible via road from Kaduna State, Jos and of course Bauchi (coming from Kano State).

Accommodation starts at 9000 NGN. There are many rooms, including hostels. A restaurant is available to place your orders. The place was recently renovated, so facilities are quite still okay.

Only turn off is the area boys that roam freely in the building area and try to take your bag from you. So watchword is not to carry any bags while walking around in the reserve, especially when going to the warm spring. And do not feed them any bananas. Do not be scared, the baboons aren’t dangerous, but it pays to be cautious.

In Summary, the reserve is worth visiting if you have never been to one before or you aren’t looking for something extraordinary, like the Masai Mara or Serengetti in Kenya.

For more photos of the park, follow my Instagram channel @sadiqgulma.

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Children are The Leaders of Tomorrow; Youths are The Leaders of Today

“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing toward being a champion.” 

-Billie Jean King

The weekend of August 12th was quite interesting as I listened to an amazing set of individuals invited as speakers at the TedxMaitama event that held in Abuja. It was the second Tedx event I attended. The first was the maiden edition of TedxStrathmore in Nairobi, back in 2014 I think. TedxMaitama wasn’t dull at all. It staged speakers from almost all sectors, entrepreneurs, public sector, creatives, international organizations and civil society, etc.

One of the most interesting things I learned was Nasir Yammama’s plan to send Jollof Rice to Space via a helium powered balloon (follow the hashtag #JollofRise next week to keep up with the success). For those of us who do not know Jollof Rice, it’s simply like cooking rice and stew together and it should come out as orangish redish or rather, tomato colour. It’s what Kenyans call Pilau. It’s all part of Nasir’s company plan of empowering smallholder farmers in rural communities.

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Another speaker Sadiq Abdulkadir, an architect presented something new in the architectural practice of Nigeria and quite interesting that amused the whole crowd. He was using virtual reality for demonstration of architectural designs. It was marvelous the first time I saw him and tried his solution 4 months ago at an exhibition of Nigerian Institute of Architects  in Abuja. With my interest in built environment, his solution would be something that I could use or see more of hopefully in the future.

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A TedxMaitama attendee trying out architect Sadiq’s new dimension in visualizing building architectural designs

Anyway, what compelled me to write this post is what the digital media entrepreneur, Japheth Omujuwa mentioned in his talk about children being the leaders of tomorrow. The speaker narrated how when he was in primary school, his teachers mentioned to him that they (children then) are going to be leaders of tomorrow. Moving to the next level, secondary school, he was told the same thing at Kings College. Another step forward at the university, a student union leader stood in front of a lecture hall which Japhet was present and addressed them as the leaders of tomorrow. Cut the story short, he rejected the leader’s notion that they (Japhet them, already grown as young adults) are the leaders of tomorrow.

Omjouwa didn’t believe that that‘tomorrow’ hasn’t arrived yet. Something must be wrong. Awareness and self-awareness are absent in us. That is what’s missing in the mind of many of us (youths) today. We are simply not aware that we are the leaders of today. Instead, we have narrowed our thinking to assuming that the leaders our teachers and elders always refer to is the political leadership; being president, governor, a senator or the likes.

Japhet asked a simple question to the crowd, referencing some of the young entrepreneurs/innovators invited as speakers who are already making giant strides in their endeavours, especially Nasir Yammama who was recently listed as one of the Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneurs in Africa. “Can you say Nasir is not a leader today in agritech?” Omojuwa posited. You simply cannot. His social enterprise, Verdant Group, has impacted more than 25, 000 small holder farmers in Nigeria and the number will rise in the coming years.

Being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being a political leader. In fact, the Merriam Webster’s dictionary defined a leader as someone who influences people. so how many of us, through different roles and avenues have influenced one or two other people. How many of us have made strides in sports, in civil society, in entrepreneurship, in research or whatever else you are doing. Being a leader shouldn’t be taught as when no one stands before you, in fact you are a leader when everybody is ahead of you and you guide them from the rear. It’s simply the awareness we should possess. A very interesting article from Harvard Business Review says that “you can’t be a good leader without self-awareness. It lies at the root of strong character, giving us the ability to lead with a sense of purpose, authenticity, openness, and trust it.”

I couldn’t agree more with what Billie Jean Kings says as well, “I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing toward being a champion.”  If we are a little more self-aware of what is going on, then we will take control of a lot of things going on. We will stop the wrong assumption that the tomorrow they told us while growing up hasn’t arrived. We will take more charge of what we do and feel confident and positive.

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Japheth Omojuwa making his point about awareness

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How Do We Become More Self-aware?

Don’t giggle at me when you read the next sentence. Start meditating. I know I know. Many people think of mediation as a foreign thing. I remember when I visited a resort owner and pitched him the idea that I would love to have people come to their cool green park and meditate. He concluded that it was an oyimbo (how white people are called in Nigeria) idea. It was my idea. I am not oyimbo.

Meditation simply allows you to be in the moment. To have yourself simply immersed in thinking of one thing. And thereafter, have reflections of what has transpired in your life. It’s what the Savages of Sirvana recommended to Julian, the successful Harvard Lawyer who sold his Ferrari, abandoned all what he had and travelled to India on a journey of self-discovery, as narrated in Robin Shirma’s book, “the monk who sold his Ferrari”.

Anyway, you and I do not own a Ferrari, but what am simply saying is you should endeavour to have more self-awareness in whatever you do and meditation yoga, is one heck of a great idea to. Writing down your plans and priorities, asking trust friends, taking psychometric tests and getting regular feedback at work are among the 5 things this article from Harvard Business Review recommends.

The tomorrow our teachers informed us while growing up has arrived. It is today. If you cannot agree that you are a leader in what you do, it is simply because you have refused to take action.  So actually, children are the leaders of tomorrow, and youths taking action are the leaders of today.

“The only difference between the people off stage and the people on stage was that the people on stage had taken action and moved forward despite their fears.”

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Reviewing Your 2017 To-Be List; 6 Months To Go

“People overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can in ten”. Culled from www.kathleensiminyu.com

At the end of last year, I blogged on how to set your goals to achieve in a day, month or a year. Click here to reread it. By June 28 2017, half of the year is remaining for you to do whatever you want in 2017. So if you have set yourself some of those annual goals, it is time to review how much you have come and how much is left.

Last week, I received a notification email from my friend’s blog, Kathleen when she posted. Kathleen narrates to us a discussion she had with a techie at a tech-business-y event held in Nairobi. It was about how much one, as a person thinks he can achieve in one year and in ten. He stated, “we overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in ten” (want to read the whole post from Kathleen’s blog, click here). Can you just reread it and take a moment to allow that to sink in? Is it true for you?

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In a good example, Kathleen is a wanna-be polyglot. She is taking Spanish and French Languages lessons weekly. Every day, she tries to practice her language skills by watching some film series recorded in either of the two languages she intends to be fluent in. Day after day, the work became overbearing for her as she thinks she tries to achieve a lot in 24 hours. And somehow, she neglects or rather fails to see the big picture if she does a little over an entire year. Kathleen primarily focused the achievements of her goals in one day, trying to do a lot and thinking it is only the day she has while neglecting to stretch her ambitions over some months, a year or even a decade.

It is what I always aim to preach, focus on your to-be list instead of a to-do list. To-be list is a big picture list. It is the end goal. It is what you become when you do those little tasks on your daily to-do lists. Having the big picture perspective is always important.

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As such, that’s half the year is a good time to pause and review those goals you wrote down at the beginning of the year. How far have you come? Is the steam you started sufficient enough to sustain and enable you reach your goal or you have to pump it up? The time is just right to evaluate your daily, weekly and monthly targets while keeping an eye at the big picture.

For me, I tried to be committed to my set goals but flexible in my approach of achieving them. So my to-do lists has changed over time in a manner I can still arrive at where I want to be, albeit not in a good time. Many of the projects I set out to-do are lagging behind their expected time of achievement. But I guess it is natural for so many projects. It is just reality, challenges and issues causing it.

As I take the next few days to reflect what I need to do ensure I reach where I want to be by 31 December 2017, I would be considering taking more pragmatic steps. Because I have already started the journey of achieving them and experienced some challenges, it would be wise enough to factor such experiences as I set out to the second half of the year.

I invite you to take the next few days as well in reviewing your to-do and to-be lists. If you haven’t set any, there is no better time than now. For those who have already reviewed their lists, how far have you gone? Is the steam just enough or you need to pump it up? Please comment below.

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Deliberations of the Panel Discussion on Sustainability in Architecture in Nigeria

The built environment is responsible for the largest consumption of energy produced in the world. They have a corresponding largest global greenhouse gas emission by sector, 40% according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). How does this all affect us and the environment? Negative impacts of climate change have positioned many people in danger. It has destroyed lives and properties. Worse, it places a dark cloud for future generations. As such, there is need to reduce the impact of our built environment on the carbon footprint.

The French Institute of Nigeria and Green Habitat Initiative, on 31st of May in Abuja, brought together professionals in the built environment industry to debate the right sustainability principles and materials for Nigeria’s built environment. Four panelists drawn from different disciplines and professions that cut across sustainability in architecture were brought together to lead the discussion. After introductory speeches by the panelists, a panel discussion held between the panelists, moderated by the Director of Green Habitat Initiative Sadiq Gulma.

A summary of the viewpoints of the four panelists is highlighted below.

Nmadili Okwumabua is Nigerian and promotes modernizing African architecture in Nigeria’s cities, through her organization Community Planning and Design Initiative. Through her presentation and contributions to the discussion, she stressed the need to reclaim our heritage by not being embarrassed about using red earth for our buildings in Abuja. Through her organization, Nmadili receives entries of architectural plans modernized with African values from everyone around the globe. She has received many great entries reflecting numerous African culture and values in their design. The panelist revealed she is currently building a prototype of such sustainable houses. The model would be instrumental in advancing the movement.

Having expressed her pessimism at the beginning of her presentation, Armelle Choplin our second panelist has been following cement, what she calls ‘the grey gold’ from Nigeria through Benin, Togo to Ghana. She is concerned that Nigeria may not stop using cement in building because it is becoming cheaper and Dangote Industries is providing all the cement Nigeria needs. Through her research, she has discovered there is a social symbol and even political to the use of cement in our buildings. People who use other materials, such as red earth maybe seen as less privileged. There is a challenge of finding skilled local builders to teach foremen how to use red mud in constructing strong buildings that can go as high as 10 story building. For a paradigm shift to take place, she asserts that notable and prominent people and organizations like Dangote would play an influential role if they take the lead.

Sustainability in Architecture (41)

Having understood the local issues with the building materials in question, Mr. Stephanne Pouffary was on the panel to provide the macro vision of sustainability in cities. Through his NGO, ENERGIES 2050 he has worked with up to 30 cities all over the world including those in West Africa to help them advance their energy efficiency and sustainability goals. His contribution clarified that different cities have different priorities and motivation to go green. Our ability to personalize the codes that will drive everyone to cleaner cities. For that to work, he highlighted 3 things that needs to be done; increase professionals’ capacity in sustainability, form regional coalitions to promote goals and work out the cost benefit analysis for sustainability to go mainstream. At the end, cost drives everything.

All the talk would be in vain if there are no institutionalized policies to control and regulate the built environment. The fourth panelist, Dr. Sherif Y. Razak who is from the Department of Development Control (authority in charge of approving all building plans and development in Abuja) was on the panel to describe what the government is doing and needs to do. Currently, the Department has instituted a green building committee to vet all building submissions against certain green building concepts. However, a lot needs to be done before a bigger impact can be made. He stressed the need to increase capacity amongst professionals, including government staff. A prototype of buildings with such sustainability standards would be pivotal in influencing building policy and regulations. Therefore, what Ms Nmadili is building should serve as a good reference point for policy makers to use in changing the regulations.

After debating amongst each other, the panelists engaged with the teeming audience. Many shared their views and supported the fact that capacity needs to increase, especially amongst architects who are the chief drivers of the built environment. Many others questioned the officer from the Department of Development Control and their need to enforce the principles.

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The event concluded with more discussions amongst participants during the cocktail.