All Die Na Die: My Random Thoughts & Observations on the Chinese Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Let me begin by stating the obvious. I AM NO EXPERT on this topic. With the proliferation of fake, misleading and ignorant takes on the Coronavirus, I want to be clear that this is very personal and subjective commentary. My perspective is that of a Lagos dwelling Nigerian.

For the best place to learn about COVID-19 and how to take care of yourself during these times, visit the NCDC website

Prelude

First of all, and with great embarrassment, I have to confess that I was one of those that viewed the unfolding pandemic with the belief that e no go affect black man. Afterall Isaac Newton once said. “Poison no dey kill African man”. That should tell you how smart I am.

Back to my random thoughts…

Nomenclature

The Chinese have a massive responsibility for the shitshow this virus has become. The crime is that it originated from Wuhan, but the irresponsible handling made it a global disaster. Had it been from anywhere in Africa, that nation would have been sealed up a long time ago. Therefore, this massive cockup has to be permanently immortalised as a Chinese fuckup. I think calling it the Chinese Coronavirus is fair enough. Taking the naming pattern of Lassa Fever, Ebola and friends. 

And the NERVE that the Chinese have in abusing Africans in China over this virus! Kai!

Who be WHO?

Those guys have been the most irresponsible body ever I can think of. At the onset of the outbreak, the only other body that would have sounded the alarm went stamping whatever they were instructed to by China. Their role in this spread has to actually be reviewed. I think this should in a way put a nail in of pseudo multilateral global agencies which are merely post-war vehicles for influence by their funders.   

When Actually Did Rona Come to Town?

In late February or early March, I was having a call with an old homie and he brought up a salient point: if the virus had been in Wuhan since December, it would not take 2 months for it to proliferate the world. Therefore, it was highly possible that is started infecting people much earlier and more people than otherwise thought would have had it. 

We speculated on some sudden deaths that we know of. Most of them were relatively sudden and had a respiratory angle to it, including one that happened in his office that week.

It also did not escape my mind that in a 3-week period between January and February this year, I transited 8 airports a total of 11 times!! [2XLOS (Lagos), JFK & EWR (New York), 2XIAH and HOU(Houston), LAS(Vegas), 2X SJC (San Jose), LAX (Los Angeles) and ATL (Atlanta)].

While in Vegas, it was Chinese New Year, and I mingled the hell out of that place, twerking away with my fellow Chinese humans. And I definitely gave my typical firm grip handshake to the dozens of hands that were stretched before me during that period.

My point is, if I was trying to get Rona to take a hold of me, I could not have tried harder. I have since come to rethink my few days of fever et al. while in the Bay Area.

There are those that believe since a virus mutates, the ones that come earlier on were not as dangerous as their descendants. 

Beware of Experts

This definitely is a controversial position to take, but hear me out. 

My personal rule is simple, if there is a political or commercial angle to anything, beware of experts. Even when not intentional, they can really be flawed. 

Beware = ask questions and ruminate carefully on what you hear. Be aware. Simples

So here are a few random points these “experts” have confused and not convinced on the following

Anyway, the point is, no one really knows anything everything. No, it doesn’t mean you should drink bleach or inject yourself with whatever Trump hallucinates about!!! But still…nothing is certain yet and if people are weaving something logical together, maybe we should not be too quick to shush them.

Mass Hysteria and the Fucking Media

Someone pointed out that the policy and the approach to fighting this coronavirus has been driven mostly by Twitter and Media hysteria. Unfortunately, it is what it is. But make no mistake, neither FOX nor CNN are on the side of the truth. It is all about ratings for them all. No nuance it is black or white. The earlier politicisation of the spread in the US and globally definitely affected the response time.

Make NO mistake, the Coronavirus is a bloody serious thing. What makes it very serious is that we do not understand it. But the drip by drip chronicling is making a much greater impact than it would otherwise have had. But tragedy and disaster is the milk and butter of today’s 24/7 News, so expect them to milk it for all it’s worth.

Let me use Malaria as a reference (NOT equal or equivalent). 

As at today, over 200k people have died from the virus 85 of which are in Nigeria

Last year Malaria killed over 100k Nigerians. That’s right, one country, >100k deaths. If every malaria diagnosis and death was chronicled and updated daily like the Coronavirus, I no sure say anyone go still dey Nigeria today.

Unlike with malaria, with Corona, it doesn’t discriminate on your economic status and outside of China, the infections (at least initially) skewed towards the upper strata of society. I amaware that Malaria needs a vector to be transmitted and is not nearly as infectious as Corona but you get the point.

In summary, we should try to reduce the influence of the Corona pandemic on our mental health by reducing our exposure to the incessant chronicling of deaths and infections by journalists empowered by institutions who have every incentive to rile up the world and keep us from staying any bit calm.

Nigeria’s Response

Only the cliché “ever living in denial” Arsenal fan would have any expectation of Buhari’s government when it comes to crisis management. Once the Corona alarm bells were put into action for us, we just did like others and shut down everywhere not taking cognizance of the fact that different countries have different situations. 

So, while Canada was depositing money to all residents, our government was distributing now expired rice they once called poison (maybe as e don expire, the poison no dey work again) or in some cases Eba.

In countries run by humans, the shutdown was to slow down the pace of infection and to quickly build capacity (testing, tracing therapy) and then easy people back into “the new normal”

As at today, while “Little Ghana” has tested 110k people, Nigeria has barely gone beyond 10k folks. So, the economic shutdown has not brought us anything. At best, it delays the inevitable.

We have no idea of knowing how bad things are because one vital stat has not been broken down in the NCDC report which is the number of tests done per day per state. So, hearing zero tested negative in Kano today and 90 the next day means absolutely nothing.

Shutdown and Insha Allah is not a strategy.

The Uselessness of Money Itself

Once we got into panic mode of this pandemic, it was a beauty to see the uselessness of money in itself. When poor billionaires like Dangote and other extractionist contemporaries were called upon to rescue the country, all that these “great industrialists” could offer was money. Unfortunately, the gross limitation of money was laid bare. In itself, it is entirely useless if it cannot provide you with what you need. We (thought we) needed ventilators and co but the world had more demand than available. And it showed these industrialists could not create anything. 

The Private Sector

Not everything has been shite. Persons in the private sector have rallied together to see how we can innovate ourselves out of this one. Special commendation to the folks at CcHub and Ventures Platform had competitions to aggregate and motivate, some tech fellows tried to crowdfund a stimulus package with We Are Together. It has been lovely to see. 

So, it will not be like I totally dismiss everything done by the rent-seeking billionaires, I have to mention the eventual commendation of the *holds nose* Dangote Led initiative of providing loads of facilities and helping some of the states get a hold of this.

Lagos and maybe Kaduna are two states that have had the closest resemblance of getting their act together, especially Lagos.

Despite all these, there is a limit the private sector can do. As Ory Okolloh said, Africa cannot innovate itself out of bad governance. There is a limit to what can be done when we don’t know how many we are and where we live. 

The Future After Corona

Less than a few days into the first batch of locking down, people that had no idea how long they would stay in, began pontificating (not speculating) on zoom panels about what the future would look like after this pandemic.

Fantabulous!

The fact is, no one knows exactly what will happen. Of course, there are broad themes like how Working from Home will become a thing, travel will change etc. But specifics? Na.

I like how someone put it, “Corona will accelerate the future”. However, we still don’t know what the future holds. So as long as you declare you are speculating before you jump on the next zoom panel, I’m good!

Moving forward

As this is a novel virus and no one living today has had to deal with such uncertainty, I thought it would make more sense to have multiple approaches to tackling the virus and its impact. For instance, Sweden has taken a different approach from its Scandinavia neighbours. They have allowed most things to go on as usual by preaching common-sense. This approach has resulted in much greater death rates than their neighbours but not at the cost of everything else.

Although the Brazilian president has taken out special time to be irresponsible, Brazil doesn’t seem to be doing much worse than many countries that have been very serious about this.

We will only really know when this is all over.

Other chronic illnesses need attention. Those with diabetes, malaria, cancer etc need access to health care. No be only Rona dey roam streets. The obsessive attention we are giving Rona at the expense of those others may end up biting us on the ass.

For a place like Nigeria, I think we should just roll the dice and get going to as close to normal we can responsibly manage. We are so infrastructurally backward that even a shut down for 6 months would not build the tracking, tracing and therapeutic capacity we need to contain the uncertainty.

What can you do in the meantime?

  • Masks
  • Physical distancing
  • Washing of hands
  • Avoid hospitals
  • Dey your house
  • Prevent your vulnerable from being exposed 

What can the government do?

  • Ramp up testing especially antibody tests (make we know who don bam)
  • Ramp up isolation centre capacity
  • Minimize and restrict single gatherings of over 50 people.

On Monday the 4th of May, the doors will be open and we go in and hope our chi’s (personal God/Guardian Angel in Igbo) get level. My thinking is, like with most parts of the world, most people infected would have little or no symptoms. Some will need hospitalization and I hope there would be capacity for those to be taken care of. The reality is from Monday, na Russian Roulette we dey so

May the 4th Be with you as we all say to ourselves “Chi’m a man da” – my God will not fail.

We’re Giving Out a Million Naira to Discover the Next Great Nigerian Startups.

Summary: Techcircle is organizing a pitch competition holding on June 12 where the winner will go away with N1 000 000 – ONE MILLION NAIRA. All applicants will have a chance to put their startups in front of some prolific local and international investors from Japan. Apply now

For those that like long stories, read on.

In 2016, my man Shollsman – aka Shola Paystack reached out to me stating one of his investors wanted to visit our tech ecosystem and see “startups”.

I told him guy, I hope say e serious. This no be 2011 when oyibio on summer break go come gather men dem in the name of ‘I wan invest’, press us like who wan check which bread soft pass then leaving us all hanging.

He assured me his investor was legit serious and introduced me to Hiro Mashita of Japan.

I spoke to Hiro and let him know “hey, you have to commit something to show seriousness for the time these founders will be going away from their businesses to meet with you – hopefully, it leads to investments”.

We decided rather than force a promise of investment, putting up total prize money of $3000 was a good start – cos as the Japanese say, とても悪い – at all at all na im bad pass.

We had the pitch competition – which frankly was pipeline generation; Hiro and his team met with a bunch of startups that applied. The meetings were independent of going through the pitch competition.

Kangpe – Now Reliance HMO won the top prize and Furnish.ng won the popular prize (both startups are alive and well today and I want to believe the prize month made life easy then)

Hiro Mashita Presenting Femi Kuti with his Prize

Early this year Hiro reached out stating he wanted to visit again. In my mind, I was like “this is not 2014-16 when a bunch of twitter bio and conference panel investors came around held meetings and used our time to do research raise their funds.

So early in our conversation, I wanted to establish his true commitment to investing in Nigerian startups

“Hey Hiro, including Paystack how many of our startups have you invested in. Didn’t really hear back”

“Ahhh Oo. One moment.

So my west Africa portfolio currently is Paystack, Hotels.ng, BuyCoins (BitkoinAfrika), OMG Digital and Releaf”

“Very Niiiiice” I responded. Channelling my inner Borat.

Give or take, Hiro and team have put in ~ $1 Million (ONE MILLION US DOLLARS)  in our techosystem in less than 3 years and he’s told me he wants to double down in investing here.

To prove it, this time around he’s coming with more people including Yuzuru Honda CEO of a publicly traded Japanese company, FreakOut Holdings. They are on the hunt for startups of all stages – post-launch.

Beyond investing, they are looking to help in cross-pollinating (tech and market entry) our ecosystem with that of Japan and far Asia.

Therefore, if you are presently fundraising and open to meeting with Hiro and contingent, there are two ways to go about it.

Or if you are a bit further along and not interested in the pitch competition but would like to meet the team

If you run a co-working space, incubator/accelerator, fund etc. Send this to your portfolio.

The pitch competition will be held on 12th of June the details of the event will be coming up in a bit keep your eyes and ears open for the details.

Goodbye Medium: Re – Porting Back to Base

Roadblock

 

It’s been about 7 years since we all queued up for Ev’s new thing.  Wordpress was deemed clunky and Medium, the ish (we bin dey beg for invite that year o)

What’s changed? TIme.

More specifically, I got tired of not being in control.

Outsourcing your address on the web is a risky thing to do because any day, you can be kicked off that leased plot and you’d lose your audience (graph).

I don’t want to wait until a random change happens.

RSS and custom domains help insure against such things on third-party  platforms but Medium offers neither (custom domain names used to be, but is no longer supported)

Medium has also failed to innovate. For instance, you cannot publish a table on Medium. That’s crazy! and Almost zero levels of customization. I understand Ev is doing what’s best for his company. I’m trying to do the same.

In addition, I have some ideas I’d like to explore like writing different types of content in addition to regular posts.e.g. commentary on articles, quotes, images, etc. I am hoping this influences me to publish more often.

Please, subscribe to my RSS feed if you’re still old school like that 😉

PS: I’ll still post stuff on Medium just to let those there know say “na that side we dey o”

PPS: I definitely miss the gorgeousness that is Medium’s Editor.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Visit. Between Lagos and Abuja.

To preempt the 30th call and 100th message. Yes, I saw Zuckerberg. In Aso Villa, Abuja. No opportunities to picture. No space for conversations.

After the event, I saw first hand “big” men & women jumping stool to take picture. I even used my hand to block the CEO of a multi national who wanted to squeeze through. “Guy, calm down” I said to him 😂😂

The good thing about Aso Rock especially when a bigger man is around is, it becomes neutral ground. Men whose subordinates you’d happily wait hours to see become your equals.

After a while though, my guy signalled to me and we left the rowdiness.

Zuckerberg looked REALLY uncomfortable in the setting of politicians and was overheard saying “can we leave now? “.

Contrast that with the Lagos crowd where “small boys and girls” had great access and respect interacting with him. He felt quite comfortable with fellow comrades.

He clearly prioritizes the startup crowd. Which is good. Very good. 

Watching politicians and “big” people scramble to associate with a 32 year old boy they would not have allowed to blossom here in Nigeria filled me with shame and joy at the same time.

Then I realised that these people still do not get it. The young man they adore had subtly given a nod to where he knows the future lies. Iyin told them to their faces but they still cannot get it. A retired bank CEO would still be struggling to be the next Zuckerberg 😂.

Anyway, this long note is to explain to my many friends who somehow are sad they did not see me with Zuckerberg. Though I don’t get it, I really tried to get a selfie for y’all but it was just too rowdy. No be because person wan chop meat e go begin dey call cow broda.

Finally, tech is where the new power is if it was not clear before, it is now and I’ll keep trying to do my bit to ensure we get it.

I have to give a nod to Bosun, Femi and team who have built Cc Hub, which I believe singular most important factor that crystallized our techosystem.

 

PS: We will still address what we REALLY think of Mark’s visit to Nigeria.. sorry Sub saharan Africa, let us first milk and savor the benefits. There is a time and place for everything. besides, I am a criticism break.