19 April 2022

Nigeria: When banditry emerged in the late 2000s, it was an isolated rural phenomenon. “In the early 2010s, bandits were largely roving brigands that marauded communities in the hinterlands. They engaged in cattle rustling, high-way and market routes robbery, localised village raids and mercenary militancy.” But by the late 2010s, they had evolved into “into organised tribes of semi-sedentary criminals that maintained pockets of underworld fiefdoms” and by now, there seems to be “a nexus of banditry, arms, drugs and terrorism”. Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara, are the most concerned states. “(T)hey appear to be buoyed by their apparent criminal impunity in the context of a receding state.” The article accuses the government of complacency and lethargy in dealing with this banditry. It should instead consider this “a situation of warfare”. A proactive, more holistic and better coordinated approach is necessary.

Terrorism & military expenditure: Of course: the effect of terrorism on economic growth is negative. But can military expenditure really compensate (some of) the negative effects of terrorism on the economy?

18 April 2022

How to get rid of cars in cities: “Cars are inherently inefficient and inequitable in their use of land and resources.” And it is the rich who cause all the problems. “(E)ach kilometre travelled where a car is replaced by a bicycle generates €1.35 of social benefits – of which only a few cents would be saved by switching from a fossil-fuelled to an electric-powered car”. The article’s author’s research ranks the 12 most effective ways of reducing cars in cities: 1) Congestion charge (paying for entering city centres), 2) Parking & traffic control (removing parking spaces, altering traffic routes), 3) Limited traffic zone (exclude cars – except residents’ – from parts of the city), 4) Mobility services for commuters, 5) Workplace parking charge (drivers pay to park at work), 6) Workplace travel planning (parking management and removal of spaces), 7) University travel planning (reduced parking on campus), 8) Mobility services for university, 9) Car sharing, 10) School travel planning, 11) Personalised travel planning, 12) App for Sustainable Mobility. One of these measures only will help only a little – a combination of them is needed.

Digital banking: Only 33% of African adults (27% of women) have an account at a bank or another financial institution. More than 150 mobile money operators provide opportunities for the remaining “unbanked” to access banking services. But according to the article’s author’s research, significant barriers remain for many – including “lack of access to a mobile phone, expensive mobile airtime, lack of financial literacy, and the infrastructure for the reliable service needed to make financial transactions”. So, unsurprisingly, digital banking only solves part of the problem of the “unbanked”.

Nutrition’s ancient history: Plant cuisine may be thousands of years older than so far assumed. While quite a few globally used plants were originally domesticated in West Africa (e.g. pearl millet, cowpea, African yam, fonio, African rice), little was known so far about when these plants were domesticated. The analysis of organic residues preserved in ancient pottery can give some answers. Research done with the help of lipid analysis on cooking pots left by the Nok culture (spanned the last 1,500 years BC; close to Abuja) showed that “a wide variety of leafy greens were processed together with cereals, pulses and what were probably yams”. In terms of plants, Nok people have consumed jute mallow, African eggplant, okra, cowpea and bombax, amongst others.