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Blog #11: Anti-African Racism In China in the Age of COVID-19

chinalied

In the light of the global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the online universe has been engulfed in positive messages, heartwarming commercials and social media outpouring about reaching out and staying connected to humanity and celebrating essential workers, trying to spread good cheer and positivity during these difficult times.

Not so in China. In fact, quite the opposite. African residents in south China, particularly in the city of Ghangzhou, have been discriminated against, evicted and barred and denied access to public transportation, bars, grocery stores, and restaurants, including a McDonald’s restaurant. The Chinese authorities are complicit in the abuse. The US Consulate in Guangzhou issued a warning to expat African Americans to stay away from the city.

Black Lives Matter.

The great irony is that for the past few decades, China has been clawing its way into a stronghold on the African continent, largely by financing massive infrastructure projects, while holding on to healthy contingencies, secured by lobbying politicians and who are happy to mortgage their nation’s futures, in exchange for kickbacks. This is problematic enough.

However, China’s latest actions is anything but endearing to the African community and is actually galvanizing the African diaspora online to join together to condemn the attacks on Africans in China. It has lit a spark in the community! Talk about a pan-African movement.

With world leaders decrying China’s efforts to conceal initial information about COVID-19 outbreak, maybe it’s time for Africans call for Chinese accountability as well. Perhaps, the world at large, at consider what it would look like to break up with China.

Would you break up with China? What would that look like for you or me? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to consider it.

SOURCES

  1. https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/15/chinas-racism-is-wrecking-its-success-in-africa/
  2. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/04/us-britain-dependence-china-trade/610615/
  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-52309414
  4. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/no-blacks-african-migrants-kicked-out-of-homes-and-banned-from-shops-in-guangzhou-china-b9p0z0ggt
  5. http://shanghaiist.com/2020/04/13/even-mcdonalds-is-now-turning-away-black-customers-in-guangzhou/?fbclid=IwAR1MU5_Uz0LjT2if1t-OP33upwgqh7ICSuRBOHTLNz5fPRBm1KLsB1F_Qx0
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Blog #10: Africa’s 10 Most Powerful Women in Social Development & Architecture

Forbes released a list of Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women on March 6, 2020. In honor of International Women’s Day today on March 8, 2020. I am highlighting the top 10 African women doing social development work on the African continent, in non-governmental capacity. I’m greatly aspired by these women!

They are:

1. Graca Machel, South Africa. Founder, Graca Machel Trust.

2. Clare Akamanzi, Rwanda. CEO, Rwanda Development Board.

3. Dr. Judy Dlamini, South Africa. Founder, Mbekani Group.

4. Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili, Nigeria. Senior Economic Advisor, Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI).

5. Wendy Luhabe, South Africa, South Africa. Social Entrepreneur & Co-Founder, WIPHOLD.

6. Winnie Byanyima, Uganda. Executive Director, UNAIDS.

7. Amina J.Mohammed, Nigeria. Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations.

8. Vera Songwe, Cameroon. Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

9. Theresa Kachindamoto, Malawi. Chief of Dedza District.

10. Olajumoke Adenowo, Nigerian. Founder, AD Consulting & Architect.

They are making us proud. I hope to carry on the torch and pass it on one day!

SOURCES

1. Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women. (2020, March 6). Forbes Africa. Retrieved on March 8, 2020, from https://www.forbesafrica.com/cover-story/2020/03/06/africas-50-most-powerful-women/.

2. Olujumoke Adenowo Architect. (2019, June 19). BBC Businss Africa. Retrieved on March 8, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiFlWTdKbWw.

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Blog #9: Cork Trees: North Africa

Cork Oak tree. rainforest-alliance.org

Cork oak trees can be found in Europe and northwestern Africa, including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The use of cork is slowly gaining popularity in the architecture industry and could revolutionize the construction industry.

A house built with cork by architects in Eton, UK has been shortlisted for the 2019 British RIBA Sterling Prize. The walls and roof, made of several distinct corbelled pyramid-like shapes. This system “allows for a simple assembly of one block on top of the other,” supported by timber,and topped with skylights allowing sunlight into the structure (2019, Sargent, G).

Cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees which grow around the Mediterranean and is harvested from trees every nine years. The cork is then manufactured into building blocks of prefabricated cork, with cork granules being compressed and heated. Then, they’re cut using 3D milling so the blocks interlocking, so adhesives are not required.

Cork is lightweight, warm to the touch and has great acoustic and insulating properties. “Rather than the typical complex, layered building envelope incorporating an array of building materials, products and specialist sub-systems”, the cork gives structure, and acts as insulation, exterior and interior finish (2019, Crook, L).

It is also sustainable and can be recycled or composted at the end of its life. Architects deemed the house carbon-negative at its completion and estimate that the house’s “whole life carbon” is less than 15% of a standard British new-build house.

SOURCES

  1. Sargent, G. (2019, August 2). British Designers Have Made a House Entirely Out of Recyclable Cork. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/home-is-where-the-cork-is-uk-designers-present-recyclable-house/. Retrieved on January 9, 2020.
  2. Crook, L. (2019, July 29). Dezeen. Recyclable House is Built from Cork Blocks. https://www.dezeen.com/2019/07/29/cork-house-matthew-barnett-howland-sustainable-architecture/. Retrieved on January 27, 2020.
  3. Rainforest Alliance. (2012, September 2). Cork Oak: Quercus Suber. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/cork-oak. Retrieved on January 27, 2020.

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Blog #7: 10 Reasons why the TERA is the Future

TERA Mars Habitat. https://www.architectmagazine.com/project-gallery/tera-mars-habitat_o

AI SpaceFactory’s TERA designs were originally meant for Mars, but they’ve realized that its benefits can also be applied to Earth as well.

  1. It’s built with 3D printing technology.
  2. It’s renewable and sustainable and uses compostable materials biopolymer basalt composite, which is derived from from crops like corn and sugar cane.
  3. It has a gorgeous and exquisite volumes. Models start from the Tera-Mini (350 sqft.) with 1.5 floors, Tera (500 sqft.) with 2 floors, Astra (800 sqft.) with 3 floors, and the largest model, the Evo which boosts of spaces greater than 1000 sqft.
  4. Its interior has an open floor plan and is natural, reminiscent of a treehouse, and built from poplar and birch.
  5. It’s endorsed by NASA, and it also has the potential to be used on Mars.
  6. It’s 50% stronger and more durable than concrete.
  7. It’s also more sustainable than the traditional steel and concrete.
  8. It could reduce the material and energy waste that’s typically associated with the building construction industry, and could potentially revolutionize the construction industry.
  9. It uses LED lighting and harnesses daylight to reduce lighting needs and air circulation.
  10. Best of all, once it’s demolished, its exterior hard shell can recycled and reused multiple times. After it can no longer be recycled, the exterior shell can be composted.

SOURCES

  1. AI Space Factory: Made for Space, Evolved for Earth. (2019). https://www.aispacefactory.com/tera. Retrieved on January 27, 2020.
  2. TERA Mars Habitat. (2019). Architect Magazine. https://www.architectmagazine.com/project-gallery/tera-mars-habitat_o. Retrieved on January 27, 2020.

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Blog #6: Can Bamboo Encourage Development in Africa?

Bamboo Vision. Photo by Oktomi Jaya on Unsplash.

Is bamboo the crop that Africa needs for its development needs?

It may be. However, before can we capitalize of the wonderful properties of the bamboo plant, there are several misconceptions (or lies) about the local market that need to be combated.

MISCONCEPTIONS DEBUNKED

Lie #1: Imported building materials are the best.

Lie #2: People no longer want to farm.

Truth #1: We need to develop local materials and techniques locally. Imported materials are often overly expensive, hard to source, subject to long transportation time, and do not benefit the local economy as much as locally sourced material. Africa doesn’t have to be a captive, consumer market only. We can also produce materials for other market’s consumption.

Truth #2: In most African countries, there are high rates of unemployment, especially among the youth. Many of them are open to farming opportunities. Growing, treating, and utilizing bamboo can give many sustainable incomes and improve the standard of living. We can grow local materials, and then build local capacity for curing them for building material, which can then source local construction projects or can also be exported to other countries. Bamboo is a prime candidate which allows for multi-industry involvement and thus can promote economic empowerment.

BAMBOO PLANTING REQUIREMENTS

The requirements for bamboo largely include:

  • ample land in warm location
  • humid conditions
  • generous irrigation during growing season, depending on rainfall,
  • fertilizer – both organic fertilizer, mulch
  • yearly thinning to discourage competition from weeds, like vines and grasses.

INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS

  • Agriculture: Harvesting bamboo poles for curing for furniture companies. Bamboo leaves and chopped bamboo plants can feed livestock and create fodder for goats, cows, sheep and chicken. Bamboo poles can also be used for holding food storage, building animal shelters like barns, chicken coops and animal pens.
  • Food & Cooking: Sourcing edible bamboo shoots as a food item in various cuisines, as well as sourcing restaurants. Also, in rural areas, bamboo can be used to build outdoor kitchens, and charred bamboo can be used for biofuel for outdoor cooking in place of traditional firewood, which reduces the risk of deforestation.
  • Manufacturing: Drying, curing, and treating bamboo poles for use as material for a myriad of uses.
  • Interior Design: Treated bamboo can be used to build furniture items such as tables, chairs, beds, etc.
  • Arts & Crafts: Bamboo can be employed as material for endless options in craft work including wind chimes, weaving rugs, making paper and fabric goods.
  • Construction: Treated bamboo can be used to build furniture, as fencing materials, and other structural uses like for temporary building site purposes like material storage, formwork, sheds, ladders, and scaffolding. Furthermore, companies like BamCore are developing sustainable bamboo technology for wood framing, roofing, and flooring material. (I will blog about this in the future and link it here.)
  • Transportation: Bamboo has also been used to build bicycles, as exemplified by the Ghanaian company, Bamboo Bikes, headed by young entrepreneur, Winnifred Selby.
  • Landscaping: Live bamboo plants can be sold for gardening and landscaping needs, building sheds, and to other farms for farming.
  • Local Market & Exports: Locally, kiosks and outdoor marketplace stalls. Sourcing fresh or cured bamboo raw materials and finished products, locally and exporting them abroad as well.

CONCLUSION

Thus, there is an opportunity for Africans to capitalize, literally, on the wonderful qualities of the bamboo plant themselves locally. This enables people to be employed in growing, harvesting, treating, and working with bamboo as a finished product. It also generates opportunities across multiple industries and markets.

SOURCES

  1. Bamboo Farming USA. Why Bamboo. http://www.bamboofarmingusa.com/how-to-plant/#page-content. Retrieved on January 9, 2020.
  2. Bamboo Farming USA. Planting Bamboo. http://www.bamboofarmingusa.com/how-to-plant/#page-content. Retrieved on January 9, 2020.
  3. Bamcore. Bamboo Commentaries and White Papers. http://bamcore.com/bamboo-info/bamcore-commentaries-and-white-papers/.Retrieved on January 6, 2020.

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Blog#5: What Does It Mean to Be An AfroBuilder?

How can you be a local champion?

One of my parents’ dream for me is to become a medical doctor, in order to be financially secure and become, and I quote, “a local champion”. You may be aware of what this means, if you grew up in a similar background or in the type of family I grew up in, where the only acceptable job aspirations are to be: a medical doctor, lawyer or engineer. Often, this kind of high expectations are placed on you if your family is African, or from the Caribbean, or Asian.

What Does Being An AfroBuilder Mean To Me?

I have had to redesign that dream for myself. Yes, I have chosen an entrepreneur to build my financial future, as well as to help my community by helping building social infrastructure, such as housing, schools, libraries, universities, hospitals, hotels, and banks, etc. As well as urban planning elements like passenger bridges, investing in growing nutritious foods locally, and provide opportunities to children, youth, and women.

I think women should be exposed to how rewarding and lucrative a career in construction and construction management would be. I’m eager to help advocate for that.

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Blog #4: 10 Reasons to Love Bamboo (or for the Love of Bamboo)

Historically, bamboo has been a basic construction material in tropical regions of the world, often used for shacks, stalls, fences, scaffolding and sunscreens. However, it doesn’t have to remain that way.

Today, bamboo can serve as an invaluable building material for permanent buildings and structures, especially in developing countries, in place of steel or reinforced concrete, which typically have to be imported at great cost (Hebel, D.).

  1. Bamboo is environmental-friendly and captures and converts carbon emissions.
  2. Bamboo grows rapidly, much faster than wood.
  3. Bamboo is relatively easy to propagate and is readily available in many regions throughout the world.
  4. Bamboo is flexible, and can bend to withstand wind forces.
  5. Bamboo can be used to clothing and other crafts.
  6. Bamboo can be used to create furniture.
  7. Bamboo can be prefabricated locally into flooring material. #producedontimport
  8. Temporary shelter, for example short-term for disaster victims and refugees.
  9. When appropriately grown, cut, treated, dried, and laminated, bamboo is strong enough to replace timber as a structural building material. Future research to study its properties is being done at the Singapore-ETH Center in the Future Cities Laboratory.
  10. Bamboo can also be used for building infrastructure. Historically, bridges were built out of bamboo in 10th century AD China as well as floating villages with bamboo platforms
  11. (Bonus). Bamboo can serve as a yummy treat for cuddly panda bears.

SOURCES

  1. Ubud News. (2017). Vale Linda Garland, Legend. http://ubudnowandthen.com/vale-linda-garland-legend/. Retrieved January 3, 2020.

2. Jackson, D. (2019). Permaculture Research Institute. Bamboo Architecture: Bali’s Green School Inspired a Global Renaissance. https://permaculturenews.org/2019/09/30/bamboo-architecture/. Retrieved January 3, 2020.

3. Hebel, D. (2014). Bamboo Could Turn the World’s Construction Trade on Its Head. http://theconversation.com/bamboo-could-turn-the-worlds-construction-trade-on-its-head-29685. Retrieved January 4, 2020.

Blog #8 Singapore: An Inspiration and Beacon

Chinatown, Singapore. Unsplash.

I spent several weeks in Singapore in the spring of 2016 and I was amazed by the architecture and immaculate urban planning there. The city was the right amount of traditional, preserving local traditions and balancing those influences with futuristic technologies. Its impressive architectural and engineering feats, from the Helix Bridge, the ArtScience Museum, and the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel with its Skypark and rooftop infinity pools.

On the other hand, a lot of care was taken to incorporate sustainable practices. There are botanical gardens capturing the natural wonders and the unforgettable Gardens by the Bay. Lots of green space and parks, and buildings with greenery on its facade.

All in all, Singapore was the first tropical city in East I truly got to explore and get to know. Coming from a developing country, and then the States, and it made an indelible mark on me about what a developed tropical city could be. It inspired dreams of what I thought under developed African cities could look like.

Since then, Singapore has been a vision and inspiration.

Blog #3: 28 UN-affiliated Organizations Doing Development Work in Africa

Since I was in high school, I have always dreamed about working for the UN or a for a similar organization to do nation-building work and promote the standard of living and inspire women empowerment on the African continent.

Here is a list of UN- affiliated organizations doing economic and infrastructure development work in the region.

  1. ACDI/VOCA
  2. African Development Bank
  3. Agence Francaise de Developpement
  4. Ashoka
  5. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  6. Counterpart International
  7. Creative Associates International
  8. CTG
  9. Cuso International
  10. DAI
  11. FHI360
  12. Global Communities
  13. Habitat for Humanity
  14. IMPACT/ACTED
  15. International Fund for Agricultural Development
  16. IMF
  17. OxFam
  18. Pact
  19. Social Impact
  20. Solidante International
  21. Tetra Tech
  22. UNICEF
  23. United Nations Conference on Trade & Development
  24. United Nations Development Program
  25. UN-Habitat
  26. United Nations Office of Project Services
  27. United States Agency for International Development
  28. Volunteer Services Overseas

SOURCES

  1. UN Channel. Browse by Organizations. https://unchannel.org/browse-by-organization.php. Retrieved on January 1, 2020.

Do you know of other organizations doing development work on the African continent?

Blog #2: Uber & Lasgidi Transit

On June 28, I opened and read the Morning Brew newsletter and came across the article, “Hey Lagos Residents, Uber Wants to Float Your Boat”. Uber is launching a water taxi service in Lagos, Nigeria. It’s a city I’m very familiar with, and the most populous city on the African continent.

This took me back to April 2017, where I made #3 place in Suffolk University’s Greenhorn Summit pitch competition in April 2017. I developed a deck for LasGidi Transit, a business-class water taxi concept across the Lagos lagoon. In the process, I connected with some movers and shakers in some Lagos ‘s mass transportation agencies. This all started when I took an Urban & Environmental Planning class on Sustainable Transportation. Then, I took a class on Innovative Social Entrepreneurship and I decided to launch a business venture based on what I had learned about the transportation challenges in hyper dense, major cities like Lagos, specially one that is surrounded by water.

About 2 weeks after the end of the entrepreneurship class, I took a 2 week trip to Lagos, a city that my family is closely connected to, and experienced firsthand what being a commuter was like and the challenges that are unique to that city. Coincidentally, I took a lot of Uber rides when I was in Lagos. Uber has been a boon to the middle class, driver-less, and busy middle class of Lagos, and income-earning opportunity for Uber drivers.

Those challenges are not insignificant and I am thrilled for the people of Lagos, especially business commuters whose daily commutes can be as long as 4 hours.

And while I am bummed out that Uber beat me to the market in Lagos, I’m amazed that my business concept was one that held water, something that a mega corporation like Uber believes is viable. Amazing! So excited for how this goes.

Cheers, Jane

SOURCES

1. Grant, K. Hey Lagos Residents, Uber Wants to Float Your Boat. https://www.morningbrew.com/daily/stories/2019/06/28/hey-lagos-residents-uber-wants-float-boat. Retrieved on June 28, 2019.

P.S. Please reach out to me if you’re interested to hear more about LasGidi Transit. I would love to meet like-minded people.