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How Data Analytics And Other Smart Technologies Can Help Improve African Healthcare Systems

Nzekwe Henry September 25

As indicated by recent reports from the United Nations, there has been an outbreak of cholera in North-Eastern Nigeria which is believed to have claimed the lives of nearly 100 people in the last two weeks.

According to these reports, over 3,000 cases of cholera have been recorded in Yobe and Borno; two Nigerian states that can be thought of as worse bit by the well-documented Boko Haram insurgency.

Figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) make for gloomy reading. There has been a total of 3,126 recorded cases of the disease with 97 fatalities already taken into account since the disease first broke out a fortnight ago in Borno, where people, numbering in hundreds of thousands, are known to be currently taking refuge in Internally-Displaced Persons (IDP) camps as a result of the violence erupted by the insurgency.

Since the turn of the year, it is reported that the death toll due to cholera outbreaks in the Lake Chad region is over 500 – a figure that is believed to represent the worst outbreak of the disease in four years. With heavy rains and flooding rampant this time of year — which serves up an ideal environment for the spread of the disease — it is feared that up to six million people might be at risk. And that might be just for starters.

Recent reports from the Democratic Republic of Congo indicate a worrying and troubling development. It appears there is now confirmation of a new case of Ebola on the country’s border with Uganda. The new case of the virus is reported to have occurred almost 200 km away from the nearest other known case in Congo’s most recent Ebola outbreak, which is believed to have claimed up to 97 lives since July and infected another 46 in the country’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces.

The same disease is known to have killed over 11,000 people in West Africa between 2014 and 2016, with statistics hinting at a disturbing fatality rate of 40% of all the reported cases. African countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Liberia were bedeviled by the virus, which eventually found its way to the UK, US, and Spain.

With these in mind, the assertion that the healthcare system in parts of Africa is both inefficient and inadequate might not be very far from the truth. It is reactive rather than proactive, at best. The most recent cases of cholera and Ebola make good pointers. These diseases are anything but first-timers; bodies have been left behind in their wake in the past. And it does worry to think about how many more lives will have to be lost before a there is a return to the drawing board and proactive measures are put in place to forestall future occurrence of epidemics and pandemics which the continent appears to be very susceptible to.

What if we could have caught wind of these disease outbreaks months before it did happen? Wouldn’t that buy us some time to take preemptive steps toward curtailing its spread? Think about that. This informs the need to ditch the old ways and embrace newer, reliable, and more efficient ways of keeping diseases at bay — proactive measures that can, at the very least, significantly curb the spread of disease if not completely prevent them. And smart technologies might just provide the answer.

Terms like data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, are regarded in some circles as the stuff of geeks with no real practical use or problem-solving application in the real world — perhaps, just another fad that will keep the tech scene abuzz for a couple of years and then fade out just as soon as the next one shows up. There may even be individuals who feel like they might wince or gag the next time they hear those three terms, having heard them being mentioned far too often without even the slightest idea what they entail.

Be that as it may, this may be a chance to learn about some ways in which these smart technologies can come in handy in solving some of the world’s problems — especially those ones associated with epidemics and pandemics.

By leveraging smart technologies, there is a good chance that the carnage and devastation left behind by the spate of killer diseases in parts of Africa and the rest of the world in the past can be significantly reduced. These technologies can do a good job of providing a heads up with regards to the imminent outbreaks of diseases that can potentially hurt a significant demography. They have the capacity to put health bodies in the know beforehand as per looming epidemics, thus helping to direct and channel preemptive efforts to areas that are at most risk or in most need, which could imply the reduction of the impact of the disease, if not its entire prevention.

By utilizing the full potential that comes with accessing large amounts of data, the computational power that is required for the storage and analysis of the data accessed in real-time, as well as the complex algorithms that are adept at identifying data patterns, health authorities can be alerted of looming problems before they escalate into full-blown disasters. Essentially, disease outbreaks that have gone on to become epidemics and even pandemics in the past can be effectively reduced to isolated cases through the adoption of smart technologies.

Advanced data analytics, on its own part, can help bring about better patient treatment, cost savings, and more effective distribution of resources — which could prove helpful in the management of both long-term and short-term diseases, as well as pandemics.

The efficacy of data analytics at predicting disease outbreaks is anything but a bogus claim as it may be worthwhile to note that x-raying streams of data obtained from social media platforms, online forums, and keyword searches, is believed to have weighed in significantly in predicting the 2012-2013 U.S. flu season a good three months before the first official warning was put out by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Having said that, it becomes all the more interesting when some thought is given to the kind of impact such an analytical power would have if it is leveraged across the global healthcare system — right down to the individual level.

The Evolution Of Data

Africa, like every developing ecosystem, has favored the manually-intensive, paper-based systems in the record of infections and deaths that accompany major disease outbreaks. This system can be said to be flawed not only because errors are bound to occur but also because it is difficult to clearly understand the reach and impact of these disease outbreaks since the data collected often proves historical and anecdotal at best.

A case for the adoption of smart technologies could be built by citing the earlier mentioned outbreak of Ebola where health workers were mandated by the CDC to instantly submit information connected to the outbreak via text messages in a mobile data collection system. Even though the adoption of this low-cost system came with fewer errors as one of its perks, a bigger achievement came in the form of the detailed maps and population movements information which made it easy for analysts to have a handle on which areas were at most risk and where treatment centers should be set up.

While this approach certainly represented an upgrade from what used to be the case with the paper-based systems of the past, it did have its own Achilles Heel. The mobile data system is more or less historic, and it is not exactly efficient at providing real-time data on population movements that can serve to keep tabs on the developments. This weakness can be thought to have propelled the creation of more reliable systems.

Data-Driven Action

Despite the best efforts and promises of the mobile data system, the glaring truth remains that mobile devices represent just one data source, out of what seems like a plethora of them. Social media, keyword searches, airline ticket sales, media reports, health and physician reports, transactional data from retailers and pharmacies, as well as geospatial data and a number of others, are amongst examples of data sources that can be referred to by health authorities in today’s world.

These data sources can function to point them in the right direction and trigger action that will serve to not only better manage diseases and outbreaks when they do occur, but also see them coming beforehand. And possibly draw up an impact assessment on the amount of damage that could be done if nothing is done to forestall — some sort of doomsday prognosis if a solution is not sought.

By leveraging smart technologies, both structured and unstructured data can be mined, and this can help health authorities keep tabs on infected populations, as well as who they come in contact with, especially in the case of contagious diseases like Ebola.

These technologies can also allow for the measurement of the success of containment policies, as well as education campaigns and treatments, while also giving an indication of the next line of action if efforts have seemed abortive and futile. They could as well give an insight as per the connection of diseases with environmental factors, and direct corrective action accordingly. Through such a system, we might finally be able to act on information to save lives through better understanding and treatment of diseases, and not through gathering the ruins in the aftermath of pandemics.

Customized Treatments

Until recently, the norm has largely been to extrapolate one standard procedure and incorporate it into the treatment of all cases of a particular infirmity, say cancer or HIV, with little regard for the peculiarities of some cases and the unique medical and health profiles of some individuals. It is not out of place to assert that there exist treatments which are largely regarded as routine and standard but still come up short when administered to certain individuals. And perhaps until recently, this may have been little understood.

But this does not have to be the case as smart technologies like data analytics boast the potential to analyze and create what can be called ‘medical maps’, by taking into cognizance, such biological aspects as chemical composition, physiology, DNA, RNA, and similar others. This can aid health professionals in administering treatments that are attuned to the unique therapeutic needs of each patient, thereby yielding optimum results.

Data analytics can also be beneficial to healthcare in a number of other ways which include the following;

  • The data obtained can aid governments in the development of proactive measures towards the promotion and protection of the health of the populace. Through this means, services can also be prioritized with a view to cutting costs and making sure healthcare reach more citizens.
  • Through the adoption of personalized therapy, effective treatments and faster results will be the case for patients and this will also bring about fewer hospital admissions.
  • Data analytics can help cultivate a better understanding of the impact of lifestyle and diet on health. And medical aid providers can leverage this information as a point of reference. This can help them educate individuals with a view to improving their health and wellbeing, and this could imply lower medical bills.
  • Data analytics can layout a pathway to novel innovations and spark insights that can ultimately bring about improvements in treatment outcomes. Medical researchers can be furnished with vital knowledge regarding the genetics of disease-causing germs. This is because data analytics can handle such details as studying data and results obtained from clinical trials, as well as juxtapose the said data with that gotten from academia, industry, and patient records. This may well spark the next big idea in the world of medicine.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) And Machine Learning

As data analytics continue to be increasingly enmeshed with machine learning, intelligent algorithms, and natural language processing, it is something of a given that the efforts of humans in the area of producing faster and more accurate medical diagnostics are expected to be increasingly supplemented by technological innovations.

This notion is supported by the idea that artificial intelligence is already being deployed in medicine where it is seeing some use in the identification of different types of cancer, as well as in the prediction of relapse in cases of leukemia.

Machine learning can aid the extraction of valuable information from staggering amounts of unstructured data which are obtainable from such sources as clinical notes, academic journals, and even scholarly articles. This can lead to the provision of even larger datasets that can potentially transform the medical industry into a proactive entity from its largely reactive stance.

Many a doomsday theorist are quick to hint at the idea that we might be in for a machine invasion and that all these technologies may one day supersede our intelligence and rise against us. We can, however, only wish for more of such stories about the potentials that are yet untapped in data analytics, AI and machine learning.

These smart technologies have an important role to play as they can augment human knowledge and skills with a view to fostering developments that can spark significant improvements in the lives of individuals. At this point, it seems more likely that the machines will actually change our lives for the better and make things a whole lot easier for everyone.

Nigerian Startup Thank U Cash Ropes In Investment From Ventures Platform

Andrew Christian October 19

Nigerian rewards platform Thank U Cash has secured funding from Lagos-based venture capital firm Ventures Platform.

While the amount of the investment remains undisclosed, the founding partner of Ventures Platform, Kola Aina announced the development via a medium post. According to him, the firm saw the huge but fragmented and significantly unstructured retail economy in African countries, as growing businesses do not have the needed resources or expertise to build robust loyalty programs or data analytics. Ventures Platform saw the loophole as an opportunity and decided to fund Thank U Cash to pioneer a solution.

This is Thank U Cash’s second funding this year, as a Weetracker report disclosed in August that the startup received investment from Nigerian VC Microtraction. The VC firm ordinarily invests USD 65 K in two stages, with an initial amount of about USD 15 K. Crunchbase, a business information platform, estimates that Thank U Cash has raised USD 12 K in funding over three rounds.

Thank U Cash is also part of the second cohort of Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa, which kicked off earlier in August.

The startup was founded this year by Madonna Ononobi, the company’s CEO, CTO Surak Supekar and COO Simeon Ononobi. Thank U Cash enabled consumers to save and earn loyalty points that can then be swapped for cash, and merchants benefit from the extra spend.

 

Team Cash Flow, 2 Others Hold the Centerstage At First Bank Fintech Summit 2.0

Andrew Christian October 19


Team Cash Flow led a handful of victorious players at the just concluded First Bank Fintech Summit. The event, which converged more than 700 fintech fevers, stakeholders and tech enthusiasts, was held at the Oriental Hotels in Lekki, Lagos State on Wednesday.

The Fintech Summit 2.0 metamorphosed into a three-day event that was themed The Future of Banking – The Role of AI and Big Data. The initiative was generally designed to be an avenue for Nigerian fintechs to showcase their original innovations that would fast become solutions in the financial sector of the country’s economy. The summit also provides a platform for networking and partnership opportunities between the Bank and the fintech community.

View image on Twitter

The event featured a two-day fintech hackathon with limelight in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data for voice banking, mobile check validation and other methods of financial fraud prevention which could be implemented by First Bank. Finalists totaling 10 were selected from the competition to showcase their technological and AI solutions during the summit.

After the many presentations, three teams who showcased innovations deemed to be the most impressive and helpful in combating challenges facing the financial industry through AI and Big Data leveraging were selected as winners. The teams that held the centerstage include Team Cash Flow, who emerged first position, Team Ace as the first runner-up and Team CyberSmart in third place. The teams bagged home cash prizes of NGN 3 Mn, NGN 2.5 Mn, and NGN 750 K respectively.

First Bank Fintech Summit 2.0 was graced by key stakeholders in the Nigerian fintech sector, names such as Khadija Abu, Product Partnerships Lead, Paystack; Akin Banuso, Country General Manager, Microsoft; Olayinka David-West, Academic Director, Lagos Business School, Pan African University and Adia Sowho, Managing Director, Mines Nigeria. These guests formed the panel for the event, speaking on the theme aforementioned.

5 Facebook Ads Tips for E-commerce Stores

As an E-commerce business owner, you need to master your digital marketing in order to make more sales and reach more people within your target audience group.

One of the important types of Ads are sponsored Ads. With Facebook Ads, you get the opportunity of specifying who and who sees your ads, their location, interests, etc.

Facebook Ads don’t just get your products in front of a wider audience, they also get it in front of the right audience for your brand. As an e-commerce business owner, you need high relevant traffic to your e-commerce website, more loyal customers, leads, and so on.

Credit: Giphy.com

 

Here are 5 Facebook Ad Tips for E-commerce Stores:

  1. Have a goal in mind: Don’t create any advert without first identifying your goals for the advert. Sometimes your goal may be to get more traffic to your website, build your email list, get more profile visits, get more sales, etc.
  2. Boost an existing popular post: Take a look at some of your existing posts and look at the ones that have the most engagements. This would give you an indication of what your audience loves and what they want more of, and most importantly, you know that the post works already. And so, boosting that kind of posts will get the posts seen by more people beyond your current reach. These kinds of posts would get more engagements.
  3. Use videos: Videos are much more interactive than pictures or texts. Invest in creating quality videos that would show the personality of your brand, sell your brand story, show your product in action, generate leads, and eventually lead people to purchase. Videos are also shareable and even promoting them via Facebook Ads can have a lot of huge impacts.
  4. Create an offer: We all love interesting and irresistible offers. You can create an offer around Facebook Ads so as to get more people to engage with the Ads. For instance, you can create a free E-book for people and what they would probably do to get the E-book is by subscribing to your email list or signing up for the offer.
  5. Leverage retargeting: Facebook now gives you the opportunity to target those who have once visited your website. It is a wise move because this shows that they are actually interested in what you have to offer.

Do you have more Facebook Ads tips for us? Do drop your comments below.

The African E-commerce Saga: Chapter Nigeria

Andrew Christian October 19

The advent of internet technology globally has brought about a rapid improvement in virtually of spheres of existence. In economic, social and cultural areas among others, the internet never stops having its impact on different nations of the world, communities, institutions and even the individual. As of today, we are in the constant embrace of leveled-up ideas such as e-governance, e-learning, e-hailing, e-banking and quite suitably, e-commerce.

The web is bringing with it time and again new, exciting opportunities particularly in the aspect of the industrial innovation. Electronic commerce is one of such real-time opportunities that are changing the way people buy and sell, everywhere. While the channel has proven to be a vibrant reservoir of economic upheaval in first world countries in Asia, Europe, and the Americas since the turn of the 21st century, e-commerce is as well witnessing some quick-as-a-wink growth in Nigeria and some other African countries such as South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya.

E-commerce has very well had its impact on Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) towards the fronts of job creation and wealth generation. With the fact that a robust legal frame of reference is vital to the right-on-track running of any vibrant and secure e-commerce system, policymakers in Nigeria are being compelled to harness relevant information to grow the nations’ economy. Millennials and hopefuls believe that with hard work and consistency, the country would be put on the world map of e-commerce revolution in a matter of five years or less.

The e-market space is a major part of the today Nigeria economy. As MSMEs are an engine of economic growth and development, making markets more competitive and resilient, they are directly and indirectly impacted on by e-commerce. Countries such as U.S, Japan, India, Brazil and China, small businesses have been a source of jobs for the teeming population. The success stories have not only been the spirit entrepreneurship but the support of technology inclusively. With the immense value information technology is creating, the economic potentials of Nigerian MSMEs can be tremendous. E-payment solution companies such as MasterCard, Visa, Interswitch, Verve, and significant others springing up in Nigeria, e-business has been so great a boost. These payment solutions are vamping up their services in a bid to meet up with the ever-growing demand of ease, safety, and speed as it concerns buying and selling online. As a result, small businesses can experience seamless transaction with each other and other bigger businesses in the space, ultimately leading to their growth and equally to the betterment of the Nigerian economy.

As of 2014, e-commerce in Africa was growing at a rate of 25.8 percent. In a headlock against the rest of the world’s 16.8 percent, the then growth rate was enough reason to make the continent the fastest-growing e-commerce market in the world; not to talk of now that the stakes are higher. Emerging e-commerce has brought about restyling to the traditional method of shopping, as buying and selling goods and services can now be done online anywhere and anytime. Goods are being delivered with either in-house or partner courier services providers, but virtual products such as eBooks, videos, audios, and templates are being delivered electronically – at affordable and competitive prices compares to offline deals.

In a 2014 report by Business Day, it was revealed that the current market opportunity for e-commerce in Nigeria was over USD 151 Mn annually, with a rapid growth percentage of 25 each year. But it has not also been so good because just a decade ago, an e-commerce-based model of a business plan would so quickly have been laughed off and given the heave-ho, as it would have come off as a bad investment. But times have changed, and they never stop doing so – e-commerce in Nigeria is fast becoming the next big thing. More and more Nigerians are subsuming the medium as their preferred platform for purchase and selling – 60 million Nigerians enjoy internet access (2014) and nearly 100 million as of now – thanks to the rapid growth of telecommunications, and with that figure, nothing is stopping the e-market from becoming larger. The country has a predominantly youthful population to add, along with the near 100 million connected Nigerians representing more than 40 percent of Nigeria’s 197 million people. Facts have it that way over 300,000 online orders are made every 24 hours in the country – a promising figure to say the least and an indication that e-platforms are on the rise with business, tech, and leisure.

E-commerce has also contributed to Nigeria’s economic growth and development. Firstly, the medium is creating jobs for the country’s more than 30 million unemployed youths, in line with a report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) – irrespective of the fact that the actual jobs availed from 2012 to 2014 are just over 12,000. The ICT industry contributed to a 10.44 percent part of the 2013 Nigeria GDP, as well as significant strides in other sectors. Should more and more Nigerians have access to the internet, it would bring about a massive impact on the e-market. The Minister for Communications Technology, observing the USD 12 Bn generated from e-sales about three years ago, online consumption could be worth USD 154 Bn by 2025. It was to no one ’s surprise when the same Minister recently said that e-commerce market in Nigeria has a potential worth of USD 10 Bn since the sector has already attracted about USD 200 Mn in foreign investments.

Also, critical players in Nigerian e-commerce such as Jumia, Konga, and Payporte are now selling goods on a large scale, SMEs no longer have to go overseas to purchase merchandise for business. This brings about a steady and easier-than-usual flow of market stock, as well as an increase in the country’s GDP. What is needed at this point is that the laws need to be tailored to form a robust and legal framework for a vibrant and secure e-commerce system. More proactive provisions need to be put in place for e-entrepreneurs to have a fighting chance, scale up and even internationalize. Cybercrimes need to be checked, shoppers’ privacy needs to be legally protected, and more gateways need to be flung open to accommodate as many e-commerce enterprises as possible.

According to a report by Jumia, Nigeria’s e-commerce could be worth USD 13 Bn this year. Nigeria’s most recent figure of the subscribing population is 162 million – that is 84 percent of the country’s populace. The statistics are impressive, as it drives a huge chunk of e-commerce transactions, and it seems investors are falling over each other to get a slice of the cake. Bright lights are coming up on the horizons as Konga and Yudala have merged, making analysts hopeful that Nigerian e-commerce is not going back on becoming a gamechanger. The world is no doubt swinging in the direction of tech-enabled serviceability and order-from-a-distance transactions. Nigeria will go with the wind, even if not as fast, but at its own checkered pace.

Kennie-O Cold Chain Logistics Wins USD 15 K In SUN- Pitch Nutrition Competition

Kevin Gachiri October 19

Ope Olanrewaju of Kenni-O Cold Chain Logistics from Nigeria won the  USD 15 K grand prize of The SUN Business Challenge at the Nutrition Africa Investor Forum in Nairobi showcasing entrepreneurial opportunities in Africa in the Agribusiness and Food sector. The Scaling Up Nutrition Pitch Competition saw 21 finalists compete after having been shortlisted from a pool of  450 entries from different African countries. The Global Alliance organised this forum – the first of its kind – that links up investors with nutrition-focused SMEs for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Royal DSM , The Sun Business Network and African Magazine. At the sidelines of the same two-day event, Nutrition Dealrooms comprising part of GAIN’s pipeline of companies improving access to nutritious food attracted the interest of investors taking part in 130 deal room discussions involving 20 investors and more than 20 companies with $82m worth of investment being contested for various opportunities in the sector.

While opening the forum Fokko Wientjes, Vice-President of Nutrition in Emerging Markets, Royal DSM observed that  “The panelists had an extremely challenging afternoon choosing from 21 extremely good candidates from different parts of Africa. What we have seen is the critical role of innovation and scaling for SMEs in the food industry which proves that this conference is necessary and meeting a need.” According to its website, Kennie-O Cold Chain Logistics provides value-added services that include cold storage and distribution, provision of Reefer equipment, party services as well as the provision of Intermodal and State transportation. The company was founded in 2014 and was selected based on nutrition impact, commercial viability, scalability and the use of innovation.

Other reported winners were August Secrets from Nigeria who won the Graca Machel Award, Healthy Maishaa from Tanzania who took the BoP Inc Award, Kulamawe Poultry Industries from Kenya who took the GrowthAfrica award and Miruku Agro Industria from Mozambique who took the DSM Innovation Award.

 

This development first appeared on cnbcafrica.com

Feature image source: African Business Magazine

 

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