Nigeria is regarded as a hot country. Average maximum temperature can reach 38℃ - one of the hottest in sub Saharan Africa. In the last few years extreme heat and intense heatwaves have become a common experience in both rural and urban areas, showing that the country is getting hotter. This year, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency has warned of an “above danger heat stress”.
These experiences are in line with projections that the mean temperature of the planet is increasing, and expected to go on doing so. In Nigeria, the average air temperature is expected to rise by between 0.2 and 2.5℃ over the next five decades, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
These increases can’t be overlooked. The effect is already being felt in cities which have developed what is known as “heat islands”. These are urban areas that have higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas due to the fact that natural landscapes have been replaced by paved surfaces and buildings.
Some predict that Nigerian cities may become too hot to live in.
Practical solutions are needed. One approach that’s been shown to work elsewhere is urban greening. This involves introducing trees and plants in places such as parks and gardens, streets, on walls and on top of roofs. By constantly releasing moisture into the atmosphere through their leaves, plants and trees cool themselves and the surrounding environment. This helps to reduce heat. This principle is well known and has been implemented in many European and North American cities.
We studied the temperatures inside and around two typical buildings in Akure, Nigeria. One of the buildings had trees around it while the other had none. The study was carried out for six months and spread across the two seasons (rainy and dry). It showed that tree shading had an impact on thermal conditions in buildings and their surroundings.
This evidence, alongside other research, shows that plants and trees need to be grown in the country’s cities. And everyone must play a part - individuals, households, communities, cities and states.
Reducing temperatures and energy saving
Our study showed that air temperature was higher and stayed that way for longer inside the building without vegetation, with indoor–outdoor temperature reaching a peak of 5.4°C for the unshaded building and 2.4°C for the tree-shaded one. The outdoor area around the tree-shaded building was cooler than around the unshaded one, irrespective of the season.
But the impact of the trees went beyond just the temperature. The cooler temperatures meant that there was less demand for indoor cooling like air-conditioners.
Two separate studies done in Nigeria show that greening buildings can reduce the use of air-conditioning, leading to annual savings of about 34,500 NGN (US$218) in Akure and 17,255 NGN (US$162) in Owerri. These cities are in two different regions of Nigeria yet the results were similar.
Other studies support our research findings. A difference in the average temperature of 7.5°C between spaces with trees and those without was recorded in Enugu, a city in South East Nigeria. In Abuja, researchers found that bare surfaces and built-up areas had higher land surface temperatures while green surfaces maintained lower land surface temperatures.
Vertical greening systems like green walls in Lagos was found to have around 0.5°C reduction in temperature.
What must be done
State and local governments have the main responsibility of introducing policies that would lead to more greening in Nigeria’s cities. In the last ten years some states and the Federal Capital Territory have built urban parks. But much more needs to be done to significantly increase the amount of vegetation and green spaces in the country’s cities. Urban tree planting projects should be promoted on streets and beyond.
There should be programmes to plant trees in neighbourhoods and to create vegetated play parks, community gardens and other forms of green open spaces. Plants should also be planted in road setbacks and spaces within dual carriage ways. Vacant lots and derelict buildings can also be purposefully vegetated.
There should also be a push for gardens to be created – for food as well as aesthetic reasons – inside houses, on the roof or on the walls. Densely packed built environment in cities make space a challenge. But this can be overcome through plant growing techniques that use up little or no space. Good examples of vertical greening systems are available in Mexico City.
These examples provide proof that vegetation at the household and community level can directly influence temperature in the neighbourhood. We believe urban greening is a task that can, and must, be done.
Olumuyiwa Adegun, Lecturer, Department of Architecture, Federal University of Technology, Akure and Tobi Eniolu Morakinyo, Postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Future Cities, Chinese University of Hong Kong
AngloGold Ashanti's chief executive has not ruled out the possibility of separating the gold miner's South African assets from the rest of the portfolio but said its debt remained too high.
"Our position hasn't changed, we never say never, however the debt levels still remain significantly high to enable a clean split to happen," said CEO Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan on Monday.
Reuters reported on Friday that AngloGold was considering reviving efforts to split South African assets and list the international portfolio in London after shareholders revolted against a similar effort in 2014.
More than 20 years after democracy it seems incredible that a leading South African insurance company, Outsurance would put out a Father’s Day advertisement which featured mostly white dads.
If their marketing team didn’t see the problem, citizens on social media certainly did and helped the company to see the error of its ways – and fast.
Within hours of screening the advertisement, a twitter storm had broken out and the commercial was retracted. Outsurance issued an apology for any offence caused. It was a quick and decisive response – which is generally the right way to respond in a crisis – spoiled only by the fact that the company subsequently laid the blame at the door of a “junior lady” on the social media team.
This rapidly evolving landscape has left managers at a loss, and what they are experiencing is likely the beginning of a tectonic shift in the way brands are managed.
Outsurance isn’t the only firm to have been caught in a social media storm. Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick was forced to step down after a prolonged online assault leading to a “shareholder revolt”. London based public relations firm, Bell Pottinger, had to lock its twitter handle recently because it had been twitter bombed by South Africans outraged at the firm’s service to the controversial Gupta family.
Another South African business, the family restaurant franchise Spur, suffered considerable brand damage after a video showing an altercation between a (white) man and a (black) woman at a Johannesburg outlet went viral, causing a racially charged firestorm. Spur was castigated from different directions for mishandling the matter.
These cases show how social media gives consumers the ability to influence business behaviour. But, we argue, this power should be channelled in a constructive way to affect lasting change.
A new kind of activism
There are many examples of deliberate online anti-brand behaviours targeting well-known brands such as American Express, Coca Cola, and Wal-Mart. Widely respected New York Times technology columnist Farhad Manjoo recently noted, that online campaigns against brands have become a powerful force in business by handing power to consumers. It has also given birth to a new kind of political activism:
Posting a hashtag and threatening to back it up by withholding dollars can bring about a much quicker, more visible change in the world than, say, calling your representative.
This is of course not good news to most corporations, businesses and politicians. Those operating in the public domain know the importance of protecting their reputation and fear the power of social media. Many organisations pay research companies for daily feedback on how their brand is perceived. In addition to newspaper clippings and magazine articles, they also have to sift through thousands of tweets and emails.
Not all negative comments deserve to be dealt with publicly. Some outrage may be the result of a vindictive individual or interest groups with less honourable intentions. Responding to comments such as these may only fan the fire, doing more harm than good.
But the power of social media is such that even a falsehood can cause immense damage, ruining businesses and individuals. Social media can awaken the mob mentality in people. All that’s required is for people to become angry – and have access to a medium where they can be relatively anonymous and vent their fury.
Social media brings out the best and the worst in people. On the one hand, it gives the power to do untold damage. On the other it can be used to do tremendous good.
Take the case of American airline United Airlines. The video of how security dragged Dr David Dao off a flight in April 2017 after he refused to leave his seat when he was selected to be bumped off due to overbooking went viral on the Internet.
Millions of people saw Dr Dao being dragged, bleeding and injured, off the plane. There was an enormous backlash from consumers slamming the airline – and other airlines – for the practice of overbooking.
The consequences of all the anger led to the airline revising its policy and operations and spilled over into wider investigations into general procedures at airlines. This resulted in new legislation being drafted in the US, which could prevent airlines from forcibly removing passengers seated on an overbooked flight and providing compensation for those not allowed to board.
A double-edged sword
Social media is here to stay – if anything its use is set to become more sophisticated. According to Pew Internet Research, YouTube reaches more 18- to 34-year-olds than any cable network in the US, 76% of Facebook users visited the site daily last year with over 1.6 billion daily visitors, and 51% of Instagram users engage with the platform daily. These trends are spreading across the globe.
Users may also become more discerning about which sites they visit and how often. For companies, this means a need to remain vigilant and being aware of how to react appropriately. They undoubtedly stand to profit as well – through clever marketing campaigns that make use of social media platforms.
But the biggest winners could be consumers – should they learn to properly use the power of social media to organise into interest groups, define objectives and agree on courses of action – thereby exerting pressure on companies to see the kind of change in corporations that they would like to see in society as well.
Mlenga Jere, Associate Professor of Marketing, University of Cape Town and Raymond van Niekerk, Adjunct Professor, with expertise in Branding, Marketing, Business Strategy, Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility. Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town