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Savings Culture Begins with Consumer Education – Nkazi Sokhulu

South Africa doesn’t have a genuine savings culture yet – and ongoing education is needed to build it, says Nkazi Sokhulu, co-founder and CEO of credit life insurance brand Yalu.

Credit life insurance covers consumers in the event that they cannot pay their creditors under certain circumstances. The Credit Ombud defines credit life insurance as “the insurance cover a consumer takes out in the event of their death, disability, terminal illness, unemployment or other insurable risk that is likely to impair the consumer’s ability to earn an income or pay their monthly installments under a credit agreement”.

 

“Consumers should know what other, cheaper alternatives exist, but it’s equally important that they understand the terms and conditions of their existing agreements, and that they are equipped to demand that their current service providers stick to the legal terms of their contracts,” Sokhulu explains.

“Education about consumer rights and the hidden details of financial products is key to growing a South African society that understands how, when and why to save.”

Sokhulu says there is a clear link between the implementation of the National Credit Act (NCA) in South Africa’s financial services sector in 2006 and the country’s overall ability to create a sustainable savings culture.

One of the most important functions of the act is to create a level playing field between brands and consumers. It achieves this by forcing companies to meet clear communication and information transparency standards.

“Companies are required by the NCA to ensure that they communicate clearly and simply with consumers,” explains Sokhulu.

“In theory, this stops service providers from hiding contract details within the fine print, or from talking in a generally confusing way about a product or service.”

According to Sokhulu, many borrowers don’t know much about their credit life insurance policies, including the fact that they have the right to choose their own provider. The fees charged for such policies can vary dramatically, and as a result a lot of consumers unwittingly pay the maximum possible premium every month.

Source: fin24

How Tokyo’s Suburban Housing Became Vast Ghettoes for the Old

Kazuyoshi Otsuka didn’t talk to his neighbours much. They knew he worked for the Shochiku movie studio, where the directors Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu achieved global renown. They knew he was a costumer, because he used to complain to them about having to argue with famous Japanese actresses over whether their outfits clashed.

They also knew he moved into the Atago apartment blocks, a huge housing complex in the suburbs of Tokyo, in 1971, the year after they were built, with his wife and two sons. The Japanese economy was officially booming, and Otsuka was a fashionable man about town, partial to wearing a neck scarf and buying his coffee beans from a specialty store, even if he otherwise kept to himself.

In 1989, he was struck by a subarachnoid haemorrhage that left him paralysed in his left hand and leg. Some time after he was discharged from hospital and returned home, his wife and children left. Alone, he took to sitting on a bench outside the apartment building. Though he didn’t much discuss it with the neighbours, he once admitted he regretted how life had turned out. “I’m sorry,” he said.

Unable to walk far, Otsuka relied on a meal service. One day, two years ago, his regular delivery man recalls Otsuka being in worse shape than usual. Three days later, there was no answer at the door.

The delivery man informed the police, who arrived at Atago with the fire department, climbed a ladder to the third floor and broke through the window into the room. Otsuka had been spitting blood, and died alone.

No family members came, and nobody claimed his body. The municipality cremated him and placed his remains with a local temple. Otsuka’s nameplate is still on the metal door of his apartment, above a mailbox slot now sealed with tape.

Toei Atago Complex is a sprawling set of five-storey apartment blocks in Tama City in the Tokyo suburbs, about 30 minutes on the express Keio line from Shinjuku station. The complex rings a hillside and and contains 1,894 units across five blocks – one of hundreds of similar social housing developments that dot the seemingly endless Tokyo outskirts.

Many Japanese know the Atago complex as the setting for Whisper of the Heart, an animated film from Studio Ghibli written by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki that topped the domestic box office in 1995. The romantic film depicts the lives of junior high school students whose imaginations are transported through writing stories to each other.

The real Atago complex, however, is home to almost no young people. Japan’s population is ageing rapidly, though not so much in Tokyo, where just under a quarter of residents are older than 65. But in the Tama City suburb the proportion is 29.6%, and is expected to rise to 32.6% over the next decade – increasing more than twice as fast as the Tokyo average.

The number who live in social housing, meanwhile, is higher still by far: approximately two-thirds of the residents of blocks like Atago are over 65. Tokyo’s social housing blocks are becoming de facto retirement homes.

That is a problem for a number of reasons, not least that they weren’t designed for this purpose. The Atago complex was built on a hill, and is accessed by sloping ramps. It has five floors, but there are no lifts, only stairs. Many weaker residents find navigating this terrain very difficult. There are no nearby supermarkets to buy food and newspapers, just a Seven Eleven convenience store, and no clinics or pharmacies within easy access, though the local hospital is well-equipped to handle older patients.

Nor are there enough children, teenagers or young couples to keep the atmosphere lively and to drive demand for services and commerce. The last supermarket serving Atago closed in 2001. The nearby elementary school, Tama City Nishi Atago, which opened in 1976 and hit peak attendance of 714 children in 1982, saw its intake fall to 64 students before it finally closed its doors for good in March 2016.

Toshio Matsumoto, 70, an officer of the Atago housing committee, says it isn’t just death that dampens the mood at Atago: “The people who come after the deceased are also grey, and the elderly will not be rosy in the future unless they get young people into the complex.”

“The only thing I enjoy every day is to drink and smoke,” one 73-year-old man says. He worked in a fresh fish store when he was young, and has lived alone in Atago since he lost his mother 18 years ago. “My feet are lame and I have a cane. Three years from now, I’ll be dead.” He turns and walks away, slowly climbing with his cane up the inclined path towards the buildings.

“I guess I’m not alone after all,” jokes Kaichiro Tanaka, 73, who also lives by himself at Atago. He drops by the community centre, Atago Kaede Kan, every day to chat and smoke cigarettes. Once a week he and his friends gather to sing their favourite songs at karaoke.

He makes the best of what is a difficult life: Tanaka relies on his pension, which specifies less than 1,000 yen per day for food. “You can’t live like that,” he says. In 2007, his wife’s kidneys began to fail her, and for three years he tended to her bodily needs while she was confined to bed. After her death, the only relative he now sees is his daughter, who meets him once a year at his wife’s grave. She has never visited his apartment at Atago.

“Hey, look over there,” Tanaka says, gesturing with his eyes at the lounge in the community centre. “If you think, ‘Hmm, that person hasn’t been here lately,’ it’s commonly the case that they’re dead.” Last summer, residents on his wing reported a strange smell to police. Tanaka attended the scene. The woman had died in bed. Tanaka can’t remember her name. He only knew she was about 80.

Social housing was built across Japan from the 1950s onwards in an effort to give families high-quality homes after the devastation of the second world war. The Public Housing Act of 1951 made nearly 80% of households eligible for some form of subsidised home.

In the mid-1990s, however, a shift in housing policy had major and perhaps unintended consequences. In an attempt to stimulate the housing market, the government tried to guide the young generation of workers away from public housing and into private housing. It revised the Public Housing Act, making public housing more accessible for elderly or disabled people. But it also set strict requirements for younger people who lived there: if your income exceeded a certain threshold, you would be evicted. If you refused, you were charged rent – at potentially up to twice the market rate, depending on your income.

The goal was to make public housing a safety net for elderly, low-income and socially vulnerable people. The effect, however, has been to drive up the cost of private rentals, while making social housing off-limits for most people: eligibility fell from 80% of households in 1951 to 25% after 1996.

And it has turned public housing into a kind of ghetto for poor and elderly people who rely on pensions and can’t afford private rents.

It also forces young adults to leave home once they get a job. A four-person family cannot stay in public housing if they earn more than 4.47m yen (about £32,000), which means that even a part-time job sometimes means moving away from home. The parents stay behind, and the demographics tick another notch older.

Yet another unintended consequence is that Tokyo’s social housing blocks have become the focal point for a phenomenon that has obsessed the national media: kodokushi, or “solitary deaths”. According to Matsumoto, about 20 people died alone at Atago in 2018.

While the Tokyo government does not disclose information on individual cases of solitary death, figures show that 501 people died alone in public housing blocks like Atago last year – more than one a day – and 2,344 over the last five years.

“Solitary deaths are increasing,” confirms Matsumoto. He says the problem started to worsen about 12 years ago. It is almost common now, he says, and residents who live alone are haunted by it.

The Atago community association has taken steps to fight back against loneliness. Its Omushibi Project invites residents to make rice balls together, and every summer there is a dance for the Bon festival.

The Tama municipality, too, is helping. It signed an agreement with 29 local delivery companies that provide services to Atago – such as newspapers or bento lunch boxes – to watch over elderly people. The companies agree to notify the authorities if they don’t receive a response at the door.

In response to requests from Atago residents, there is also now a “mobile supermarket” that sells food from a car, coming three times a week at 10.30am for 40 minutes.

The moves are arguably more than token, but with so few young people living in the units there is a limit to the social and commercial activity that can be sustained. When younger generations do move in, the income restrictions mean they are often low-income single mothers – whose childcare and work commitments mean they rarely have time to join in community activities.

“I have a sense of crisis,” says Takamoto Komachi, director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Housing Management Division. “I want to prevent solitary death as much as possible.”

Komachi says the Tokyo government is starting to consider efforts to reduce loneliness, such as improved patrol systems and collaboration with the welfare department. In 2002, staff began making regular visits to social housing complexes, with the ability to enter the room of elderly residents without permission to check on their safety, after the death of an 90-year-old mother and her sixtysomething daughter were blamed on a multi-day delay in accessing the flat.

“In some cases, [the patrols] saved an emergency call and spared an ambulance – I think there is a certain effect. But I don’t think it’s connected to reducing” the problem of solitary deaths, Komachi says.

Mitsunori Ishida, a sociology professor at Waseda University who studies the changing demographics of Tokyo’s social housing blocks, says: “The people who leave are strong, while those who remain, and the new people who move in, are socially vulnerable. There is a contradiction: although elderly people living alone need the mutual support of the local residents, there is a shortage of community.

“It is hard to leave the situation over to the voluntary efforts of the residents. Japan’s housing welfare policy [changes] were not a subsidy for [private] rent – they were a means to consolidate low-income and disabled people into public housing.”

He adds: “If residents of collective housing are diverse, the concentration of welfare problems and creation of community ought to improve. We need a lot of support from the local government and the social welfare council. “

That help may be a while coming, but it is rising up the political agenda. In April this year, the opposition Japanese Communist party voiced its concern in the House of Representatives construction committee. “As a result of this reform, we have no young dual-employed couples” living in public housing, said one member. “Yet even now, public housing is ageing – and it will only get worse.”

As for Tanaka, he is determined to remain cheerful. He used to say hi to his neighbour who died, even though she didn’t respond. “Maybe she didn’t care about socialising with her neighbours as she got older,” he says. “Nobody can imagine themselves in 20 years. So it is important to enjoy oneself at least in this moment, right now. People ask, ‘Are you worried about lonely death?’ I am prepared.

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Every contribution we receive from readers like you, big or small, goes directly into funding our journalism. This support enables us to keep working as we do – but we must maintain and build on it for every year to come.

Source: theguardian

Life is better with tiles in your home

Gone are the days when we adored wood, laminate floor or carpet – each of which has their merits. But according to the saying that ‘Time changes things’, flooring within the house has evolved from Just a wooden deck to floor tiles which has made domestic life easy  for us all.

Today’s Nigerian home is not complete without a well installed tile on the floor, kitchen or bathroom with varieties of colors and sizes to choose from. Some people think it signifies class while to others it denotes style; we think it’s essential for every home to have tile installed.

Here are some of the benefits why you should install a tile in your home:

Easy to clean

One of the most important benefits of using tiles in your home is that they are easy to clean. Regardless of how busy your schedule is or whatever commitment you may have, all you need to do is to wipe the surface with a moist cloth with little pressure involved since they are stain resistant.

They are Hygienic

Apart from the fact they are easy to maintain, they are also hygienic as they have the withholding capacity when treated with disinfectants without altering the appearance or surface. The intrinsic characteristic also prevents the growth of fungi and bacteria. You can be rest assured that your toddler is safe while playing on the installed tile in your living room.

Tiles are cost effective

If you are one of those who think tiles are for high or middle class people due to the expenses involved in installing them. We are glad to correct your notion that they are cheaper compared to some other type of flooring. They can last for years when installed.

They are versatile

The good thing about tiles is that they can adapt to any condition both for indoor or outdoor use.

Variety to choose from

You have a wide range of options to choose from when it comes to tiles – it could be a matching color to your window blind, settee and other home appliances or a design that describes your personality.

We trust you have made a decision to change your flooring. Before you do, have an idea of of the color, size and design you want to purchase to avoid confusion.

This is how Africa can pay for its infrastructure gap

Carbon should be priced into infrastructure projects, not only to help protect the environment but also to attract more private money towards filling the world’s one trillion dollar-a year infrastructure gap.

Infrastructure dominated one of the first sessions of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, that got underway, in earnest, Tuesday. More than 60 heads of state and thousands of business and investment experts from around the world will gather in the ski resort this week to discuss how to fix a broken world, deal with new technology, and tackle climate change.

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“Carbon should be priced into infrastructure projects and that will act as an economic trigger for private money to come in because not only will it mean more revenue it will help us put more money into saving the environment,” says Gregory Hodkinson, the CEO of one of the world’s biggest infrastructure companies, Arup, that turns over more than a billion pounds a year.

“The money is there. Investors sank six trillion dollars into Untied States junk bonds last year. If investors are prepared to roll the dice on  junk bonds what about infrastructure investment?”

One of the stumbling blocks for infrastructure investment, in everything from roads and power to water, is securing government backing. The panel discussion heard that 65% of world infrastructure projects are unbankable without government guarantees and support. It can often be a fractious relationship between investor and government officials, the session heard. Heng Swee Keat, the Cambridge-educated finance minister of Singapore, said the relationship between the public and private sectors could be “lumpy.”

“I remember a man coming to me and saying he was never going to invest in infrastructure in your country again, I asked him ‘why’ and he said, because the last time we invested and made money the government came back to us and asked: ‘Why are you making so much money!’’’ says Swee Keat, who used to be Parliamentary Private Secretary to the late father of infrastructure, on the island, premier Lee Kuan Yew.

Hodkinson, who has been working in infrastructure for 40 years, said investment could no longer ignore the future, nor the environment, otherwise next generation would suffer.

“Even if someone is building a car parking garage I ask what else can they do with it because they won’t need it one day”,” says Hodkinson.

“We need political leadership in this fractured world…otherwise we are going to get easy political leadership preying on people’s fears.

Smart cities – tailor-made for people with the help of information about their needs gathered from the interest – was touted as one popular answer to the infrastructure gap.

“We asked people if they were happy to provide personal information to this end. Even in this world where people are frightened of sharing their personal information, 47% said they would to get better infrastructure,” says Michael Burke, the CEO of the NYSE-listed AECOM in the United States that turns over more than $18 billion a year.

Source: WEF 2019

2019 budget: FG to spend less on road construction,rehabilitation

Early works for construction of 2nd Niger Bridge to gulp N2bn, 3rd Mainland Bridge N1bn. The Federal Government plans to spend less on road construction and rehabilitation/repair works across the country in 2019, details contained in the budget proposal presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly recently, has shown.

A comparison of the 2019 and 2018 budget proposals for the Ministry of Power Works and Housing showed that while the budget for road construction dropped by N14.7 billion, that for road rehabilitation/repairs dropped by N56 billion.

The document showed that N346, 166,726,658 was budgeted for the Federal Ministry of Power Works & Housing (excluding agencies under the ministry). Out of this amount N10,281,446,795 was allocated for recurrent expenditure while N335,885,279,863 was allocated for capital projects.

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Out of the N335.8bn allocated for capital projects N124bn has been proposed for ‘Construction/Provision of Roads’ in 2019. This amount is lower by N14.7bn compared to N138.8bn budgeted for the same purpose in 2018.

Further analysis showed that the budget for road repairs in 2019 also got a massive cut, dropping by N56bn. The sum of N103.3bn was budgeted in 2019 compared to N159.5bn proposed in 2018.

However, unlike in the road construction and repair proposals, government plans to pump in more money into the housing sector in 2019.

In 2019, government plans to spend N30,969,671,325 on ‘Construction/Provision of Housing’ compared to N3,598,363,868 voted in 2018. The money for Construction/Provision of Housing will be spent mostly under the Federal Government’s National Housing Programme nationwide, which was captured as ‘Ongoing’ project.

The budget details showed that some road projects tagged ‘new’, which government plans to execute are: the “Design and construction of bridge across the Cross River at Uwana (Ebony State) to Nkomoro (Cross River State) at the cost of N1bn, Dualisation of Akure to Ado Ekiti Road’ at N800m, ‘Construction of Rijiya-Gusau Road’ for N270m, and the ‘Rehabilitation of Potiskum-Bajoga-Gombe Road in Yobe and Gombe states’, at the cost of N600m.”

Other new projects for 2019 are the ‘Construction of road with asphalt, culvert and drainage from Kwanar Yawurma to Garandiya in Albasu Local Government, Kano State, at the cost of N200m.

Further analysis of the budget proposal showed that about three road projects described as ‘ongoing’ got the highest capital allocation of N3bn.

They are ‘Counterpart funding for the dualization of Makurdi-Enugu Road in Benue and Enugu states,; Counterpart funding for the dualization of Akwanga-Jos-Bauchi-Gombe Road in Nasarawa, Plateau, Bauchi and Gombe States’.

Other on going critical road infrastructure that will get government’s attention this year include the ‘Construction of Bodo-Bonny road with a bridge across the Opobo Channel in Rivers State,”  which will gulp N2.5bn.

The ‘Dualization of Ilorin-Jebba-Mokwa/Bokani Junction Road in Kwara and Niger states’ N2.1bn; ‘Early Works IV for the Construction of 2nd Niger Bridge in Anambra/Delta states,’ for N2bn.

The sum of N1bn was budgeted for  ‘Emergency Rehabilitation/Maintenance of Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, Part I, (Restoration of Defective Substructure Piles (Underwater) while the ‘Dualisation of Suleja-Minna Road Phase II in Niger State will cost N1bn.

The sum of N2bn was proposed for the following ongoing road projects: Abuja-Lokoja Road Section III (Abaji-Kotonkarfe); Abuja-Lokoja Road Section IV (Kotonkarfe-Lokoja); Kano-Maiduguri Road (Section I, Kano-Wudil-Shuari);Kano-Maiduguri Road (Section II, Shuari-Azare) and Kano-Maiduguri Road (Section III, Azare-Potiskum).

Others roads that will gulp N2bn in 2019 are the Kano-Maiduguri Road (Section IV, Potiskum-Damaturu); Kano-Maiduguri Road (Section V, Damaturu-Maiduguri); the ‘Dualisation of Obajana Junction to Benin Phase 2: Section 1 (Obajana Junction to Okene)’; ‘Dualisation of Obajana Junction to Benin Phase 2: Section II (Okene to Auchi)’; Dualisation of Obajana Junction to Benin Phase 2: Section III (Auchi to Ehor) and the ‘Dualisation of Obajana Junction to Benin Phase 2: Section IV( Ehor-Benin).

Meanwhile, apart from the Federal Government’s National Housing Programme nationwide on which over N30bn has been proposed for the construction of houses nationwide, there are some other schemes aimed at housing delivery in the country that have been captured in the 2019 budget.

For instance, the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board, an agency under the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHSCF) plans to spend N100m this year on Housing Loans Scheme.

The OHSCF also allocated N146.9m for its ongoing Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) Programme. It recently commissioned 151 housing units in the first phase of the FISH estates in Kuje, FCT, expected to address the housing needs of civil servants who are unable to own houses due to the prohibitive costs of land acquisition, building or purchase.

NIA 4th Distinguished Lecture Series to celebrate Arc. Gabriel Aduku’s excellence in the Nigerian Architectural community

 

The President of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Arc. Festus Adibe Njoku has said that the NIA is set to recognize and celebrate the immeasurable impacts of Arc. Gabriel Yusuf Aduku in the Nigerian Architectural Industry at its 4th Distinguished Lecture Series to hold on September 24th, 2018 at the Shehu Musa Yaradua Centre, Abuja.

In a chat with HousingNews Correspondent earlier today, Arc. Festus explained that the distinguished lecture series is an annual event which was established as an avenue for past presidents to impart the knowledge they have acquired over the years to members of the association.

He made it known that as it’s the custom of the association; this year’s mantle has fallen on Arc. Gabriel Yakubu Aduku FNIA, PPNIA, OON a past president of NIA and the Principal Consultant & Director of Archon Nigeria Limited, to lecture the architectural community and Nigeria at large.

“… Arc. Gabriel Aduku is going to deliver this year’s lecture, somehow it’s like a parting gift to the profession where he will impart to us, what he want us to remember him for.” he said.

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The President added that the lecture series is “a time to give back to society… as a past president you must have gone through many stages and gathered many experiences right from the state chapter …so let him impart those ideas to the profession and to the society as we are celebrating his excellence by having him give us a distinguished lecture series”

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Also present in the chat session was Arc. Sunday Echono, Vice president of the NIA and the Chairman of the 4th distinguished lecture series committee. The NIA Vice President told HousingNews that the event will be a full program where excellence will be awarded and Arc. Aduku’s Book titled “Beyond simple lines” that “articulates his design philosophy, his accomplishments and the architectural culture that his firm has been able to establish and propagate in architectural economy” will be launched.

Arc. Sunday described Arc. Gabriel Aduku as “a man of many parts, he has led us as the president of NIA, ARCON, and if you look at the footprints he is someone who has played very key roles in our architectural economy. He is the first president from the northern part of the country and his firm Archcon Nigeria Limited is one of the top architectural firms in Northern Nigeria responsible for developing well known architects in northern Nigeria.”

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“His firm has been in operation for over 50years and has been producing so many architects who have gone on to also do lots of projects and a lot of that will be on display at the event” he added

Arc. Sunday enjoined friends, well wishers and every professional in the construction industry to come and join the Nigerian Institute of Architects to celebrate Arc. Gabriel Aduku an icon in the Nigerian architectural community.

“it is a period where we celebrate accomplished architects who have served the profession very well and also being a role model to the sector.” He said.

Wilson Ifeoma, HousingNews, Abuja

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