By Garba Shehu
President Muhammadu Buhari returned to the country after a three-day intensely busy State Visit to Germany which, as is usual with his foreign engagements, was characterized by punishing schedules.
Unfortunately, an important trip such as this one planned to boost trade and investment, enhance security partnership and pitch the country to eager investors became overshadowed by public outcry over some remarks President Muhammadu Buhari made in Germany, which have sadly been misconstrued by the media and some members of the public.
I can assure you that President Buhari’s sense of humour is one of his most distinguishing characteristics, despite his stern mien.
His comments clearly do not reflect his attitude towards women, a number of whom he has appointed into key positions in his administration, neither do they reflect his attitude towards his wife, Hajiya Aisha, as anyone can see from their history together.
President Buhari has been an invaluable support to his wife, and I know that he has great plans for every Nigerian woman.
Five of his daughters have acquired university degrees. One of them just finished law school and another one undertakes a higher degree program.
I hope that all well-meaning Nigerians will put an end to the unfair insinuations that have been generated by President Buhari’s jocularity. Seeing a well-meaning leader being so misunderstood is painful for me.
Let us hope that God continues to give him the grace and wisdom he requires to steer Nigeria through this difficult time in our country’s history.
In the course of this historic visit, he held formal talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a roundtable with the German President Joachim Gauck, a meeting with business leaders and an interactive session with Nigerians resident in Europe. A number of side, but equally important meetings were dotted in-between these.
Three big-ticket items on President Buhari’s Berlin agenda were security, trade and investment, climate change and its consequences for the Nigerian eco-space. A breakthrough was achieved in all areas covered by the discussions.
Chancellor Merkel was the first leader of a major economic power in the world to have foreseen what a Muhammadu Buhari administration would mean to Nigeria, Africa and the world. As Chairperson of the “G 7” group of industrialized nations, she extended a hand of fellowship to him upon his victory in the 2015 elections. She asked him to be ready with his wish list and be present at the G 7 meeting to brief its leaders.
Since that time, there had been a big demand for President Buhari all over the world, a demand that our officials in Foreign Affairs insisted must be cashed on or else we missed the opportunity.
President Gauck came here in February at the head of a business delegation, a visit that pushed the existing relations up by several notches as manifested by the setting up of a one-stop investment centre to facilitate foreign investment and partnerships.
Germany has also proposed a twining of two cities, Lagos and Frankfurt to facilitate the sharing of experience, meeting of businesses, trade and investment as well as exchange of visits by officials.
In the course of the visit by President Gauck, a pledge by the EU to spend fifty million Euro (€50 m.) against terrorism in the Lake Chad basin area was announced.
President Buhari’s state visit brought closer the relationship between Nigeria and Germany in addition to breakthroughs in several areas of negotiations.
The other key success area is investment. The President and his team held a highly successful business forum which had in attendance over 100 Nigerian and German business leaders with interests in industries across Manufacturing, Information Technology, Healthcare, Construction, Training, Agro processing, Power, Mining and Consumer businesses
In a speech at the meeting, President Muhammadu Buhari decried the current low level of trade and investment between both countries and Nigeria’s openness for business and long-term investment from Germany. He highlighted the steady work of renewal that has started in the country and the progress that is being recorded in the government’s pillars of security, governance and the economy.
He also presented a strong case on Nigeria’s compelling fundamentals and stated the priority sectors of the government in which investments are being sought as being Agriculture, Industrialization, Solid Minerals, Digital Economy and Infrastructure, especially power generation.
The biggest gypsum producer in the world has already obtained an exploration license for the mineral and is looking to commence local production in Nigeria. A well-known consumer brand with over 50,000 employees worldwide is considering production of its laundry detergent locally. The company has already invested $250 million locally, with 900 employees. The transition to local production will significantly increase the number of Nigerians employed.
A Nigerian-based pharmaceutical company in partnership with a German conglomerate is also to commence a renal testing business in Nigeria before the end of the year
The President stated that the Nigerian Development Bank will soon commence operations to help provide additional funding to the Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (SMEs). As a large contributor to the economy, funding to the SMEs will help spur inclusive economic growth. He thereafter charged government officials and the business community to enhance the process of achieving tangible results that are mutually beneficial to both countries
A significant takeaway from the Presidential engagement in Germany is the agreement to give vocational skills training to thousands of our youth.
Germany is always known to be a strong developer of apprentice skills. In addition to their reputation for quality education, the distinguishing feature of the German economy is that emphasis on skill development.
What President Buhari got from this trip is a commitment by Germany to share with Nigeria their skills in agriculture, IT, telecommunications, machinery, aviation, vehicles, healthcare, construction and so forth.
As part of the steps towards imparting the vocational skills, there will be collaboration between the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) and a Nigerian conglomerate to build a technical school for artisans. The school will train Nigerians for three years, of which 50percent of the time will be spent in the school and the remaining 50percent of the time spent gaining practical experience. This model will be scaled up for the other parts of the country based on the success of this cooperation.
Nigeria and Germany had useful discussions on a program of food processing locally, rice and oil milling with the aim of leavening that country’s experience in a new plan by the administration to create wealth in rural communities.
There also plans for a financing fund for agriculture in Nigeria to assist small and medium size entrepreneurs and cooperatives in the agricultural sector.
A renewable power company with advanced and affordable solar technologies is going to commence operations in Nigeria. The company is headed by a Nigerian and have commenced the ground-work to commence operations early next year.
Following the MOU at the Bi-national Commission, agreements were also struck for energy partnership in renewable energy. Several states characterized by hot weather, mostly in North have signed for solar Independent Power Project, IPPs. A 30 Megawatt power plant is coming up in Adamawa while Bauchi, Benue, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Katsina and some others are on the queue.
Germany has offered Nigeria support in the war against terrorism with mine detectors, radar equipment and a field hospital.
Chancellor Merkel also pledged increased involvement of Germany in supporting Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs and the reconstruction of their destroyed communities.
Another key area of cooperation is immigration.
There are thousands of illegal immigrants from Nigeria currently in Germany. On their records, 20,000 Nigerians enter their country each year. This is a sore issue for Germany. Of these numbers, only about nine percent of those who enter clandestinely qualify for legal asylum. To deal with the issue, they have indicated to Nigeria their willingness to train all prospective deportees in skills they can use back at home. In addition to this, two other Nigerians will be given free vocational training for every one deported illegal immigrant.
President Buhari never missed an opportunity to make a pitch for the recharging of the Lake Chad, now only ten percent of its original size, whenever he met the leaders of rich countries.
He has been persuaded a long time ago that the best way to save the lake Chad and the people who inhabit its basin from the corrosive effect of climatic change is to divert water from the Congo Basin to the Lake Chad.
A study financed by Nigeria indicated that USD 15 Billion will be needed to do this but it is the kind of money that neither this country nor its neighbors can muster.
Having successfully established that the climate change has a lot to do with the drastic decline of livelihoods in the area and is at the root cause of the Boko Haram insurgency, the President is convinced that recharging the Lake is no longer the sole business of the Lake Chad Basin countries but that of the wider world.
Given her commitment to saving the environment, Chancellor Merkel had shown keenness in the project and is willing to be a part of the effort.
Her reported earmarking of €18 billion for the project was misconstrued from her speech. After a repeated playback of the speech, the same conclusions were unfortunately drawn. Angela Merkel’s commitment is however to the tune of €18 million on the Nigerian side and the rest €32 million to the rest of the Lake Chad basin countries, with all of the money coming from the European Fund. Nevertheless eighteen Million to support ongoing efforts in the North East is still a mouthwatering amount.
New and Pending Issues:
The Nigerian delegation also had useful discussions on road and rail development, gas exploration, equipment and surveillance for the protection of oil and gas infrastructure in Niger Delta, upgrading of Defense Industries Corporation, DICON, cooperation in rule of law and polio eradication.
Last but not the least, the President used a moment of his time in Germany to act his role a Commander-in-Chief by paying a visit to a recuperating army officer injured in the course of duty in the North East.
Mr Garba Shehu is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity
5 Tips for Tackling Imposter Syndrome
By Aisha Pandor
Imposter syndrome is something that most of us have felt at one time or another. Even if you know you have all the right qualifications and experience to be in a position, it can be all too easy to feel like you don’t belong.
Whether it’s someone dismissing your work or even just casually telling you about something you’ve never heard of as if it’s common knowledge, it can be an incredibly difficult space to climb out of.
Imposter syndrome can be especially insidious among entrepreneurs, who already have to deal with ecstatic highs and crippling lows. In fact, a 2020 study found that 84% of entrepreneurs and small business owners experience imposter syndrome. Many also worry that they’ll be “found out” for their lack of knowledge and ability.
That chimes with my own experiences as an entrepreneur and investor. When Alen (my husband) and I first started SweepSouth back in 2013, I had no experience as an entrepreneur. I’d come from an academic background and everyone at the various startup events and pitching competitions we attended seemed so much calmer and more confident. I couldn’t help wondering what I was doing there and why I’d sacrificed a potentially comfortable life for something I was certain everyone else was doing better at.
While that feeling occasionally rears its head again, I’ve learned a number of strategies over the years to effectively tackle it. Here are five of them.
Remember that your journey is your own
For entrepreneurs especially, imposter syndrome can be fuelled by comparing yourself to others. It can strike when a business that started at the same time as you gets a batch of great write-ups in the press or when they raise a massive funding round. At times like that, it’s important to remember that you’re on your own business journey, no one else’s. By trying to match someone else’s success because it makes you feel inadequate, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Remember, if you’re making progress, you’re doing the right thing. Many of the entrepreneurs who seemed so confident at the early events I went to have seen their businesses not perform as well as they’d hoped. The same is true of those who raised headline-grabbing early funding rounds. If I’d let comparisons to them cause me to waiver from my focus, SweepSouth would be in a very different place today.
Address your weaknesses
Sometimes the feelings associated with imposter syndrome come about because someone brings up a legitimate issue that your business needs to address. It might, for instance, be something that a potential investor brings up. The trick is not to take it as a sign that you don’t belong, but as something fixable that you can address. Every person and every business has weaknesses. That doesn’t mean they don’t belong or shouldn’t exist.
Remember your accomplishments
Write them down if you have to. Chances are you’ve had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get where you are. This is especially important if you don’t look like everyone else in the room. If you’re a woman, for instance, nothing about your male peers’ maleness makes them any more suited to their jobs or running a business.
Have a support network
Remember that stat from the beginning of the article about 84% of entrepreneurs suffering from imposter syndrome? That’s not an indictment on entrepreneurs but an opportunity. By joining a local, regional, or even international entrepreneurs’ organisation, you expose yourself to people who’ve been through the same things as you (including imposter syndrome) and who can guide you through any issues you might face.
Turn it on its head
Finally, remember that real imposters are unlikely to feel imposter syndrome. Being a successful imposter depends on outsized levels of confidence. So, if you’re feeling like an imposter, you can take it as a sign that you’re probably on the right track.
Aisha Pandor is the CEO of SweepSouth
Reminiscing on the Loss of a Friend, Dreams Deferred, and Bold New Beginnings
By Chris Ihidero
One evening some eight years ago, my good friend Steve Babaeko walked into a mutual friend’s office looking a little less than his usual uber-confident self.
You won’t find many people who can claim to have seen Steve looking any less than assured: He consistently cuts the picture of a supremely confident man and his achievements are a testament to how that confidence has been well earned. But that evening in 2012, Steve had just put in his resignation as Creative Director of 141 Worldwide, the advertising agency he helped build from scratch and made a market leader. He would have to start all over again and the future held no guarantees. We broke out a bottle of cognac and toasted to new possibilities. As our mutual friend said that evening, “What’s the worst that can happen? You may fail, but at least you would have tried.”
When Amaka Igwe passed on in 2014 just as we were about to launch the TV channel we had been working on for about four years, it soon became clear to me that if I was going to have any shot at realizing the dream we shared, I would have to say goodbye to Amaka Igwe Studios. AIS was my home for eight years. I started out as an apprentice TV director and rose to become Chief Operating Officer. It was the place that built me. On the day I made the decision to leave, I stood in the building we had just furnished for the TV station, gazed at the transmission equipment we had installed and knew I was walking away to start all over again. Walking into a future with no guarantees.
Like Steve that evening, I was a lot less assured.
It’s been seven years since that decision and I have had an incredible run. It hasn’t been a sunset stroll in the park but I’m grateful for my contributions to the TV and film industry in Africa so far. While I worked for different TV networks, wrote, produced, directed and consulted on many film projects (and continue to do so), I started quietly building PinPoint Media. I knew what had to come next. I knew what I wanted to do with my life was to build a content delivery machinery that delivered excellence repeatedly.
In September 2019 we cranked on the content machinery we had been working on for a year and hit the set to deliver the first product off our production line, season one of Man Pikin, a family comedy series. Man Pikin is my nod to Fuji House of Commotion, Nigeria’s longest running and highly popular family comedy series I was privileged to direct for five years.
Man Pikin is the story of a man’s daily struggles with raising his kids after his wife’s passing. We shot 26 episodes for a first season and recently, IROKO TV acquired the rights for broadcast on their ROK Channels, as well as a french version for francophone Africa on NollywoodTV. It premieres on the 12th and 20th of December respectively.
In Q3 2021, we shot season two, another 26 episodes, and that’s not all we’re working on. But for COVID-19 actually, we would have rounded off the first year of our PinPoint Content Fund execution with 104 episodes of TV series in the bag. That target will now be met in 2022, starting with season three of Man Pikin and season one of a new series. Three feature films will also be shot in 2022, and we will also deliver a digital TV channel. Yeah, we have been very busy!
As I watched final edits of the episodes of Man Pikin before shipping off to our distributors in France recently, I reminisced on the loss of a friend and dreams deferred. This propels me forward as I focus on polishing and further knocking our content machinery into shape in order to deliver a five-year plan that culminates in the production of five thousand hours of content yearly from five production centres across Nigeria and Africa.
Scary, right? Well, that was the dream I once shared with an amazing woman and now I must trudge on scared, but confident that we will deliver the reference point for TV/film content excellence, whatever the challenges we will face, because, like the original soundtrack for Man Pikin says “Every day we keep moving forward ooh ooh ooh, ‘cos someday our dreams will come true ooh ohh ooh, man pikin go fall but will stand up ooh oooh ohhhh, for together we are strong and we’ll always have each other, ah ah.”
Digital Agriculture as Panacea to Enhanced Food Production, Security
By Tolu Oyekan
Recent studies on Africa’s agriculture market projects an estimated growth to $1 trillion by 2030. This shows that the continent’s agriculture industry has huge potentials. Informed suggestions have been made on how the full gains of this fast-emerging market will be achieved; one of which is through digital agriculture.
There is no doubt that modern farms and agricultural operations are carried out differently from how farming was done in the last 20 years.
This is mainly a result of advancements in technology. Like almost all spheres of life, technological advancements have made an in-road into agriculture to address such challenges as climate change – leading to increased temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, frequent extreme weather events and reduction in water availability.
Digital agriculture or agricultural technology benefits both farmers and end consumers by reducing the use of traditional/archaic farming methods and generating higher crop productivity. Digitizing agriculture also saves resources such as water, fertilizers and pesticides; reduces the impact on natural ecosystems; reduces chemicals getting into rivers and streams and increases the safety of farmworkers.
It is for this reason that the digitalization of agriculture should be part of the larger agricultural transformation agenda in Africa.
Over the years, there have been numerous digital agricultural initiatives and startups which by leveraging technologies, have led to improving farmer productivity, incomes, strengthening food security and enhancing the resilience of food systems in the continent.
Sadly, the impact on smallholder farmer incomes is still poor. This is not unconnected to the fact that access to technology in developing countries is an enabler of accelerated agricultural innovation.
In Nigeria today, some digital firms are focusing on ensuring that smallholder farmers benefit from the new technology revolution in agriculture. Platforms like Babban Gona, Thrive Agric and Agro Rite were created to give smallholder farmers access to resources critical to their work and the growth of the agricultural sector. But these solutions are still available to a meagre percentage of the hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers scattered across Nigeria; and these smallholder farmers still battle with the three-fold challenge of poor access to market, poor access to finance and inadequate knowledge of improved farming practices.
According to a recent report by BCG titled ‘The Digital Agriculture Revolution’, agricultural productivity will need more than innovation. Already, greater crop yields are required to feed Nigeria’s exploding population. The population of Nigeria has been forecasted to reach over 400 million people by 2050.
Estimations published in 2019 show that by that time, the consumption of farm produce such as eggs, milk, beef, cassava, maize, wheat and others will increase by almost 300 per cent! If not properly addressed, this scenario might lead to a full-blown food insecurity situation.
The truth is that lack of information and knowledge is most limiting to the growth of the sector. This presents a challenge to food security because access to the right information, education, and training enable farmers to make use of new farming knowledge and technologies.
This being the case, farmers’ knowledge and information must be constantly upgraded. Farmers must have access to information about sustainable farming practices to enable them to maintain natural resources to ensure that farmlands are productive for future generations. For Nigeria to have environmentally good food systems, farmers and other stakeholders need to have effective communication technologies coupled with relevant information.
Furthermore, the Nigerian agriculture sector must adopt climate-smart practices and technologies to increase productivity as food production demands increase. Presently, Nigeria like other countries in Africa still relies on rainfall to water farms.
With climate change and reduced rainfall as mentioned earlier, there is the need for intensified water management and alternative sources of rainwater to irrigate the farmlands.
In cities like Florida and California, USA and Beijing, China; farmers have used reclaimed water to irrigate their farms. Reclaimed water is wastewater that has been treated and transformed into a product that is clean, clear and odourless.
There is a need for stakeholders to keep investing in modern ways of farming. The emergence of integrated data sets combining satellite imagery, weather and soil data is a modern approach that can be leveraged by development partners. This will empower farmers with more affordable credit and insurance, better early warning of crop failures and improved farm management. Such practices will cushion the sector from the negative effects of climate change while adapting to sustainable food systems.
In addition to innovation, bridging capital, coupled with the right capabilities is pivotal in transforming the agricultural sector in the continent.
For farmers to benefit from a fully-functional market ecosystem, there is a need for players in the agricultural supply chain to prioritize efficient, transparent and innovative ways of connecting farmers to markets. This is where ICT enabled technologies comes into play. Mobile-phone-based services can ease farmers’ access to knowledge on extension services, market information, weather forecasts and agronomic advice.
Furthermore, they can offer price information services for inputs and outputs, enable demand, and supply aggregation, and facilitate e-marketplaces.
In fact, the Technical Centre of Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) estimates that market linkage solutions deliver, on average, a 73% improvement in farmer productivity (including through access to lower-cost seeds and fertilizer) versus just 23% for digital advisories. Our review of dozens of current market solutions revealed several successful alternatives, but no one-size-fits-all approach. This is a clear indication that agriculture is modernizing.
Unfortunately, domestic agriculture markets in many developing countries remain fragmented and inefficient, making it imperative for digital agricultural innovations to address such situations.
The beauty of digital agriculture is that it could help rural-urban migration and get young people to drive rural development because of the use of technology. The increased use of digital technology in farming and agricultural activities might actually attract and retain younger generations to live in rural communities.
For Nigerian farmers, the adoption of digital agriculture will wholly enable access to various information including information on inputs, weather and soil condition; processing and storage resources: markets and finance; and food monitoring and consumption requirements.
Hopefully, if Nigerian farmers and others in the food supply chain embrace this technology, digital agriculture could help to maximize production and reduce waste; reduce costs of production and increase yields; minimize environmental impact and maximize the quality of agriculture produce.
The cross-cutting nature of the digital solutions will continue to improve interconnectedness among stakeholders in the agricultural value and supply chains. This will improve efficiencies, productivity earnings in the sector while feeding the growing population sustainably and improving the livelihoods of Nigerian farmers.
It is important to note that to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of a world with zero hunger by 2030, more productive, efficient, sustainable, inclusive, transparent and resilient food systems are required – and this can largely be achieved with digital technologies and innovations in agriculture.
Tolu Oyekan is a Partner, BCG Lagos
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