By Nneka Okumazie
The reward system is popularised in neuroscience just like power systems in engineering. In a quest for a philosophical map – of human power behaviour – is the necessity for interchangeability of those.
Reward systems are loosely defined as good feeling anticipation or completion. Power systems, loosely, are those that convert certain energy to required energy.
Though separate in their subject areas, these two are hardly bifurcated elsewhere.
This world, driven by authority, leadership or control, shows that to be in charge is – probably – the most desirable status.
Power – political, corporate, intellectual, group, recognition, etc. are often a ruthless and competitive pursuit with anything in play to attain or retain.
Power is often rewarding in part because of ease, as humans and resources are subjects, as well as respect among other powerful individuals.
Just like the reward system lets substances and other stuff hooks, so is power in its addictiveness.
There are people who seem OK, with where they are or what they have, but they often play up for more, and then much more, in what does not seem would change much, or what they do not seem to have a good plan for towards more success.
Power – in philosophical neuroscience, can also be described with what is called incoming. Incoming per what comes to the eyes, the mind, the ears, the body, etc. in desirability, quality, and rarity.
It seems like the better the incoming for most, the better their happiness, so everyone aligns for better incoming.
For example, some get compliments on a major fashion or looks, some get new respect or some form of honour with a new device, car, property, or some cool acquisition, those things become a magnet for incoming that makes the mind feel so good. For some incoming is like news of something great, etc.
The lack of incoming for many results in lots of behaviour that make them seek out reward. So, if there’s a way to get incoming, it is preferred than to be responsible for giving incoming – mostly – to others.
Incomings are mostly aligned to positivity, negativity, or disappointment seems like default most times, so not considered as incoming.
Though there are neurochemical pathways and secretions for reward systems, reward systems too are like power.
There’s motion [energy] converted to good feel [energy], erasing whatever [static] that could bother.
The problem with the world is more than about power than about anything else.
Mostly, it is just to want more – to gain control.
Even sin, the choice to do as desired, go with the trend, is about power, feeling in control.
People talk about impermanence – like death – dispossesses, but just like avarice is irrational to some, is the same as the talk to death to those seeking power.
But what people call power is just position, does not last and never secure.
All power, scriptures say, belong the Jesus.
The world has many activities, and many seem carried away, but the time of Jesus would come – with no option for anything else.
Position fails and earthly power as vapour.
[Exodus 15:4, Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.]
Agriculture, Key to Africa’s Quest for Continued Growth and Sustainability
Africa cannot achieve self-sufficiency in agriculture without engaging and building the capacity of its smallholder farmers.
This was the submission of Venkataramani Srivathsan, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Olam Africa, the Middle East and North America regions, who spoke during a panel discussion on a BBC agro webinar event tagged ‘Agriculture – Africa’s Future’, held on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.
According to Venkataramani Srivathsan, providing training and financing opportunities for the 80 million small-scale farmers on the continent would boost food security, food safety and job creation in the agro value chain.
He said, “The COVID-19 outbreak was a setback for the African continent. The global health crisis took its toll on the continent’s food supply value chain thereby disrupting vital agro activities which led to the escalated level of food insecurity.”
He added that effective capacity-building efforts, access to revenue-boosting agro-technology, the assembly of robust irrigation infrastructure and the implementation of an effective micro-financing framework were necessary to help African smallholder farmers scale their operations, encourage massive youth participation in Agriculture and drive food security on the continent.
“Olam works with 2.5 million smallholder farmers in Africa and is investing to assist them in creating wealth for their communities and respective economies at large. We invest in research to make high yielding seed available to the farmers.
“We are also tapping our global expertise in the agro value-chain to help the farmers adopt modern agro practices while extending loans to them through our participation in various anchor borrowers and out-growers initiatives across the continent”, Venkataramani Srivathsan said.
Olam is a leading agribusiness conglomerate which supplies crops, ingredients and packaged foods to the global market. It is actively involved in supporting the African continent build self-sufficiency in food production by investing extensively in various wheat, rice, dairy, maize, tomato, hatchery and poultry, and animal feed production development programmes on the continent.
The BBC regional agriculture development webinar, therefore, engaged the agribusiness firm as one of several key players on the continent’s agro value chain, to discuss how to stimulate growth and ensure sustainability in food production in Africa. This engagement aims to guarantee food security, employment generation and foster agro-based economies on the continent.
Besides Venkataramani Srivathsan, other panellists who featured on the webinar were Damian Ihedioha, Division Manager, Agribusiness Development Division, African Development Bank (ADB), Hon. Beauty Manake, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Agricultural Development & Food Security, Botswana; Dr Kulani Machaba, Regulatory Affairs Leader, Africa & Middle East, Corteva Agriscience and Amrote Abdella, Regional Director, Microsoft 4Afrika. Zeinab Badawi, BBC World News presenter moderated the panel.
Damian Ihedioha, Division Manager, Agribusiness Development Division, African Development Bank (ADB) posited that a vibrant African SME ecosystem was germane to enhancing the continent’s food supply chain. He called on policymakers across the continent to invest in building capacity along the agro value chain by strengthening the SME ecosystem and incentivizing youth participation in agriculture.
Beauty Manake, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Agricultural Development & Food Security, Botswana, highlighted the importance of intra African trades in stimulating growth in the agro value chain and reducing the escalating levels of reliance on food importation from other continents.
She said, “Africa does not trade with itself. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, farm produce that couldn’t be transported to their destination market overseas got spoilt. Hence, by building a framework policy that encourages intra Africa trading and developing local infrastructure that ensures food is smoothly delivered to the last mile from the farms, the agro landscape in Africa will explode.”
She further advised governments on the continent to build agricultural villages and provide vital market linkages for smallholder farmers to sell their produce.
Meanwhile, Dr Kulani Machaba, Regulatory Affairs Leader, Africa & Middle East, Corteva Agriscience, emphasized constant access to farming inputs and maximal utilization of high-yielding seed varieties by farmers as key to stimulating growth in the continent’s agro value chain.
He explained, “Rice seed varieties harvest yield in Africa is 2 tons per hectare, 4 tons per hectare in Asia and 10 tons per hectare in Latin America. While each continent has access to high-yielding seed varieties, the difference is how farmers in each clime maximize the cultivation of the seed varieties.”
He also mentioned that policymakers need to create a conducive operating environment for private investors to participate effectively in developing the agro value chain.
Amrote Abdella, Regional Director, Microsoft 4Afrika, advocated the wider adoption of science and technology to boost access to farming and market data.
According to her, “Lack of access to data impedes growth in the agro sector. Farmers and policymakers need constant access to information that highlights what is being produced on the farmlands and what the market demands are to understand development along the value chain and proffer solutions where necessary.”
Small Business or Big Business: Straightforward Ways to Improve Profitability
By Timi Olubiyi, PhD
As businesses grow, the chase is usually for profit maximization, they introduce new products or services, create new marketing plans, invest in human capital and technology, all for expansion, better returns, and to gain a competitive edge.
However, with all these efforts to maximize profits, the mechanism to survey and gauge customer feedback is most times missing. This is where customer experience comes in and it falls within the non-financial business performance indicator.
Customer experience is so important and yet business operators rarely pay attention to it, this is why I am giving my opinion on it for awakening. To me, understanding customer experience is as important as major efforts businesses consider to maximize profits.
Firstly, what do we mean by a non-financial business performance indicator? These are measures that cannot be expressed in monetary units, which are related to product or service quality, customer relationships, operations, and so on.
A good example is customer experience which a large body of knowledge sees as a significant determinant of business profitability and income.
Fundamentally, customer experience involves every aspect of business offering or operations— from the quality of customer care to patronage pattern, satisfaction, advertisement, the shopping environment, sales, ease to use or get products or services, and so on.
That said, one of the most significant elements in helping a business get to know its customers and to have a fair idea of patronage and customer experience is data. Invariably customer data can easily be used to gain different insights and in particular help, businesses to align with customer goals.
As important as customer experience measure is businesses hardly gather and process its data to improve business performance. Without doubts, if data on customer experience is well utilized it can improve the different aspects of business operations from sales performance to customer growth and even profitability.
From context observation poor customer data management practices are not just a small business issue, it involves large firms as well in Nigeria and indeed Africa.
Businesses usually guess customers’ needs without asking and analyzing what their interests are, the crucial impact of customer data on businesses is rarely considered. The place of measuring customer experience with data is generally missing in the most developing business environment and huge challenges exist majorly in Africa.
In recent times we have seen businesses introduce new products and services, even have price changes without reaching out to customers to determine their preferences or what types of changes they would like to see, the level of product or service expectations, and if they would be willing to pay more for them.
In a market or environment where substitute demands are readily available, businesses must endeavour to do more and consider evaluating customer experience from time to time
In fact, studies have shown that there is a wide gap between the percentages of businesses that make use of customer experience data and those that do not.
Businesses incur billions of money each year on unnecessary costs and even make losses due to the inability to easily access the right information from customers to manage customer expectations, experiences which in turn can improve decision making, profitability, and performance.
Additional findings show that businesses rarely gather and evaluate customer data to improve business operations. This is where customer analytics comes into the picture, just like the financial metrics, customer experience can serve as a leading indicator to gauge business performance and data from it can provide valuable insights as to its business impact on stakeholders, customers, and society.
Customer experience begins the moment customers visit a business website or physical location, and ends when they choose to no longer use the services of the business. Meanwhile, it is important to stress that a good customer experience leads to repeat purchases, patronage, brand loyalty, and positive word of mouth.
As a reminder, in any form of business, the customer is king, consequently, data from customers can be used to get insights and understand the performance of businesses and also make future trend predictions.
Customer analytics, also called customer data analysis, is the process of collecting and analyzing customer data to gain insights into customer behaviour. This can serve as a key indicator for understanding customer preferences, patronage patterns, customer profiles and it can allow businesses to understand customers better and make smart and well-informed business decisions. Simply put is helps to learn customer engagements and shopping experience, therefore businesses should strive to embrace it.
Customer valuable shopping behaviour insights, such as buying pattern, demand pattern, shopping trend, spending pattern, request data, time of shopping, time gaps between visits, repurchase pattern, preferences, peak shopping hours, and so on can be analyzed.
For business operators, particularly young entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, it is not sufficient to post an update on social media or WhatsApp status about your services or products, data gathering and simple analysis of feedbacks can help grow the small business.
For large firms, it can help make key business decisions, increase customer retention, predict customer behaviours, understand choices of customers per time, their product choices, and loyal customer tracking.
In fact, smarter decisions can be made by any form of business either large or small by adopting a data-driven approach to operations and customer experience. So, it is important to have a system that gathers data on customers to improve business performance.
So, to succeed in an unpredictable environment like ours, businesses must seek opportunities to understand customer experiences and get feedback from time to time for a smooth competitive advantage. More so, businesses need to have a process to continually analyze trends concerning actions, reactions, and transactions in their businesses for ease of forecasting and predictions.
A few leading companies and as big as Google and Facebook Inc, are with billions of users, yet they adopt customer analytics for improved performance, so why will a business with a manageable size of customers not join the trend to keep customers and avoid them switching to competitors.
In conclusion, business software and customer data analysis tools with trend analysis are one major helpful way to analyze customer experience and behaviour over a defined period and can generate valuable insights. This can be gathered through multiple interaction channels such as website visits, social media engagements (comments, likes, and shares), visit patterns (buying, spending, and needs), and payment history.
A better customer analytic is good for businesses in both the short term and long term because it will improve customer experience and give valuable predictive insights, which can lead to more sales, more loyalty, and in the end a healthy and profitable business. Good luck!
How may you obtain advice or further information on the article?
Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship & Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria. He is a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: email@example.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments
Digital Payments and the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement
Humans are built to trade. Across regions, trade has connected people and communities. It unlocks human productivity. It is the precursor of commerce and the harbinger of development. Payments drive trade.
In today’s information society, digital payment is an indispensable enabler of trade. This is precisely why experts have more or less hinged the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement on the success of digital payments.
“We need to put as much effort as we are putting into getting the operational blocks of the agreement and secretariat going into getting the African payments regulatory landscape similarly integrated. Payments across the continent could probably be made seamless today. The technology is there,” says Dr Augustina Odame of the Ghana Chamber of Technology.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which formally commenced operation in January 2021, has been in the works since 2018. AfCFTA was created essentially to boost trade within the African continent and among member states through the provision of comprehensive and mutually beneficial trading opportunities for both exporters and importers. The agreement covers everything from trading goods and services to investments and intellectual property rights. It equally includes competition policy between and within African countries, guidelines and framework to drive trade across the African continent.
Experts of various shades in analysing the emergence of AfCFTA see the promise of a truly connected single pan-African market. With a population tipping just over a billion people, Africa is ripe for trade.
Cross border trade holds incredible potential. It can also be opportunities for the continent; an opportunity to build new and enduring infrastructure, boost e-commerce and fast-track digital payment. Existing players in this space would provide the requisite leadership to drive digital payments across Africa thereby boosting trade. Interswitch, for instance, is providing leadership here.
Interswitch is not just creating platforms and deploying digital technologies, more importantly, it is enabling others to ride on its wings and provide innovative solutions. It is actively involved in creating solutions that enable individuals and communities to prosper across Africa. For Interswitch, Africa is the continent where digital payments should be a seamless part of everyday life. “Over the last few years, we have invested extensively in building and continuously developing a variety of payment channels which facilitate a real-time transaction through any means desirable by all parties within the payment process. Our vision at Interswitch is an Africa where payment becomes a seamless part of our everyday life,” says Interswitch’s founder and Group Chief Executive Officer, Mitchell Elegbe,
Security is a huge concern with digital payments. The rise in cybercrime is escalating apprehensions. Interswitch has shown that it adheres to best-in-class security solutions that align with global standards. According to the company, its solutions offer two-factor authentication; it is NDPR compliant with guaranteed transaction security and a secure cloud option.
Today, almost any bill payment is possible on Interswitch’s digital payment platform, Quickteller. It offers a digital banquet, in every sense of the word. Beyond payments, Quickteller users enjoy an easy connection to the activities that power their modern lifestyles, such as flights, events, and global shopping.
The company’s widely accepted card scheme connects everyday people to easy payment options that are accessible within and beyond the continent. The Interswitch Verve card is now issued and or accepted in several countries across the continent. The Verve global card also ensures that Africans making payments beyond the continent have access to over 185 countries globally.
From massive industries to small businesses, Interswitch’s payment solutions are suitable for every business size or type. The company now provides much of the rails for Nigeria’s online banking system that serves Africa’s largest economy and population of about 200 million people.
Africa’s leading corporate organisations, small businesses and individuals depend on Interswitch to power their payments. Increasingly, Interswitch leverages partnerships to drive borderless trade across the continent, collaborating with countries’ switching systems to ensure seamless payment on the continent, across multiple platforms.
The firm’s creation and sustenance of a payment ecosystem is exactly the sort of initiative that would drive the free trade agreement.
The continent must yet deal with the perennial issues of ICT infrastructure deficit, the growing digital divide, regulatory inadequacy and gaps in the policy framework. For trade to thrive across borders, initiatives such as AfCFTA are invaluable. AfCFTA is not an end in itself. It would help to flip the switch to turn things around. But it is only a start. It would need plenty of support to remain sustainable.
The often flaunted enabling environment, which actually is a euphemism for governments to step up and play their role of driving the establishment of essential facilities, including road connections, relevant policy frameworks and provision of necessary guarantees, is needed here. In relation to payments, enabling environment would include government policies that promote and encourage investment in relevant digital infrastructure. There must be deliberate actions for results to manifest.
In addressing the digital divide, the priority should be on the widespread provision of affordable high-speed broadband internet. The availability of broadband should be treated as a human right. Internet connection is needed to close the digital divide, improve access to digital services and enable electronic payments.
Experts insist that AfCFTA will drive e-commerce and digital payments across Africa. But it is equally true that e-commerce and digital payments would propel AfCFTA, ensuring its success. It is a win-win situation.
AfCFTA has massive potential. Technology would prove a major driver to enhance opportunities for cross border trade under the agreement. The availability of interoperable platforms would no doubt help to drive ease of doing business, improve effective electronic tracking systems and simplify the custom and exercise function.
The governments in the 54 countries across the continent must continue to stand behind the agreement and demonstrate good faith for AfCFTA to accomplish its set goals.
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