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Concession is the way to go for National Arts Theatre

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National Arts Theatre

By Abdullahi Dambe

More facts seem to be emerging concerning the recent controversy over the National Arts Theatre, Lagos. My findings reveal that while it is true that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is championing a policy to support the creative industries via its Creative Industries Financing Scheme, and in furtherance of that, is working with the Bankers Committee to explore the development of creative hubs and zones in various parts of the country.

However, unbeknown to the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, there is an on-going transaction for the concession of the National Arts Theatre and its surrounding land mass which is being conducted by the presidency via the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Council (ICRC), which is at the point of closure and just awaiting the final nod from Federal Executive Council.

The World Bank facilitated the BPE transaction and even gave a grant to one of the consortia members which has a globally recognised expertise in the development of the creative industries.

The World Bank has also worked extensively with the ICRC to refine their transaction processes and even establish an online PPP portal to inspire confidence in local and foreign investors.  All these resources have been brought to bear in shaping the consortia’s bid and to set it up for success.

The lack of this kind of rigour and absence of the prerequisite technical expertise has been the bane of many well-intentioned public sector initiatives and explains the many moribund white elephant, dead-on-arrival projects that have become a blight on the nation’s landscape.

Interestingly, the Master Plan developed by the consortia behind this concession, has the creative and digital industries as the catalyst for the sustainability of what is bound to become the tourism gateway into West Africa. A major part of the land use for the project is the 55-acre Creative Industries Business Park which will be home to film and music studios with sound stages, and which is being developed in partnership with some of the most successful players in this sector globally.

The consortia have been working on their plans for quite some time and already have the buy-in and interest of power brokers and several of the leading names of these industries both internationally and locally.

One of the issues that have dogged the Nigerian government over the years seems to be the lack of clearly defined roles for government agencies, and a tendency for lines to be blurred.

The National Arts Theatre transaction has been a victim of this ambiguity in the respective roles of BPE and ICRC, which resulted in two parallel processes being conducted for the same transaction. This explains why the transaction has dragged on for this long and is not due to any fault of the concessionaries.

With kudos to the presidency for brokering a resolution of all parties, which saw the concessionaries signing an MOU to work together as Master Developers for the project, the terms of which have now been endorsed by both BPE and ICRC.

It’s my belief that the collective wealth of resources that both the BPE and ICRC have deployed to see this transaction through and the coalition of local and international partners the concessionaries have mobilised is unparalleled.

There is a tendency for those at the helm of government agencies to want to seize every opportunity as a platform to turn the klieg lights on themselves, and to promote themselves and their agendas at the expense of the common good and the interest of the government they claim to be serving.

The unintended result is to embarrass the government in the eyes of the international community and portray the country as disorganised, and with no regard for the rule of law and due process, drives away foreign direct investment and leads to a perception that countries like Ghana, Kenya and even little Rwanda are more organised, more investor-friendly and open for business.

How else can one explain an inspection of the National Arts Theatre by the Governor of CBN and Chairman of the Bankers Committee for which the Ministry of Culture was unaware and neither the Minister, the MDAs behind concession nor Chairman of the National Arts Theatre Board was there to host the delegation and show them around? This suggests they were “trespassing” and sends wrong signals.

As CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele said in a recent interview on ARISE TV – “Government has no business being in business. The policies of the CBN are focused on job creation and supporting economic growth. It is understandable given the scale of the problems confronting Nigeria, with sky rocketing youth unemployment, unsatisfactory loan-to-deposit ratios by the banks, smuggling and the unsatisfactory state of our infrastructure for the CBN governor to feel concerned and to feel the burden as he said in his interview that like President Buhari, he has been placed in the position of CBN Governor by God to serve his people and put in place policies designed to enhance the lives of his people.

There is, however, a danger when the CBN Governor moves beyond policy and begins to take on the role of the lender of first resort. The Anchor Borrowers Scheme for the agriculture sector has come under criticism by some of the very farmers it is designed to support who have found it hard to access. Earlier funds for the creative industries such as the Nollyfund were announced with the same kind of fanfare and at the end of the day, were given on terms that were almost impossible to access except for a small group of creative entrepreneurs.

The fuel subsidy, multiple exchange rates and the abuses these have been subject to,  should serve as a warning to the CBN that as well-intentioned as they maybe, the way to transform an economy  is not to make incursion into sectors, without sufficient understanding of how the sector works and that are primarily beyond your mandate.

But as Mr Emefiele himself has said, to play a supporting role to private sector initiatives, especially when, as is the case with the National Arts Theatre, the private sector, with the stewardship of the BPE, ICRC, the National Council of Privatisation and the Ministry of Culture, has succeeded in bringing on board a wide spectrum of private sector players and multilateral institutions,  who understand the benefits of a cohesive, comprehensive and complementary Master Plan which will ensure the sustainability and viability of this important project.

Rather than for government agencies to be working at cross purposes, the National Arts Theatre concession offers an important opportunity to deliver a successful PPP initiative where all the relevant arms of government will chip in their bit and work alongside the concessionaries who are the drivers of the project, to ensure the delivery of a world class project for the benefit of the country at large.

Abdullahi Dambe is an Art aficionado who writes from Lagos

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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5 Tips for Tackling Imposter Syndrome

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Aisha Pandor CEO SweepSouth 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

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Reminiscing on the Loss of a Friend, Dreams Deferred, and Bold New Beginnings

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Chris Ihidero loss of a friend

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.”

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Digital Agriculture as Panacea to Enhanced Food Production, Security

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Tolu Oyekan Inclusive Economic Recovery

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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