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Digital Dividends: Enabling e-Governance, e-Government, and e-Identification in Nigeria

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Digital Dividends Timi Olubiyi

By Timi Olubiyi, PhD

The World Bank explained that electronic governance is simply known as e-governance and also referred to as e-gov, digital governance, or online governance is the use of information technologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the internet, software applications, cloud infrastructure, and mobile computing) by the government to transform relations and communication with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government agencies (local, state and federal ministries).

The primary focus of e-governance is to ensure that the citizens have stress-free access to services and information. E-governance is a function and e-government is a system though most time used interchangeably.

Without doubts, Nigeria has the fastest growing information and communication technology market in Africa particularly financial technology (FinTech), despite this, the country is still ranked low in the provision of e-governance services to its citizens.

The penetration of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has changed the way humans interact within society and is even central public sector operations and administration in many countries.

Therefore, it is only imperative for Nigeria to adopt digital innovation and fall in line and also get involved adequately, concerning activities relevant to the government to government, companies, organisations, and citizens through e-governance.

Many countries and more and more government agencies around the world are turning to electronic methods to deliver services and communicate with citizens, Nigeria should not be an exception. With a high population and a forecast of 400million by the year 2050 according to reliable data from Worldometer, it is apparent that digital application in national planning is key and inevitable for the country.

More so, infrastructures are likely to be overstretched without a reliable data-driven decision-making system, and adequate scientific projections.

Consequently, e-governance and the use of ICT in government operations is necessary, to achieve an increase in the outreach of government services to the populace.

No doubt, e-governance is drawing significant attention especially in government administration, businesses, and other service organisations.

More so, governments worldwide continue to adopt ICT just as the expansion of e-business and e-commerce technologies in the private sector are growing as the new normal, thanks to the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID19) and the rapid rise in the usage of the internet and digitization.

Remarkably, governments all over the world are initiating steps to involve technology in all governmental processes, which is a seamless service option and a way to achieve a meaningful data-driven decision-making system. In my opinion, citizens’ data is a developmental infrastructure and tangible asset that government, should make effort to safeguard and harmonize. It can provide critical insights into the trend of citizens’ actions, practices, behaviours, and social impacts.

Therefore, if e-governance is fully implemented it can help in the areas of security, defence, economic monitoring, and social and national planning as it relates to demographics, electioneering, and even tax administration.

It is important to stress that no meaningful government can improve the lives and livelihood of its citizenries without reliable citizens’ data and a national database portal.

For instance, the government cannot adequately provide social infrastructures without adequately knowing how many people in the country, or provide school infrastructure without children’s data need or know the numbers of cars/users or number of unemployed youths or even the unbanked and illiteracy levels in the country.

The events in the country in recent times such as the implementation of COVID-19 palliatives, social interventions, and the linkage of National Identification Number (NIN) to citizens’ mobile phone numbers have been chaotic, stressful, and even risky amid the COVID-19 pandemic all to know reliable citizens database.

For the NIN registration, it will be a herculean task to meet the set deadline because it took only 42 million out of the 200 million population 10 years to be captured into the country’s National Identity Database, according to the Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Aliyu Aziz.

Then, how realistic is it, to have over 150 million population registered within a time frame of two months deadline?

The DG also asserts that his commission was only able to successfully harmonise 14 million Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) with NIN nationwide within this period.

Sincerely, the required scientific method to adopt before any data harmonisation can be meaningful and reliable is to conduct a national survey and the way to go is to have a CENSUS.

The issue of data management and national identity starts with having a fair idea of what the population is and a reliable demographic that can be relied upon.

Currently, Nigeria has a high number of unbanked citizens without BVN, voters’ cards, driver’s license or international passport. Simply put, a large number of Nigerians are without any of these mentioned forms of identification and this is a huge risk to national development and planning.

Therefore, it is a clear and indisputable fact that to be able to govern with any degree of meaningful impact, the government needs to be able to know and be able to identify not only its citizens but all other people living within its borders.

It appears national identification number registration alone cannot adequately achieve this without formally having a national census and residents survey. It is expedient for the government to consider e-governance policy particularly the e-citizen portal, which will allow citizens and businesses to access all government services in the country.

Thus, it is beyond doubt that that implementation of national database portal is imperative and crucial for national development.

More so, e-governance can smoothen the working procedure of government and also reduce crime and insecurity in the country, due to the availability of intelligence and information for government to use from time to time. If well managed, it will be extremely useful in administrative, legislative and judicial agencies (including both central and local governments).

If e-governance is implemented, it will help with having the right government regulations in place and in developmental policies to fix or alleviate, social issues such as insecurity, misappropriations, inequality between wealthy and poor, social intervention improvement, and determining the rate of unemployment in the country among others.

The COVID-19 vaccination exercise would be a lot easier if reliable citizens’ data and a national database portal are in place coupled with a suitable e-governance mechanism.

Significantly, lots of benefits may mount up from e-governance initiatives which include cost savings, improved communications and coordination, expanded citizen participation and increased government accountability, better accessibility of public services, more transparency, and greater convenience.

The transition from regular governance to e-governance has been considered as a veritable instrument in increasing the democratization process, paperless offices etc. The scope of e-governance can revolve around e-registrations, e-taxation, e-mobilization, e-education, e-service delivery, e-feedback, e-policing, e-voting, e-courts, e-licensing, and the analysis of public financial statements to mention a few. While I agree that the Treasury Single Account (TSA) is a good e-governance initiative, on a large-scale government can still do more and achieve more significantly. E-government activities can also offer around the clock information access from remote locations, reduced bureaucracy, and improve information sharing between agencies.

In business, e-governance can equally bring profit and sustainability to businesses particularly SMEs because e-governance can reduce the burden of starting a new business and also improve the ease of doing business. This is expected to have a direct positive impact on the profitability of the firms in the country and the attraction of reasonable foreign direct investments (FDIs).

In summary, the introduction of an e-governance system will provide a means of reducing costs, increasing effectiveness and efficiency in the public sector.

Thus, e-governance if implemented will decrease the perennial stifle administrative and regulatory burdens on citizens and businesses. It will also promote good governance and improve public services, which will encourage more public-private partnerships, and promote open government ecosystem. Invariably, with adequate implementation and transparency, citizen attitudes towards government will change because an increased sense of trust and public value will be achieved.

Although e-government engulfs huge funds in its initial stage with appropriate investments in hardware, software, and expertise, however, it gives birth to huge benefits as compared to those from bureaucratic one in the long run. 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: drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments.

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X-Raying Oragwu’s Suggestions on Nigeria’s Science and Technology Dilemma (II)

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FN Oragwu

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

There are not only political but several technological obstacles that we collectively as a nation will determine how to overcome.

The origin of those technological challenges was in fact highlighted in the first part of this piece (READ IT HERE) and as a natural reaction, it is possible for readers that have gone through the first part, looking at what was presented, form opinions about the possible reason(s)/explanations fuelling the science and technology challenges in Nigeria.

Essentially, while some may conclude that such a challenge is rooted in the so-called mutual agreement which existed between Britain and the colonised Nigeria.

The rest may, however, heap the blame on the colonial masters’ heinous choice of giving Nigerians educations type that laid asymmetrical emphasis on certificates without substance.

Whichever way, to think that the above is the only possible explanation why Nigeria’s science and technology sector continues to have its headstock in the mud will amount to a false impression.

In fact, the challenge confronting the sector, as subsequent paragraphs will reveal, goes beyond the above considerations to include the effect of failures and obnoxious policies designed by successive administrations in post-independent Nigeria.

Such groundwork/‘atrocities’, according to a keynote address titled The Challenges of Science and Technology in Nigeria’s Economy: The Way Forward, delivered by FN Oragwu, in March 2018, at Eagle Square, Abuja, during an event organised by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), that exacerbated the situation includes but not limited to; Nigeria’s failure to learn from the highly successful technological innovations experience that took place in the defunct state of Biafra,1967-1970: Nigeria’s inexplicable failure to appreciate the role of science and technology in safeguarding her political independence since 1960: Nigeria’s Faulty Economic Development Planning Strategy since 1962: and the failure to develop the pivotal electrical power supporting infrastructure for economic growth and development in Nigeria among others.

Adding context to the discourse, mutual agreement, as explained by the aforementioned address and used in the first part of this piece, is that arrangement or policy document that allowed Nigeria to export or supply Britain with primary agricultural commodities which Britain required for her once-famous textile industry and her leather and leather products industry, and to supply Britain with unprocessed natural minerals (solid, liquid and gaseous), which Nigeria has in abundance and which are of interest to Britain for the production and manufacture of technologies and industrial goods in the British economy.

Britain on her part is to “provide or export at costs to Nigeria, all the modern technologies and industrial goods that Nigeria needs to sustain her own economic growth and development.”

(Readers are equally encouraged to read The Dual Mandate of Europe in Tropical Africa, 4th Edition, London, 1929, by Lord Fredrick Lugard, first Nigeria’s Governor-General, 1914-1918).

With this highlighted, let’s focus on the aforementioned/outlined challenges.

The most serious and most surprising of such post-independent failures, going by the above address, is Nigeria’s failure to learn from the highly successful technological innovations experience that took place in the defunct State of Biafra, 1967-1970.

It was noted that the Nigerian scientists and engineers who found themselves in the defunct State of Biafra faced the daunting challenge of no domestic capacity for technology and industrial goods production which left the defunct State of Biafra scampering to import technologies and industrial goods but could not do so because of lack of foreign currency and blockade of a superior federal military government.

The address further said in part; it is this situation of no external support or assistance whatsoever during the civil war that forced the scientists/engineers/technicians to learn the hard way to produce technologies in Biafra.

The scientists and engineers had no choice but to adopt the strategy of technology innovation as earlier defined and through copy engineering design, copy components fabrication and copy technologies production and manufacturing creativity.

It is this strategy that enabled the scientists, engineers, technologists and technicians in Biafra, 1967-1970, to leapfrog within six months into domestic modern technology production/manufacturing capacity without any assistance and support whatsoever from the outside world.

The scientists/engineers, it was observed, were incredibly able to design and fabricate refineries for the production of petrol, diesel and kerosene, to produce effective weapon technologies, to construct airports among others which enabled the defunct State of Biafra to resist for 30 long months the awesome superior technology power of the federal military government.

This is the strategy that Japan used at the turn of the 20th Century to leapfrog into competition with awesome industrial Europe and North America. This is the same strategy that is now being used by countries such as China, India, South Korea and Brazil, to leapfrog into technology and industrial goods competition with top industrial Europe, North America and Japan.

It is, therefore, an inappropriate and hopeless task for Nigeria to continue to try to re-invent the wheel which Europe invented for us during the 18th and 19th Century industrial revolutions.

From the failure to learn from the highly successful technological innovations experience that took place in the defunct State of Biafra, flows something new and different.

It was emphasised that at Ghana’s Independence Day address, Dr Kwame Nkruma, the President of Ghana, reminded the Ghanaians that for economic reasons, Britain did not give Ghana the domestic endogenous capacity to produce and manufacture modern technologies and industrial goods in Ghana’s economy and that Ghana must acquire this capacity the hard way.

Without the domestic endogenous capacity for technologies and industrial goods production, Dr Nkruma stated in his Independence Day address, that “Ghana’s Independence would be meaningless”.

With this policy statement, Dr Kwame Nkruma directed that a Ghana Council for Scientific Research and Industrial Development be established to build and create the domestic endogenous capacity for the production of modern technologies and globally competitive industrial goods in Ghana’s economy for domestic use and for export. This is exactly what President Nehru of India was reported to have done at India’s Independence in 1947 and India is now one of the 20 top world industrial economies.

In contrast, it was underlined that no Nigerian political leader at whatever level, at our Independence Day address on October 1, 1960, said anything about the role of science and technology in safeguarding the independence of Nigeria and there was no mention of any relationship between science and technology and Nigeria’s economy.

All the energies of Nigeria’s political leaders since independence were seen to be consumed in fighting battles of ethnic nationality and religious differences. What Nigeria did in 1961 was to enter into military technology assistance agreement with the same departing British colonial power for protection, an action that led to protests by young Nigerians.

Nigeria’s poor economic development planning, which started from 1962 till date, is another contributing factor to the sector’s challenge identified by the keynote address.

They were based on foreign capital intensive technologies and on what funds were available to import these technologies and related industrial goods inputs and when the funds were not available as most times the case to import these foreign inputs, then the implementation of the plans failed.

There were no provisions in the plans for inputs from domestic produced technologies and industrial goods. Consequently, the domestic R&D/technology production agencies were left to do what they pleased and of course they simply revert to scientific research for knowledge acquisition which they know best and contributed nothing to the plans.

This is why Nigeria, with highly qualified and talented scientists and engineers equal to any in the world, cannot contribute any modern technologies or globally competitive industrial goods to Nigeria’s national economic development plans.

Away from the economic development plan, one more problem area necessary to the present discourse is the inability of successive administrations in the country to develop the pivotal electrical power supporting infrastructure for economic growth and development in Nigeria or learn from a country like the Republic of South Africa with a population of about 50 million as at 2011 but was generating 45,000 MW of electricity and is now the only member from Africa in the top 20 leading world economies.

Solutions proffered to this teaming challenge are the objective of the 3rd/final part.

To be continued.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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Christianity, Economic Potential, Neanderthals & Billionaire’s Judgement

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solar flares

By Nneka Okumazie

It is almost totally impossible to get a near-exact potential of an unknown, or uncertainty long before.

Lots of things come to succeed – or get mainstreamed after so many years, that in the beginning may not have been seen by any or most individuals.

Things that seem more predictable are those mostly tested, so it is possible to expect.

Life is a lot uncertainty, though many laws and theories are strongly established.

But life is not the only component of existence.

Death too is.

There is something that those who had lived have left – and there’s a result of life also in death.

From ancient times, lots of peoples and cultures have believed in the afterlife, but most were the wrong ideas.

Maybe they found a clue from their consultations of external channels.

Life, though parts of it are explainable by science, was not created by science, or started by the chance that science explains.

Light, like life, has many spectrums.

Some visible to human eyes, some not, some got measured by instruments, some would be corrected or emerge in the coming years – if better instruments or situations are seen.

There’s life waiting for all after death – in the scriptures, like Heaven or Hell.

That judgement cannot miss.

People sometimes ask why people get away with huge cruelty, that why not something strike them?

There’s the possibility that an individual can be continuously overgenerous, beyond the normal level of generosity. If the individual withdraws the excess at any time, the recipient may decide to be angry, or be grateful about the past, but the giver retains the right.

Being alive is Jehovah’s generosity.

The patience, for repentance, is over generosity.

Once it’s up and goes, it’s over.

Jesus wants salvation for all to the extent of acceptance in this life.

There’s a lot of mercy available, but whoever gets carried away by the struggles or pleasures of this world – would lose the next.

Jesus who came to this world refused survival which most people want and refused the position of power, which is a driver in this world.

The potential for the acceptance is of Jesus is beyond the spectrum of this world.

Everyone lives in their own beliefs or bubble.

Some want to see first, some want to measure, some want evidence, etc.

Some are focused on the evolution of the Neanderthals – without considering what evil they’d have had.

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.

[Galatians 3:22, But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.]

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X-Raying Oragwu’s Suggestions on Nigeria’s Science and Technology Dilemma

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map of nigeria

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

As a response to a recent intervention entitled Historical Perspectives on Nigeria’s Tertiary Education which among other things chronicled how Nigeria’s tertiary education originally got into trouble and with solutions on ways out of the debacle, I got several reactions/emails from esteemed readers.

Indeed, all contributions were well appreciated, but two qualified as outstanding.

The first queried; why can’t we as people forget the past and face the present/future? Why are you always in the habit of making reference to history?

In my response, I started by quoting EH Carr’s observation that history is an unending dialogue between the present and the past that assists the anxious inquirer in improving the present and the future based on a clearer understanding of the mistakes and achievements of the past. I submitted that it is only a society that has lost belief in its capacity to progress in the future will quickly cease to concern itself with the progress (or retrogress) in the past.

While the above query added a sidelight to the conversation, the second, though a mixture of private and public concerns was not only thought-provoking but strategic as it opened a vista that stemmed from new intervention.

It was an email from Professor Felix N.C Oragwu, Former Head of R&D Planning Division/Coordinator of Technological Services of the Technological Aspects of the Industrial War Machine that operated in the defunct State of Biafra, 1967-1970, Director in Charge of Industrial Research and Technology Innovation in NSTDA, Federal Government Cabinet Office, Lagos, 1977-1979.

It reads; Hello,/Dear Jerome-Mario, Thank you and congratulations on your masterpiece on Historical Perspectives on Nigeria’s Tertiary Education now characterised by Certificate Acquisition without the relevant knowledge needed for its use/application in national development. This is well illustrated by the over 120 existing universities each with Faculties of Science, Engineering and Technology, and we cannot make a pin or produce/manufacture any technology/globally competitive industrial goods in our economy, both for domestic use and for export to the global market for foreign revenue. This is the consequence of our poverty, insecurity and criminality now ravaging Nigeria and nobody is asking questions. I hope Nigeria’s leadership, in particular those in politics and in government, will find time to read your wonderful writings and internalise their message. Congratulations again and my best wishes. Felix Oragwu, FSAN.

He did one more thing.

In his real zest to establish how Nigeria’s economy can move away from near-total dependence on imported technologies and imported industrial goods, to become a technology exporting nation, as the status of the economy of any nation is a function of the agricultural/mineral commodity endowment and the endogenous domestic capacity to produce modern technologies and industrial goods in the economy, he forwarded some materials to me out of which, his address titled: The Challenges of Science and Technology in Nigeria’s Economy: The Way Forward, delivered in March 2018 at Eagle Square, Abuja, the nation’s capital, during an event organised by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), has emerged the focal point of this intervention.

At this point, critics may ask; what is spectacular about a keynote address? Haven’t we seen in the past more superlatively written, and creatively delivered addresses?

Indeed, these questions are all deserving but there are, however, many reasons that characterise the address as a vital road map. Aside from the public good consideration, others include the fact that it laid out how technological activities could be used as a key instrument for realizing Nigeria’s proposed Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) points out how the nation has paid little attention to history, and lip service to science and technology, failed to learn from the highly successful technological innovations experience that took place in the defunct state of Biafra, 1967-1970: It more than anything else visibly spread out challenges posed by the inherited Lord Fredrick Lugard’s policy for S&T, Industrial/Economic Development in Nigeria.

Against this backdrop, as a demand by the intellectual property law which creates propriety rights over intangible assets, before further dissection of the address, this writer directs every credit to Oragwu as the greater paragraphs/plot of this writing is chiefly from the aforementioned keynote address.

However, with this alighted, it needs to be underlined also that sharing this priced information is predicated on informing those in the position of authority to such an existing road map which is part of my obligation as a citizen.

Beginning with the historical perspective of what set the groundwork for the present predicament science and technology suffers in the country, the keynote address pointed out how Lord Fredrick Lugard, first Nigeria’s Governor-General, 1914-1918, in his book titled The Dual Mandate of Europe in Tropical Africa, 4th Edition, London, 1929, enunciated the S&T policy for economic development in Nigeria on what he called a mutual agreement said to be existing between Britain and the colonised Nigeria.

In this so-called “agreement”, Nigeria is to export or supply Britain with primary agricultural commodities such as cocoa, palm oil/palm kernel, rubber, cotton, livestock hides and skins which Britain required for her once-famous textile industry and her leather and leather products industry, and to supply Britain with unprocessed natural minerals (solid, liquid and gaseous), which Nigeria has in abundance and which are of interest to Britain for the production and manufacture of technologies and industrial goods in the British economy.

Britain on her part is to “provide or export at costs to Nigeria, all the modern technologies and industrial goods that Nigeria needs to sustain her own economic growth and development”. Lord Lugard further stated in his book that that was the prime objective of the British colonization of Nigeria.

‘With this dual policy, a balance of trade between Nigeria and Britain was established. This policy means in effect that Nigeria should not develop any domestic capacity to produce and manufacture modern technologies and globally competitive industrial goods in Nigeria’s economy during the British colonial rule as that could undermine or compromise the mutual agreement.

This is when the rain of underdevelopment in science and technology began to beat Nigeria, apologies to Chinua Achebe, Nigeria’s internationally acknowledged novelist of Things Fall Apart.

This Lugard’s policy, he added, is recently alluded to in an article discussing Infrastructure and Africa’s Development and Prosperity: The Imperative of Public-Private Partnership (PPP), held in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 15-16, 2017, by one Engr. Chidi K. C. Ijuwa, of the Presidency, Abuja, Nigeria, made the following interesting observations, namely, (a) “the price of cocoa is declining in the world market but never the price of chocolates, (b) “the price of cotton may fall but never the price of clothes and garments, and (c) “the coffee farmers may face declining prices in the world market, but the coffee grinders and Starbucks will smile all the way to the banks”.

To make assurance doubly sure that the dual mandate was fully implemented, Britain, he noted, established only one University College, at Ibadan in 1948, coupled it with the Senate of the University of London. The University College was not allowed to offer courses in Engineering, Technology and professional courses but allowed full complement of courses in Latin and Greek (Classics), English History, Zoology, Botany, Geography, Organic Chemistry (initially no Physical Chemistry), Classical Physics, Agricultural Commodity Sciences, Mathematics (of 19th Century, G. Hardy of Cambridge University School of Mathematics who swore never to be alive to see his Mathematics applied), and Divinity respectively from 1948-1960.

Britain also made sure that during the British colonial rule, there were no Polytechnics, no Colleges of Technology and no Technical Colleges to train and develop skilled technical and professional manpower for technology and industrial goods production in Nigeria’s economy as that may breach the dual mandate.

There were also no Research and Development (R&D) institutions for technology production and industrial goods manufacture in Nigeria’s colonial economy. Has Nigeria’s leadership elite ever asked questions on these developments since 1960?

However, primary Agricultural Scientific Research Institutions, the address submitted were established for British West Africa including Nigeria such as West Africa Cocoa Research Institute with headquarters in Accra, Ghana, West Africa Oil Palm Research Institute with headquarters in Benin Nigeria, West Africa Trypanosomiasis Research Institute to address tsetse fly menace against cattle livestock, the source of raw hides and skins for leather and leather products industries in Britain,

Earlier in 1899, Britain established an Agricultural Experimental Scientific Research Station at Moor Station in Ibadan to experiment on primary cotton production in Southern Nigeria. Kano in Northern Nigeria produced abundant primary cotton but there were no roads and no railways then for use in transporting the raw cotton produce to Lagos seaport for onward shipment to Britain and Europe.

To be continued.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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Resilience of Labour Markets During COVID-19

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Labour Markets

By Gregory Kronsten

It is said by some analysts that COVID-19 is responsible for irreversible changes in our economies, including patterns of employment.

It was, therefore, a revelation to read the latest national income dynamics study-coronavirus rapid mobile survey (NIDS-CRAM) from South Africa.

Based upon a sample of 10,000 individuals, wave 3 (the most recent published data) shows that active employment in the country in October was just 0.15 per cent lower than the level in pre-COVID February.

The recovery has been strong. In April, when the domestic lockdown was at its height, employment was 40 per cent lower than in February and in June, when most restrictions had been eased, it was still 20 per cent down.

Additionally, the data suggests that the recovery has been in all forms of employment, and not just part-time posts created by employers nervous about future economic prospects.

The three academic authors of the section of the surveys covering the labour market, two based in the US and one in the UK, noted similar trends in other emerging markets (EMs): from the low point in April, the recovery was well underway by June in Brazil and Mexico and by August in India and Ghana.

Closer to home, we refer to COVID-19 impact monitoring, a series of publications by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in partnership with the World Bank.

The narrative is similar to the sixth and latest instalment of this smaller survey, which covers 1,950 households: 87 per cent of respondents were employed in October, compared with 86 per cent at the pre-COVID base (mid-March).

Reflecting the structure of the economy, households are divided between urban and rural. Employment was a little behind March for the former, a little ahead for the latter.

A clear trend is apparent across selected emerging markets. There is a familiar lag in the release of data from academic sources, research foundations and official statistical bodies. Job losses may have picked up again in South Africa due to the resurgence of COVID-19 and the reimposition of some restrictions in late 2020/early 2021. This does not detract from our broader argument that these economies display resilience in employment terms once controls are eased.

We are not looking for parallels with advanced economies because of a point we have often made in these columns: that they have fiscal and other resources on a scale of which emerging market governments can only dream.

You can close down the economy and pay your employed citizens not to work through a furlough scheme in an advanced economy. You can then reopen the economy and subsidize meals out for the family. In EMs your choices are far more limited.

A core tool of the South African government, for example, is its social relief of distress grant, which is received by 35 per cent of all households.

Three other conclusions from the three waves of NIDS-CRAM are worth highlighting.

First, the employment trends are consistent with monthly production data from Statistics South Africa, the local counterpart of the NBS. This is true of mining, manufacturing and retail but not, for obvious reasons, of tourism.

Second and tentatively, there has been an unusual increase in jobs in sales and services.

Thirdly and again cautiously, earnings may have risen slightly between February and October.

If we attempt to read across to Nigeria, we do not have the data for the first two conclusions while the fourth instalment of COVID-19 impact monitoring noted that two-thirds of households surveyed reported a fall in earnings.

Gregory Kronsten is the Head of Macroeconomic and Fixed Income Research at FBNQuest

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Post-UTME Crisis and UNILAG’s New Found Image

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UNILAG Post-UTME Crisis

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

If there is any occurrence in recent time that accurately supports the correctness of the time-honoured belief that ‘every adversity comes with an equal opportunity, it is the recent crisis that hit the University of Lagos occasioned by the inability of some candidates that wrote from their various locations, as introduced by the management during the just concluded University’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), conducted in the school from Monday, February 15 to Tuesday, February 23, 2021.

To help those that are unaware of what transpired in the past week, a while ago, the management of UNILAG came up with a cloud-based computer testing solution for the conduct of the 2020/2021 post UTME.

An initiative globally perceived as a versatile, easy to use tool for conducting online computer-based examinations and assessments that allow candidates to write the test from any location of their choice. This elicited happiness and viewed by many as not just innovative leadership but a total departure from the old other.

Trouble, however, started when mid-way into the exercise, an appreciable number of candidates’ encountered varying level/degree of challenges. Problem areas identified include but not limited to; the inability of candidates to log into the school portals, systems non-responsiveness, endless loading throughout the entire examination time, etc.

Expectedly, they (candidates) were particularly concerned about how such hitches will negatively affect their 2020/2021 admission opportunities to the school. This brought about heated debates among stakeholders, tempers and innumerable complaints from parents flowed freely.

Within this milieu, the university management, to the astonishment of candidates and their parents, during a press briefing, announced to the watching world that the school successfully captured about 90 per cent of the candidates and went ahead to give the school a pass mark.

Both parents and candidate wondered where and how the school got the statistics, figure and courage!

But then, the most amazing thing that signalled a new order happened after that announcement. The school management did something that is not only extraordinary, different and historic but characterized as alien to public institutions in Nigeria.

From the ashes of confusion and denials, the school quietly rescheduled and organized examinations for the teaming candidates that experienced the reported hitches.

It was indeed a turning point!

Save for the belief in some quarters that what the school management overtly denied, they covertly admitted, there is in the opinion of this piece, torrent of reasons to celebrate Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe’s led administration for this new order.

By this act, the University of Lagos has proved to be both responsible and responsive. And demonstrated an institution that is neither willing nor ready to allow any issue embarrass nor ridicule the enviable academic excellence attained in the past decades of its existence.

In reputation terms, there are more reasons to applaud the institution but one that easily comes to mind is that globally, a public institution is viewed as an establishment conducted with the approval, and from the funds of the public. And whenever such an institution ceases to have public support; it forfeits its right to exist.

But until now, what existed in this part of the world was a direct opposite.

Institutions maintained on permanent public funds in Nigeria, are reputed for, and often found to ignore public opinions, and are frequently responsible for acts contrary to it. They mastered how to ignore criticisms and advice from experts even the ones that are beneficial and the centres on how a society should develop. Even when they claim to listen, they do so without being attentive.

Now, let’s examine the end result of UNILAG’s prompt response to the public’s outcry on her image.

It has been reasonably argued that a leader/organization’s image is an amalgam of a variety of factors, and followers must at intervals evaluate these perceived factors in order to dictate if they are in positive or negative lights. Particularly, as the image is capable of saying much more about a leader than any of his long speeches and verbal declarations. Also very unique is that once established, the image becomes not just the leader’s picture but remains highly durable.

Indeed, by his empathetic behaviour in managing the post-UTME crisis, Professor Ogundipe has developed a spectacular identity for himself that is worthy of emulation. In the same vein, the institution’s responsible and responsive attitude, similar to complex but conventional business environments, has created a connection or ‘hyper ‘relationship between the school and students; Portrayed itself as a good corporate citizen while increasing its corporate visibility and reputation in the estimation of the right-thinking students/parents.

The media also need to be applauded in this whole scenario for reporting the development to the world.

As the fourth estate of the realm, they have again affirmed that they are ‘to watch and not to be watched over. They are to watch over crimes, injustices, malpractices, and every other act that is deemed unfair and unlawful. They have proved to the world that professionally, they are competent to carry out their duties…. They are not the kinds of dogs with ropes tied round about their necks. The fact that they are watchdogs means they know what to do, where they are going, and how to discharge their duties as when due’.

However, even as we celebrate this feat, there are in the opinion of this peace, more work to be done and more reforms to be made. To truly and thoroughly make the experience of the past weeks a dynamic and cohesive way of earning a higher height of excellence, there are however ingrained lessons to be learned from the exercise that we must not allow go with the political winds.

Most fundamental is that it takes a prolonged effort to administer an institution well and change the backward habits of the people. UNILAG and of course other institutions of higher learning in Nigeria must learn how to inculcate and reinforce positive internet-related exposures, social and cultural attitudes among their students while creating a mood in which students become keen to acquire skills and disciplines of developed nations.

Above all, as noted in the previous intervention, another urgent reason why the school authority and of course the Federal Ministry of Education must reassess this process is the threat that keeping brilliant children on the waiting list for university admission for too long could pose to the nation.

Idleness could make them take to the street. As we know, the streets are known for breeding all sorts of criminals and other social misfits who constitute the real threat such as armed robbers, thugs, drug abusers, drunkards, prostitutes and all other social ills that give a bad name to the society.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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Nano, Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Businesses in Lagos State, Way Forward

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Timi Olubiyi Businesses in Lagos

By Timi Olubiyi, PhD

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) are generally regarded as the engine of economic growth in any developing economies.

Similarly, a large concentration of SMEs, including micro and nano businesses, are easily noticeable in Lagos State, the economic hub of Nigeria.

The state enjoys a high presence of SMEs, micro and nano businesses, more than any state in Nigeria. Why is that? The simple metric to this is that Lagos State has a population size of about 15 million, according to the United Nations (UN) projections and it appears like a country within a country considering the strength of economic activity and populace.

In fact, without a doubt, Lagos State has a population estimate that is higher than some West African countries namely Guinea (13,132,795), Benin (12,123,200), Togo (8,278,724), and Sierra Leone (7,976,983).

Even the population of the state is higher than that of some developed countries such as Finland (5,540,720), Belgium (11,589,623), Sweden (10,099,265), Denmark (5,792,202), and Ireland (4,937,786).

Supportably, the population is even higher than the combined population of Liberia (5,057,681), Mauritania (4,649,658), Gambia (2,416,668), Guinea-Bissau (1,968,001) as of February 27, 2021.

However, the painful reality is that over 60% of the residents of Lagos State are poor and live in various high density and informal settlements scattered across the state.

These residents lack proper sanitation, power, and other basic services, and most of them heck a living from small businesses which includes nano and micro-businesses most importantly.

A visible reference usually includes the operators of kiosks, commercial tricycles, motorcycles and many other informal business operations in the state.

The estimated figure of micro-businesses in Lagos State is 3,224,324 and to add to this, over 11,663 SMEs operate in the state, according to a recent statement from the Lagos Ministry for Commerce, Industry, and Cooperatives.

In my opinion, this data is underreported and does not reflect the large informal economy that exists in the state particularly the nano businesses.

From reliable data, the informal economy employs about 5.5 million people in Lagos State if not more. So, a reliable database is necessary for adequate planning in the State.

The small business economic activities in Lagos State can contribute largely to the growth of the non-oil sector, employment generation, and the creation of sustainable entrepreneurship. These can largely be driven by businesses in the formal and informal sector in the state.

Arguably, small businesses represent over 90 per cent of private businesses in the state and contribute to more than 50 per cent of employment in the state. Yet, the state government has not duly recognised the significance of this sector in the economic development of the state.

For instance, the popular computer village in Ikeja, Ladipo spare part market in Oshodi and Balogun market in Lagos Island all consist of clusters of mostly micro-businesses with huge economic engagements but the government of Lagos state is yet to facilitate their formality and capacity building with the required policy and incentive considerations.

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the harsh economic climate currently with us have made many of these businesses struggle and some have shut down due to these challenges which include perennial issues; from infrastructure deficits (power, road, technology, and so on) to inconsistent government policies, security problems, multiple taxations, regulatory burdens, stiff competition from large companies, the entrepreneurial attitude of operators, huge financial and funding problems, lack of meaningful structure, longevity and succession plan among others.

SME operators and entrepreneurs strive with different strategies and tactics to absolve many of these challenges and shocks to make any meaningful balance with little or no external support.

However, the government needs to realise and recognise that small businesses are crucial to job creation, economic diversification, innovation, poverty reduction, wealth creation, and income redistribution in their policy-making activities. If this sector is well harnessed in Lagos State it can be a huge catalyst in transforming the State economically.

The vivid truth is that a well-functioning SME sector would add more value to the economic fortunes of the state, sustain livelihoods, reduce poverty by creating more job opportunities in the economy than any other sector.

Therefore, proper monitoring and evaluation of this sector are crucial for the economic development of Lagos State. When businesses survive, there will be a reduction in market failures and the more businesses are without survival threats the government can equally benefit from their growth and development. It can increase tax receipts and accelerate the growth of industrialisation in the state.

Therefore, the Lagos State government should focus more on policies and programs to widen the SMEs’ involvement in the formal sector particularly the micro and nano businesses.

The state government through the appropriate Ministry can implement policies that will enhance ease of doing business in the state to attract operators from the huge unregulated informal sector to the formal sector.

The informal sector in Nigeria refers to economic activities in all sectors of the economy that are operated outside the purview of government regulation. Therefore, policies to attract business formality should be considered and formulated, and also the capacity and sustainability of these SMEs, micro and nano businesses should be enhanced because if all these are set in place it will encourage the development of the formal sector of the SME sector in the state.

That said, key stakeholders such as the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (SMEDAN), Nigerian Association of Small & Medium Enterprises. (NASME), Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria (ASBON), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Association of Micro Entrepreneurs of Nigeria (AMEN), the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (MAN), the financial technology (FINTECH) associations, and groups in the Organised Private Sector (OPS) advocate for ways government can create innovative measures to improve business formality, enable secured environment, improve on rule of law, encourage public-private initiatives, invest in infrastructure, and consider policies as the needed.

Corruption has also remained a very serious problem that needs to be genuinely addressed because it can threaten any development policies and programs of the state.

The support of these teeming small, micro, and nano businesses is also imperative and strategies to sustain their business operations should be key in the decision-making process of the government of Lagos State.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) suggested that many of the Nigerian youth are unemployed, majority of them can be meaningfully absorbed into this sector through self-employment, startups, and financial technology (FINTECH) if the SME sector is made viable with an adequate enabling environment.

In conclusion, the Lagos State government should get more involved in the growth, development, and sustainability of SMEs within the state.

More so, the state government needs to ensure the development and patronage of locally produced goods and content while putting in place adequate infrastructures.

Besides corroboration with experts and consultants in the provision of external advice to government and these teeming small businesses on a range of topics such as strategy, having a business and organisational structure for business continuity, financial literacy, technology, and role of innovation to increase their output is equally significant.

Concisely, going forward policies and programs of the government in the State should be rooted in deep rule of law, accountability, creation of a database on small business and uphold strict fiscal discipline. 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 also a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments

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