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Emmanuel Uduaghan’s Antidotes on Niger Delta Challenge



Emmanuel Uduaghan

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

In a piece entitled Banters in Lagos, Poverty and Disease in the Niger Delta, posted about four years ago, precisely in February 2018.

Aside from spreading out the needs, interests, aspirations and even their problems were critically reviewed against solution plans and implementation, it among other concerns posited the following comparative scrutiny/conclusions; namely, first, that while the executives of oil companies in Nigeria daily exchange banter/pleasantries in Lagos and Abuja, poverty, disease and illiteracy orchestrated by crude oil exploration and production activities walk the creeks, rivers and estuaries of the Niger Delta.

Secondly and very important, at the same time as the oil giants look into the future with high hopes, the people of the region where the crude oil is domiciled bemoan their fate in their sorrows and their hardship.

Thirdly and most fundamental, that whereas the oil chiefs who are predominantly resident in Lagos/Abuja, daily sing the songs of praise and claims the ‘wisdom of Solomon’, the real owners of the ‘black gold’ in the creeks and coastal areas of Niger Delta, not only study the ‘book of lamentation’ but manifests hopelessness and economic powerlessness as the majority of these organizations operating in their locations neither believe in the principle of ‘equal sorrow’ nor abide by the tenets of the corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The said piece, however, concluded that though faced with interminable socioeconomic and environmental challenges, one thing is sure. Niger Deltans are troubled but not despondent. A situation that makes it easy for them to be managed and contained if only the federal government could come up with a plan and political will to tackle the challenges currently faced by the people of the region.

After about four years of that piece, a thorough examination of a recent keynote speech presented by the immediate past Governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, on Thursday, October 21, 2021, at the Delta Online Publisher Forum (DOPF) annual lecture held at Banquet Hall, Orchids Hotel, Asaba, Delta State shows that each of them has something in common.

Speaking on the topic Niger Delta Economy; Building a New Face for the Region, the former Governor called on the region handlers to invest more in human capital development programmes/initiatives on prospective youths and women as a way of ensuring sustainable socio-economic development of the region, noting that this can be achieved via fostering of collaboration/inter/intra-regional trades among Niger Delta people as well as diversification of Niger Delta economy.

In his words, Niger Delta is well geographically positioned and endowed with human and natural resources. But we need investments in/for infrastructural development, peace and security.

Human capital, he explained, refers to the economic value of knowledge, experience and skills of a group of people in a state, local government or an entire region as the Niger Delta. There is a strong relationship between human capital and economic growth.

He argued that it is in the interest of each administrative state within the Niger Delta to purposely invest in skills and knowledge through education, competence training and health. Any financial investments made on human capital development do have a direct relationship with the socio-economic growth of the Niger region.

To buttress his claim, the former Delta State Governor added that the Delta State Micro-Credit Programme (DCMP) was a financial empowerment programme, under his administration, aimed at providing interest-free loans and mentorship to prospective and entrepreneurial youth including women in agro-processing, diverse business start-ups, fintech, agriculture and other creative activities. He told the gathering that the initiative produced 21,000 entrepreneurs and artisans in 730 clusters from 25 local governments of the state.

Now, this piece will spread its wings on the particulars adduced by Emmanuel Uduaghan as to why the region urgently needs to wear a new face.

On the urgent need to diversify the Niger Delta economy through the adoption of the mantra ‘Niger Delta Beyond Oil”, Uduaghan stated that 85 per cent of the population, informal enterprises are the primary sources of livelihood, but these are characterized by low productivity and wages.

“Nigeria ranks fourth among cocoa producers in the world, and the Niger Delta region produces 53% of the country’s output. It is an important crop-earning non-oil foreign exchange. Cross River, Ondo and Edo States are leading producers in the Niger Delta region, producing about 97 per cent of the region’s cocoa.

“The major processing for cocoa is in Western Nigeria, around Lagos, so major value addition takes place outside of the Niger Delta region,” he said.

On the way forward, the former governor advised that improving rural competitiveness in non-traditional agricultural products through value-added export could be one major source of economic diversification.

The region he said can readily produce rice, sugar, cocoa, roots and tubers, citrus fruits, plantains, rubber and rubber products

He said something else that has to do with imperatives for economic improvement.

Beginning with biodiversity, the region he said is home to the largest contiguous mangrove forest or wetlands in Africa and the third largest in the world with an extensive freshwater swamp forest and rich biological diversity. This factor makes the region key to agriculture/agro-processing with capacities in areas such as wholesale/retail commerce, manufacturing, aquaculture, transportation, construction and other creative activities.

Away from possession of biodiversity to its geographical and population advantages, Uduaghan observed that the region is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and blessed with a coastline extending from the mouth of Benin River to the Imo River Estuary and spans about 500km.

He added that over 62% of the region’s population are 30 years or younger and are growing youths. With an estimated population of 31 million, the region accounts for approximately 24% of the total population of Nigeria.

From the above realities, particularly the availability of coastline, it is obvious that the Niger Delta seaports, if developed, are very key infrastructure that will support and facilitate the manufacturing process and business development.

As seaports are globally acknowledged as development agents and growth drivers, it goes without saying that making the existing seaports in the region function in their full operating capacities will only reverse their fortunes as sea-land interface structure but will once again revive the once active but now dying market outpost which the port towns of Warri, Sapele, Burutu, Port Harcourt, Onne and Calabar.

Having said all these, Uduaghan concluded that there is no doubt that for us to build a new face for the Niger Delta region, there has to be an emphasis on activities that will lead to the economic development of the region, and this will require all hands on deck and all brains devoid of insanity coming into.

To catalyse the process, he, therefore, called on the leaders of the region to urgently work in collaboration with the federal government to ensure that there are good road networks connecting states and communities.

I pray that those in the position of authority will listen.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA). He writes from Lagos. He can be reached via or 08032725374.


How Standard of Living in Africa is Making Start-Ups Innovate Around Disposable Income



disposable income

By Otori Emmanuel

An organisation in its early phase of existence is referred to as a start-up. Entrepreneurs that desire to create a product or service think there is a market for launching start-ups. Because start-ups often have high startup costs and low revenue, founders frequently look for money from a variety of internal and external sources, including personal savings, loans from family and friends, business venture capitalists, and crowdsourcing. There are start-ups in different industries like Information Technology, agriculture, communication, health and other sectors.

Start-ups and Innovation

Establishing a start-up takes careful planning, including consideration of factors like business location, cost of goods or services, product packaging, and supply efficiency. Start-ups frequently run the risk of failing because of unfavourable environmental and industry conditions. Embracing new opportunities and focusing on innovation, among other methods, are accelerators for a business’ survival and growth.

Although, it is true that established businesses also frequently collapse. Technology has advanced throughout time, and many start-ups are combining the cutting-edge idea of tech into their respective fields.

For example, tech is now being used to improve education as in edtech, finance as in fintech, and more use cases are being introduced to daily activities. Statistics show that start-ups are expanding most quickly globally in the technology sector. Over the past few decades, Africa has seen an exceptional number of start-up generations.

The State of Start-ups in Africa

The phrase “start-up” became more common in the 1990s as the number of enterprises centred on technology and the internet rapidly increased.

According to an analysis, African start-up marketplaces hit historic heights in 2021 at over $4 billion, representing a nearly 20x rise since 2015. Start-ups have been increasingly popular in Africa due to various factors, including drawing on previous success stories from the west, attempting to address grassroots challenges, adapting global content to local quirks, and adhering to supportive policies. In terms of current economic events and cultural developments, numerous different facts are at play here.

In terms of living standards, the rate of extreme poverty in rural areas in Africa was close to 50%, which was far higher than the rate in urban areas, which was about 11%. According to the conference board’s Global Economic Outlook, the pace of global GDP growth will reach a recessionary level in 2023 after starting to decline from 3.1% in 2018 to 2.7% in 2022.

Africa has clearly also been impacted by the global economic downturn, which has resulted in a sharp decline in living standards, lower-quality goods, higher costs, and inflation. When prices increase generally, yet fewer goods are available for the same amount of money in an economy, this is called inflation.

When there is inflation, sources and forms of income are affected, from passive income to investment income to disposable income. Our focus here is the disposable income which is the money left to take home after tax and other deductions. Most households depend on disposable income for survival, and the trending inflation gradually steals from this income of an individual in the form of increased grocery prices and the cost of feeding. This has led to the term “sachetization”.

Startup business owners use this approach to satisfy declining demand and maintain operations. Sachetization is the idea of distributing products, which are typically sold in greater amounts, in smaller quantities using sachets in an effort to increase sales. Sachetization helps consumers purchase what they can afford. When only a small amount is required, consumers do not need to buy big quantities of the commodity. So far, this has appeared to be sustainable, with the exception of its drawbacks, where it has been observed that sachet items are of low quality, contain fewer items than is indicated, and even defraud the consumer into purchasing smaller packages when, in reality, a larger package would have been more appropriate.

Reduced disposable income has also affected start-ups in maintaining production costs, purchasing raw materials, increased interest rates on loans, market instability and declined demand.

Therefore, to get through the process of inflation, individuals, households, and businesses seek sustainable measures to meet their needs. A few include:

  • Cost efficient purchases
  • Budgeting
  • Opportunity cost methods
  • Valuable investments etc.
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Upskilling Young People to be Entrepreneurial in Digital Age is Critical



Didi Onwu entrepreneurial digital age

Africa’s young people are undoubtedly one of the continent’s greatest resources. As other regions battle with ageing populations and declining birth rates, Sub-Saharan Africa can lay claim to a median age of 19.7 with around 70% of the population under the age of 30. Those young people are increasingly well-educated and connected. 

But all that potential means nothing if they aren’t getting the opportunities needed to fulfil it. And in many countries, it’s clear that they aren’t. In South Africa, the continent’s most advanced economy, the unemployment rate sits at  63.9% for those aged 15-24 and 42.1% for those aged 25-34 years. In Nigeria, meanwhile, the rate among people aged 15-34 is around 42.5%. And in Kenya, the lobby group, The Youth Congress, claims that seven out of every 10 unemployed people are aged 35 and under. 

While there are a number of interventions that could, and should, be made to help reverse those figures, perhaps the most important is to ensure that young people have the skills they need to be entrepreneurial. Indeed, research has shown that innovators can create significant wealth and have considerable developmental influences on society.  

It’s even more critical at a time when technology is accelerating so fast that jobs can quickly become redundant.    

“Fostering entrepreneurship among young people not only enables them to create their own opportunities and employment for other young people,” says Didi Onwu, Managing Editor at The Anzisha Prize, an organisation born out of a partnership between African Leadership Academy and Mastercard Foundation that seeks to increase the number of job generative entrepreneurs fundamentally and significantly in Africa. “It can also help them recognise and pursue employment opportunities that they might not have been able to otherwise.” 

Yes, entrepreneurship  really is a skill 

Before digging into exactly what kind of skills can help foster entrepreneurship among a whole continent’s worth of young people, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a pervasive myth that needs to be busted. Over the years, glowing profiles of entrepreneurs (particularly in the tech space) have convinced many that entrepreneurs are born rather than made. 

But, as Onwu points out, that’s simply not true. 

“The idea of the brilliant innovator turned billionaire makes for a good story,” she says. “But dig a bit further and you’ll see that most successful entrepreneurs were given the tools they needed to succeed from a very young age.”

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, for example, was given extensive time with his high school’s computer at a time when having one was still a rarity. His mother also sat on the board of a non-profit with then IBM chairman John Opel, and helped the then fledgling company score a contract with the computing giant which ultimately proved crucial to its future success.   

“While we can’t give every prospective young African entrepreneur a family connection, we can help them develop critical entrepreneurial skills that will serve them well in the future,” says Onwu. 

The right skills matter most  

While there are obviously a number of hard skills, such as those that concern technological proficiency, which are important to being an entrepreneur, the really valuable ones are a little more intangible. And equipping young people with those skills requires more than a straightforward curriculum. 

Take network building, for example. While you could teach the basics in a course, establishing real networks takes time and consistent effort. The same is true for pitching to investors for funding. Other skills, such as mastering the fear of failure, can only be learned through practice. 

“It’s something that we thought hard about when we redesigned the fellowship programme from the ground up a few years ago,” says Onwu. “We wanted to ensure that our fellows were holistically building a broad range of entrepreneurial skills throughout their fellowships and beyond.”

Fellows are, for example, given access to communities of fellow entrepreneurs, introduced to a wide network of stakeholders and business experts, and provided with the opportunity to shadow successful entrepreneurs in their sector. It’s an approach which makes a great deal of sense when you consider that research has shown that exposure to innovation has a significant positive impact not just on the kind of innovation that young people produce, but also on their overall ability to be innovators.    

Upskilling, now and forever

It should be absolutely clear that Africa needs its young people to be equipped with entrepreneurial skills if they are to meet their full potential in an age of accelerated technology. And, as Onwu points out, efforts to ensure that this is the case need to be made at every level of society. 

“While we’re incredibly proud of the work we do at the Anzisha Prize, along with our partners, no single organisation can provide all of Africa’s young people with the skills they need to thrive as entrepreneurs,” she says. “It needs buy-in from governments, NGOs, the private sector, and a variety of other stakeholders.”

Moreover, these efforts cannot simply be short-term and instead need to be sustained over a prolonged period.

“The factors that make upskilling Africa’s young people to be entrepreneurial so important now aren’t going away anytime soon,” she concludes. “It’s therefore critical that all efforts are made to ensure that any initiatives aimed at building entrepreneurship are sustainable and capable of adapting to a constantly shifting business and technology environment.”

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Why Collaboration Tools are Critical for Organisations in the Age of the Hybrid Workplace



hybrid workplace

By Hyther Nizam

The workplace today is vastly different than it was a few years ago. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by businesses, both for their customers and employees.

Today, the majority of businesses operate on a hybrid model, and as a result, internal collaboration—both digital and in-person, has become critical for business success.

When it comes to creating an environment that supports online and offline employee collaboration, many businesses continue to fall short and work in restricted silos.

In today’s age, companies need to think about implementing effective collaboration platforms that facilitate team communication regardless of whether employees work in-office or remotely. With the necessary tools in hand, developing a strong digital collaboration culture becomes significantly easier.

The importance of collaboration

Before diving into what businesses should look for in collaborative online tools, it’s important to understand why collaboration is so effective. Research shows that high levels of collaboration result in more engaged employees, who communicate openly and don’t fall prey to bottlenecks (such as managers taking overly long to sign off on projects). That, in turn, results in better service delivery and improved customer experience.

Besides the increased employee engagement mentioned above, effective collaboration also improves the flow of information across the organisation and fosters better communication. That, in turn, results in faster problem-solving. Employees recognise this too. According to a study, 86% of employees pin workplace failures on a lack of collaboration and ineffective communication. When people collaborate, they’re more likely to see a project through to the end. In other words, collaboration is important for any organisation seeking long-term success.

Finding the right tools to digitally recreate organizational cultures and improve collaboration

As many organisations have learned over the past couple of years, the general assortment of tools that they previously relied on simply won’t cut it anymore. Hopping between different instant messaging services, meeting platforms, and productivity solutions means that vital information is bound to get lost at some point. Context carry-over, informational continuity, and service uniformity become challenges for employees when they are forced to use a bunch of non-integrated tools for their everyday work. When digital employee experience drops, it has a direct effect on customer experience.

As the virtual world increasingly infiltrates the workplace and becomes a permanent fixture, organisations should consider implementing a company-wide collaboration and connectivity platform that enables inter- and intra-team communication, eliminates silos, and assists employees in maintaining productivity levels. Especially, productivity platforms or suites that leverage tight integrations and consistent interfaces to combine essential office productivity needs such as email, instant messaging, internal forums, A/V conferencing, and word processors with live-collaboration features, for example, enable these applications to become even more powerful and contextually relevant across services.

For instance, when email and instant messaging applications work together, employees have an easier time converting email conversations that warrant live discussions into chat threads and porting relevant information into the chatbox. Based on chat discussions, employees can also add final deliverables as personal tasks directly from the chatbox. And online word processors that facilitate live collaboration, allowing multiple people to contribute and comment simultaneously, can be convenient and life-changing for remote workers. Not to mention the version control issues that can be averted by freeing employees from having to email documents back and forth.

Another aspect to look for in collaboration suites is the ability to fold this internal collaboration into business applications like CRMs. For instance, the capability of an instant messaging tool to contextually integrate with an organisation’s CRM platform will enable executives to discuss a certain ticket via chat or a quick audio call before responding to the customer. Collaboration-conducive elements like these can further elevate productivity levels and get work done faster as well as make the experience of working across multiple services a smooth-sailing experience for employees.

A change in mindset

To help fuel the mindset shift needed to ensure that digital collaboration becomes ingrained in a company’s organisational culture, it’s equally critical that managers adopt, and are seen to adopt, the platform. If they’re getting full use out of it, their team members will also be spurred to. At the same time, employees all over the world are also experiencing digital burnout and virtual fatigue as their entire work schedules shift online. So it’s vital that managers balance empathy and humaneness with the usage of such tools in a non-intrusive way.

A virtual world of work

Businesses must adapt to the new virtual working environment. This requires re-evaluating processes and prioritising online solutions that facilitate collaboration, all while maintaining a focus on company culture. The customer experience begins with employees, and businesses will ultimately benefit from improved teamwork and communication.

Hyther Nizam is the President in charge of MEA at Zoho Corporation

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