By Ademola Olaniyi
Last month, April 2017, the news was everywhere on how security agencies showed up at the premises of the Pension Commission (PENCOM) headquarters. That this happened a little after the erstwhile Director General of the Commission, Mrs Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, was sacked by President Muhammadu Buhari raised a lot of suspicion of fraud.
The popular guess was that some whistle blowers might have embraced the new trend of exposing sleaze in government.
Nevertheless, as most Nigerians anxiously awaited the names of those involved in the story, they felt slightly disappointed when the Department of State Services (DSS) stated that its operatives did not raid the PENCOM office but were there to guide against a situation where sensitive documents would be tampered with ahead of the resumption of the new management.
For me, this was a good move on information management by the DSS but be that as it may, to most Nigerians, there is rarely smoke without fire as there exist many opinions that the fraud in the Nigerian pension system has not ceased.
If so, then the big question is how long will it take Nigeria to get it right on pension reforms especially in a country where pensioners still conduct regular protests over unpaid pension allowances?
From experience, the fraud in the pension system has been huge embarrassment for the nation. Far more worrying is that when we thought Nigeria was almost reducing corruption in the pension system through what was largely termed a good reform process that focused on almost eradicating sleaze, it was suddenly aborted under very controversial circumstances.
Emphatically, the greatest progress in pension reform happened in 2013 under the former Chairman of the then Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Mr Abdulrasheed Maina.
No doubt, at that important moment in Nigeria, Mr Maina demonstrated ability to institutionalize the fight against corruption in the pension system through many innovations and strategies that assisted his team to recover N1.3 billion and delist about 70,000 ghost retirees from only about five pension institutions that were investigated.
The outstanding 97 pension institutions that the PRTT disclosed had multiple trillions of Naira awaiting recovery of stolen funds were not investigated before the Task Team members were forcefully removed.
The story of Mr Abdulrasheed Maina and members of the pension Task Team efforts on fund recovery has been told in diverse versions, some good, some deliberately twisted but what still stands as unchangeable truth is that it was immediately when Mr Maina announced to State House correspondents at Abuja in 2013 that the Pension Task Team had uncovered that up to N3.3 trillion pension fund was stolen by what he described as pension cabal and expressed readiness to soon publish names of the agencies alongside the people involved in the scam that his problems began.
So, if really Mr Maina’s remarks that multi trillions of Naira of stolen pension fund were yet to be recovered, then that means what we might have considered excellent performance by the pension task team in recovering about N1.3 trillion might just have been a scratch on the surface of pension fund theft in Nigeria.
For any objective observer of a corrupt society, the conclusion herein would be that Mr Maina spoke too soon and that could have been why the conspiracy against him became untamable and deafening with accusations of sorts.
So, when the news surfaced that operatives of the security agencies arrived at PENCOM house to halt any move by some persons to remove some documents, what seemed apparent was that there could be a possibility that the pension reform has travelled back to the pre-Abdulrasheed Maina days and that the old dirty fraud schemes which the Pension Task Team tried to confront might have re-merged in the pension system.
After all, the forces that unjustly pulled down Mr Maina and the Pension Task Team through application of falsehoods are yet to be rigorously investigated.
In fact, the strange thing about the Maina led Pension Task Team is that it was disbanded over baseless allegations despite the reality that it was rapidly recovering from private pockets trillions of Naira for the Nigerian government.
Indeed, if the truth be told, the original story of Mr Maina on embezzling N195 billion though now publicly refuted by his major accuser, Senator Kabiru Gaya of the past Senate Assembly was cleverly crafted to ensure that false information gained acceptance and provided reasons for his removal.
The effort of Mr Maina’s enemies to play on gullible Nigerians was considered largely successful with the assistance of a section of the media.
For this set of Nigerians, castigating Mr Maina was a perfect weapon of distraction from fighting corruption. Also, for some persons in government that were enjoying the pension loot directly or indirectly, calling Mr Maina a criminal for recovering stolen fund was a ploy to influence perception against him.
Of course, these ignoble Nigerians succeeded but with Senator Gaya recent disclosure, it has become crystal clear that people that spread the story against Mr Maina then, were not interested in the facts; they were interested in removing Mr Maina because he was fighting against their selfish interests. Sadly, those against the corruption battle in the pension system were very skilled in their acts to the extent that it was not difficult for them to blow out of proportion what was highly a reconcilable difference between the then Senate Committee and the Pension Task Team.
Consequently, Mr Maina and his Task Team received slaps from many quarters. Specifically, the mass media played huge role through various means especially in the use of the press to adversely influence public opinion, thereby creating a dent to the character of Mr Maina, by painting a picture of him as a ‘corrupt man’ who embezzled public funds for his personal advantage.
Even the Nigerian Government which the Maina led Task Team had helped to redefine the complexion of pension reform and recovered money for removed him from office without any reasonable justification aside political pressure.
To make worse a bad situation, those that instigated Maina’s removal seemingly emerged victorious at the end of the day as they would have felt happy and free from probe when their target Maina was relieved of his job. The only gain for Maina was his narrow escape from an assassination attempt.
Beyond the flimsy accusations that almost ruined Maina’s reputation and nearly put him at a disadvantage, the truth is that even though the media dubiously delivered her verdict of sorts on Maina, the decision of the past Nigerian government to remove him was a weak unprogressive decision for corruption fight.
Indeed, with the new facts on the N195 billion fake accusations on Maina, it is very clear that all those that pressurized the government to terminate Maina’s work had contrast interests against the Nation’s fight on corruption.
Otherwise, it would have just taken simple common sense of the then Senate Leadership under David Mark to realize the absurdity of the position advanced by the Etuk led Senate Committee against Maina.
Unfortunately, as at then, nothing else mattered than removing Maina, thus the position of the Senator Etuk led Committee probably provided a perfect platform to make the Senate ignore worthy evidence as provided by the Pension Task Team.
Realistically, Maina’s story is a good example that truth is like a banana peel that will always find its way to the top of the river no matter how suppressed. Thus, it is good to now read from the same section of the Nigerian media that one of the Senators whom acted as the Deputy Chairman of the then Senate Committee which discredited and demonized Maina has affirmed that what the Senate Committee did was not far from engagement in anti-facts or use of half-truths.
If so, then Nigerians and their leadership have a task to decide fairly on whether or not Maina’s led Task Team still has a role to play in the anti-corruption fight on pension reforms. However, what remains obvious is that Nigerian pensioners cannot be suffering from delayed payment of allowances whereas trillions of Naira relating to stolen pensions fund are still in the personal treasury of the pension cabal. The necessity of enhanced action on stolen pension fund recovery by the Buhari administration cannot be overemphasized. Perhaps an investigation into what killed the Maina led Pension Task Team will offer new useful lessons.
Ademola Olaniyi, a retired Civil Servant writes from Abuja
What Tech Takeoff Could Mean for Industries Across Board
It’s no secret that technology across the continent is burgeoning at unprecedented rates. Homegrown innovations that speak to socio-economic bottlenecks are plenty due to increased access to resources, training and development, and investment. This can largely be attributed in part to the growing number of ‘technology hubs’ being established on the continent that are fostering innovation for startups and helping to bridge the gap to a more developed and economically sustainable continent.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), 92% of Africa’s investment in technology is won by Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa, which account for a third of the continent’s start-up incubators and accelerators. While these four regions lead the way in terms of technology hubs, regions such as Zanzibar, Tanzania, through its new initiative ‘Silicon Zanzibar’ are joining the race to attract and relocate technology companies and workers from across Africa and beyond to the island.
The continent has a long way to go if it is to reach the record figures raised by US startups. As we continue to bear witness to the continued rise of innovative solutions from the continent, here’s what an increase in local tech hubs could mean for industries and what to take into consideration:
Increased partnerships and collaboration
Africa has been at the forefront of world-class innovation for a long time, especially when it comes to homegrown technology solutions that speak to and solve socio-economic problems in communities across the continent. Countries such as Kenya and Nigeria have been at the forefront, but the likes of Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana are establishing intentional tech ecosystems that foster entrepreneurship and skills development, which will open up endless possibilities, particularly for fintech, an industry that is rapidly growing, evolving and one that has often relied on foreign investment.
“At MFS Africa, we have always believed that the only currency is access, and while we continue to, through our own efforts, create, advocate for, and partner to enable borderless transactions across the continent, the growing ‘tech hub’ culture in Africa will, in the long run, allow us to identify talent and collaborate with and partner with more start-ups. It also has the potential to increase dialogue with governments in regions like Tanzania, where we have partners, as we continue to transform the lives and realities of Africa and the diaspora,” says Cynthia Ponera, Regional Sales Director for East Africa at MFS Africa, a leading digital payments hub in Africa that works continuously with trusted global partners across Africa to connect African consumers to each other and to the global digital economy.
Sufficient power for the necessary infrastructure
“When we talk about Africa’s quest to be a global tech hub, we need to ensure that we’re also considering the tech needed to power the foundational infrastructure that supports this ambition,” says Matthew Cruise, Head of Business Intelligence at Hohm Energy.
According to the United Nations, some 570 million people in Africa have no access to electricity, which drastically hampers socio-economic development or poverty alleviation for those without this basic human right. Renewable energy in the form of solar energy is the most viable option for addressing this challenge, as the continent holds some of the highest solar radiation numbers in the world.
The inability of Eskom to meet the energy needs of Africa’s most industrialised country is widely known. But surprisingly, South Africa’s energy crisis has created opportunities for companies and investors to meet the demand for renewable energy alternatives. We see considerable innovation in solar solutions locally and throughout Africa for addressing power outages, and many of these will be replicated in Europe and other first-world countries as they, too, start to grapple with rising fuel costs and power outages.
As the technology to harness this renewable resource becomes both more sophisticated and more cost-effective, governments and businesses alike need to embrace this as the solution to one of the continent’s most fundamental infrastructure challenges.
Attracting more investment through unique solutions
Tony Mallam, Managing Director of bitcoin micro-saving and investing fintech platform, upnup advises that “entrepreneurs wanting to leverage the potential opportunities of a global Africa tech hub wave should think about building solutions that are unique to Africa, such as the huge unbanked and the ‘Know Your Customer’ KYC’ed population, estimated to be at least 57% of the continent’s population.
“”The Opportunity provided by Africa’s high mobile internet penetration will allow investors to leapfrog last generation infrastructure into cutting-edge solutions. Governments would need to support this opportunity by providing the right infrastructure, a safe regulatory environment, minimal red tape and tax incentives,”explains Mallam.
Training, developing and upskilling will be crucial
Building the continent’s tech and digital capability needs to run parallel with skill development. The World Bank estimates that by 2050, half of Africa’s population of 1 billion people will be under the age of 25, suggesting that the workforce of the future is based here. But in order to effectively harness the potential of this workforce, we need to ensure we’re training, developing, and upskilling people in a relevant and sustainable way.
Salesforce’s Authorised Training Partner and Workforce Development Partners in South Africa are committed to bringing fit-for-purpose skills into the ecosystem to meet the demands of the future workplace and to also ensure we’re leveraging technology for the greater good. And partnerships are central to reaching these objectives.
“Indeed, if Africa is to realise its ambitions of being a global tech hub, it is imperative that all the various stakeholders—government, business, civic organisations and educational institutions – work collaboratively. At Salesforce, we believe business is a platform for change and thus has a central role to play in Africa’s tech future’” says Zuko Mdwaba, Country Leader and Area Vice President, Salesforce South Africa.
Access is key and healthtech is central to that
It is imperative that any reference to tech on the continent makes special mention of health tech, where the room for growth is exponential. In fact, the African healthcare market is expected to be worth US$259 billion by 2030, pointing to an opportunity that cannot be ignored.
“Three thoughts come to mind of how healthtech can significantly impact the continent’s different markets for the better: It can provide access to cheaper healthcare, provide access to healthcare in your pocket (such as telehealth), and technology can play a role in bridging the skills gap and helping medical practitioners do more with less resources,” says Bongani Sithole, CEO of Founders Factory Africa.
He adds that based on their own experience at Founders Factory Africa, these are problems healthtech can solve, with its ability to improve the lives of users. “In our portfolio alone, Viebeg is enabling hospitals to order medical equipment without paying for it upfront. Neopenda has developed a product – the neoGuard – that is a clinical vital signs monitor for infants and other patients in resource-constrained areas. Healthtech can be successful, especially when innovation is applied in ways that solve pain points of health users on a daily basis.”
Improved connectivity will improve competition in business
Africa’s internet penetration is currently half the global average of 62.5 per cent.This affects not only consumers but also small businesses across the continent.
This, along with findings that revealed that South Africa saw a 66% growth in e-commerce in 2020 indicates that in order to compete and even scale, SMEs need affordable access to the internet. Currently, SMEs that have limited or no access to the internet are stunted in their ability to increase market share and reach new audiences. Head of Marketing and Communication at online booking platform Jurni, Tshepo Matlou says, “With more tech hubs in Africa, will automatically come increased connectivity. This will in turn lead to more SMEs being able to embrace and leverage online opportunities ultimately allowing them to hold their own in a competitive market.”.
4 Methods of Meeting Customers At Their Pain Points Instead Of Just Selling
Every business is founded to solve a customer problem, and the vast majority of products and services are designed to alleviate a specific customer pain point. But it is still important to let each customer know how their specific problems are being solved.
One of the best ways to build brand credibility is to understand a customer’s journey and build long-term relationships with them. In this article, we ask industry professionals how they meet the needs of their customers.
Build engagement with customers
It’s no secret that we live in a time of unprecedented technological acceleration. Nowhere is that more true than in the customer experience space. Things that, ten years ago, seemed completely impossible are now commonplace and almost expected.
“Many organisations want to make changes in line with accelerations in technology and customer experiences, but the range of options available out there stops them from even starting, or worse, they settle for an option that they deem to be “good enough,” comments Brent Haumann, Managing Director at a digital communications firm, Tilte.
Importantly, however, is that as technology accelerates, so do customer expectations, and what was considered good enough yesterday is not good enough for tomorrow. It is critical that organisations aim to meet and even exceed these expectations because if they don’t, their competitors will happily oblige.
“The problem is that engaging customers is not about sending an email or introducing a chatbot.” Anyone can do that. It’s about how to get your customers to actually engage with your brand and build a loyal relationship that will see their customer lifetime value grow. This is a lot more difficult and requires expertise in these spaces.” concludes Haumann
Enhance the user experience
While the use of technology to streamline customer-facing processes is an integral part of SME growth, the user experience of such technology can often become a pain point for the business if the right tool is not chosen.
“While SMEs need technology to reduce manual tasks and automate repetitive processes, complicated software packages and platforms can be more of a hindrance than a help. “In fact, as many as 70% of startups fail within the first five years, according to research from the University of the Western Cape, because they don’t have the technical support they need to get the basics done,” says Andrew Bourne, Regional Manager, Africa – Zoho Corporation.
Integrated, seamless solutions need to meet the needs of the user, regardless of the scale of the business. This means having a full-featured Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that will improve the user experience and enhance customer service.
Provide access across borders
It’s no secret that mobile money has revolutionised the financial services industry, allowing individuals to transact within and across borders – opening up a world of possibility for small business owners on the continent.
However, consumer pain points such as a lack of access to financial services, high transaction costs, and regulatory requirements still hurt interoperability and the cross-border payments innovations that are key for scaling access across Africa.
Remittances, for example, are important to African countries, but the cost of intra-African money transfers still remains high. In South Africa, the average cost of sending remittances was 8.14% in 2020 as against the global average remittance fee of 6.01%. Not only are billions lost to high transaction costs, but they also limit financial inclusion and aid to the vulnerable.
MFS Africa has been driving the next step in this revolution, addressing this pain point by bringing more possibilities, more connections and more interoperability to the mobile money user. The organisation’s full-service digital payments network now connects over 400 million mobile money wallets, over 200 million bank accounts and over 150,000 agents in Nigeria.
Harness technology to enhance the experience
“Solving the customer’s pain point is the foundation of a great customer experience. And experience is everything. We know that more consumers and business buyers are noting that the experience companies offer matters as much as their products.” says Zuko Mdwaba, Area Vice President Salesforce South Africa
This is all about meeting the customer where they are. Today, customers’ use of social media, knowledge bases, and live chat is near parity with phone and email. With the decline of in-person service since 2020 showing little sign of recovery, the use of mobile apps, online communities, and video support have seen massive expansion over the past two years.
Mdwaba continues that “Given the rising importance of digital channels, strengthening partnerships between service and IT departments is often key to breaking down data silos, saving on software cost, agent empowerment and resulting in faster time-to-market for new technology solutions.”
By investing in advanced technology, organisations can address customer pain points effectively to achieve greater customer satisfaction, which ultimately boosts engagement and revenue.
AFRIGO: How The New Domestic Card By CBN Will Drive SME Growth
By Otori Emmanuel
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in conjunction with the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS), recently introduced the card scheme known as AFRIGO.
In order to enable cardholders to use their payment cards to make purchases and access cash at businesses around the world, payment networks and financial institutions form a system known as a card scheme. The widely used card schemes are Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover.
These schemes develop standards and processes for card issuance, authorization, and security, among other things, to ensure a simple and secure experience for both cardholders and merchants. AFRIGO was launched on January 26, 2023, to unify all banking technologies in one card, like UnionPay of China, RuPay of India, etc.
AFRIGO is believed to address the core difficulties by releasing foreign exchange reserves and promoting easy cross-border trade in the wake of the economic crisis in Nigeria.
AFRIGO will address the drawbacks of previous card systems like Mastercard. The central bank of Nigeria (CBN) anticipates that AFRIGO will lessen the costs connected with the existing card systems and the requirement for keeping multiple cards by paying with local currency.
The CBN believes that the data kept on each AFRIGO card will help to improve the economy by reducing laundering.
Furthermore, through data sovereignty, AFRIGO seeks to shield customers from the monopolistic regulations of international card schemes.
Nigeria’s AFRIGO card scheme seeks to give both consumers and businesses a safe and practical way to make payments. In order to provide a widely used and effective form of electronic payment in place of conventional cash transactions, this system was created. To accommodate varied consumers’ demands, the Afrigo card scheme offers a range of payment methods, including debit cards, credit cards, and prepaid cards.
Also, it makes it possible for users to transact both domestically and globally, which facilitates business operations and financial management for users. Afrigo’s overarching goal is to foster financial inclusion and spur economic development in Nigeria by offering a safe and convenient payment mechanism.
Ease of Commerce
The new domestic card initiative from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) aims to improve small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access to financial services by providing them with a more straightforward and safe method of handling payments. Safe payment methods increase client loyalty and buy their faith, helping businesses expand.
Foreign Exchange Control
AFRIGO will help balance the fluctuations in the rate of exchange during a trade. This domestic card scheme will help in the seamless importation and exportation of products as well as prevent the continual increase in commodity prices brought on by fluctuations in foreign exchange rates. Customers’ perception that they are being exploited has made it difficult for SMEs over time to gain their loyalty.
The CBN considers that because many Nigerians don’t hold cards, they haven’t kept up with financial improvements throughout time. AFRIGO would promote the adoption of many cards in a less expensive and cashless way. This can support the expansion of SMEs by lowering their dependency on cash transactions and increasing their capacity to participate in the formal economy.
In essence, the AFRIGO card scheme intends to reduce expenses, gain data sovereignty, and address foreign exchange problems, all of which, when implemented, have a triple positive impact on the growth of SMEs. The CBN has accomplished a great deal, and AFRIGO’s status as the continent’s first project of its kind is commendable. In general, the new domestic card from the CBN might give Nigerian SME growth a much-needed boost.
Latest News on Business Post
- Violent Protest Erupts in Ibadan Over Naira Scarcity February 3, 2023
- APC Governors Beg Buhari to Allow Use of Old, New Naira Notes February 3, 2023
- Oyo Governor Suspends Campaign Activities Over Fuel, Naira Crisis February 3, 2023
- What Tech Takeoff Could Mean for Industries Across Board February 3, 2023
- Subair Attributes LIRS’ Successes to Mobilisation of Funds February 3, 2023
- Google Search Trends Show Interests of Nigerians in Artificial Intelligence Grow February 3, 2023
- Mouka Donates Mattresses to GNOSIS for Domestic Violence Victims February 3, 2023
- Employment Growth Quickens Amid Efforts to Deal With Workloads February 3, 2023
- Russia’s Military Diplomacy in Africa: High Risk, Low Reward and Limited Impact February 3, 2023
- NASD OTC Market Appreciates by 0.95% February 3, 2023