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Nigeria’s 2023 Outlook and the Looming Danger

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Dr. Michael Owhoko Nigeria's 2023 Outlook

By Michael Owhoko, PhD

I am neither a prophet nor a clairvoyant, but from the manifestation in my crystal ball, I see Nigeria in 2023 shaped by upheaval fueled by miseries and hopelessness. Agitation reminiscent of the #EndSARS protests will break out.

Primary triggers are the country’s pathetic economic indices, including growing unemployment, cynical gross domestic product (GDP), inflation and the undiversified weak mono-commodity economy, lacking leadership and managerial oxygen.

Secondary triggers are the dampened economic opportunities induced by nonchalance over worsening corruption, mounting debt burden, crude oil and foreign exchange manipulation, macroeconomic flux, insecurity, hunger, poor electricity supply, and lack of constitutionalism and rule of law.

The tertiary trigger is the unresolved national question pertaining to the incompatibility of the country’s political system and its diverse ethnicities, which is negatively impacting the country’s fundamentals. Put differently, the country’s unitary system is antithetical to a multiethnic society like Nigeria, which undoubtedly, is the root cause of the country’s regression and despairs.

These concerns will transpire immediately after the power transition in May 2023 with increased build-up towards the end of the year and beyond.  This unprecedented development will mark a watershed in the history of Nigeria.

Nigerians are fed up. Suicide cases arising from hunger are on the increase. Over 82 million Nigerians now live on less than $1 a day. At a conservative black-market rate of N580 to a dollar, the average Nigerian survives on less than N580 daily. This amount cannot buy a standard loaf of bread worth N600.  You now know why Nigerians are looking malnourished except for those that have access to the country’s treasury, and the privileged few who are involved in under-the-table transactions, either in the public or private sector.

Nigeria was ranked 103rd out of 116 countries by Global Hunger Index (GHI) as one of the hunger-plagued countries in the world, an indication of the government’s failure to the provision of welfare. Even the World Bank recently affirmed in its 2022 Poverty Assessment Report that 4 out of every 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty line.

The report added further that only 17 per cent of the Nigerian working class earn wages that can lift them out of poverty while the wages of the remaining 83 per cent are too meagre to guarantee exit from the poverty domain.

This is a mirror image of the depth of poverty in the country where some Nigerians go to bed hungry while the majority are unable to afford two quality meals a day, resulting in discontent and frustration. Yet, the country’s GDP is said to be growing, even as the poverty capital of Africa and the World.

Can a growing band of unemployed and idle youths improve a country’s GDP? The majority are not employed, implicitly, are not adding value to the production of goods and services. With no income earned, purchasing power is prostrate. Rather than shrink, GDP is growing. Nigeria’s economy is a study in contradiction.

It is near impossible for a country’s GDP to grow in the face of a corresponding rise in unemployment, particularly among youths who constitute the majority of the workforce. Data for the youth unemployment rate in Nigeria is in the region of 35 per cent, about the highest in the world.

Obviously, this is exacerbated by a lack of creative, determined and visible leadership efforts at addressing this precarious anomaly.

It is unhelpful that figures being published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) do not inspire hope as they contradict market realities. The NBS had said Nigeria’s GDP grew by 3.98 per cent (year-on-year) in real terms in the last quarter of 2021. Though, an optimistic trajectory, it is a paradox when viewed against the background of an alarming rate of youth unemployment whose input into GDP is paramount.

Look at the number of graduates coming out of universities and other institutions of higher learning yearly, coupled with the country’s skill-less educational curriculum, the rural-urban drift, and the astronomical rise in population, you will understand why all residential streets are busy with high presence of idle youths during working hours. This was not so in the past when the streets were empty and quiet during the day, indicative of people’s presence at work.  Not anymore!

Again, looking at the suffocating inflationary rate, you begin to wonder whether the data deployed by NBS are tested or are just for political show. From the consumer price index (CPI), NBS had said inflation dropped to 15.60 per cent (year-on-year) in January 2022 when compared to 16.47 per cent recorded in January 2021, a reduction of 0.87 per cent. Really? It is imperative NBS officials go to market or grocery shops for personal purchases as part of a feedback mechanism to ascertain firsthand, the real inflation texture in the country.

These economic flaws and the current dysfunctional unitary system of government which has held the country down, preventing states or regions from unleashing their optimum potential, remain a major threat to unity and peace in the country.

The powers that be have conceitedly subjugated as inconsequential, the contending questions. Unfortunately, the hitherto strategy of deceit, repression, oppression and domination aimed at diverting attention from the country’s many woes will not work and will be disrupted in 2023.

Having failed on all fronts of its promises to fix security, economy and corruption, the exit of this administration in 2023, will mark a new era that will usher in renewed agitation for repositioning of Nigeria’s polity for enduring peace and progress.

The gaps created by mismanagement of diversities and the inability to convert opportunities into capital, including failure to take advantage of existing unifying catalysts to strengthen the country’s unity, will deepen the inclination for self-determination in 2023. This may lead to a reshuffling of existing structures aimed at dousing and averting the eruption of bottled-up tension next year.

The year 2023 will also mark a new consciousness among frustrated youths of the ineffectuality of internet fraud (yahoo, yahoo), betting, gambling, drugs and other pseudo-revenue generation mechanisms.  There will be a complete emotional shift based on the new reality that these vices are not solutions to their problems, and may elicit a resolve to take their destinies into their hands.

Indeed, the youths will be more concerned about their dimmed future, which they believe, has been sacrificed on the altar of greed by politicians and those in authority. The impaired vision of the country’s leadership and lack of capacity to design programmes and set priorities to lift the country from its current dark clouds are believed to be chiefly responsible for the deteriorating living conditions of Nigerians.

The reality is that no amount of rejigging of the country’s unitary constitution can make Nigeria work, except it is replaced with a federal structure characterized by fiscal autonomy, where every state or region can freely aspire in line with its capacity and resourcefulness. The current system cannot unite and hold the various nationalities together.

What is fundamental is the real search for a “solution to the disillusion”, to borrow from the great reggae artist, Peter Tosh. It is not about elections and leadership change but about disillusion in the land. The solution is total restructuring based on the 1963 Constitution. This constitution had been tested, and it worked.

The current unitary structure breads corruption, ethnicism, nepotism and misery. That corruption has become a way of life in Nigeria, permeating all strata of government and society, is proof of the country’s chronic and irredeemable state of decay.

Undeniably, the current political structure cannot even pass the Rotary Four-Way Test, if used to measure the sincerity of purpose. Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Does it build goodwill and better friendship? Is it beneficial to all concerned? The answer is a resonant NO.

This is also the reason why elections and national headcount are difficult to conduct in the country due to competing regional interests for national power, and fear of change to the current balance of power and status quo by benefited sectional power blocs.

Until the country is restructured from the current unitary system to federalism, a game-changing disruption for the realization of a new Nigeria in 2023 is inevitable, and the 1999 Constitution will be the first port of call.

Dr Mike Owhoko, Lagos-based journalist and author, can be reached at www.mikeowhoko.com

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Okowa’s Financial Aid to Mission Schools

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Ifeanyi Okowa Delta State

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

The recent decision by the Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, to provide financial aid to 40 schools it returned to religious missions in 2011 again underscores the time-honoured belief that leaders must learn the art of management, an art of engineering and skill to absorb and mater success in their mission. As there is no hard and fast rule but involves a lot of practical wisdom and prudence in one’s functioning style and performance.

Speaking at the thanksgiving service to mark the end of the 16th Synod of Asaba Diocese, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), held at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter, Asaba, Okowa, who read the first lesson, congratulated the new Bishop of the diocese, the Rt. Rev. Kingsley Obuh, on his consecration and enthronement.

Acknowledging that the running of mission schools is difficult given the current economic condition of the nation, the governor commended the church for drawing his attention to the plight of the schools, especially his promise to ensure that grants were given to missions to assist them in giving a firm standing to the schools that had been returned to them. This, he explained, became necessary to assist the schools in running effectively, particularly in view of the prevailing harsh economic situation in the country.

Indeed, from the above comment by the Governor, it is evident that he is not taking success in leadership for granted or attributing the same to a function of luck and destiny but achievable through effective planning, genuine efforts and technique followed sincerely and scrupulously in their mission.

By his latest action, it is now evident that the Governor considers education as the bedrock of development. More than anything else, his promise to ensure that grants were given to missions to assist them in giving a firm standing to the schools demonstrates a leader with an understanding that with sound educational institutions, a country is as good as made -as the institutions will turn out all rounded manpower to continue with the development of the society driven by well thought out ideas, policies, programmes.

Secondly, it is a sign that he recognizes the challenges of perennial underfunding bedevilling the education sector not just in missionary schools in Delta State but across all the privately and government-owned schools across all the states of the federation.

This challenge has as a consequence brought upon the nation an astronomical increase in the rate of out of school children, especially in the northern part of Nigeria, to swell in number, even when it is obvious that the streets are known for breeding all forms of criminals and other social misfits who constitute the real threat in the forms of armed robbers; thugs, drunkards, prostitutes and all other social ills that give a bad name to the society. This underfunding challenge has also visited the sector with a state of affairs where a number of Nigerians are in school but are learning nothing; as schooling, according to UNICEF, does not always lead to learning.

“In Nigeria, there are more non-learners in school than out of school,” UNICEF concluded.

More specifically, aside from being in the best interest of the state government that those schools returned to the missions are supported to stand because they provide a space for study for some of our children across the state, Okowa’s current gesture reinforces the belief that we all have reasons not only to feel worried but collectively work hard to deliver the nation’s education sector in ways that will bring to an end the reign of thoughtless demand for fees of varying amounts/ proposed by the school authorities-a development that is financially squeezing the life out of the innocent students and their parents.

There exist more concrete reasons as to why Governor Okowa’s present move needs to be applauded.

At the most fundamental levels, it refreshes the minds of Nigerians of the passionate plea by the United Nations for government-private sector collaboration for sustainable development.

For instance, there was a veiled agreement among stakeholders at a recent gathering in Lagos that the government at all levels in Nigeria is shirking the traditional but universal responsibility of provision of educational, economic and infrastructural succour to the citizenry which the instrumentality of participatory democracy and election of leaders confers on them.

Essentially, participants at that event were unanimous that the 2030 sustainable agenda has partnership and collaboration at its centre. It was clearly stated that the scale and ambition of this agenda call for smart partnerships, collaborations, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society.

The conference, which had as a theme Partnership for Sustainable Development and Innovation, was among other goals aimed at finding an ‘urgent need for creative and innovative thinking by all strata of the society-public and private sector and civil society-to promoting sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection’.

To further buttress the imperativeness of this needed commitment from all the parties in tackling the agenda, the conference stressed that the partnership is at the very centre of the sustainable development agenda as it is both a means to an end since it is a crucial enabler for the attainment of the other goals and an end to in itself since Goal 17 is a means of implementation and revitalised global partnership’.

Very instructive also, finding a solution to the societal problems, particularly providing access to adequate and quality education for the youths of this nation will in some ways help solve the youth unemployment challenge and develop a climate of sustainable future and innovation among our youths.

Talking about youth unemployment in Nigeria, a report recently put it this way: “We are in a dire state of strait because unemployment has diverse implications. Security wise, the large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed. Any transformation agenda that does not have job creation at the centre of its programme will take us nowhere”

Youths’ challenge cuts across, regions, religions, and tribes, and has led to the proliferation of ethnic militia as well as youth restiveness across the country. This may, in turn, hamper the peace needed if handled with levity.  But this threat has become more pronounced in the oil-rich region of the country with the chunk of the proponents spearheaded by the large army of professionally trained ex-militants currently without a job. Proper management of these teaming youth is the panacea for determining the success or otherwise of the 2030 sustainable agenda, it is only by engaging these teeming youths through employment creation that the incessant youth restiveness can be abated.

One fact we must acknowledge is that the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal was formulated to among other aims promote and carter for people, peace, the planet, and poverty but nurturing to bear the premeditated result will depend on not just the private sector but our government.

To, therefore, move this nation forward, we need to like Governor Okowa, recognize that a sound educational sector and sustained infrastructural development remain the spine. We must learn that nations such as the Jews progressed because they possessed a tradition of education combined with social and political action. They enthroned education and sacrificed to get it.

We must as a nation make quality but subsidized education a human right that will be accessible to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe/ethnicity, sex, religion or creed. And develop the political will to fund education in compliance with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) budgetary recommendation.

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

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Tips for Building a Low-code Strategy

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Low-code Development

By Hyther Nizam

Over the last few years, businesses have been racing to digitise their processes and offerings. Whether you’re working from home, banking online, or doing a quick grocery order, you’ve likely noticed a significant rate of transformation. Given that every aspect of a consumer’s daily life is connected to the digital world, the challenge of digital transformation may be daunting. Traditional ways of developing consumer and internal applications are time-consuming and usually require a large number of development resources.

Fortunately, low-code/no-code (LCNC) development platforms empower businesses to quickly create cross-platform applications without writing thousands of lines of code. Low-code/no-code not only simplifies development but also saves time and money. Low-code is not a new concept, but demand for it has increased as a result of the pandemic and the necessity for businesses to speed up their digital transformation initiatives.

The advantages of low-code/no-code 

LCNC platforms provide a visual environment for building applications. As they provide snippets of pre-built code in a simple drag-and-drop user interface, people with little to no programming experience can also build custom web/mobile applications. However, it’s crucial to take the time to identify the most effective LCNC platform for your business before diving headfirst into app building.

The LCNC platforms help teams develop applications faster and with fewer errors than traditional coding. Because the platforms provide standard components such as forms, report templates, and ready-to-use code snippets, months of development time can be saved. By eliminating some of the more complex aspects of the application development process (such as creating frameworks and linking databases), these platforms empower people across the organisation to get involved in application development and bring their business ideas to fruition, without having to depend on IT assistance.

Zoho Creator, Zoho’s low-code platform, aims to facilitate efficient app development and effective collaboration. It uses pre-built integrations to connect with hundreds of systems and cloud services to make app development quicker and easier. Organisations can seamlessly integrate Creator with other Zoho applications and third-party platforms like QuickBooks, Zapier, and PayPal. To facilitate effective collaboration, Creator gives organisations the power to assign roles to users and grant them access to information relevant to their jobs. Role-based access controls help ensure the application development process is both streamlined and secure.

Now that digital transformation is an ongoing imperative for most businesses, agility and collaboration are critical. Our research shows that 40% of organisations are involving their business teams in their digital transformation processes. This indicates a growing understanding that digital transformation affects the whole business—not just IT teams.

Considerations for using LCNC strategies

First, and potentially most important, your business must know what to look for in LCNC platforms. Besides the visual modelling and drag-and-drop interfaces that make these platforms easier to use, your LCNC platform should be secure. It should have the required security framework certifications in place and espouse data confidentiality measures. It’s important to avoid using software that potentially opens the door to hackers.

Your LCNC platform should be equipped for multi-device deployment (meaning that you only have to create an app once for it to be accessible on any device), and scalability so you can add more users to your application as your organisation grows.

Once you’ve identified the right platform, it’s time to start cross-organisational planning for the digital experiences your organisation will provide, and the ways low-code can be leveraged to create those experiences. Remember, one of the major strengths of a good low-code platform is that it allows for collaboration. People across the organisation need to be exposed to the platform to understand what it can do for them.

The time is now

There has never been a better time for your business to embrace an LCNC strategy, as the world is undergoing an unprecedented rate of digital transformation. It is essential, however, to combine the correct platform with a strategy that enables your entire company to realise the benefits of low-code development. This is the most effective way to put your business ahead of the competition.

Hyther Nizam is the President of MEA at Zoho Corp

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B2B e-Commerce: Fostering Sales, Distribution with Data Analytics

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Data Analytics

The informal sector is a major source of economic growth and productivity globally. According to both the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) statistics, more than 2 billion people representing 61% of the world’s employed population work in the informal sector.

Of the number, 93% are reportedly in emerging and developing countries. Around 86% of employment in Sub-Saharan Africa is in the informal sector, while 80% of household retail distribution is said to be delivered via informal retailers.

Nigeria is reputed to have a huge informal sector that makes up 50% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounts for over 90% of employment. The informal retail market value is estimated at US$100bn out of which the food and consumer goods retail segment is worth over $40bn.

B2B e-commerce firm Alerzo’s CEO, Adewale Opaleye, described the informal sector as a major source of economic growth, productivity and competitiveness.

Despite the importance of the sector, informal retailers face complex challenges that impede their business growth, financial and income stability and service quality. The challenges include limited inventory due to high demands, meaning the market is underserved; and limited access to funding which sometimes leads them to stock low-quality products.

The retail market is also clustered; products are often overpriced because prices are largely unregulated. Distance to market especially those in hard-to-reach locations; opportunity costs; dangers of travel; inadequate logistics such as transport to move purchased goods also impact informal retailers adversely. The unstructured nature of most retail businesses is another setback.

The challenges faced by consumers at the base of the pyramid also represent another key issue in the retail market. Often, lack of access to reliable product information, quality products and services, and low purchasing power deny consumers access to everyday essentials such as food, medicine, hygiene and household products.

The fallout of the challenges in the retail market segment is that manufacturers and distributors are often unable to track data on informal retail sales, regulate quality or access BoP customers for research, marketing or the delivery of social mission goals.

As a strategic pivot for national GDP growth, reforming Nigeria’s informal trade is a key to unlocking socio-economic prosperity for the citizens, and improving the lives of the retailers themselves including their families, and the communities in which they operate.

Hence, initiatives that remove barriers in the Factory-to-Retail distribution chain for consumer goods companies are most welcome. The role of e-Commerce, in particular tech-driven B2B e-Commerce platforms, is pivotal in this regard.

“Our mission is to empower these informal retailers through our ecosystem of digital products, so they are equipped to run profitable and sustainable businesses. We strongly believe that technology has the potential to transform the way informal retailers conduct their businesses, by using it to facilitate – with just a click of a button – fast and easy access to a wide assortment of consumer products at zero delivery cost to the retailers,” Alerzo CEO, Opaleye said.

B2B e-Commerce platforms are beneficial to manufacturers and tier one distributors as enablers of data gathering and market intelligence. By utilising an array of digital technologies to gather market intelligence and analyse data, they arm goods producers with vital information on consumer behaviour to further help them in research and product development. Distributors also use such information to scale up operational efficiency.

The use of customer data significantly fosters sales growth and enhances customer relationships. According to Statista, a 2018 survey in the United States showed that 84% of industry-wide leading firms revealed that data analytics helped to bring greater accuracy to their decision-making. That is, data utilisation and related analytics methods were reported to deliver the most value to firms by reducing expenses and creating new avenues for innovation and disruption.

Data analytics enable manufacturers and distributors to strengthen their business operations. For example, in supply chain management and customer relationship, data analytics can support the personalisation and customisation of sales and customer services to build stronger and more personal relationships with customers.

By deploying data technologies and tools, B2B e-Commerce platforms like Alerzo collect data and market intelligence to identify what customers actually expect from companies and to predict their future demands. In other words, data analytics help to create business knowledge, that is, information and understanding related to business processes and the business environment. It can additionally reveal hidden behavioural patterns.

Furthermore, B2B e-Commerce can provide manufacturers access to real-time data and instant information, creating real-time knowledge of markets, and when properly implemented, can increase sales. McKinsey’s research suggests that a healthy data culture, that is, an organisational culture that accelerates the application of data analytics, is becoming increasingly important for leading and lagging companies. Also, the deployment of data helps to provide accurate and timely information within an organisation.

B2B e-Commerce platforms by utilising their digital solutions can make the collection of data more feasible and cost-effective for manufacturers and distributors. Data analytics as one of the emerging areas in the domain of B2B marketing can even support businesses with access to big data thereby increasing access to quantitative and qualitative information beyond just transaction data such as purchase quantities.

In a nutshell, B2B e-Commerce in so many ways offers solutions that are helping to address the needs in the Factory-to-Retail distribution value chain holistically – at the supply side (manufacturers, top-tier distributors and last-mile retailers), and the consumers (demand) side.

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