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Resolving Nigeria’s Resource Ownership and Management Challenge

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resource ownership and management Jerome-Mario

By Jerome-Mario Chijike Utomi

Victor Hugo is the French poet and novelist who is credited with the phrase, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Much of his original French works had more to do with shifts from the battlefield to an arena of minds being open to ideas.

Accordingly, Hugo‘s postulations have become ‘a word made flesh and now dwell among us.’ A good example of such an idea whose time has come in Nigeria is the ceaseless call for resource ownership and management by ethnic groupings, socioeconomic pressure groups and well-meaning Nigerians.

The latest of such, and the most interesting of calls, came from Eric Omare, lawyer, Niger Delta advocate and former President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), during a recent interview with a Warri, Delta state-based news tabloid, GbaramatuVoice Newspaper.

Omare remarked, “Well, to resolve the Niger Delta question, there are different layouts. The larger Niger Delta problem is that of the question of resource ownership and management, which has not been addressed. Resource ownership and management means that the people who own the resource must be at the forefront of managing that resource and until that question is addressed, we will continue to see agitations. Resources meant for the Niger delta must be used for the development of the Niger Delta region.”

“In other words, there must be judicious use of resources met for the development of the Niger Delta, and that is the only way we can address some of the development actually in this world, but the bigger picture is that the question of resource ownership and management which put the people in Niger Delta the people who produce the oil at the forefront must be addressed for us to have a permanent peace and sustainable development in Niger Delta region,” he concluded.

Though he said it in a different way, venue and time, in the real sense of it, Eric Omare may not have said something new or different from what Nigerians have been worried about all these years. However, his latest call for resource management further supports the belief that restructuring the nation is an idea whose time has come.

For this piece, the need for restructuring of this nation should be compared with, and likened to, the indispensability and inseparability of the blood from the body. The nation is currently structured and standing in an inverted pyramid shape with more power concentrated at the top and the base not formidable enough, making collapse inevitable if urgent and fundamental steps are not taken. This state of our polity as it stands urgently needs to be revisited and possibly reversed.

No matter how long it takes us to live in denial, devolution of power has become inevitable as most of the items contained in the exclusive list would serve their best purpose when handled by the states and the local governments. The padding of the exclusive list of activities has made ‘Abuja’ appear as a general surrounded by many lieutenants instead of the order way around. The truth is that for true federalism to be practised, there is an urgent need for the nation to make the centre less attractive and for federating regions or states to be strengthened with greater autonomy.

Also, making it imperative the need for the nation to be restructured in ways that will assist regions, states, communities, and towns in managing their God-given resources is the awareness that the federal character, which was created to take care of restructuring, tends to enjoy more moral burden than good intention. Its provisions and operational matrix are perceived as ‘goodness without good luck. This is evident as it is based on the spirit of equitable distribution of political positions and socioeconomic booties among federating states and regions as against the promotion of meritocracy. This provision has long been undermined by deconstructionists and ‘political Maradonas.’

More than anything else, it is important for the piece to underline that the problem that necessitated this agitation is more man-made than natural. The deliberate demonstration of impunity, as well as superiority by one group or region, led to this burning agitation today.

As succulently remarked, ‘never be so foolish to believe that you are stirring admiration by flaunting the qualities that raised you above others. By making people aware of their inferior positions, you are only stirring unhappy admiration or envy that will gnaw at them until they undermine you in ways that you may not foresee’. It is only the fools who dare the god of envy by flaunting his victory.’

In addition to the above, this agitation is further fed by misrule and a very high propensity for corrupt nepotistic practices on the part of our leaders. These leaders in question have allowed themselves to become the primary reality that the people worry about as a result of their nefarious actions and inactions.

What is playing out today in Nigeria is the result of the practical demonstration of the will of man against the rule of law as practised in the time past. Leaders without ‘disciplined thoughts and actions’ are the people holding sway on our political fronts, and that informs the reason for our not having a  disciplined political and socioeconomic culture as a nation.

Again, leaders and mindless politics also contributed to this. They have not been able to draw a distinction between politics and leadership as they play politics all the way. In doing so, they use the people to further their own end, which is unpleasant, selfish, narrow-minded and petty. Their politics involves intimidating people, getting things done by lying or other dishonoured means’.

To change the current narrative, this piece believes and still believes that there is an urgent imperative to have this nation restructured in ways that will give Nigerians power to control their resources.

As noted in my previous interventions,  what I think the masses are saying by their call for restructuring is that the padding of the second schedule of the exclusive legislative list of our 1999 constitution with sixty-eight (68) items has made Abuja suffer ‘political obesity’ and need to shed some weight via power devolution.

What the people are saying is that the over-blotted exclusive list has made our nation currently stand in an inverted pyramid shape with more power concentrated at the top and the base not formidable enough, making collapse inevitable if urgent and fundamental steps are not taken.

What the proponents of restructuring are saying is that the majority of the items are too trivial for the Federal Government to handle and should serve the greater good of the people if left in the hands of both the state and the local government. This is the hub of the masses’ expectations.

Items such as; Police and some government security services, mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining geological surveys, control of parks, stamp duties, public holidays, taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains, and insurance, among others, to my mind, should find their ways back to the states and the local councils.

Courageously, it will not be out of place if the states and local councils are allowed to handle the outlined responsibilities currently handled by the Federal Government and, in the end, pay tax(es) when necessary to the federal government coffers. By so doing, the federal government will be freed from handling the tiny details which prevent them from looking at the bigger national issues.

In the same vein, it will empower states/regions and local councils that have been technically rendered redundant. This, in my view, is the synoptic baggage of what Nigerians are asking for and achieving it is a simple assignment.

Therefore, as the nation braces up for the general election, this piece holds the opinion that it is time for all Nigerians to prime and position for this major national transformation. Nigerians must approach the election with sharp vision and clear goals that glaringly demonstrate that their credibility and call for change are built not in words but in action.

Another key point on the part of the masses is that to achieve this, all must undress the garment of tribal loyalties, which in many cases has proved to be stronger than a common sense of nationhood. Nigerians must remember that they cannot solve the political and socio-economic challenges in the country with the same thinking used when it was created.

Most importantly, they must, as a matter of urgency, graduate their ‘thought system and loyalty to a level of being united rather than sectional in ways that transcend race, tribe, and class and must develop a world perspective on the affairs of their nations.

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

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AI Could Completely Transform Interactive Advertising

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interactive advertising Marcellus van der Merwe

By Marcellus van der Merwe

In recent months, you have probably seen a plethora of image and text posts produced by artificial intelligence (AI) applications, with DALL-E and ChatGPT featuring as the most popular in their respective fields. For the curious-minded, you may well have already experimented with these or other AI apps. Inevitably, as is the case with any new attention-grabbing app, follows a lot of media speculation on how the application could transform a variety of jobs and industries. 

But what about interactive advertising? This is a question worth asking. The sector is, after all, poised to be worth $123.3 billion by 2030. Advertising has also been at the forefront and the driving seat of many major technological shifts that have defined the past two decades. Search and social media, in particular, owe much of their growth and profitability to advertising revenue while also forcing the industry to evolve in new and exciting directions.

AI has the potential to be similarly transformative. While many marketing companies already use AI for numerous functions, including data intelligence and analysis, it’s also clear that marketing is just beginning its AI journey. In the coming years, AI could result in unprecedented evolutionary leaps forward for interactive advertising, especially in creative execution. 

Digging through the data 

With that in mind, it’s worth reiterating how big a role AI already plays in marketing, with its ability to understand and analyse large amounts of data, in a condensed amount of time. Remember, to provide truly personalised experiences expected from advertisers, large amounts of data are required. However, the task of manually pulling apart data and extracting useful intelligence can be incredibly time-consuming and expensive. AI automates a lot of that heavy lifting whilst ensuring that data is kept accurate and up-to-date. 

As a result, marketers alike gain a clearer idea of which channels are able to best deliver against the spend placed on them, as well as the types of messaging working for which segments. This is highly beneficial for an industry that historically had a hard time demonstrating precise value. 

It’s also worth noting that many of the platforms so successfully used by marketers are making successful use of AI. Spotify, for example, uses it to ensure its position in the market as the preferred audio streaming platform. AI analyses listener habits and builds custom playlists based on previous listening and serve them to the user on a daily basis, ensuring the music served is curated from previous preferences of audio chosen. 

The creative element

AI is already starting to go one step further. Increasingly, it plays an important role in helping marketers deliver creatively excellent, interactive experiences that meet the needs and wants of consumers.

A number of companies, for instance, are already making use of AI-powered chatbots to ensure their consumers are directed to the correct products or services. This approach recognises that marketing can play an important role in providing great customer experiences. It is also one that we can expect to see employed more frequently in the future, having been successfully applied to sectors as diverse as make-up and DIY.

But the text and image creation capabilities of applications such as ChatGPT and DALL-E could easily take those crucial steps further. The conceptualisation would still be done by humans, of course, but there is massive potential for a big shift in interactive advertising. Imagine, for example, being able to provide text, visual, and even audio-visual marketing experiences (the same AI tech used in deep fakes has legitimate uses, too) that are truly unique to every consumer who sees them.

With those abilities locked in, advertising agencies can surprise and delight customers in new and innovative ways. For example, with in-store or event activations, if consumers were able to see their own customised creative in just a few prompts, customers would feel like they’ve created something truly unique for their favourite brand.

Fostering individual connections

Ultimately, you have the potential to achieve a huge shift in how people perceive companies advertising to them. Whereas previously, questions may have arisen from consumers on exactly how companies know so much about them, instead now, they’d simply feel that a company actually ‘gets’ them as individuals. And essentially, instilling feelings of relatability and understanding is foundational to building the kind of real, meaningful, and lasting relationships that every company should strive for. 

It’s a future vision on the cusp of becoming a reality. As such, it’s something that all advertisers and marketers should be moving towards and striving to achieve from the get-go.

Marcellus van der Merwe is the Spotify Sales Lead at Ad Dynamo by Aleph

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What Tech Takeoff Could Mean for Industries Across Board

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MFS Africa Tech Takeoff

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.”.

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4 Methods of Meeting Customers At Their Pain Points Instead Of Just Selling

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customers pain points

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.

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