By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Similar to history, which according to historians, is an unending dialogue between the present and the past through a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts to assist the anxious enquirer improving the present and future based on a clearer understanding of the mistakes and achievements of the past, the conversion on electricity power supply challenge in the country has like history, become neither unending nor abating.
Essentially, the first half of this recurring circle was captured recently in my piece titled FG’s Assurance on Generation of 25,000MW Electricity, as it explains why Nigerians are no longer comfortable with assurances from the federal government, the present piece which qualifies as the beginning of something new was elicited as a response to a declaration by Garba Shehu, the presidential spokesperson.
Shehu, who spoke in an interview on a Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily, among other things stated; that President Muhammadu Buhari has greatly improved electricity generation in the country, he concluded.
Let’s face the fact; he spoke convincingly with actual authority that flows from the position that he occupies. However, the only difference here is that, unlike history, his run on fact, particularly his fervent belief that the outlook of the nation’s electricity remains good, in the face of the current epileptic power supply and unjustifiable high tariff regime in the country, has not in any way advanced our conversation on or assisted the nation’s quest to find a quick solution to its electricity/energy crisis.
Let’s face the fact; it is true that the 2005 Power Reform Act (EPSR, ACT of 2005), which provided for the privatization of the power sector did not go far before President Olusegun Obasanjo administration left office in 2007. Yes, it is also true in parts that the present frustration in the sector was further fed by the reality that the current federal government as noted by Garba Shehu during the interview, inherited reckless privatization of the power sector done by the Goodluck Jonathan administration (the roadmap for power sector reform of 2010), Despite the validity of these claims, yet, Shehu’s analytics for reasons did not go without opposition.
First, enough evidence supports the fact that no administration in the country, not even the present Muhammadu Buhari led federal government can boast of clean hands when it comes to Nigeria’s electricity crisis.
Without going into analysis to establish how culpable each of these administrations appears in this case, one point, in my view, that mustn’t be overlooked when discussing the power/electricity crisis in Nigeria is that the challenge has nothing to do with privatization. It is neither fuelled by the desire to fashion an authentic roadmap for restoring the health and vitality of the sector nor is it the function of the current effort to bring about a new tariff regime.
Rather, it’s simply and squarely a conceptual problem of what successive federal government has been doing which has never been in the best interest of the people, the nation and the sector.
Very fundamental of the challenge is the operation of the obsolete grid system, an arrangement where the power generated in the country is pooled/assembled or channelled to a control/switch centre before it is finally distributed to consumers across the nation.
Aside from qualifying as a clumsy arrangement and operated in an environment laced with outmoded transmission lines and facilities that cannot hold supplies over time, the practice itself, going by what industry watchers are saying, is not only out-fashioned, old-schooled but visibly runs contrary to the global vision/model which presently favours decentralization of energy generation and distribution.
In my view, energy/power centralization has never assisted the socio-economic development of any nation desirous of making headway industrially.
There exist yet another frustration, this time around fuelled by painful consciousness that instead of acting as energy sector regulator, successive administrations’ for yet to be identified reasons choose to function in the nation’s power sector as both ‘ captain and coach’,- owning shares in Gencos, Discos and TCN.
This state of affairs occurred in spite of part breaking studies that suggest that the private sector is likely to better understand the location and nature of market failures/bottlenecks/barriers that inhabit the energy sector.
It was also argued elsewhere that the government capacity to design and execute an appropriate resolution of identified market failure/bottlenecks is the sector is often always laced with controversy.
From this ‘unrelenting’ failures/failings on the part of policymakers to define the business of power generation and distribution in the country and lack of clear strategy for penetrating it profitably, or allow conventional market forces to determine electricity tariff regimes in ways that will lead to the realization of economic rights of the investors while expanding fundamental freedoms and choices of the individual consumers; and with government, unwillingness to follow swiftly, the ‘changing needs of time’, which of course are the sufficient ingredients of foresighted decision making and condition that every leader desirous of success must constantly fulfil, it obvious that the nation’s handlers have finally left the survival of the sector to chance.
As we know, anyone that fails to search for his potential leaves his survival to chance
Again, it is weak regulations and untidy oversight such as these, that largely promotes a situation where according to a commentator, an electricity consumer buys pole, cables, meter and contributes money to buy or replace the community transformer; and, as soon as that is done, they automatically become the Disco property and the electricity distribution companies will, without taking the meter reading, send outrageous estimated bills he/she never consumed.
That is not the only apprehension. There exists also some unforgivable abuse of trust within the sector.
The first that comes to mind is the recent report that the Senate Committee on Public Accounts has begun the investigation of N14.7 billion proceeds of privatization of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) allegedly hidden in commercial banks by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE).
The committee is acting on an audit query in the ‘Auditor-General for the Federation’s Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Year Ended 31st December 2019.’
Before the dust raised by the above worrying/worrisome development could settle, another was up. This time around has to do with a new awareness of how TCN, DISCO’s Inefficiencies Caused Electricity Generating Companies to about N120.25 billion to stranded power which averaged 2,448.50 megawatts every month in 2021.
According to industry data cited by Business Standards, an average of N13 billion was lost every month by generating companies. This is the total monetary value of the volume of electricity generated by generating companies but which unfortunately could not get to consumers either due to infrastructural problems or because they were rejected by distribution companies for fear of not being able to recover the money from consumers.
What the above development tells us is that it is a difficult venture to implement meaningful changes when institutions are the cause of the problems in the first place.
It also suggests that engineering prosperity without confronting the root cause of the problem and the politics that keeps them in place is unlikely to bear fruit as the institutional structure that creates market failure will also prevent the implementation of interventions.
To catalyse the process of serving the sector, we must recognize that what we need today, perhaps, is not a new theory, concept or framework, but people who can think strategically with a balanced perspective.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.
Okowa’s Financial Aid to Mission Schools
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 firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374
Tips for Building a Low-code Strategy
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
B2B e-Commerce: Fostering Sales, Distribution with 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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