By Gregory Kronsten
We listened with great interest to four prominent private equity players in Africa in a discussion of prospects during and after COVID-19.
The event took place in early November, and so was before the announcement by Pfizer and Moderna on their vaccines to tackle COVID-19.
The panel discussion was part of the Africa Debate, an annual event put together by an established London-based business association.
Private equity houses are generally optimistic and did not disappoint in the discussion. They had to contend with the great returns available in China and foreign exchange issues in several African markets before COVID-19 struck, yet were able to highlight many positives.
One investor who follows the script of the emerging middle class noted that 70 per cent of their companies qualify as essential businesses and have therefore remained open.
Another said that their investments in both telecoms and financial services had performed well with COVID-19 whereas the record for consumer goods had been mixed.
His experience in Africa was that the crisis has helped large companies more than small operations, mirroring trends in advanced economies.
A third mentioned a successful investment in the remittance business, driven by a shift from sending cash across borders (now often closed) in taxis to digital transactions. There is the general point, made in the context of infrastructure plays, that the global slowdown has made valuations more attractive.
Without travel, investors have been unable to send specialist outside contractors to factories for fire-fighting purposes. Whenever possible, they have sorted the problems out on Zoom.
COVID-19 has accelerated programmes to deepen local expertise on the ground, while traditional due diligence has become highly challenging without travel. At the other end of the transaction, an exit via Zoom requires good knowledge of the buyers. Nonetheless, one investor has concluded two transactions in the past month, one of which is in the fintech space.
In the Q&A session, investors were asked about their target Internal Rate of Return (IRR). The first to answer came up with between 15 per cent and 20 per cent net and the three others were happy to nod their heads in agreement.
Another question covered the integration of ESG considerations into investment decisions. One investor had already said that all their decision-taking incorporated the impact on the climate. He argued that the valuation would suffer on a future exit from a climate-unfriendly holding.
Expectedly, working practices have also had to change. One company has worked hard to keep up morale as its employees work from home rather than the network in their office. Its responses have included organising a party on Zoom to celebrate the appointment of three new partners.
Some of the time saved from travelling has also been used to bring employees up to speed on the world of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).
Overall, the momentum has slowed for the industry in Africa in terms of new deals, exits and fund-raising because of COVID-19. It was clear from the discussion, however, that participants were confident about the future post-COVID, which point may well have been brought closer by the news on vaccine trials we have since had from Pfizer and Moderna in the US.
Gregory Kronsten is the Head of Macroeconomic and Fixed Income Research at FBNQuest
Christianity, Economics, Politics & Why Education Does not Work
By Nneka Okumazie
There are at least two guarantees of most education – procedure and profile: a procedure that shows how to reach an outcome and a profile that shows that the procedure was passed. There are other possibilities with education, but many get through both destinations and park.
There are lots of places around the world, developed and developing, where people rail about education quality or inefficiency. But, maybe those aren’t the ways to look at education if procedure and profile are achieved.
Looking broadly at education – there are 3 Fs to consider: fiction, fusion and fission.
There are many things anyone can read, learn or be taught but not understand. There are things that are real that can be explained but would seem like fiction to many.
It is possible to explain how telecommunication works to anyone, but many may not get the concept of waves. It is possible to see rockets and explain the science to many but would be too complex to understand.
There are lots of new technologies, advances that people can be told about and shown, but would remain as fiction to them.
There are people who learn many procedures, get the profile, but remains fiction to them.
Knowledge – in general, is fusion, information coming together to become a unit or adding new units to existing.
Procedures – are a fusion of stuff. Fusion is common, happens often and can be informal.
Fission is the hardest and rarest of education.
Though people have spikes of fission on some aspects of what they have learned at some point, splattering and effervescing of extraordinary magnitude is the origin of major paths of advances through time.
It is true that many advances take years with continuous tests and efforts, but the intellect of fission does much at any time in the process.
Thinking about one thing and having several spectrums of it – towards accuracy is the height of the result of learning that the world needs more of, but gets less and less of.
Quality of education may guarantee some fission, quality of tutor, sources, or mentor may try, but sometimes, it is either innate or something electrifies at some point.
Intellect fission results in hyper passion, courage, etc. different from those possessing procedural education that have to passion – [positive or negative] or courage – [positive or negative].
There are people with passion against something who don’t know much, only swinging around procedural knowledge.
There are others too, with some courage to hate, for wickedness, greed, factionalism, etc. that have procedural education, but not intellect fission.
They may get information, but they are not the intellect of fission for progress.
So how is intellect fission achieved?
How is it possible to learn something and the immanent mind reams, flips and sprawls it towards what others cannot just see?
Maybe focus on how fission intellect.
As progress has glided in the world, so have troubles.
There are solutions and answers needed that education of fission would have provided, or education to spark fission.
But because profile education or stage is in demand – there is less and less care for the education of fission.
Many positions are filled with people who have profiles, but unlikely to move anything forward.
Though some curiosity, observation, creativity, analysis, understanding, great memory and insights may be results of some fission – but just like rungs of a ladder, difference abounds per reach and height.
Criticism is mostly a procedure. Deceit is a procedure. Getting rich is mostly procedural as well.
There are many things that are procedures – input and output.
[Proverbs 20:13, Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.]
Christianity, Government, Ideology, Dumbness & Politics
By Nneka Okumazie
Is falling for false information dumbness or a factor of human limitation? Assuming this, in the most difficult to verify situation suggests human limitation, there are limitless amounts of things that people fall for – signifying dumbness.
It is easy to get people provoked, happy, moody, emotional or whatever expression is desired, by characteristic twists or turns for those outcomes.
It is almost impossible to be smart all the time. It is rare to be smart most times, but it is possible to be dumb most times – with few flashes of smartness.
Dumbness is probably the nucleus of behaviour – with smartness as the shells. Dumbness pulls many but smartness takes work.
Dumbness sometimes is the default of thoughts, sight or other senses. If it appears or speaks like this, it means this; if it acts or moves like that, it is that – without question.
It is far easier to predict that people would be dumb than to predict they’ll be smart. Lots of irrationalities come from dumbness. Deception, though a popular tool, uses dumbness.
It is not often the smart or sensible paths that draw many, but the simple, or feels part. Something can feel so good to taste, smell, or other senses, but does not mean it is good for behaviour, health, etc. Many take the feel-good and damn the consequences.
Something may be so good at present, so easy, so advantageous, so acceptable, but does not mean it is good for the future. Some answers may seem so right, so appraisable but dumb, cheap and impractical.
It is possible to have gone somewhere to get something at some point, but – would – years on, cause major problems for the people.
There is so much dumb thinking – so much outsourced thinking that turns out to be wrong.
One of the most common spots of dumbness is power. It is often assumed that people in powerful positions manoeuvre to get there and stay there, but predicting the behaviour of the powerful is quite easy because of how power drives dumbness because many assume that just being powerful means smart or better than others – it doesn’t. Ideology can take over power so dumbness can be the leader.
Do whatever you like as long as it does not affect anyone is another dumb statement that does not account for the possibility that private habits can be triggered externally depending on the situation, or say calculation – that assumes it is possible to get away with it, or not get away, but to do it regardless.
In science, evidence determines much. In justice, evidence matters a lot. But some justice failed because the evidence was not presented, or was countered, or ignored not because the crime was not committed. So the supremacy of evidence as the determinant of real true or false – isn’t that smart, it’s just the established rule.
Be careful what you think, or guard thy heart with diligence may seem odd to some, but the heart is the point of pull or plan for most wrongs. Thinking in certain ways is to have done it.
Selfishness – or the best for one person or group, seems like what is preferred by most, but this classic dumbness becomes a loss, starting from the ones who think it’s of maximum benefit.
The present in all its hardship for many – is a matrix from the past, in how some took to selfishness, for the advantage of the day, to become the loss of the future for things linked to them.
The circuitousness continues.
There is the smart spectrum and there is the dumb spectrum. Some choose or it chooses them. There are those in the dumb spectrum that no knowledge, exposure or information does much to get them away from it. As a fact, as some get more exposed, their dumbness deepens.
Some people often feel others are smart while others feel others are dumb. Smartness or dumbness is not often determined by sides. Most times, dumb people throw dumbness to everyone else, as in the playbook of critics. Criticism – most of the way – is dumbness repackaged and responsibility defenestrated.
Understanding is relevant in how smartness navigates, but dumbness convolves into what many would choose.
Though technology was supposed to make smart, it powered mass social media that lets dumbness go wide. Most people hear, see or read there, they sometimes forget about it, but sometimes end up behaving in ways that express those actions – without tracing it back there.
Also, most people say stuff as themselves, but often just channelling from that source or acting in ways that blend with what the source would like.
It is important to have internal strength, not just seeking always for the external, but to have this strength to wait a bit or a little, to process things through and properly, before going along the easy, one-way-think option available to all.
Though smartness is far better than dumbness and maybe should not be compared, but smartness at its best is limited. It is possible to be smart, using the information available and be wrong. So even at the peak of smartness, it should be understood that limitations abound.
God is a spirit.
This means God does not exist in the physical or cannot be seen, or instruments used to find distant physical object cannot be used to find heaven or see the Almighty God.
God ways, thoughts and judgement are different.
This means using statements like if God loves why to suffer – isn’t an expression of that understanding.
Genuine Christianity is what Christ wants, but many combine their Christianity with sin and all kinds of acts. Christianity as an ID is not answering the call to be truly born again.
Everyone can be right in their own eyes, but the Creator of the world, Jehovah Almighty knows all.
[Matthew 22:29, Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.]
Encouraging Girls in Science to Bring Fresh Perspective to Problem-Solving
By Tolu Oyekan
Over the years, the study of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has increasingly gained grounds across the world.
Nigeria is not left out as many young people are becoming more interested in studying science subjects at secondary and tertiary levels of education.
This is no surprise as our world today is largely driven by technology. Technology encompasses practically every facet of our lives. Life has become easier through the application of technology.
For instance, Information and communication technology (ICT) has proven to be invaluable as the world tries to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic challenges. The application of ICT tools kept people connected made essential services accessible and sustained businesses.
The 21st century brought about lots of scientific innovations which have propelled the need for students at different levels to become more proficient in the knowledge of STEM. Besides Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics; other STEM subjects include Actuarial Science, Statistics, Psychology, Robotics, Information Science, Atmospheric Sciences and Educational Research.
Experts have discovered that early exposure of students to STEM and technology-related subjects will help young people develop a passion for technological pursuits and eventually help them pursue a job in a STEM field.
Right now, the fastest-growing job categories are related to STEM with recent studies indicating new jobs in areas such as data analysis, software development and data visualization, virtual reality, artificial intelligence etc.
However, girls are highly under-represented in STEM and ICT classes; globally the percentage of young girls undertaking ICT courses range from 8.9% in Switzerland to 20.0% in the United States, except for India with 50.5%. What this means is that except this trend changes, women will remain under-represented in future workplaces.
This year, the International Girls in ICT Day held on April 22 with the theme: ‘Connected Girls, Creating Brighter Futures’. On this day every year, stakeholders in the technology space and indeed all of us should seek opportunities to empower girls to develop digital skills so as to pursue careers enabled by technology.
As these young girls move on to take up various careers in the ICT sphere, they are faced with several challenges, particularly finding a perfect work-life balance. Conditions like pregnancy, breastfeeding and child care pitched against rigorous work hours put many women in disadvantaged positions. In many cases, childcare centres are not found close to places of work resulting in women working part-time or accepting lower-paying jobs to focus on their homes or quitting their career early.
There is also the glass ceiling issue affecting females in ICT such as gender biases during appointments, promotion and career improvement opportunities as well as harassment, biased evaluation by peers along familial responsibilities, which could cause increased stress.
There could be several factors that account for the under-representation of girls in STEM. One which is quite obvious, is the issue of the environment, culture as well as the emphasis on gender equality and encouragement of growth mindset. A report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shows that the learning environment and social belief system affect girls’ interest and achievements in STEM/ICT subjects.
Another study showed that in countries like Sweden and Iceland where gender parity prevails, girls perform better than boys on Math tests. On the other hand, girls from countries like Turkey where gender discrimination is greater don’t do well in math tests.
Research also shows that majority of people view STEM fields as which should be ideally dominated by men; a view which still holds sway to this day. Society views women in science and engineering jobs as less competent than men unless they are exhibiting success tendencies.
No doubt, there are many women who are excelling in science and ICT-related fields. Some examples of women excelling in ICT globally include Sheryl Kara Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org; Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet Inc and its subsidiary, Google and Ginni Rometty, Former Chairman, President and CEO of IBM, In Nigeria, worthy role models for girls are Funke Opeke, founder, Main One Technologies; Omobola Johnson, former Nigerian Minister for Communication Technology; Juliet Ehimuan, Country Manager Nigeria, Google; and Cherry Eromosele Group Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Interswitch, to name a few.
The beautiful thing is that girls definitely bring a fresh sense of perspective to problem-solving in the classrooms and workplaces as professionals. One of such ways is using her ‘voice’; by this, I don’t just mean talking. It is when a girl challenges the status quo, excels at her studies, contributes to making policies or suggests an idea that moves their schools or organisation towards a new course of action.
Some studies have shown that teams with women as leaders were more successful when facing tasks that are more mentally challenging and required complex problem-solving abilities.
But this good performance only showed if the women spoke up if the men believed that women were capable contributors, and if the team acted on the women’s suggestions.
To ensure girls are more interested in STEM and ICT careers, women already in these fields should get more involved in the development of STEM policies that will favour and encourage girls to develop an interest in these subjects. These will include exposing girls to STEM fields, encouraging participation in STEM programmes, providing scholarships, as well as supporting learning opportunities in communities.
And men can be effective allies in gender equality conversations. They can start with listening to their female counterparts and taking their concerns seriously. Men in a position of authority can bring their influence to bear by amplifying women’s voices, educating other men against stereotype, credit women’s work and ideas fairly, advocate for policies that remove bias and advance equality. More importantly, men should show their support, at home, the workplace and in other social circles.
At Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the education and encouragement of girls to fit adequately into the future of jobs is a core aspect of our ‘Back to The Future’ agenda. Currently, there are more women in the BCG workforce in Lagos, than there are men. Working with this crop of brilliant women has brought interesting and insightful perspectives to problem-solving. So, I know first-hand that women bring a fresh perspective to problem-solving.
I hope that more girls will begin to have an affinity for STEM subjects and capacity will be built in ICT-based endeavours to gain new skills and enhance problem-solving.
Tolu Oyekan is a partner at BCG
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