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Monday, 27 March 2017

ADAPTING TO CHANGE -People, Processes, Technology & Promotion



  The old Preacher said several centuries ago" To everything, there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the Sun. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to breakdown and a time to build up; A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away; a time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; A time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace"
  The one who created the Earth said  " While the Earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease". Times change, People change, Situations Change, Relationships change. The only thing that is constant is change. Thus change in inevitable and unavoidable. Some changes are predictable like some of the cyclical Natural changes outlined by the Preacher above-day & Night,winter & summer etc. There are other Natural occurring changes that may not be cyclical or not easily predictable like Earthquake, land slides, volcanic eruptions, typhoons and tonadoes, though advances in science and astrology have made some of these largely predictable in many societies today. The most dynamic changes today are man made. Political changes, economic changes, cultural and social changes are happening everyday across the globe and each interacting with the other accentuate or moderate the changes. Some of these are unpredictable.
   In Nigeria recently, we have seen the interaction of the political and economic changes and the level of destabilization that citizens and organizations have been experiencing. The interaction between Tradition and modernization have created changes in our culture, and the increasing social liberalization has shaken our Religious and communal ethos. In Business today, in addition to the changes fostered by the domestic economic policies or lack of it, there are three other global change drivers that are relentlessly pushing the frontiers. Economic Liberalization, manifesting as Deregulation & Privatization; Globalization and Technology. The resurgence of Nationalism and Protectionism, being promoted in the UK & USA and some far-right movements in Europe is already creating new ripple of change tidal waves. But whatever may be the cause of the Change, Natural or man made, domestic or global, the critical thing is that individuals, organizations and institutions must learn to deal with and adapt to change for their survival and sustainability.
According to the well-known Philosopher Charles Darwin-" It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change"
  The first step in adapting to change is to try and be aware of your situation. The second is to understand the change and the causation factors.Those who are unaware of the change often become the first victims. To be aware means that you must be conscious of your environment and seek to actively update yourself. Environmental scanning is imperative otherwise you may be consumed by a flood or run into an accident driving against the traffic. Those who pride themselves that they do not read newspapers or listen to news become sitting ducks for adverse effects of changes. It is dangerous to be passive when change is occurring. Some changes can be resisted but the wise person who probes his environment and follows trend will know when to stop opposing the change, then embraces it and finds ways to ride the tide. It is important for all to note that change- positive or adverse will never last for ever. Those who are committing suicide or indulging in anti-social behavior need to be reassured that no change is permanent. Every change will change including this 'change'.
  PEOPLE 
The third step in adapting to change, especially from a business perspective is to build your skills and knowledge to help you stay above the curve. Every effort must be made to adapt your corporate culture in a change environment- how do we do our work?, how do we prepare for work in the changed environment? How do relate to our critical stakeholders at this time- customers, shareholders,employees, financiers, suppliers, regulators, community etc in a time of change and uncertainties? What core values do we subscribe to drive our work culture in a time of economic challenge? In using People to adapt to change the following key success factors need attention: Focus on Vision & Mission- keep pointing to the desired future, despite the short time changes; Promote team spirit and get employees to buy into and have ownership of the Corporate vision, including corporate equity. Ownership attracts patience, determination and extra-ordinary efforts because success will be shared ; Activate thinking minds in the organization, minds that are hospitable  to new ideas and willing to try new things and new methods; Seek ways to keep organizational motivation high and remove all hindrances to free- flow of information.
 PROCESS
Time to re-engineer Business Processes to enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction in a more difficult operating environment- high inflation,low purchasing power. The key is to question all assumptions and take a holistic review of Organizational structure, Reporting systems, Business model, operating systems and strategy. Must provide answers to three questions: where is you business now?; where do you want to take it? What changes must be made to get there?
  TECHNOLOGY 
You have to embrace technology and use it as a tool to adapt to change. The progression should be from analogue to digital; from manual to automation; and from waste to efficiency.
Time to fully deploy on E-portals and drive e-commerce, using Technology to increase speed of production and speed of service delivery.
 PROMOTION
 The focus must be to out perform competitors by creating better value propositions; optimizing all market opportunities, anticipating trends and riding the tide; intensive brand promotion- rising above the crowd; and doing all to enhance corporate reputation - align expectations & experience, bridge the gap between Perception & Reality; have a voice for your organization and blow your trumpet.
  In conclusion, it is important that in dealing with and adapting to change, we must note the following: Preparation PRECEEDS Success; You must constantly anticipate and project changes in your Industry or Trade- avoid being caught unawares, rather be the first to notice; So you must constantly watch trends and understand the implications of every government or regulatory policy; You may have to leverage to gain strength through, strategic alliances, mergers & acquisitions etc; Learn to prepare for the worst but hope for the best- have plan B and possibly plan C. Finally have an Anchor. Because He that knows the end from the beginning said" when you pass through the waters, I will be with thee and through the rivers, they shall not over flow you; when you walk through the fire you shall not burned, neither shall flame kindle upon you"
Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR


Thursday, 23 March 2017

NIGERIA'S SEVEN SHAMEFUL PRACTICES THAT NEED CHANGE


 
The current Nigerian Federal government came to power promising 'change'. And I believe that some effort is being made by the government to bring change to our Nation, though many Nigerians are yet to see this change in their lives. In fact some claim that the change they have seen is negative change, that their lives and circumstances were better before the 'change' promoters arrived. Some others however counter that things need to get bad, before they become better, that if you want to eat omelette, you must be prepared first to break the egg. Well while the argument rages, I believe there are certain shameful things which have been with us for so long that we must bring change to. While the government is grabbling with the economy and other pressing issues, we as well need to make determined efforts to bring change to these other issues which make our Country look bad and bring shame to many of us- that is those who are still able to feel shame in Nigeria.

 1. FRANCHISING OUR HEALTHCARE TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
It is embarrassing to me that our senior government officials have to be ferried overseas each time they are sick. The late President Umaru Yar'adua had to be taken all over the World to be treated. Our current President has gone abroad at least three times in the last two years on medical grounds and one of them was just for "ear infection" As a healthcare professional I feel diminished that my country cannot even treat ear infection. The amount of money we spend treating our officials abroad and the cost of all those who fly abroad as official and unofficial delegations to go visit our sick leaders can build several international healthcare centres in Nigeria.
  I have often wandered what would happen if the international donor agencies stopped supporting our Healthcare. HIV/AIDS control and treatment in Nigeria is funded by American Organizations- PEPFAR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, US CENTE FOR DISEASE CONTROL (CDC), etc. The Fight against Malaria, Tuberculosis and other endemic diseases are funded by the GLOBAL FUND, MELINDA & BILL GATE FOUNDATION etc. The vaccines for the immunization of our children against six common childhood diseases are supplied almost exclusively by the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO), the World Bank, the GAVI Fund and other multilateral global donor agencies.  
 What actually do we do with the annual health budgets? Pay salaries and allowances? And yet our public sector healthcare personnel especially the doctors go on strike more than any other group in the world for poor pay. Or are we not budgeting enough? May be it is time that we began the implementation of the National Health act so that sufficient funds can be provided. This shameful practice of being a burden on the World for our 
Healthcare needs must stop.

2. INSECURITY OF LIVES
 One stigma that has remained with Nigeria for a long time is that it is an unsafe country. From the Military era till date, Nigeria has been seen as unsafe place. Way back, it used to be mainly armed robbery, then kidnapping joined which was accentuated by the Niger Delta Militants before it became a national malady. Thereafter the Boko Haram terrorists joined, first blowing up churches and passenger buses from Abuja to Plateau to Kano, before they retreated into full insurrection in the North-East Region of Nigeria where they kill innocent Nigerians virtually every day in the last 5 years or so. Then the mother of them all which started as some kind of inter-ethnic conflict in the North Central Region of Nigeria, but which turned out into full terrorism called the Fulani herdsmen invasion. This has turned out to be about the worst security challenge of the country with these marauders invading villages and killing, maiming, and pillaging from the North central to the South East and to the South West. Whereas the military is fighting the Boko Haram in the North East and the Police is fighting the kidnappers all over Nigeria, the Fulani herdsmen seem to be having a field's day, operating with total impunity.
   I feel really ashamed to belong to a Nation that cannot protect lives, where live is cheap and where people are killed with impunity and not much happens. This is loudly calling for change!

3. POLICE & OTHER SECURITY PERSONNEL COLLECTING BRIBES ON THE ROADS
  It is so heart wrenching to watch our Security officers openly collect bribes from road users on the high way. First it was the practice of the Police who even shoot for twenty Naira, but now some men in military uniforms have imbibed this shameful habit. When they cannot pin you down with any traffic offence, they solicit for gifts- "Chairman, your boys are here". If you do not respond, they find ways to delay you. I felt like crying the other day, when I saw a policeman, collect money from a commercial bus driver and as we waited in the queue, he returned change to the driver, rummaging in his pocket and bringing out different denominations, some rumpled and some half-torn to make up the change. He seemed not to care who was watching. Inspector- General, after inspector-General, commissioners after commissioners since I was a young man, this sickening practice continues even in this Buhari's anti-corruption Nigeria. When will this sickening and shameful practice cease for God's sake?

 4. UNBRIDLED MIGRATION/ EMIGRATION OF DESPERATE NIGERIANS TO HELL
When you go to any embassy in Nigeria you will see Nigerians in long queues, some waking up at 4am to be on the line. What is driving them out of Nigeria? I was shocked to hear that Nigerians constitute a significant portion of the illegal immigrants that drown daily in the Mediterranean Sea. Recently I watched loads and loads of Nigerian evicted from Libya. Libya?
 I am told of the numbers of countless Nigerians languishing in Foreign jails and many are on the death roll in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa and China for drug- trafficking. I am thoroughly ashamed to be said to belong to a country where some young people prefer to migrate to Hell than live in their country.
Is there nothing really that we can do to stop this national disgrace?

5. STREET TRADING, BEGGING, HAWKING AND REFUSE DUMPING ON HIGHWAYS
Though my heart goes out each time, I see young men and women crisscross the highways to sell their ways to passengers in moving vehicles, I have always wandered if there is nothing we can do to give these young and often not-too young folks who risk their lives and demean their personalities to eck out a living, to do more decent jobs or ply their trades in a proper market? Then I am bewildered that in many cities, everywhere is turning into markets especially in such places as Aba, Port-Harcourt, Kano and Ibadan. Then the whole environment is littered with refuse. On the highways these days you find new trading settlements in places like Ogere in Ogun State,Lokpanta in Abia State and Obehie in Rivers State and the whole road median is covered with refuse and the people continue to buy and sell  on the refuse, day in and day out.  Have we lost our sense of decency or what?
6. BARBARIC WAYS OF TAX/ LEVY COLLECTION AND ENFORCEMENT
   In many states of this Country, it is very embarrassing to see so called revenue collectors jump on to the road from hide outs or put dangerous spikes to force vehicles to stop. Many accidents have occurred from this type of ambush. Sometimes, revenue collectors or regulatory agents scale fences to shut down factories for alleged tax evasion. Can't we stop these barbaric acts of impunity. The Governments at all levels- Fed, state & LGs should ensure that they use due process of law to enforce any mandate, including ejecting illegal squatters. Many foreign businessmen and visitors are alarmed at this lack of due process in regulatory enforcement. Nigeria must stop these rofo-rofo practices as they bring shame to our country. 
 7.POLITICS WITHOUT IDEALOGY  AND POLITICAL HARLOTARY  
I am ashamed of the level of primordial politics played in Nigeria - politics of stomach infrastructure. Elected and non elected political office holders switch parties at the drop of a hat. No ideology, no principles. What matters is temporary relevance and access to the National wealth. If you cannot beat them, you join them. When can we stop this political harlotry in Nigeria? It demeans the political class and rubs off negatively on the image of our Nation. Let us get elected officers to resign their positions and return to the electorate, if they must cross carpets. Some deterrence is badly needed to help stop this political harlotry.
Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR .


Monday, 6 March 2017

BUSINESS REVIVAL IN 2017: MATTERS ARISING

BUSINESS REVIVAL IN 2017: MATTERS ARISING

 Last week, the Sam Ohuabunwa Foundation for Economic Empowerment (SOFEE) held its Business Revival seminar in Lagos. The seminar was organized primarily to open the eyes of the attendees which included entrepreneurs, Business operators & leaders, industrialists and regulators, to the emerging developments in the Nigerian economy and how to take advantage of them to get out of recession and resume growth in 2017.
  The Focus of the seminar included, assessing Nigeria's economic performance in 2016, understanding Nigeria's economic outlook for 2017, understanding the drivers of Nigeria's economic recovery, understanding and taking advantage of special provisions and concessions for SMEs, understanding the Business enablers for 2017 ( marketing, sales, cost control, Regulation, management & governance and Business conduct), optimizing funding opportunities from financial institutions-CBN,BOI, BOA and other sources, and the building of networks for business revival and expansion.
 At the end of the seminar, the participants made a number of suggestions which they want brought to the attention of Government and which they believe will help to ensure that the economic recovery is truly achieved this year. Some of these are:
  1. STABILIZE THE FOREX MARKET
The long standing instability in the Forex market- scarcity, rationing, sustained depreciation and multiple exchange rates has been hurting the economy. They praised the recent policy adjustments by the CBN that led to increased supply and appreciation of the Naira in the parallel market. There was apprehension however, that this increased supply from the government oil sales may not last, hence attendees pressed for measures to diversify sources from the private sector. In this wise many pushed for full liberalization of the Forex market to attract more foreign direct investments (FDI), capital portfolio investment and enhance home remittances.
2. REMOVE THE CLOGS ON THE WHEEL
 Attendees appealed to Government to deliberately and systematically remove all the obstacles on the way of businessmen in Nigeria, some of which are placed by Government and its agencies. Some of these clogs include multiple taxation (Federal, State, local Governments), multiple and tedious registrations/ documentations (Driver's licence, National identity, Bank verification No, ITF, PENCOM, Employee compensation etc), indeterminate delays in obtaining business registrations, licensing, C of Os and permits from Government regulators.
3. REFORM THE PUBLIC SECTOR ATTITUDE TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND CURB INSTITUTIONAL CORRUPTION
There is a palpable feeling that the Public sector, especially the MDAs do not have the right attitude that is supportive of Private sector growth. Many at the implementation level seem oblivious or ignorant of the role of the private sector in growing the economy. That is why, many expect to be paid (bribed?) for every service they render to the private sector, and otherwise you may be denied service or may suffer undue delays. They called for a total reorientation of the Public sector to be facilitators of the Private sector and to wean it off extortion and systemic corruption.
  One participant recounted how his warehouse was sealed for weeks because he complained of delays in clearing his goods to the head of a regulatory agency and how he was harassed severally until he was forced to pay out money by the lower level officers. Another complained about how he suffered several weeks of delay in clearing his consignments because he had been thorough in paying all the required fees ahead of time. He was punished for not leaving a gap in his obligations. Yet another complained of the double payments they now make in the wake of the TSA. You pay ' Buhari money' which goes to the TSA and then you pay another 'real money ' which is available for the agency to use. Tough!
4. GOVERNMENT SHOULD PAY LOCAL CONTRACTORS/ SUPPLIERS AS AT AND WHEN DUE
   Government is owing local contractors and suppliers trillions of Naira, and still expect to be supplied new products & services. This is stifling the ability of local companies to operate. Government does not pay interest on debts they owe, yet businessmen pay high interest rates to banks and get punished by government for late payment or late remission of taxes. They insist that the government should obey its procurement law and pay as at when due or pay interest on overdue payables to help the Private sector revive in 2017. They encouraged Government to hasten the mooted plan to raise bonds to pay backlog of domestic debts.
5. REDUCE INTEREST RATES 
 Participants recommended a reduction in interest rates to spur increased borrowing and spending to enhance Economic activities and push the economy out of recession. They believe that the current interest regime in commercial banks cannot support manufacturing and other value-adding activities in the SME sector. They asked for transparency in the implementation of the CBN, Bank of Industry (BOI) and Bank of Agriculture (BOA) special funding windows.
6. GOVERNMENT TO WALK THE TALK
Attendees at the seminar said that most of what government is saying in the 2017 Budget or the new Nigerian Economy recovery and growth plan (NERGP) are not new. They had heard of such in the perspective plans and rolling plans of yesteryears, in the Vision 2010 and Vision 2020 documents. At the end, so much money would be spent and yet electricity has not improved, pipe-borne water supply has not shown much improvement and our health statistics remain almost stagnant if not retrogressive. They hoped that the story would be different this time. Specifically they asked for transparency in the 500 Billion Naira social intervention fund and hoped it will not be compensation for political supporters or savings for the next elections. 
7.  THAT PMB SHOULD BE ALLOWED ALL THE REST HE NEEDS
Participants wished the President well and asked that he should be allowed to have sufficient rest, so that he can come home fully rested, hearty and healthy. They asked Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina to please ask all the world leaders -Donald Trump, Moroccan King, Conte etc who have been disturbing the peace of Mr President with phone calls to route their calls to the acting President. They should also be careful in disturbing the President with stories of those who died or are dying in Nigeria compelling him to be calling to commiserate. If they have no other work to do than informing Nigerians of who called the President or whom he called, they could take their own vacations as well or return to their former duties( unless they were unemployed) till PMB returns and resumes work. 
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR