3 key innovations from PIND that are saving lives and improving the livelihoods of people in the Niger Delta region.

Non Profits will play a critical role in shaping the future, we will need more Non-profits who are willing to go after tough problems in ingenious ways, that is why today I will be  highlighting 3 remarkable solutions that PIND has deployed in her bid to improve the livelihood and peaceful existence of thousands of Niger Deltans.

PIND fully known as Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta is a not-for-profit organization established in 2010 with a mission offering to build partnerships that can drive peace, human capital development and wealth creation across the nine states of the region.

Here are 3 Key remarkable innovations from PIND’s that is improving the Livelihoods thousands of Niger Deltans.

  1. The Chorkor Oven – Improving Fish processing and combating climate change.

In the Niger Delta, a common delicacy is the dry fish which typically requires long amounts of time spent smoking the fish, human exposure to smoke and contribution to emissions, the Chorkor oven is a practicable solution to increasing efficiency and quality of fish smoked as well as reducing health risk of exposure to smoke/burns.  Made up of a smoke chamber, which is the oven, and a smoke tray where the fishes are laid and dried over the oven, the Chorkor oven is a low fuel consumption oven when compared to traditional smoke pits or ovens and is suitable for processing fish and poultry alike.
Constructed using materials such as kneaded clay (clay balls), cement bricks, clay or stabilized earth bricks, burnt clay bricks or hydra form compressed bricks, wood, wire mesh and nails (fish trays), using the Chorkor oven contributes to climate change adaptation because forest depletion is reduced. In addition, its processing time and quantity is faster and higher with up to 200-300 kg of fish at a time (depending on number of chambers and tray) compared to traditional ovens that can take less than 50-70 kg. it’s also very durable with a lifespan of at least 5 years of use.

2 : ATED Center –  Sustainable housing infrastructure

Housing needs will always be an inevitable part of human existence as societies evolve but an emerging conversation that requires direction is the conversation of the types of houses that are being built and how safe and sustainable they are for the future. This is where PIND comes in.

To proffer a solution that improves construction practices as well as provides cost-effective housing infrastructure models, PIND introduced the Appropriate Technology Enabled Development (ATED) demonstration center- a pilot housing innovation that seeks to promote the adoption of energy-efficient homes in the Niger Delta region. A primary characteristic of the ATED project is the drive for sustainability which is why the pilot building is set up as a training center to teach stakeholders who can then replicate in the local community.

Using multiple locally-appropriate technologies, methods and construction materials, the ATED building is characterized by reduced energy consumption, a brilliant air exchange system, controlled internal and external heat, water saving and waste management facilities which ultimately provides the remarkable combination of comfort and efficient energy homes.

3: BioSand Filter – Water processing technology providing access to clean drinking water.

Water is a premium commodity in the region as a result of the pollution of water bodies caused by oil exploration activities, to combat this problem, PIND innovated a low-cost solution called the Biosand filter. This filter ensures access to clean and safe water sources. It is a 1m tall and 0.3m wide container made up of concrete or plastic. Filled with layers of specially selected prepared sand and gravel, it works by a filtration technique which is a simple and effective means of removing disease-causing microorganisms from contaminated water. This is a practicable Point-of-Use water treatment technology effective at the household level.

The filter has undergone intensive experimentation both on the field and in labs. It has been proven to remove up to 100% of helminths or worms as we call them, up to 100% of protozoa, 98.5% of bacteria and between 70-99% of viruses! The filter can also remove up to 95% of dirt and cloudiness, and up to 95% of iron which most people dislike because of its discoloration effect.

I do believe that PIND’s work is powerful in the potential it holds for widespread impact on sustainable livelihoods if replicated in communities outside the Niger Delta region and is quite inspirational for individuals, organizations and even governments that want to shape the future.



Convince me to care about the SDGs.

When was the last time you were actively involved in an informal conversation about the SDGs? And no, I wasn’t referring to some forum or conference, just the regular chit chat amongst friends. Did you have to think long and hard or did you get a quick and vivid memory flash? I daresay that it was the former. Who or what stakeholders are responsible for this silence or communication gap? Let’s begin by talking about one major, chief driver of the development sector- non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Non-Governmental Organizations Role in Driving SDGs

It’s been three years since world leaders including Nigeria committed to ending extreme poverty everywhere, fighting inequalities and tackling climate change through the implementation of the 17 global blueprint goals for sustainable development. Quite a number of NGOs in the country and even the government has received both multilateral and bilateral donor support to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars to power concerted action on the SDGs including advocacy efforts and implementation. I think these investments show that there is a desire to facilitate communicating the SDGs and getting people to care about them.

But it seems to me that strong conversations are going on around the SDGs but here is what I have noticed and this is coming from the combination of both my outsider and insider perspective, in my work with NGOs. There’s been the difficulty of taking the SDGs to the mainstream space in Nigeria.

So, the question is, how do we get people to care about sustainable development goals? How do you get people to care about climate change, about poverty, about gender and inequality issues? And not just care about them but take action concerning them.

As such, this disconnect between the NGO space and the mainstream society poses a key challenge to the actualization of the SDGs.

 

Language Barrier Challenge

Why is this so? I think the reason for this challenge is the fact that the lingua franca for NGO communications is characterized by technical language. And so, the development language by default appeals to only those who work in that space.

Let me paint a picture to explain what I mean. If you use social media in Nigeria or follow the news, you’re likely to recall the #AgbadaChallenge trend that went viral a while ago, a calculated PR strategy to promote a movie release or other trends like slay queens or Falz’s Sweet Boys Association trend or the intense political conversations and debates between the Atikulatednation and the Buharists camp? Now, what do you think would happen if conversations around any of the goals say climate change, trends like any of the aforementioned examples? How do we get the goals to be as prevalent as these mainstream media and entertainment conversations?

The fact is there need to be concerted efforts to translate the SDGs into mainstream language. 

A very good example of this is the Little by Little campaign launched in March this year, a first of its kind collaboration between Google and Common Ground-an initiative of the world’s six largest advertising groups in support of the SDGs.

Source: GlobalGiving Insider BlogThe campaign leveraged on the power of global influencers and the YouTube platform in the US, UK, Nigeria, India etc. to mobilize people to carry out 2 billion acts of good and contribute to ending poverty, reducing inequalities and tackling climate change with little acts.

 

How Do We Convince People to Care About the SDGs?

Language Translation 

One simple yet effective way of tackling the language barrier challenge is translation.

If we can take these goals and communicate them in relatable, comprehensive, fun, humorous forms, individuals can be inspired to undertake action for the goals. We can accomplish this by first understanding the inclinations and lifestyle patterns of our target audience and then leverage relevant mediums to coordinate interest in & action for the goals.

For example, this demographic bracket like music, why not speak to them about the SDGs through music? A placard saying “No To Climate Change” may not be effective, but music may reach them.

How about we consider customizing the SDGs to become fluid for every medium, be it music, art, dance, comedy, politics etc.? How about we strategically redefine and convert the goals through various medium and styles? This way, it comes in a language that the mainstream audience can understand. And what does our mainstream demographic brackets prefer? Some like comedy, about short consumable content, skits, videos, we enjoy discussing people, celebrities, gossip, trivia issues, we care about fun, entertainment etc. There is a need to connect to them through relevant languages and medium. A more concerted effort has to be made in this regard.

 

 

Interest-Driven Conversations

An additional way to get people to care about the SDGs is by expressing the benefits of taking actions for sustainable development. You have to convince your target demographic that taking action for the goals is in their self-interest.

Do not appeal to only their sense of passion to save and make the world a better place, rather: appeal to their selfish interest, their most basic selfish desires, make them understand how acting for the SDGs will be profitable to them, how it will affect their life and pocket bottom line.

If we can paint that picture, individuals will act because they are not acting to benefit some vague percentage or statistics of people they may never interact with but they are acting to benefit themselves, their lives and families.

 

Simplify Actions Campaigns for the Goals

A third strategy is to make it very easy for people to take actions. People should be able to take immediate action in their immediate space or community. It shouldn’t be complex or require difficult conditions for one to act on the SDGs.

There is a need for NGOs to articulate clear calls to action for everyone. This should be context-specific, we need to have a clear call to action for students and every other demography, we should curate compelling stories of remarkable individuals already taking action to inspire peer action. 

In appealing to the human need for affirmation or actualization, we should create a reward system that grants some form of fellow award status to these individuals as a way to inspire others to take action as well.

This contributes to reinforcing the 17th goal of Partnership for the Goals which is targeted at strengthening all stakeholders and actors to intensify action for sustainable development in every regard.

 

Brand Messaging 

NGOs will need to start positioning themselves as lifestyle brands. NGOs that want their work to gain traction in the Nigerian context need to start making themselves into relatable brands that can be approached and engaged by individuals to take action.

An example is ONE, a non-profit organization that coordinates strong lobbying forces to pressure world leaders to implement policies that facilitate the achievement of the SDGs. ONE works with volunteer campaigners and youth ambassadors to raise awareness with their voices in fighting poverty and preventable, treatable diseases. Her methods include organizing concerts to promote advocacy efforts around HIV/AIDS and poverty issues by giving people a fun, enjoyable opportunity to take action by volunteering at the concert real-time as well as virtually.

NGOs need to be fun and engaging and have a personality of their own. The SDGs cannot be a boring thing. Let us transcend the high policy discussions for the summits and boardroom meetings but when it comes to engagement, advocacy and reaching out, it has to be interesting, fun and entertaining like productions from Nollywood or African Magic or MTV base.

Are there any other ways NGOs can mobilize interest and action for the SDGs that I missed? Please share in the comment section. I would love to learn from your ideas.



Ummi Bukar's UPROOTED- Post Boko Haram Conflict Silver Lining.

Is the Boko Haram crisis empowering women?

Conflicts are real, they exist in our world and although we may not always be able to prevent them, we can turn them into channels for social impact. This is why when I caught wind of UPROOTED- a documentary film directed and produced by Ummi Bukar, founder and Managing Director of PAGED Initiative [Participatory Communication for Gender Development] NGO, I was very interested.

Ummi Bukar

UPROOTED is a moving advocacy and education tool that explores the silver lining in the outcomes of the Boko-Haram conflict in Nigeria.

The menace of Boko Haram isn’t news to anyone who has ever heard of Nigeria. Since 2009, Nigeria has faced the greatest security threat from the Boko Haram fundamentalist Islamic group which has been termed the world’s deadliest terrorist group.

Featuring real-life stories of these four women- Ruth Stevens (Maiduguri), Hadiza Mustapha (Baga), Halima Bukar (Bama) and Zainab Hamidu (Gwoza), this film is more than just a work of art, in terms of colours, hues, lens and editing. Rather, the focus for me is the impact of this documentary would have on mindsets, locally and globally.

The documentary did a very good job of painting a realistic picture of the crisis and what was really happening on the ground.

THE CRISIS IS REAL

You see, when we hear news around the Boko Haram crisis, missing Chibok girls etc. being peddled around, most times due to the politicization of the conflict, we don’t realize that this news is real.

We have fast become desensitized to this mindless insurgency and the destruction it leaves in its wake but they are all happening. But the violence is real, real humans died, real lives were disrupted, people lost everything, women became widows. Zainab, one of the case stories featured in the film lost both her husband and son. Her son was only nineteen. Men ran away because they were the targets, leaving their women defenseless. As it currently stands, there are more unreported than reported killings and attacks. These events should sharpen our thoughts and how we think and respond to critical issues because they may happen elsewhere tomorrow.

 

THE OUTCOME- SILVER LININGS

Let’s talk about the resulting social outcomes of the insurgency attacks and how they shaped the theme of the documentary;

GENDER EQUALITY AND ROLE CHANGE

One prominent change that the documentary highlighted was the change in gender roles- the role of women in a marriage.

Inferring from the background story of the rise of the feminist movement in the West following the Second World war where men had to go to war and women had to step into the offices to work.

Ummi saw a repeat pattern here, in that the Boko Haram conflict produced an awakening for the women in their ability to contribute to securing their livelihoods as opposed to just being dependants. When the men lost everything, they could not find employment and so women had to step up to provide for the family. Women had to start businesses to support the family, mini trades like selling akara, kola nuts etc. Some even worked for NGOs.

These women grew from being content to sit at home and not aspiring for more to having a sense of fulfilment at their ability to contribute. They became part of the decision-making process while the men got more involved in the running of the home. The changing dynamics also helped in strengthening their love relationships. Some men now cook for their wives.

There’s even a striking example of a woman who now has access to the husband’s ATM card.

INTER-ETHNIC COOPERATION

An additional silver lining that this conflict birthed was inter-tribal cooperation and support. For instance, we learnt of a situation where an Igbo woman gave some money to one of the indigenous women to start a trade.

SECURITY & PROTECTION OF RIGHTS

Also, we discovered that women are beginning to stand up and defend women rights. Some women formed vigilante groups and took part in providing security. In spite of the loss of their loved ones, it’s remarkable to learn that these women were not afraid to engage the Boko Haram insurgents under a Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) umbrella.

 

THE ENDGAME

Ummi intends to create a mobile cinema to display this social impact films. This will increase the reach across regions of the country, facilitate dialoguing and then report stories that come out of these dialogues so as to effect change and increase awareness. According to her, research is ongoing to find out other volatile zones and screen all over Nigeria as we live in a conflict-prone environment, especially with our diverse cultural heritage.

The hope is to also use this documentary as a medium to engage policymakers.

Here’s Ummi’s concluding sound bite;

“The essence of the documentary was not to find the silver lining but to give a listening ear to the horrors that these victims suffered and to share these stories to the entire country. We didn’t find the silver lining or the solutions to this problem rather the silver lining found us. It found them when they shared their stories and decided to let go of old grievances.

This has pushed us into doing more, we need to reach out to more people, we all need to play our parts.”

I hope this reawakens and inspires you to take action, as it did me.


Why KONGA’s New Strategy Might Work.

A while ago while heading to a cool evening dinner, I happened upon a standard-sized KONGA offline store with a regular storefront inscription like any other retail store’s. This seemed novel to me and many who are familiar with the old KONGA e-commerce business model can attest to that. Most Nigerians who have noticed the new Konga offline stores, either in a suburb or commercial district are likely to do a double take for two reasons:

  1. the fact that the store is so conspicuously positioned and fully stocked with cutting-edge products for sale as is any other retail shop.
  2. the colour of the brand. The resplendent pink brand colour of the new KONGA is a polar opposite of it’s classic blue and this is sure to raise a couple of eyebrows.

I’d like to note here that I pride myself as being a tech enthusiast so even though, I was rooting enthusiastically for Konga’s platform and buying a few things online, most times I made purchases predominantly in offline traditional stores for the following reasons:

  • the fact that most products require about a 5-7 working day delivery window and on occasions where I needed the commodity immediately, Konga wasn’t a top choice.
  • Buying is often impulsive, so I felt there was a demerit of the long delivery window in the sense that when the product comes, you may have changed your mind as to if you really need it, or might have secured an alternative, or the money at hand to pay for the product may not be within reach because some other priority may have come up.

So, in spite of my tech inclination, my default buying pattern was more regularly offline.

In light of this, when I saw the physical Konga store for the first time, one thought that struck was the fact that this new strategy was going to be a winning strategy in the long term.

The Backstory

But first, let’s look at the Konga story. What is Konga and what were they about?

Konga is a Nigerian e-commerce company founded in 2012 by Sim Shagaya. Ranked as the largest online mall in Nigeria, it was created to offer a gamut of products ranging from electronic devices to household wares, clothing, computers and mobile phones, beauty products etc, purchased at the buyer’s convenience.

If you go back in time, Konga’s overarching vision was to be an engine that powers Africa’s commerce. I remember learning this from a Channels interview the founder once gave. Sim wanted Konga to be a platform that powered Africa’s commerce and he did a remarkable job of pursuing that vision. Working with the best developers and minds, KONGA built KongaPay, a remarkably strong and secure CBN-licensed payment platform, it built a solid delivery and logistics system; KOS-Express, it had one of the largest catalogues of products with large warehouses located in major cities across the country and it invested largely in marketing, trying to create awareness via traditional and new media outlets. Virtually, almost every Nigerian in one way or the other has heard about Konga.

Konga’s process was simple; you visit the website, place an order for a product, make your payment and it is delivered to you. The team’s novel strategy made e-commerce easy and convenient with you receiving your purchases at your doorstep, without you leaving your home. In no time, KONGA evolved into an online marketplace hub where the products of other merchants were hosted and it began facilitating the buyer-seller relationship between the merchants and consumers.

With its newly expanded market base, Konga encountered an interesting consumer behaviour challenge: most Nigerians were wary of online services and didn’t trust paying for products they couldn’t see. Also, they had to deal with the hassle of making complaints and seeking a refund if something went wrong. All these birthed their payment on delivery (POD) option and with this innovation in place,  it invariably seemed like KONGA was becoming the engine that will power e-commerce across Africa.

In early 2018, shock swept across the tech industry when the news of the sale of Konga to Zinox went public. Although it was a sad day for me because of my belief in their potential, it raised a couple of observations in my mind.

 

“At the point where Konga seemed to be going through a trying phase and eventually an acquisition by Zinox, it seemed like physical superstores like Shoprite, Next Cash ‘n’ Carry were becoming more viable, with new ones like Miniso Nigeria coming up. “

The Sociology Of Buying; Traditional & Modern Consumers

In trying to understand this surprising development, I got to thinking and I observed that, just like Zinox’s e-commerce platform, BuyRightAfrica.Com which was launched over 12 years ago didn’t perform so well owing to the absence of credit cards and an e-payment infrastructure, the market was not yet ready for Konga’s revolutionary idea in spite of their strong product and value proposition.

 

According to the Euromonitor-reports-on-nigeria-retail-market article published on Abbakin.com website, despite the economic recession the country experienced, at the end of their financial year in July 2017, Shoprite recorded a rise in profit with a 48.2% increase in sales and a 38.2% increase in customer base. In addition, Nigeria and Angola were key markets outside of South Africa reported tohave contributed to the group’s full-year earnings pegged at N3.86 trillion.This was also reported by the Businessdayonline.com website. Miniso Nigeria, a Japanese multinational lifestyle designer retail chain, with over 2,250 stores in 41 countries launched six stores in Nigeria in September 2017.

 

From an end user perspective, I realised that there were several factors preventing this remarkable commerce strategy from gaining traction.

According to the April edition of The Communicator, an online publication of The Nigerian Communications Commission, the number of internet users in Nigeria is about 98.3 million. For a country with an estimated population of over 190 million, that amounts to about 47% internet users in total, pointing to the fact that there are more people offline than online and so the default buying culture is offline. As at December 31st, 2017, the number of Facebook subscribers in Nigeria was pegged at 17million according to the Internet World Stats Website. Between then and May 23rd, 2018, an article on Techpoint.africa reported that Facebook’s Developer Programme Manager, Chukwuemeka Afigbo stated that about 26 million Nigerians are now active on Facebook. Although the increase in internet subscribers is encouraging, it’s still a far cry from the prevalent population realities of the country.

This explains why superstores like Shoprite, Ebeano and even the typical Igbo man’s shop in Alaba market and several other markets are gaining traction and expanding.

 

So a major element of our buying culture as Nigerians is trust, and so, even though technology is powerful, Cash and Carry is still king. I see a product, I like it, pay and take it home. No stories, no extended delivery window. If it’s faulty, it can be fixed right there or another, given in exchange. 

 

There is a major issue of trust embedded in the average Nigerian’s psyche. Trust is a significant factor that influences a brand’s acceptance and as such, crucial for business transactions. The absence or presence of trust contributes to consumer confidence in the medium of purchase.

In addition, the demography of internet users, tech-savvy individuals and their purchasing predilections are also influential factors.

First, online malls may only be attractive to the younger age bracket whose disposable income can easily be channelled to online shopping because their expenditure is limited and they don’t have the added responsibilities of children and dependants that those in the older age bracket do.

Secondly, individuals within the age bracket of 25-34 are typically young, working-class professionals and although they are tech-savvy and inclined to online shopping, they are located within the low-middle income bracket which in turn, affects their disposable income level in comparison to the disposable income of those individuals within the age bracket of 34-50 who may be tech-savvy but have years of offline buying behaviour ingrained in them and so prefer to buy from that friend that sells London wears brought from their Dubai trip or Turkey wears.

On the flip side, some of the individuals in this older age-bracket haven’t gained a strong grasp of technology and internet usage yet, they don’t make up the tech user demography. Most of them are only just beginning to appreciate WhatsApp, so this affected the adoption of the Konga product. These are prevalent realities.

 

The New: Foresight For Best Practice in E-Commerce

Now, looking at Konga’s new strategy which involves the combination of their strong online presence in addition to an investment in physical, offline convenience stores, I think that this acquisition of Konga by Zinox, now turned merger between Konga and Yudala, the e-commerce brainchild of Zinox will be more viable in the long run.

Why? What this new strategy does is that it creates a strong brand trust for the consumer.

 

“The concern of brand trust is addressed in that people feel like that they can visit the online store, check out the prices and walk into the offline store close to them to make purchases directly, for the same price. This gives room for a new kind of experience that puts into context where Nigerians are and where they should be. “

 

What this portends for the entrepreneur or innovator in the Nigerian business or tech space is that as an entrepreneur looking to revolutionise and disrupt the market, it is paramount that your business framework caters to the prevalent cultural realities of your target market, putting in context their unique peculiarities. In essence, introduce the unfamiliar with the familiar.

 

Strategic Hindsight

Imagine if Konga had started with physical franchises strategically positioned across the country while building their strong online presence, it would have formed the formidable conglomerate of a SHOPRITE-like and Amazon-like venture. It would inevitably get to the point where people would no longer visit the physical stores and would be comfortable making purchases online because they know they can easily walk into a physical store in the event of a defective product as opposed to waiting for a long-drawn-out response from a customer care rep. you can’t see physically. thus increasing the value of the Konga product.

Lessons For The E-Commerce Space

In light of this, I think entrepreneurs can learn from how this affects the dynamics of businesses in Nigeria. Whilst we are leveraging the power of technology to disrupt and cause change and advancement in any industry, whilst we advocate the merits of digital marketing and technology it is important to understand that Nigeria is still largely an offline powered economy, with limited internet usage. As such, whatever strategy you are building should factor into the question of how to reach the unreached, how to reach those who don’t use the internet or aren’t tech savvy.

Secondly, your strategy should take into the consideration the socio-cultural factors that affect buying or consumer behaviour and at every step of the way, your strategy is designed to consistently inspire trust in the buyer’s mind. It goes beyond you knowing this internally as a brand, you have to intentionally ensure that your strategy makes it very easy for your customer base to hold you accountable.

In addition, your strategy should address the challenge of instant gratification that is characteristic of most Nigerians; I want the product now, I buy it now, I get it now without waiting for too long a delivery period to access value.

In the end, in trying to create something new or pioneering a shift, its okay to begin with the normal.

For example, when Facebook began, it was pretty boring, just one page. Imagine if all the exciting features that Facebook currently has were introduced from the onset, most users would have found the experience daunting or wouldn’t have been engaged.

Sometimes starting old school and innovating your way up may be a viable strategy.

What do you think?

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A silent technology revolution is gradually taking place in the north.

For most people when they think about the North, what comes to mind is insecurity, poverty, insurgency and all the other dismal development indices.

But guess what, a silent technology revolution is gradually taking place in the north.

Around 2014 I was privileged to attend a meet up organized by Bankole Olurutoba the then CEO of Enspire incubator an offshoot of Abuja Technology Village, his pitch was simple, he saw a dire need to establish a technology ecosystem in Abuja and that will support innovation, he wanted Enspire incubator to be at the forefront of making this happen. Over 7 years a lot has happened. The technology revolution has spread from Abuja and reached deep into the north, with different people and organizations leading this revolution.

The North is gradually rising to the occasion. This is evident in the following ways.

The Rise in the number of innovation hubs and Startups.
As at last count, there are reportedly about 12 innovation hubs in the northern region before now it was zero. This is a significant number because these platforms facilitate the propagation of startups that can create more job opportunities, drive development across the various sectors and an overall booming economy. These hubs have become the convergence for investors and entrepreneurs looking to launch their big idea.

There is an increase in awareness of the role technology can play in shaping the northern narrative.

A new army of change agents, individuals and organizations are on a mission to change this predominantly negative narrative through technology, their work is increasingly getting rewarded with widespread impact. Late last year, Daser David’s work at nHub, an innovation hub in Jos put him in the frontline of driving technopreneurship and youth empowerment in the state when he became appointed as the pioneer Director General (DG) of Plateau State Information Technology Agency (PSITA). This is not only a milestone for driving technology adoption and investment in the state, but it is also instrumental for injecting youth participation in governance and leveraging on the potentials in the tech ecosystem to boost the economy.

Ventures Platform on the other hand, since its inception in 2016 as an innovation hub in Abuja, has invested in several startups empowering the capacity of entrepreneurs and innovators through their 16-week hybrid incubation program and paid co-working space to create wealth and solutions. They also successfully partnered up to organize Startup pitch events that have immensely shaped the narrative of the region.

A remarkable characteristic of the silent digital revolution in the region is the fact that even the government is not left out in capitalizing on the increase in awareness of the role technology can play. In fact, in fulfilling the mission of diversification as a solution to activate economy growth in the first tenure, the government directed attention to tech entrepreneurship. One of such initiatives was the establishment of North-East Innovation Hub in Yola, Adamawa. The hub was positioned to facilitate the generation of solutions to the predominant humanitarian challenges in the North.

The Closing Argument for the Digital Revolution

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that the highest underemployment rate is found in the North. Now, add that to the infrastructure deficit and the limited access to resources communities suffer here, there is an urgent need to promote the tech sector and leverage on the potentials it provides in enabling young people in the region to be at par with their contemporaries in other regions primarily by developing digital skills.

As our societies evolve and global conversations do too, the demand for digital talent is increasing. With the disruption that the wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is sweeping, it is clear that artificial intelligence, big data and breakthroughs in cloud computing, nanotechnology and the internet of things etc. are shaping the future in a big way. As such, only skilled human capital and the individuals, businesses and governments alike who leverage this disruption to create sustainable solutions will remain relevant in determining economic and market trends and will reap dividends.



How Nigerians, Ran One of the Largest Business Accelerator in the World and Minted Millionaires; What I Am Learning.

As an Igbo boy growing up in Aba, a lot of the young men around me were Nwaboys also known as apprentices serving their master for a couple of years, in return the master is expected to settle them.  I got acquainted with this particular business arraignment that was quite a common part of our culture. Perhaps, the familiarity of it is the reason I took it for granted and didn’t put much stock in it until now.

Last week, while doing some cursory research on the internet, I stumbled upon a TedTalk speech. This talk was given by Robert Neuwirth and when I listened, it not only triggered my close knowledge of the issue but left me feeling amazed at how easy it is to take enduring systems in any sphere for granted especially when they are not packaged as a form of the leading school of thought.

Speaking on” The age-old sharing economies of Africa – and why we should scale them, Robert, who is an author and investigative reporter spent some time investigating street markets and the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid, while writing one of his books, he learned some new insights about the informal service sector and  how they were starting to drive global stage conversations about informal economies and their role in development.

 

The Nwaboy System

While sharing these insights at his TEDTalk, he spoke of an example of the mutually beneficial economy model in operation here in Nigeria. Drawing from his experience at the Alaba International Market in Lagos, he highlighted the age-old apprentice model popularized by the Igbos. Referred to in lay terms as the nwaboy system and commonly depicted in Nollywood movies, the dynamics of the business model comprised of two major characters- the “master” and the “servant”. This system has produced a revolving door of merchants in large billion naira markets across cities in the country like Aba, Onitsha, Nnewi, Kano, etc. This system can be credited for its working business accelerator innovation long before many of the accelerator programs we see today.

 

Here’s how the nwaboy system works- a business owner gets an apprentice who understudies the business and is mentored by the owner for an agreed-upon timeframe sometimes for as long as 7-10 years. At the end of the period, where the apprentice is deemed to have gained comprehensive know-how of the business, the “master” then “settles” the apprentice which translates to providing investment for him to startup up his own similar business in the same line of trade. Someday, this apprentice will become a “master” getting an apprentice of his own to mentor and on and on the cycle continues.

 

Essentially, it is a mutually-beneficial agreement. On the one hand, the master stands to gain human capital to drive efficient business operations and an increase in revenue. Some masters have more than one apprentice at a time. On the other hand, the apprentice is exposed to an extensive learning experience almost akin to what is obtainable in more organized forms of learning, access to a network and is ultimately guaranteed venture capital to offset startup costs at the end of the apprenticeship.

 

Beyond business skill, a contributory factor of human capital development is character development which can be exemplified in traits such as integrity, consistency, hard work, accountability, inter-personal relationships communication, proactive-ness, tenacity, fortitude etc. Over the training period, these traits are ingrained in the apprentices alongside the business skills. Apprentices that do not display good character traits have a harder time “graduating” from the program and getting settled” because, in the end, these traits are instrumental for business survival and success.

 

What I Am Learning from It.

  • The first insight I am gleaning from the Igbo apprentice model is its potential as a viable tool for tackling youth unemployment. As the dynamics for the future of work continue to unfold, it is becoming apparent that formal education is not the only way to go. Rather, knowledge sharing and digital innovation are fast becoming prevalent as the solution to reducing the burden of unemployment. As it stands, the informal economic network is reportedly responsible for about 1.8 billion jobs, the world over. If we bring that reality into the unemployment challenge we currently face in the country, it’s easy to see the power that the informal market economy has in engaging young people profitably.

 

  • Another lesson is the fact that capital without experience or access to mentorship resources can become counterproductive. Businesses do not survive on the brilliance of ideas alone but the success of execution. For upcoming entrepreneurs, regardless of the presence or absence of investment capital, it is important to know that there is a time to learn and serve and cultivate a mentor relationship just as there is a time to lead a vision otherwise we would produce half-baked entrepreneurs who haven’t been schooled in the art of running businesses and who can’t do business sustainably.

 

Across different industries, if we take a look at the number of Nwaboys in existence and the backstories of how some Igbo billionaires like Cosmas Nduka (Coscharis), Cletus Ibeto, Innocent Chukwuma (Innoson) started off, it proves Neurwith’s theory that “the Nwaboy apprentice model is indeed the largest business incubator platform in the world”.

 

Worthy of note also is this, because the Igbos are known for their resilient ability to thrive in business in almost any habitable city of the world, their potential for entrepreneurial success on a global scale is enormous. If we can successfully scale this model, it would help leverage the potential that this model possesses to increase sustainable business ventures, empower entrepreneurship and influence the future of work and sustainable development.

Here’s the link to the TEDTalk here;

Snippet – https://twitter.com/olufemiawoyemi/status/1058764191878836229?lang=en

Full talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_neuwirth_the_age_old_sharing_economies_of_africa_and_why_we_should_scale_them/transcript?language=en

But, just before you head off, I would like to hear your thoughts. Have you ever considered the Igbo business accelerator? Let’s engage.

 



The Birth of The Strategy Company.

I realized early on that one of the many reasons I was giving the talents and gifts I possess, was to leave the world better than I met it and one unique way I could achieve this is by contributing my quota towards solving some of the issues around me.

I defined my existence with the word “impact” and how much of it I could have on people, my community, nation, continent and the world.

This viewpoint inspired my decision to found Endgame The Strategy Company.

To start a company and ensure that it aligns with my mission, I asked a critical question; how can I drive impact at scale, and which factors will play a crucial role in making the world a much better place than I met. Amidst a whole barrage of factors, I realize that ultimately people, businesses, Institutions (Government) and non-profit are crucial drivers of change. There are several global issues, what most people do is complain, but a certain breed of people roll up their sleeves to work towards providing ingenious solutions to these issues. They not only see opportunities where others see challenges, they understand that tomorrow is shaped by the actions of today.

So in 2018, I founded Endgame The Strategy Company, to provide Strategy, Technology, Marketing and Creative solutions. I decide that our work as a company will revolve around working with visionaries, innovators & change-makers, they are the People, Businesses, Institutions & Non-Profits working to shape the future of the continent our mission will be to ensure that they can grow, succeed and achieve their strategic objectives. The reality is that when our clients succeed they positively shape the future.

 

A changing world.

To achieve our mission as a company, it was evident that we need to be strategic in how we work with our clients in our bid to enable them to achieve their respective goals.

Access to resources and markets, that were once a critical factor in deciding the success of an enterprise is no longer crucial. As a result of the influence of technology and globalization, resources and markets are now accessible in abundance; access to tools, technology, audiences, information, talent, funding and other relevant resources that used to be accessible to a few are now available at scale.

Smaller players with leaner resources are presently capable of disrupting big players. A heavily funded multinational can be disrupted by a kid with a laptop and a brilliant idea halfway across the world. Blue oceans are quickly becoming red oceans.

There is a lesser emphasis on access to resources. A major difference that separates winners and others in any market is how they utilize the resources at their disposal to innovate, move fast and leverage new opportunities. Strategy at its core is about *the how*of achieving a particular set of goals, the discipline to execute with precision and deliver results.

For leaders and teams figuring out *the how* *a strategy* to use available resources to achieve their goals can be a challenge due to several factors that are out of their control.

 

Our focus on Strategy.

At Endgame The Strategy Company, our focus on strategy enables us to provide leaders and teams with *the how* the clarity and direction they need to; take on difficult challenges, navigate their way around the barriers to market entry & solidify their position as dominant players in their market.

We can achieve more results with available resources while enabling our clients and their ventures to tap into emerging opportunities, unlock new possibilities, move fast and swiftly respond to change.

We achieve this by challenging your assumptions, leveraging our depth of experience in strategy development and design, our deep understanding of culture, people and markets.

 

Strategy meets Execution.

Without execution, a brilliant strategy can be likened to wishful thinking. We pride ourselves for the ability to execute efficiently and deliver outstanding results. Our ability to execute is founded on the cardinal pillars of People, Process & Planning. We have built a strong team: a network of partners and established internal frameworks and processes that enable us to leverage a larger pool of insight and expertise across diverse industries, with this we can execute with precision, factor the diverse variables that can affect the outcome of a project, thereby improving our overall success rate on projects.

 

Results Matter.

On any project we embark on, we start with the end in view. This enables us to do away with the fluff and focus more on what moves the needle and delivers real measurable results that are in line with our clients’ goals or strategic objectives. For us, at the end of a project, beyond a well-developed strategy and top-notch execution, results are all that matter.

Here you have it, this thinking and many more are responsible for the birth of Endgame the Strategy Company.