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A NEW CAPITALISM: Views From The Top

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Aliko Dangote, billionaire and chief executive officer of Dangote Group. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As Covid-19 continues on its rampage disrupting nations, what do Nigeria’s top billionaire and multi-millionaire entrepreneurs think of the new economy emerging in the wake of the pandemic? What are the post-crisis strategies, and what will business look like?

‘The Private Sector Remains The Engine Of Growth For The Nigerian Economy’

Aliko Dangote, President, CE, Dangote Group

Covid-19 has changed how we do business now. It has reshaped the business environment. Businesses that adapt fast are going to be absolute winners. The pandemic has accelerated digitalization of businesses and processes in Nigeria. Most meetings are now held online and digital platforms offer reduced costs in terms of movements, setups, security etc. The ability to adapt shall determine winners and losers in the coming post-pandemic era.

The private sector remains the engine of growth for the Nigerian economy. We need to have a Marshall plan, a special fund for the private sector, beyond any other government support initiative. The special fund will get the sector to play its crucial role in the reconstruction of the domestic economy. The funds must get to the private sector and be monitored to ensure proper utilization and achieve the intended results.

The government should also create enablers in the economy such as improved infrastructure, consistency in policy, and constant dialogue between the private sector operators and government. This makes for mutual cross-fertilization of ideas and minimizes unintended results. If these strategies are put in place and implemented, Nigeria may well survive the post-Covid crisis and emerge even stronger than before

‘The Resilience And Innovativeness Of Nigerians’

Folorunso Alakija, Executive Vice Chair, Famfa Oil

(Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic plunged the global economy into recession, with both the strong and weak economies worldwide being affected, though the latter were impacted more than the former. As a result of the pandemic, the country’s economy was hit on two fronts.

Firstly, Nigeria’s earning is majorly from crude oil sales, and this accounts for more than 70% of its revenue. The country made a huge loss in income due to the collapse in oil prices, as a result of the shutdown of economies and restriction of travel due to Covid-19. This situation was further worsened by the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia in a bid to gain the crude oil market share, which occurred around the same time.

Secondly, the country’s industrial sector was also impacted by the pandemic. This is because the industries depend heavily on imports of raw materials as inputs for its production, and the restriction of movement of goods and persons meant the industries did not have adequate inputs for production.

With little or no business activities, organizations had to re-strategize to stay afloat and ride out the crisis period. They did this through a reduction in their operating costs by laying off workers.

As we all know, change is the only constant in life, and the advent of the pandemic has brought a new norm upon us as a country. Therefore, the post-crisis strategies that will be adopted by both the government and businesses will be such that will gear towards recovery, diversification, and increase in productivity. For example, Nigeria will need to aggressively change her economic strategy, which has revolved around revenue from crude oil sales to including other non-oil inputs. In the same manner, organizations will need to diversify their businesses and leverage technology to continue as business concerns. I see an increase in business activities in the medical supply and services industry, ICT, e-commerce, agriculture and food processing, and the retail sectors of the economy. 

In the next year, I firmly believe that the resilience and innovativeness of Nigerians will set the business landscape in the country on its way to economic recovery.

‘Nigeria Has Key Strengths That Position It Well For The Future’

Gbenga Oyebode, Chairman, Aluko & Oyebode

(Photos by Kelechi Amadi-Obi)

The Covid-19 crisis has brought into sharp focus critical gaps in social infrastructure, particularly in education and healthcare that are pre-requisites for a resilient economy. Going forward, while maintaining fiscal discipline, investments in both soft and hard infrastructure will be required to stimulate sustainable economic growth. We must leverage the opportunity this crisis presents to reset the economy, particularly non-oil sectors and revive our local production capacity. This starts with asking the difficult questions. Are we prepared to do the hard work and make required sacrifices over the long-term that provide opportunities for our people and position Nigeria for global competitiveness? Or will we carry on with the old ‘business-as-usual’ policies which are bound to fail given the radically-altered economic terrain? 

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has irrevocably disrupted the business and economic landscape. However, Nigeria has key strengths that position it well for the future – a vibrant youthful population, diversified domestic economy, huge potential market, technological innovation and investments in fintech, a robust banking system and most importantly, the resilient

‘The Downward Spiral Will Continue Until A Consensus Emerges’

Atedo Peterside, President, Anap Foundation

The Nigerian economy is in serious danger of being totally ravaged by Covid-19. It has been hit by a perfect storm of severe public health challenges, collapsed government revenues, foreign exchange scarcity, rising inflation and rising unemployment. Business confidence is very low and investors are taking flight. Nigeria’s fiscal viability is also threatened, as government revenues are collapsing rather than rising and it will be a long time before revenues will be large enough to cover debt service obligations and public sector overheads. This calls for a drastic rethink. Efforts to squeeze more taxes out of imperilled businesses may not work and if the Central Bank of Nigeria expands the money supply much further, then the country will have to cope with both economic stagnation and high inflation i.e., stagflation. Many Nigerian businesses will be ravaged one year from now. A large number of companies will go bankrupt. In the absence of adequate safety nets, high youth employment will also fuel insecurity, as criminal gangs struggle to feed off an impoverished populace. The downward spiral will continue until a consensus emerges on a broad set of bold and necessary economic reforms which must include slashing unaffordable public sector overheads emanating from both the executive and legislative arms of the government.

‘Organizations Will Have To Be Dynamic In Their Approach’

Pascal Dozie CON, Founder, Kunoch Limited

(Photos by Kelechi Amadi-Obi)

Covid-19 has disrupted businesses because of lockdown and concerns of human interactions which will impact lifestyle and social interactions for a while at home and also in the office environment. The immediate effects have caused widespread fear, illness and death and economic downturn. The effects of a post Covid-19 world are yet to manifest. Nations sparked by fear of the unknown have looked inward rather than embrace world unity to solve the issues and impact of Covid-19. 

The pandemic has driven businesses and governments to attempt to innovate and perform remotely thereby embracing technology. Organizations will have to be dynamic in their approach to an environment that’s changing as the virus mutates and the policies that are implemented to stop the spread. We will see the adoption of technology to reduce human interaction whilst still engaging the customer, a drive to be cost-effective, increased efficiency whilst leveraging on technology and improved business processes. Government’s policy to mitigate the virus and future waves and its effectiveness will also be a major factor of how businesses will operate and be impacted. 

Strategies that will impact and stimulate sectors we have comparative advantage in, and encourage our SME sector, might help mitigate the negative impact. A few examples are: Creation of an effective national welfare platform; investment in technology and our education system; tax holiday for companies and investments into our SME sector, and a national policy that is commercially viable to create self-dependency in the agriculture sector. 

In Nigeria, Covid-19 has exposed the fragility in our systems at all levels and in all sectors. We need to re-assess what is happening, prioritize our plans and programs due to our internal contradictions, declining financial resources, and inability to mobilize external resources and foreign investments. It would seem the government’s efforts in fighting the pandemic is yielding results, however, the socio-economic impact is still unfolding and has yet to be fully addressed.

‘Covid-19 Announced The Full Arrival Of 4IR’

Tonye Cole, Co-Founder, Sahara Group

(Photo: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)

Covid-19 exposed grave deficiencies in governments, policies, politics and businesses in many countries across the world, with Nigeria not being an exception. As the fear and uncertainty settled, some trends emerged, one of which was the need for the active development of home-grown solutions to address local problems. There was also a greater awareness that the collaboration between government and business needed to be stronger with the welfare of the general public becoming more central to decision-making and service provision. In the wake of all this, I discovered some very positive actions already embarked upon that should position Nigeria firmly along the path of accelerated growth in the short- to medium-term. Five high impact areas come to mind:

1.Data Acquisition, Access and Aggregation: Pre-Covid, it was notoriously difficult to access credible data on anything of importance in Nigeria. I saw this changing during the lockdown and witnessed an increase in business proposals being put forward utilizing data as the lockdown eased. Even the government adaptability to the use of data has been impressive and is continuously improving. 

2.Logistics: The challenges of distributing goods and services nationwide was tackled during the lockdown with mixed results. Last mile delivery services to homes increased especially for daily essentials like food and groceries and is set to continue which opens up the e-commerce world to multiple iterations.

3.Mobile Payments: The move to a cashless society and the greater adoption for mobile payment solutions was a direct beneficiary of the pandemic. I expect to see more fintech solutions emerge and greater ease of transactions in more traditional cash-based businesses like public transportation and open markets.

4.Technology-enhanced businesses: An immediate beneficiary of the lockdown were businesses that had either embraced technology or offered technology solutions to streamline operations. I expect many more businesses to migrate their processes with an upsurge of technology companies that offer solutions tailored to solving local challenges.

5.Technology Infrastructure: The sudden upsurge in video conferencing, social media networking applications and data consumption necessitated a quick response in upgrading the technology infrastructure. Already, we can see the increased installation of fiber-optics and 5G networks.

For many years now, it has been clear that technology provided the best hope for Nigeria to leapfrog into the future. Covid-19 announced the full arrival of the fourth industrial revolution and these five impact areas form the backdrop upon which Nigeria’s economic survival will depend on post-crisis.

‘We Will Add Value To What We Produce In Africa’

Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank

Photo by: Kelechi Amadi-Obi)

We will ensure that Africa’s youth potential is fully unleashed. In this regard, the African Development Bank will support the establishment of Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks. Banks that will help to mobilize and deploy capital to drive the entrepreneurship of the youth of Africa — in ways that are systemic, scalable and sustainable. The shadows of youth unemployment and migration out of Africa must give way to a glowing light of successful youth-driven businesses across Africa. Africa’s youth must stay in Africa, develop Africa, and project Africa’s future. We will build on the great successes we have had in agriculture, by scaling up technologies to reach tens of millions of farmers and supporting Africa to build competitive agricultural value chains. We will add value to what we produce in Africa, and provide creative and high-tech opportunities for massive youth engagement in agriculture and agri-business. The future beckons the bank to be more agile and more selective; to scale up what’s working already and reinforce its own institutional and human capacity. Our bank must ensure its own long-term financial sustainability to drive Africa’s growth further, deeper and faster in the years to come. We must realize the dreams of a more prosperous Africa. A healthier Africa. A more resilient Africa. And, a more developed Africa.

(Quote taken from Adesina’s inauguration speech on September 1 on his re-election as President for a second term)

‘We Can Make This Nigeria’s Time’

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Founder and Chairman, Coronation Capital

(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Global Citizen)

Nigeria has great economic potential, we possess demographic, natural, and other resource advantages that are the envy of many nations. Unfortunately, continuing weaknesses in leadership and governance have resulted in structural impediments to economic performance. Our entrepreneurs and businesses have to contend with numerous market failures which do not exist in countries we compete against.  

The good news is that since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, we have experienced instances of transformative leaps of progress when the common purpose of creating national value has compelled our business and political leaders to come together to fix certain market failures. An example is the market reform of Nigeria’s telecommunication sector ‘the GSM Revolution’, which occurred at the turn of the millennium. Other examples are Nigeria’s banking and pension reforms which have transformed our financial markets. 

Over the last decade, we seem to have lost our zeal for positive transformational reform, the Covid-19 pandemic is a burning platform that illuminates the urgent need for Nigeria’s leaders to reset and rethink their priorities. We must seize the urgency of the moment and reinvent our capacity for reform. Nigerians and other citizens of the world have embraced tools that enable meetings, dialogues and collaboration at a scale that was unimaginable just six months ago. We can make this time Nigeria’s time.

‘Nigerians Must Unite To Get The Economy Back On Its Feet’  

Chief Michael Ade-Ojo, Chairman, Toyota Nigeria Ltd 

As Japan’s number one business partner in Nigeria since 1971, Michael Ade-Ojo knows a thing or two about Japanese cars, shipping and supply chain management, and the art and science of doing business in Africa’s largest economy. 

Ade-Ojo began selling cars in 1965, five months after earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

 With an empire spanning several sectors, his automobile businesses now account for a third of the Toyota vehicles on Nigerian roads. 

“My company (Elizade Motors, his first business, founded with Elizabeth, his late first wife) will be 50 years old next year and I can tell you that the business environment is really tough, it’s been getting tougher over the last several years,” Ade-Ojo says. 

An octogenarian who has weathered several economic cycles, Ade-Ojo is cautiously optimist about the future health of his country’s economy. 

He worries though about declining Africa-Asia trade and the domestic climate, the inefficiencies, the unethical practices which seem to have been normalized. 

“This shouldn’t be so, because it makes us uncompetitive and unattractive to all forms of investment.”

In a philosophical tone, he says: “You know, many of us have failed, you can say that people of my generation have failed to fix Nigeria’s many problems because our development challenges have been around for a long time… Nigerians need to unite to get the economy back on its feet.  

“I am not a politician, I am not a priest, but as a businessman, I can tell you that foreign investment has reduced drastically but it should pick up as confidence returns… The bedrock of any economy is domestic investment, and domestic capacity to create value….”

“This country has immense potential in the local hospitality and tourism sector,” he says. “I hope that government and private people – you know I have been doing my fair bit (of investing) – put more efforts in promoting Nigeria as a leisure and holiday destination. That is an area several African nations have focused on.”

In 2012, Ade-Ojo built Smokin’ Hills Golf Resort, an 18-hole golf range with a club house and lodging facilities in his hometown of Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, in southwestern Nigeria. Designed by American architect Ron Garl to PGA standards, the 140-acre facility was carefully carved out of pristine jungle and rolling hills. “Nothing is happening there now because of Covid-19 but we have elaborate plans once it is safe to go out,” the top businessman tells FORBES AFRICA. 

He reels off other potential geo-locations for investors keen on getting a slice of the Nigerian pie: “We have so many natural attractions begging for development. We have Jos and Mambilla plateau region, the Idanre hills, the Erin-Ijesha waterfalls, and Ikogosi warm water springs….” 

– By Muyiwa Moyela 

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