Hope the Sallah holiday is coming out fine – enjoy bountifully. With the Sallah holiday coming earlier than even Google Calendar has modeled [Google AI cannot read the moon well, yet], some of us had free hours. I spent part of the free hours in the Ikeja Computer Village. I like going there because that is where you find the magical Nigerian engineers that just make things happen. They are unlike most of us that desire to understand before we build or fix stuff!
In the Computer Village, you will find extremely brilliant young people accomplishing great things. Unfortunately, they are largely neglected by the nation. It is so painful that no Nigerian university has developed a program structured for the elite participants in the Ikeja Computer Village to attend.
Doctors volunteer in hospitals and I know many other people spend time with orphans and kids that need support; extremely noble calls – we do appreciate. Whenever in Nigeria, I volunteer in the Computer Village. But unlike in the past where the focus has been helping them understand some elements to help transition most from the “downstream” level they are to potential “upstream” for the good of the nation, I went to something new: scaling the shop.
Companies must develop and accumulate capabilities in order to compete in the marketplace. In this video, I explain how any firm can do that and why accumulating capability is very strategic. From Google to Dangote Group, when companies accumulate capabilities, they see themselves operating in the segments of markets with higher value (usually upstream) compared with where their competitors operate (usually downstream). Dangote Group can deploy massive assets and technical know-how in cement production, making it harder for new entrants and rivals.
I made a strong case that most of them will be fine but they will not change their communities. A decent phone and computer repair shop can make N100,000 ($300) daily. The business is totally downstream despite the apparent feats they accomplish via brute-force. And when they are engaged, they are simply engaged on the specific tasks, making it impossible to scale their missions.
So, the question is thus – how can they scale that service to Ibadan, Owerri, Uyo, Sokoto and Kano where there are many Nigerians that need those services? After all, it is not only Lagosians that get their phones or laptops broken. Sure -there is a new business where people outside Lagos collect broken electronic devices and send to the makers to fix and then return to the respective cities. Call it the electronics trade routes that end in Lagos.
In my talk, I pushed their leaders to begin a process to look at building scalable business systems over just doing what they are doing today. In short, some can climb the pyramid, from the downstream to the upstream, where they make new products right here in Nigeria.
Merger was a huge part of my messaging: yes, they can combine to pool resources and improve services. If they do that, they can deepen their unit economics which will help them and the nation. But it is not an easy call as they do fear that decent success will make the FIRS, Nigeria’s tax administrator, become very aggressive on them. Yes, the FIRS is on them – pay your taxes buddy!
Sure – I am hoping the FIRS will also go with support, not just for tax collection from these people. I think besides the brilliance on how they can fix your phones and laptops, unless someone can help them see beyond those rituals, Nigeria cannot utilize up to 20% of their capacities.
A University of Lagos or Covenant University program designed for the Ikeja Computer Village participants will help elevate that village. Nigeria cannot just abandon the best of its makers – they need help. Helping them to see beyond collecting N4,00 to fix phones to elevate with visioning systems to build companies of great value is something Nigeria must work on.
Trying to formalize or institutionalise the way our traders and makers do business is akin to designing a masterplan in an already densely populated city; the resistance to change could be overwhelming sometimes.
We are great when it comes to craft and going after things that generate income, but largely lazy to pursuing knowledge and the necessary capabilities which would enable us transition from mundane processes to knowledge-driven processes.
The value creation and delivery mechanisms largely remain flat, even after being in business for decades; it’s part of why our economic growth is barely noticeable.
Yes, a university here can design such a programme, but the desired outcome may remain utopian if the target audience are not ready to make a massive mind shift, which will help them recognise and admit their limitations, spurring them to yearn for newer insights and more advanced business visioning capabilities.
Even if you offer free training, if the intended beneficiaries aren’t willing to learn, unlearn and relearn new ways of doing things, no decent progress will be attainable.
There is a lot of work to be done in Nigeria, and the starting point must be in the area of mind reconstruction
My Response: Francis – what a mind! Boy, next time, you will go with me. As I noted, some are even thinking to reduce “production” [revenue] if that will make FIRS to stop coming. Yes, someone will desire to not make money if by not making money, government will not notice the cohort for tax. The mindshift is key – not just here but in Idumota, Ariaria, Kano, etc. But they are not different – the difference is that no one really cares to help them. Take China about 40-50 years ago, their state is better than most Chinese players. But Chinese government drove change and made their artisans big people!
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