Tag Archives: Political strategy

A MAJOR RISK IN THE APPROACH TO REFORM OF NIGERIA’S ECONOMY – Strategy needed to avoid looming mass unemployment in Nigeria

Ever since the agrarian society of centuries ago, people have been the main factor of production in many societies. Even with the advent of the industrial revolution, machines that were created needed a lot of human input and control to function. That reality created lots of jobs for humans to do and the industrial revival led to many economies to close to having full emploNigeria_politicalyment status for many generations. But as we gaze deeper into the twenty-first century; things are changing radically.

Significant advances in technology are driving a lot of changes to the tapestry and architecture of a nation state in a way never seen before. With the talk of smart cities, advances in robotics and microengineering as well as the Internet of Things (IoT), we are at the cusp of a new world. The Internet of Things refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an IP address for internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other Internet-enabled devices and systems.

The “Internet of things” is becoming an increasingly growing topic of conversation both in the workplace and outside of it. It’s a concept that not only has the potential to impact how we live but also how we work. Broadband Internet has become more widely available, the cost of connecting is decreasing, more devices are being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors built into them, technology costs are going down, and smartphone penetration is sky-rocketing.  All of these things are creating a “perfect storm” for the IoT.

internetofthings-1200x800Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from mobile phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.  This also applies to components of machines, for example, a jet engine of an aeroplane or the drill of an oil rig.

The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices. That’s a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). The new rule for the future is going to be, “Anything that can be connected will be connected.” There are many examples of what this might look like or what the potential value might be.

Say for example you are on your way to a meeting; your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take. If the traffic is heavy your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late. What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 a.m. and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you? What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more? The possibilities are endless.IIOT-Big-Data-in-line

All the foregoing have huge implication for the role of human beings and employment rate in many societies. The traditional labour intensive job model is dying at an alarming rate and digitally-enables jobs are the key to the future. So as there is a massive curl of manual and analogue jobs; new digital and technology driven jobs will emerge.

This leads me to my concern about Nigeria. We are still in the manual labour mindset in our employment ethos as a nation. We are also failing to prepare our citizens for the future that is imminently going to be upon us. If the country is to modernise, we will have to embrace technology in all sphere of national life. This will, in turn, lead to massive unemployment as machine and technology take over previous manually executed function in our society. Business processes will be streamlined and automated in the new world we will find ourselves, yet the majority of our citizens are not being sensitised, trained and facilitated to reskill and upgrade their capacity to be able to leverage new technologies for national growth and society transformation.

Speaking to a friend in government a few days ago; he explained of technologies that can run our airports in such a way that if applied to the International Airport in Lagos will reduce staff numbers by seventy percent overnight. From, automatic invoicing and accounting systems, to robotics to handle luggage and so on. This model will create one of the most efficient airports in the world if implemented. But at what cost? Jobs. There will be massive unemployment as the staff currently in employment have not been Internet-of-Things-no-id_Section1_1920x1280equipped, trained or helped to transition to new technology jobs of the future.

If the nation is to modernise successfully; I will, therefore, advise the government of the need for a new focus on education in Nigeria. This will involve formal, informal and vocational education that will be technology focused in preparation for the future that is fast approaching. In Singapore, the government aims to make the country the first smart nation in the world. There is now a massive investment in technical education and technology training for both young and adults across that country.

The government is preparing the nation for a future that will become a reality for them in the next five to ten years. With sensors on every street corner and lampposts, lots of anonymised data is being collected in the country to inform the IoT technology that is being planned. This will automate a lot of tasks and functions in Singapore and make several current jobs redundant. Streetlights will come on not at a prescribed time but based on the weather condition. The street lamps will automatically order a new bulb for itself when it notices a burnt bulb. A lot of manual jobs will disappear but it will alsostock-photo-digital-economy-abstract-business-concept-wallpaper-background-17711158 create many new jobs that are technology driven, which is why the government is investing in the technical education of children and retraining of adults in technology and microengineering on a massive scale. Adult education classes are freely given to adults to reskill while still working in their current roles (that will soon become extinct). This will make transitioning very easy for the workers of Singapore to adapt to new jobs as they lose their current analogue jobs for digital explosion expected.

A lot of manual jobs will disappear under the new industrial dispensation but this will also create many new jobs that are more skilled, technology driven, which is why the government is investing in the technical education of children and retraining of adults in technology and microengineering on a massive scale in Singapore. Adult education classes are freely given to adults to reskill while still working in their current roles (that will soon become extinct). This will make transitioning very easy for the workers of Singapore to adapt to new jobs as they lose their current analogue jobs for digital explosion expected.

Why-the-Digital-Economy-is-important-to-our-Region-any-region-in-factThe Nigerian government is not approaching their duty in an integrated fashion. As the government role out new technologies, there will be job losses on an industrial scale. How many of these workers are going to be able to get a new job with the outdated analogue skills they possess? The inefficiency in many government operations in Nigeria is linked to the need to create jobs for people but not necessarily to deliver an efficient or optimised service. Our airports are an example; where there are too many agencies of government with duplicating functions, overlapping responsibilities thus slowing down passenger experience.

As this government tries to modernise our infrastructure and government procedures and processes; they should avoid creating a big unemployment problem as they go along. This will require a national revamp of our educational system and adult education infrastructure that is focused on technology skills that will be needed for the future. Solving one problem by creating another is not wise leadership in government.

New technical colleges may need to be created. The curriculum of state schools should be reviewed to place more emphasis on technology. Vocational and adult education facilities should be created. The government need to begin a massive exercise to reskill the working population in preparation for the inevitable changes that technology will bring.

A stitch in time saves nine the adage goes. Nigerian government need an integrated approach to development by doing a Change Impact and Job Impact analysis of every policy before implementation and put in place a national strategy to mitigate these impacts and prepare the population for the new world before it is too late.

Otherwise, Nigeria could end up in a lose-lose situation. Massive unemployment caused by technology-driven changes and also new technology platforms and initiatives that will fail due to lack of trained manpower to effectively manage it. These are both avoidable consequences if the government takes note and act now. God bless Nigeria.


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It is the Politics Stupid: Strategic Lesson from Ekiti for all Nigerian Politicians

Governor Fashola of Lagos have been widely praised for his many infrastructural developments and advances in Lagos state. While a lot of this has to do with Lagos unique financial position as the business capital of the nation; there is another major factor that has been responsible for this reality that many have overlooked and which reflects in the recent Ekiti state election result.

In Nigerian democracy as it is with many worldwide; there are two pivotal legs that hold our bourgeoning democratic edifice. First is Politics. Second is Operational Governance. Politics has to do with the oiling of the party political machinery and keeping the foot soldiers happy, engaged and loyal during the many months of political inactivity between elections. This involves in the Nigerian context, keeping the boys and godfathers happy in whatever way possible. Politics also involve managing the aspirations of party members and their hopes and ambitions for the next election. This involve building the party structure and supporters and making sure they do not decamp to the opposition. For this to be achieved; you will need to spend lots of money and skill to manage and control the grassroots.

The second leg is about the art of governing. This relates to the operational and infrastructural development and the bureaucracy of governance, law enforcement and planning for growth and prosperity for all. Lagos has been unique amongst all other states because of the ubiquitous presence of Asiwaju Tinubu. Ex Governor Tinubu leads on and has taken full ownership of the real Politics leg in Lagos state. This has in turn freed Fashola to concentrate of governance without worrying or being distracted by many political gymnastics by party loyalists. When was the last time you heard that Fashola was settling fight between party members in Lagos. Almost never. Tinubu rules the politics arena and keeps the foot soldiers happy. This has allows Fashola to concentrate on governing and that has served Lagos well. Fashola would have been less successful like many other governors if he had the misfortune of daily party management of political shenanigans in addition to operational delivery.

In all other states in Nigeria; there is no Tinubu figure. There used to be one in Kwara in the late Dr Olusola Saraki. So all other governors have had to occupy both roles in Politics and Governance. But most have not been able to do this properly. They struggle to get the balance right. Fayemi was good at operational governance but he was bad at politics. He was good with one leg but failed with the other. So much so that the party split under him with some going with Bamidele. It was naïve for Fayemi to think that operational governance alone was sufficient to re-elect him without the price of real politics being satisfied.

In every democracy; there is always a need for a strategy to keep the base happy while at the same time delivering infrastructural and developmental outcomes. So Fayemi was inexperienced if he thought simply brandishing the projects and infrastructure he had completed was sufficient; when he failed to effectively and cohesively motivate the base (and the voters) for his candidacy. In the USA, the truth of this thesis was borne out in last week’s de-selection of Eric Cantor for re-election as Republican candidate in the US House of Representative. Cantor was the most powerful republican in the house outside of the speaker. He was the number 2 man in the house. Very influential and effective. But he neglected his base in his constituency. The base felt he was no longer caring for them and that he was too preoccupied with operational delivery of the house agenda in Washington. So they voted him out. Cantor’s complacency was so brazen that on the day his base were voting; he was pictured having lunch in far away Washington while his opponent was still travelling the local street canvassing for support of the people. Fact is in a democracy; you have to be able to balance both the operational governance of officialdom with real politics of grassroots development that keeps the party base happy. You must be able to do both.

Leaving aside any perceived underhand activities some alleged; Fayose clearly has the real politics sorted in Ekiti. But will he learn from his past Nigeria_politicalmistake by also working to develop the state infrastructure and operational development like Fayemi did. There are many examples of governors that seem unable to multitask on both these legs. Fashola has been lucky. He does not strike me like a typical real politician but a bureaucrat. Without the shield Tinubu provided for him, he would have been unable to achieve as much as he did if at all.

The lesson for all political office holders from a strategy point of view is to either learn to work these two legs, or ensure there is someone handling competently the real politics for you while you focus more of governmental operations. You cannot win elections simply by operational delivery of infrastructure and development; you MUST also be able to play real politics in ways that carry your base with you and ensure their loyalty. You cannot walk far or fast walking on one leg; so also you cannot win re-elections based on one democratic leg.

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