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Nigeria is Ripe for ICT Valley-Olufade

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Toyin Olufade is president, Association of Nigeria Courier Operators (Anco). He is also the managing director and chief executive officer of Swift Couriers Limited and has been in the courier industry for over 25 years.
Olufade worked for DHL for 12 years and before establishing Swift Couriers in 1997. In this interview with nkechi david-iwuchukwu, he spoke on industry issues and how to move the association forward.

Growth in the Courier Industry
The industry is relatively new in Nigeria, when I say new it is not an old industry, courier industry even in the world, is not as old as post, courier is door-to-door, hand-to-hand delivery of packages and documents. In Nigeria here, a child is still young at 25 and is still a young baby at 30 and that is basically how old the industry has been. The industry started in 1979 and I joined in 1984, so it is relatively very young in this country, if you do the mathematics from 1979 to 2010 is about 31 years old. However, the industry has grown from may be two to three players over time to about 240 players right now. The industry is still evolving because even at 240, it is still a very low number, to what a growing economy should have. What I mean by that is that you find out that a lot of courier companies are concentrated in Lagos, with a few in other parts of the country. In fact what I am saying is that we are limited, in that we could have a courier company concentrating just in deliveries of document in Enugu and effective in Enugu township, not to talk of Enugu state. So, if we are to expand this business, as the economy is expanding, we should have over 1,000 courier companies in Nigeria right now. So the growth of the industry is determined by the state of the economy and the response of consumers to post. Right now, we are still selling and sensitizing our people on the need, for instance, when you talk about mail shots, couriers are still not playing in that field, even the post is not playing. Our people are not playing in that field yet, but that is where you generate a lot of document, for instance, lets say Shoprite has coupons to give out to customers, they do mail shots and the courier drops it at their customers houses, for example 10 per cent discount on coca cola today and the customers picks the coupons and goes back to the shop to redeem it, but those things are not there, we are not doing that. The industry, is so wide that we are still limited by what we do right now, but we are hoping that as we grow and as the economy itself grows, the industry will continue to expand and there will be so much to do for each player.

Challenges Faced
The challenges are still enormous. The start-up cost is there and you know that Nigeria is still cash based, to do anything you need to put cash down upfront, you want to buy a car, you want to buy a truck, you pay full. That means you need a lot of money upfront in your pocket to start-up, but it shouldn’t be that because a business is supposed to start-up with just the working capital to run the equipments that you have. We also have the problem of electricity and road. The roads are bad. The problem of personnel is also there, because they are not adequately educated, so you spend a lot of time training and re-training. The challenge of taxes is there too and that is killing. When I say taxes we have various levels of taxes, which amount to double taxation. For example, if there is a withholding tax, to get your document, even from the people you work for, is a challenge, it’s either they are not paying the withholding tax or you can not file for  your tax purposes. Even in the local government where you operate your business, instead of being happy that at least your presence in the area will create employment, they visit you in the first month of operation demanding for one levy or the other. We are still having discussion with the local governments as a body, to explain to them that they need to welcome our people in their various areas and when they see Anco stickers, it should serve as a licence to move ahead, because we carry very urgent, time sensitive, and critical document that may have to do with live, business progress and promotion but we are surprise that the local government officials sit on Anco bikes and cause delays that may even indirectly affect them. Because they are not aware that we are of a critical nature to the development of the economy and information if not passed at the right time could cause serious problems. I am using this opportunity to let the local government know that we are in a critical sector, information dissemination which is required in the business economy, helps the economy to grow. For instance, if a major manufacturer has a slight problem and I have that little bolt or nut for the machine to be put back to work, the industry can be grounded for weeks if that bolt or nut does not get to them as at when due. So the longer you delay in getting the item to the industry, the longer people will stay out of work, so that means it will affect the economy. So since we operate in a sensitive sector, we want every player including the police to ensure that they correct that.

Banks Interest in Courier
We have seen of late that there is more to it than meets the eye, but of course it’s a free market we are operating and every body can get into any business. The truth of the matter is this, I think we should specialize in our area of competence, so I expect the banks to focus on their core competence and provide money to companies that are specialist in this field. By setting up a business and being a competitor to your customer does not speak well. I think the regulatory body of the banks should look into it, because there are limitation to the volume of document you can handle yourself, so if bank xyz opens a courier company and thinks it can move more than a percentage of their item then they are kidding, they need to look at it other wise they are doing something wrong. I would rather suggest that the banks should help grow businesses because you cannot make blocks and at the same time build the house yourself.

Skilled Manpower in the Sector
Skilled manpower is an area that needs a serious attention, unfortunate for us right now there is no courier school, no university where one can study courier, but of course we have courses in logistics which is not enough, so right now Anco is working on becoming chartered in the near future, where people will begin to be taught on how to handle courier and what courier is all about. Courier is a profession that needs to be properly attended to, so that we can effectively discharge the duties that we need to do. Anco is already looking at it, we are planning to set up a training school, to train and also have a recruitment centre for various departments, from courier to clericals, customer service, marketers, and things like that, that is in the focus and it is in the pipe line. I am hoping that in the next one year, things will materialize and in our movement with government, the ministry of education and others, we will be able to become certified as soon as possible. Right now, individually we are trying to train and re-train our people in new developments in the courier industry and it takes a longer time but if we have a body that can train them like ICAN, you go to school to study accountancy but you also take a professional course to become a chartered accountant or a chartered   marketer for instance, so that is the area we are looking at now, so that we can become more professional than we currently are.

The Regulatory Body  
Courier Regulatory Department (CRD) of the Nipost is our regulatory body, within their scope they have been able to do well and within the limit of their operating guidelines they have been able to do the best they can. Of course you will notice of late that we have been saying that a player too cannot be a regulator, it is not right and there is some level of injustice there but that is what we have now. But there is still cry that there should be a body, an independent and autonomous body, like a commission that will regulate all of us including post, as long as you deal with mails. We believe that it will come on stage quickly, because we are so desirous of it. There can be transformation, CRD could transform to become the commission but I am not in the position to say that but we are hoping that we can have an independent commission, so that there can be more effectiveness as   it happened in the telecommunication industry. The development that has taken place in the telecommunication Industry in the last few years is enormous and I believe that same thing can happen in the postal sector but you will notice that it could not happen until there was a separate regulatory body known as the National Communication Commission, so if we have a National Postal Commission, you will imagine the wonders that will happen.

Future of ICT Development in Nigeria  
That is the way it is, ICT development not just in Nigeria but in the world, I was in India last year and ICT is breaking them open to the world. As a matter of fact most of the companies have their customer service based in India, so after office hours and you want to talk to someone, someone is talking to you from India. Nigeria also has the potential, because I can run a customer service from my one room, since I have all the equipments, I have the computer and I have the information that is the benefit of ICT. India purposed to develop that sector and today they are a super power in it, they call it ‘silicon valley’ and I think Nigeria is ripe for its own.


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FG Offers to Support TStv to Relaunch with Pay per View Model

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National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has pledged to give necessary support to TStv Africa as the indigenous digital satellite TV service begins full operation with pay per view model on October 1, 2020.

FG Offers to Support TStv to Relaunch with Pay per View Model

Professor Armstrong Idachaba, acting director-general of NBC, made the promise on Monday in Abuja when the management team of TStv paid him an official visit.

The visit was to inform him of the company‘s readiness to commence full operation across the country on October 1.

TStv Africa is a wholly-owned Nigerian innovative multi-channel outfit which had promised to operate a pay per view model for the benefit of Nigerians.

Idachaba said: “We promise on our side that we will continue to support you.

“At this time, I think that the major issue confronting the PayTv sector is the area of giving Nigerians option of deregulating purchasing capacity in terms of pay as you go concept.

“We believe this will give you the visibility if you remain committed to the idea.

“We welcome that option and wish that it serves as a stimulant and as a progressive index for other pay-TV operators to adopt.

“Some of them have come up with a lot of excuses why pay per view is difficult and why it is not doable.

“We want you to be the galvaniser to prove the naysayers wrong that this is doable in the interest of Nigerians.

“Once you begin and you make a success of it through increased subscription base, we are sure that others will be drawn into it as it happened in the telecommunication sector.”

Idachaba said the NBC is committed to promoting local participation in the nation’s broadcasting industry, especially in the pay-TV sector, to create jobs and provide diversity for Nigerians.

He acknowledged the challenges TStv had faced over the years and encouraged the company to remain focused.

“We are aware that it has been very challenging for you.

“All over the world dominant players will always want to remain in a dominant position.

” Those who want to survive will also have to take the courage to do so,” he said.

The Acting Director-General, however, admonished the firm to refrain from any activity that would give Nigeria a bad name.

“If you are acquiring rights, you must make sure that your rights are legitimately acquired.

“You must make sure you follow the rules of engagement strictly, study the broadcasting code strictly to have a robust future ahead of you,” he said.

Earlier, Dr Echefu Bright, managing director and CEO of TStv, said they were at the NBC to seek the commission’s support to have a peaceful roll out on October 1.

He said the outfit also visited the NBC to officially present samples of its decoders to the commission and thank the management for its support.

Bright gave an assurance that the novel pay per view concept was sacrosanct.

“The model is what we have experimented and implemented and it works and we have done everything we need to do for it Nigerians to benefit.

“Beyond that, we have enough boxes on ground that will cover the entire country,” he said.

Bright also gave an assurance that with the Oct.1 roll out, every part of the country would be covered.

“We currently have a dealership in virtually every state in Nigeria and as I speak to you now our goods are already with them for October 1 rollout. The coverage from day one will be across Nigeria,”

On sports products, he said the firm has Laliga as well as the FA Cup and  Euro Cup 2021 rights.

 


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Why Businesses Should Take a Long-term Approach to People, Product, and Customers

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By Andrew Bourne, Region Manager, Africa, Zoho Corporation,

Business success is perceived differently today. Buzzwords like maximization, venture-backed, growth hacking, and well-conceived exit strategies (like IPOs or acquisitions) define entrepreneurial success in the current age. In a mad rush to show high quarter-on-quarter growth rates, corporate leaders have forgotten that the true value of a business is how long it stays relevant in the market and instead focus solely on transient growth spurts even if they cost profits.

Any business, no matter how big its initial success, needs to take a long-term approach if it’s to avoid being one of history’s almost-rans. This applies to every aspect of the business, including, people, products, and customers.

 

Invest in People

When you are a new company working on developing deep tech, discovering talent and retaining them is a challenge. Try to create and slowly nurture a pool of capable workers who will gain domain expertise over time. At Zoho, in order to sustain our long-term R&D efforts, we initially kept the teams small and worked with people who were committed to learn and understand the domain.

Patience is the key when you cultivate talent in-house. As people refine their skills and gain deeper domain knowledge, they gradually bring their learning to the business and build a solid offering that will stand the test of time. Ultimately, it’s the culture of experimental learning that you build which keeps you going and also motivates people to stick around for the long haul.

 

Build a product that can pivot and adapt

Equally important is to take a long-term approach to your product. You might be selling something simple today, but you need to be able to build on that. Take Amazon, for example. It started out selling books and gradually built out to become a trillion-dollar company. It hasn’t just focused on e-commerce either. Amazon Web Services (AWS), its cloud-computing division, keeps more than 40% of the internet up and running.

The lesson here is that long-term thinking isn’t just about having a product plan and sticking to it. It’s also about adapting to any future opportunities that present themselves. Whatever sector you operate in today, it will see disruptions sooner or later. If you can adapt to those changes, or find new opportunities in other sectors, you will be better placed for continued success than your competitors.

 

Keep up with customer expectations

Finally, you need to take a long-term approach to your customers. If you are constantly gaining new customers but not retaining them, you’re unlikely to see real success. Returning customers routinely spend more money on brands they’re loyal to. People are also more likely to recommend others to businesses they have had a good experience with. Simply put, it just makes business sense.

But taking a long-term focus with your customers isn’t just about the direct touch-points you have with them. Everything, including the software solutions you use, should have the customer at heart. For example, a unified tool which allows you to instantly see every interaction a customer’s had with your business (be it via voice, email, or chat), will put you in a much better position to serve them than trying to work with several different products.

Taking this long-term approach might feel overwhelming initially, but it’s much more likely to pay off than simply trying to survive from quarter to quarter. After all true success is built over time.


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CBN Pulls Rate Cut Trigger, King Dollar Returns

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By Lukman Otunuga, Senior Research Analyst at FXTM,

In a move that caught investors off-guard this week, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) slashed interest rates by 100 basis points bringing the MPR to 11.5%. Given how inflation has been above target since 2015, rates were expected to remain unchanged for the rest of 2020 and possibly early 2021.

 

The question on the mind of many is whether the rate cut will achieve the desired effect by stimulating consumption and economic growth? Ongoing border closures and disruptions created by COVID-19 have pushed inflation to levels not seen since March 2018 above 13.20% while a drop in the production and price of Oil continues to rub salt into the wound. While looser monetary policy could support growth, it may come at the cost of rising inflation and weaker Naira.

 

Over the past few months, central banks across the globe have deployed unprecedented measures to defend their respective economies against the coronavirus menace. However, fiscal policy has been identified as the sharper tool with governments across the world providing a critical lifeline to keep the wheels of their respective economies rolling.

 

Outside of Nigeria, King Dollar made a return by appreciating against every single G10 currency. In times of uncertainty, everyone wants a juicy piece of the world’s most liquid currency. As coronavirus cases rise in Europe and other parts of the world, the flight to safety is likely to boost appetite for the Dollar. This is bad news for many emerging markets currencies, especially those with high Dollar-denominated debt.

 

On the commodity side, Oil prices remain heavily influenced by demand-side factors and the state of the global economy. Prices are likely to remain stuck around the $40 regions in the near term, especially If another round of possible lockdowns hit Oil demand. Looking at the technicals, WTI Crude is under pressure on the daily charts. If prices are unable to break away from the sticky $40 regions, the next key point of interest remains around $38. A weekly close above $41.50 could pave a path towards $43.


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