ਸਵਾਲ: I now realize that your elucidation about issues on bottom of the pyramid (ਬੀ.ਓ.ਪੀ.), markets for poor, are encapsulated in UNDP’s coined concept – Inclusive Markets. I am wondering where Nigeria fits into this wonderful concept that helps bring people out of poverty. What’s your view on my impression that the country seems to be distracted, and appear to be excluding itself from this, instead of giving desired attention to this approach? - Fred Ewurujapkor
I had similar concern about Nigeria being conspicuously out of the global picture, after going through several publications. It was glaring that related activities were focused more on countries in south and south-east Asia (with India and its 600 million poor standing out); then South America. Within Africa, South Africa provides platforms for related business models, as well as some other countries in southern Africa. There is hardly any thing Nigerian-related, as business models application, in publications and other materials on this subject.
The closest to Nigeria, going by ‘my probe’, is Ghana, with two multinational companies (MNC) introducing a consumer durable product by one, and then a healthcare product by another. All applying BoP business models to impact on the Ghanaian poor. Even a major mobile phone service provider in Nigeria, had a very significant presence in applying its technology to BoP enterprise in Ghana in 2007. I am wondering why the same (or any other) has not been replicated in Nigeria.
I know Nigeria has the largest market in Africa; it is the second largest economy in the continent, after South Africa; the seventh largest exporter of crude oil in the world; blessed with several other viable mineral resources, has 80% of its land suitable for all shades of agricultural activities; with about 113 million (almost 70%) of its more than 163 million population classified as poor. One can only point (in related terms) to an initiative ‘propelled’ by a major British based development agency, on the application of mobile banking (using mobile phone technology) to aid Fulani cattle herders. This did not seem to have scaled. Another I encountered was the related activities of Olams Nigeria Limited, under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Reflective of work done in 2008, and revolved around a business model that was interwoven with initiatives to achieve sustainable development.
For those just encountering this as part of my series of articles on this subject, Inclusive Markets are markets which extend choices and opportunities to the poor (and other excluded groups) as producers, consumers and wage earners. It helps to create jobs and affordable goods and services needed by the poor. Inclusive Business integrates those living in poverty into a value chain, as consumers or producers, thus making a positive contribution to the development of companies, the local population and the environment. Bottom (or Base) of the Pyramid depicts the idea of acquiring people living in poverty as consumers, and as a result fighting poverty and tapping into a huge market. My earlier piece titled, “Making bottom of the pyramid marketing work in Nigeria” is a ‘must read’ which helps in appreciating BoP in Nigeria.
My recent interaction with some private sector ventures, in a bid to make them become BoP enterprises threw so much light on why Nigeria has not been on the ‘BoP radar’. These ventures comprised mainly of those engaged in fairly small scale exportation of agricultural products (a perceived platform for BoP activities here). These are their feedback as summarized in my note:
– Activities of government officials not encouraging. So much of documentation, which makes processing cumbersome and discouraging. Presently, yams can not be exported from Nigeria, as doing so through Ghana is generally preferred.
– Government officials are more concerned with, and more effective at show-casing agricultural products, but shy away from facilitating links with prospective interested foreign concerns (for collaboration with local ventures).
– Government officials tend to pressurize local ventures for sponsorship to seminars and workshops (especially if venues are offshore). This creates undue costs to local enterprises.
– The extent of empowerment through government’s efforts to strengthen local venture activities is not encouraging – For example, internationally recognized certification for Honey exportation from Africa rests with Kenya.
– The few government related grants are mostly directed at large concerns.
– Government’s subsidies are vital in many areas, but hardly materialize.
– Related agricultural processing facilities are often abandoned by most new dispensations (in governance), portending lack of continuity.
– Agricultural research facilities are grossly underutilized.
– Outlets for distribution of government’s input (e.g. seedlings, fertilizer) are often linked to ownership by government officials.
With the above, it is quite clear that moves, through Inclusive Markets, to alleviate poverty in Nigeria are nowhere near the ‘centre stage’. As they are obvious pointers to self-exclusion, institutionally. In Nigeria, related efforts tend to ‘hang’ up there as materials for public relations orchestration, and do not ‘percolate’ down to benefit the supposed beneficiaries (the poor). A privately-owned radio station in the country keeps harping on its network programme (on Thursdays) that the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) has only 1.3 billion naira provided for it, in the Budget for this year. No wonder, NAPEP’s web site has been down for several months.
Have you noticed these days the growing frequency of able bodied, well dressed and sometimes educated young men, who approach people with hands open, asking for “any amount you can afford”? Let us pray that those ‘hands’ in the near future do not wield switch- blades (retractable attack knives) instead, with this likely escalating to small caliber (but lethal) pistols. The Nigerian government must wake up and stop being distracted (maybe by crude oil windfalls), to face this concept of Inclusive Market. If a nation fails to provide for so many who are poor, I am wondering if it can provide security for the very few who are rich. It is scary to have this huge number of poor people around.
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