Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Myth of Entrepreneurship in Nigeria

Hi, I think this is a perfect comeback after a week of taking a break...

Well if you must know why I was away, a lot of pressure got to me, from work, from home, from everywhere. I just needed an escape which is very necessary, I had gone down with malaria and it afforded me the opportunity for introspection, assess my journey in business, and most importantly, in life. A lot of which has been positive, with a lot to do with God and his place in my life and in that of my family and in those I have come to share a deep bond with, familes and friends, meeting and spending time with each other, in our journeys through life.

In effort to always inspire, promote and indeed imbibe the Entrepreneurial Mindset in young Nigerians such as my self. There is big question yet unasked, "Can we truly Entrepreneur ourselves out of bad governance?"

We see countries whose governments embrace Entrepreneurship in this case lets call it "Capitalism". We must understand how it has played a big role in developing their countries. How countries in Asia, especially China has been able to play a big role in matters around the world and how they begun their individual journeys.

Despite our sketchy past and indeed our tumultuous present, my hope, although many may disagree, is that Nigeria, one day, takes its rightful place among the League of Nations. Our people must realize that we must invest in our country and make it great, together!. We must always look at the bigger picture, not just at what we can get out of this country, "Nigeria". We must alter our mindset from "a national cake" mindset to a "sky scraper" mindset. We must look inwards, to build the nation of our dreams.

Lol...this is not meant to be a political piece or a keynote piece from a Future President...no, none of that, for now at least....

Read on....and I think before the end of this piece, I would be able to drive home my point...but enjoy the ride....

Well my hope is not unfounded, as it might seem, like it would be if I was wishing for a green and white unicorn or a mythical pig flying in the night sky. It is bound by facts.

Many a time, I have seen great African men and women, Entrepreneurs and others, working in their own capacities, for a greater Nigeria. Most of their good works go unnoticed, ignored I might add.

Innoson, a Nigerian company, did a great thing, to start the first Indigenous Nigerian Car company. Iyinoluwa Aboyeji amongst others inspired Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook guy, to come to Nigeria and make him invest in building the next Nigerian developers, the world would reckon with. Jumia, Konga are the first Indigenous E-commerce to make their mark in the Nigerian/African online space. Linda Ikeji, the most popular blogger in the Nigeria. These are popular examples.

Did you know?

The Ucheaga family, started a technology based education scheme, training less-privileged children at very affordable rates.

There is also a new app, Kangpe, a Nigerian created, that enables people to get quick medical advice even in the remotest of areas. 

All these are laudable efforts .....

There are Nigerians everyday making their marks around the world. A lot to mention. Forgive me for mentioning these few off the top of my head. My point clearly is to note how much potential, each and everyone of us have as Nigerians, and if we worked together, in unison, how much we would be able to put in to make Nigeria, as great as it should be.

Despite all the potential we have, it is important to ask why we are not progressing in the way that we should. There is evidently something wrong with the way Nigeria is positioned, in order to make great innovations like the aforementioned ones, the basis on which we can grow a great economy and a great country.

I must laud the efforts of the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, for speaking about the vital issues that have blinded Nigerians from looking forward and working together for the progress of our nation. Issues bordering on the ineptitude of the civil service as well as tribalism and nepotism that hampers our peaceful co-existence. We must learn to be patriotic. We need to see the bigger picture, WE ARE NIGERIAN. The only way we can move forward, is making a choice to be Nigerian first, before we are Igbo, Hausa,Yoruba, Efik on any of the 300+ tribes we have in Nigeria. I am in every way suggesting that we can celebrate being Nigerian even in diversity. Because, that is what makes Nigeria beautiful and respected all around the world. We should never loose focus. If we make our country work, while appreciating our diversity, we would be the only country in the world that is multi-ethnic, and multi-religious to ever stand strong in the League of Nations. This strong belief is present, especially among the youth.

Acknowledging that there is a problem, is indeed the first step on the road to recovery. That is what I have learnt in my journey through life.We Nigerians must realize that.

We must move from fair-based system to a merit based system. We must put people in positions, which they deserve and we must be ready to applaud those that represent our country well. We must desist from applauding those that pillage our country's common wealth and those that live behind 'high walls' and 'tight security' because they are the ones keeping us from where we ought to be.

I have grown to also understand why Nigerian Youth are not too keen on Entrepreneurship, because it has become more and more obvious that only a few men have truly succeeded through pure Entrepreneurship without having to be involved with the government in one way or the other in their journeys to success. The people in our communities that are celebrated are either retired civil servants, retired or current politicians and suprisingly enough, musicians. You need not ask why most youth want to tow such paths, its a 'no brainer', if that is the most obvious success path, it has to be the best path to tow.

Entrepreneurship, respected however, among the youth, is not the most attractive option, perhaps because we continue to see how the government ignores and indeed hampers the activities of entrepreneurs, large and small scale entrepreneurs either through difficulty in accessing foreign exchange or through high taxes (local government charge) and other sundry charges imposed on them through their local authorities. Let us even analyse how difficult it is for startups to access funding or access to participating in government contracts, through bureaucracy bottlenecks e.g. staff pension statements, 3 tax documents and past jobs executed, for the past 3 years on average. Let's set aside the corruption involved, because that goes without saying.

Most successful startups, which we have grown to enjoy their services, hotels.ng, irokotv and Andela have always gotten backers from international groups and venture capitals all around the world and most of them have had to make the hard decisions of situating their headquarters in countries with more stable economies around the world to improve their credibility especially with regards to investors.

It is obvious, isn't it? A country rife with unstable governments, corruption, nepotism and a country that focuses on fairness along ethno-religious sections in the country, is definitely not where a successful company can place its roots and expect to blossom. You can correct me if I am wrong.

I have been considering a place on Ycombinator, an Entrepreneurship Fellowship in Silicon Valley, if I am correct, and one of the major requirements is to consider setting the company headquarters, albeit they might allow an operational headquarters elsewhere. In case you do not know, a lot of Nigerian Startups I know, would jump at this opportunity. And the reason is simple, it is easier for a donkey to jump through the eye of a needle, for a startup to reach its potential in Nigeria. The reasons I have stated through this piece. But I would list a few of them;

1. Fair based system instead of a merit-based system
2. Low investment opportunities in Nigeria (Improving)
3. Unstable governments
4. Government Bureaucracy
5. Low purchasing power ( more than a million Nigerians live under a $1 a day)
6. Nepotism
7. Corruption (I put this last, because it goes without saying)

Without the people coming together to build a nation, without a credible government to put the right things in place, we would continue to scuffle our feet and watch true geniuses build great companies, backed by International corporations and possibly move to more accessible, accomodating and  stable countries and help them build their nations with their disruptive entrepreneurial ideas.

We must step up to the task, and be aware of the race between the nations on issues like self dependency, technological advancement, amongst others. We must avoid being left behind, feeding of the crumbs of other nations.

We must take our view off oil wealth, as it appears that too, is not stable. We must look towards our human capital, our enterprising and innovative minds, to move this nation towards the position that we would never have imagined. Our Nigerian story can indeed be a success story.

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