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WEF’s promises for Africa growth

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The World Economic Forum is underway in Durban, South Africa, this week, with a particular focus on the continent of Africa, its opportunities, challenges and future growth.

The global economy is no doubt facing some major challenges. Sluggish growth, leading to stagnant global trade, subdued investment and increasing policy uncertainty world-wide, are just a few. Further to this, with economies worldwide on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution, which is expected to drive significant change to global industries and business models, there is also major concern around jobs of the future, and potential job loss – with pressures mounting on industries to drive innovation, harness technology and to create a new way of working and growing.

Kunle Elebute, national senior partner, KPMG in Nigeria and chairman, KPMG West Africa, said: “While Africa is presented with a number of challenges – some closely aligned to the global view and others completely unique, the continent also holds many opportunities for future growth. However, these opportunities can only be unlocked, if we tackle them systematically and if we focus on the core of what drives an economy – infrastructure, its people, and its ability to innovate and improve growth.”

Africa’s growth and development is intimately linked to infrastructure development on the continent, and in many instances, the lack thereof.

Key challenges

In fact, possibly the biggest obstacle for the continent to adapt to this next revolution is the lack of sufficient infrastructure. It is well known that there is a direct correlation between infrastructure and; building or accessing markets, workforce productivity and – generally – economic growth and social development. However, the reality in Africa is that it faces a number of key challenges within this sector including:

  • Economic hubs or nodes are geographically dispersed, where there are 1000’s of miles of very rural land in-between them.
  • There have been very few collaborative strategies, planning or development of cross-border infrastructure projects – where rather, most countries have been focused on what they need to do in-country to improve infrastructure networks.
  • There are limited funds available to fund long-term development infrastructure projects, or to maintain the ones that are built. This has left a financing gap in this sector, perpetuating bottlenecks that make these projects less attractive to investors – both foreign and local.

“Addressing these key issues and devising collaborative plans that focus on regional integration and cross-market support will be critical this year,” continued Elebute.

Furthermore, as the world starts moving more rapidly towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the impact of digital transformation needs to be looked at. This sector bodes immense opportunities to further bridge the digital divide between emerging and developed markets, as well as provides great opportunity to support and advance the millennial generation and entrepreneurs in Africa – the future business owners and leaders.

Adapting to the Fourth Industrial Revolution therefore is a strategy that can be more inclusive, as it will empower African states to harness the technology and the skills available to them, as well as enable these states to continue to form part of the connected, global economy.

Such a movement would need to encompass key strategies, underpinned by significant investment into R&D on the continent, a realignment of education to increase talent pools and skills transfer and the opening up of cross-border trade – making business in Africa easier and less complicated to stimulate growth.

“Innovation and job creation also play a pivotal role in the economic development of the continent”.

To this end, innovation and job creation also play a pivotal role in the economic development of the continent and there is no doubt that a stringent focus will be placed on these two areas in this year’s WEF conference.

It is about unlocking regional growth in Africa, understanding the demographics and how they can work for the continent, and developing solid strategies to mitigate the skills gap and drive forth sustainable job creation opportunities – through encouraging innovations and enabling a better Africa.

Elebute added, “Africa has very often done things differently, leapfrogging the banking sector with the advent of online and mobile banking, for example, and using innovation to create growth and opportunities. This is evidence of the power of technology and in the coming years more focus needs to be placed on harnessing the power of what new technologies can offer and, as industry players, finding ways that we can better use it to create opportunities.”

Significant change

This year’s WEF will get organisations thinking about the implications of technology on their own businesses. Core to this is understanding the impact it will have on the workforce across Africa. Statistics indicate that one of the top five labour market shifts that are affecting strategy include the changing workforce, at 43%, driven strongly by workforce technology. This is scaring employees and employers alike however, it is more about adding additional value to what would have been a transactional process than replacing the human element. Elebute indicates that this is one of the definite shifts we will see into the next year and beyond.

Nhlamu Dlomu, KPMG executive board member, partner, head of people and change, agrees and indicates that Africa has been doing the same thing for years and certainly, the continent is on the verge of seeing significant change.

“Changing the way Africa employs, educates and manages existing or potential employees is set to be a sure focus. And entrepreneurship is at the centre of this – harnessing the 59% of millennials who are entering the job market and demanding a different workforce strategy, using entrepreneurs to provide core business functions instead of expanding the business head count and creating opportunity for skills transfer and development – across and inter-Africa,” said Dlomu.

Africa is on the brink of a workforce revolution – driven by technology and new job seekers – and it is now that policies need to be adapted, businesses need to realign what they once knew and – as a collective – the continent needs to define new strategies to move forward, with conviction.

“Africa is a massive continent and more governments therefore need to start thinking smartly around their urban areas, planned infrastructure projects, job creation and the power of connectivity and digital transformation – as this can significantly reform their strategies; towards investment and development that will underpin their adaptation to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and will empower and enable their nations to leapfrog,” concluded Elebute.

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Africa speaks

The Education Of Our Youth is the Key to Nation Building – Matthew Odu

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Matthew Odu (Image credit: Matthew Odu)

Like all of us I was shocked and outraged to learn that unarmed youths were confronted by live bullets on Tuesday evening (20.10.2020) at the Lekki Toll Gate Lagos, Nigeria after almost 2 weeks of a peaceful, relatively successful protest.

Initialy I had observed the start of the #EndSars demonstrations with admiration for the cause. The lamentations of the youth are genuine and difficult to argue against. If we haven’t personally been affected by an encounter with a callous police officer then I am sure we know somebody that has. Calling out police brutality and demanding an end to the extra judicial killing of predominantly young Nigerian males is a moral duty. It is clear that the vast majority of Nigerians had some empathy for the social movement.

Unfortunately what soon transpired in Lagos and across the nation was a display of anger that was about so much more than police brutality. The open agitation exposed a frustration with the system. What we have witnessed over the past week is an extreme manifestation of decades of youth segregation from governance and opportunity which has left millions of Nigeria’s youths unemployed, under employed and absolutely desperate for a way out of poverty and despair.

According to Nairametrics, data from the National Bureau of Statistics reveals Nigeria’s unemployment rate as at the second quarter of 2020 is 27.1% indicating that about 21.7 million Nigerians remain unemployed. The highest unemployment rate was recorded for youths between 15 – 24 years at 40.8%. This is followed by ages 25 – 34 years at 30.7%. To put things into context, Nigeria’s unemployed youth of 13.1 million is more than the population of Rwanda and several other African countries. Youth Population is also about 64% of total unemployed Nigerians suggesting that the most agile working-class population in the country remains unemployed.

I am a firm believer in the economic future of Nigeria and the catalyst to this future is our young people. Youth engagement and youth inclusion in governing arrangements is paramount if Nigeria wishes to succeed. As 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific recently acknowledged:

“Young entrepreneurs have been a source of innovation and economic dynamism, creating jobs and providing livelihoods to millions. To achieve and accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we urgently need their expertise and voices on creating solutions to social and environmental challenges, as well as economic opportunities. First, we need to ensure that the next generation of business leaders think about social purpose as well as profit. To achieve this, education will be critical. Governments play a key role.”

Alisjahbana is right to call out the government’s role in ensuring their youth are sufficiently educated, however private investment is also needed to solve the problems that the education sector is currently facing in Nigeria.

A lack of access to quality education and the sluggishness in adopting new methods of learning has immediate and long-term effects. The immediate effects have been playing out on the streets of Nigeria over the past few days. The long-term consequences are almost
unthinkable.

HESED Learning is an initiative and my own personal contribution to providing quality education to Nigerians, as a borderless structure with an unrestricted curriculum. The e-learning platform compliments the current school system by using a national curriculum with the option of studying an international syllabus.

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

It is time for our youth to become more competitive. Not a select, fortunate few but the vast majority. Increasingly in the sectors where our children do excel – in medicine, science and finance – they sadly leave the country for better prospects abroad. Who can blame them?

Education is the key to nation building. A quality education propels industry. In countries where the children are educated the likelihood of civil unrest is reduced.

We cannot afford to under educate our youth.

Aurthor: Matthew Odu, A Fellow of the Chartered Accountant of Nigeria

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Africa speaks

Making Peace with Nigeria – Sanyade Okoli

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Sanyade Okoli, Chief Executive Officer of Alpha African Advisory Limited.

Sometimes countries hurt us, whether we are conscious of it or not. And we, in our own way,
respond accordingly. We respond from a place of hurt. Usually unconsciously.

Let me use myself as an example to explain what I mean. I “have” three countries – Sierra Leone, the UK, and now Nigeria. As at today, I have spent approximately a third of my life in each of these countries in the order listed. And each, in their own way, has hurt me. To varying extents, but hurt me nevertheless.

For now, I would say that Sierra Leone has hurt me the least. I left as a teenager and have such wonderful memories of my growing up there that the pain it caused me is not as evident. Having said this, as I write this, painful memories of experiences post leaving home (e.g. family members having to leave as refugees in the 1997 troubles) are slowly bubbling to the top. Hmmmm….. A story for another day.

If I am honest with myself, I think that there are also some walls I have built around my heart concerning Sierra Leone (See Just As I Am). As I said to my mum a few years ago, I only have enough emotional bandwidth for one set of West African politics and intrigues and so I have chosen to “face” that of where I live today – Nigeria. As we say here, “I beg, I can’t come and die!”

Then, there is the UK, where I finished my education and started my professional and family lives. Again, in the spirit of honesty, I think I only appreciated the extent to which the UK had become “my home” when I moved to Nigeria . But it hurt me. Because I was older when I lived there its wounds are more obvious to me. I was saying to a close friend just the other day how I didn’t miss that feeling of “Is it because I am black?” when a random stranger does something to upset you. Sometimes the question is founded, sometimes it is completely unfounded. It stems from that low-level lingering angst as a result of feeling that you don’t fully belong and knowing that there are many others who also see you that way – “a foreigner”.

And last, but no means least, there is Nigeria. I will camp on Nigeria to illustrate my point, but I invite you to swap Nigeria for the country that is most relevant to you as you read my reflections.

Nigeria, my new home! Hmmm… I call Lagos, where I live, an “acquired taste” and I acquired
the taste many years ago. Let’s just say that I can now “say with my chest”, “Naija for life!”
But oh how “Naija” has hurt me! The cuts of Nigeria run deep and have felt unrelenting.

As much as I have come to love Nigeria, it often feels like it has been a one-sided relationship; unrequited love. As some people put it in a WhatsApp group I am on, “Nigeria feels like an abusive husband. He keeps hurting you, but you stay nevertheless.” Sigh….

After years of frustrations, disappointments, discouragements, and unmet expectations I
concluded that “Nigeria does not yield its fruit easily”.

But then again, why should he? Though I say I love Nigeria, have I always treated him with love.

Do I forgive him quickly and easily when I feel he has “let me down again” or do I hold on to
grudges? Do I harbour feelings of low-level resentment that colour how I see the country? Do I speak about Nigeria with positive uplifting words or do I pull the country down with my
mouth?

Are my day to day actions part of the solution or part of the problem?

Could it be that Nigeria is a wounded giant? Wounded by his past experiences; not least
colonisation, civil war and successive military governments. Could it be that how I continue to treat Nigeria rubs salt on his wounds instead of the much-needed healing balm? Could it be that, like any wounded giant would, Nigeria lashes out to protect himself?

So, if I say I love Nigeria, I had to ask myself the question, “What would love do?” I could think of no better standard to use to reflect on this than the biblical scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand
its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

When I look at God’s standard of love, I realise that Nigeria has failed me no more than I have failed him. I haven’t loved him the way I should, and in turn, he too has not shown me the love that I desire.

A few years ago, as I joined a group to pray for Nigeria the Lord showed me that I was holding unforgiveness towards the country. As a result, my bitterness towards the country was hindering me in many ways, not least my prayers for the country.

I repented at that time and forgave Nigeria for all the ways he had hurt me. Unfortunately, despite me forgiving the country, he is still “grappling with some issues” and has hurt me a bit more since then . But guess what, I am sure that I too have hurt him in that time as well.

What to do? I must forgive Nigeria again and make peace with him. I must keep forgiving Nigeria and making peace with him until we stop hurting each other or I go to be with the Lord – whichever is soonest . You see, I know that I am called to be in Nigeria at this time. I therefore have no desire to step out of my call and leave because if I do so, I not only leave Nigeria, but I step out of my destiny. God forbid!!

If you too feel like you need to go through the process of “making peace” with whatever country you are in, some suggested steps are outlined below. It’s a combination of reflections and actions. Like so many healing processes, it is a journey and not an event. Take your time through this. Don’t rush the process, and keep revisiting it as, sadly, you are bound to hurt each other again . There is a Krio saying that speaks to this: “teet en tongue mus jam”. That is to say, by virtue of the fact that the teeth and tongue are permanently in such close proximity, from time to time the teeth will hurt the tongue.

Also Read Close The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

As you go through the suggested process, I need you to remember that a nation is the sum total of its parts – you and me and the structures, systems and policies we institute and implement – explicitly or implicitly.

Happy Reconciliation!

Reconciliation process

1. Forgive your nation

Reflections

Ask yourself the following questions:

• What lies have I believed about my nation?

• How do I really feel about my nation? When I think of the country, what feelings are
evoked?

• Why do I feel like this about my nation? What have been the negative experiences that
have brought about these feelings?

• In what other ways do I feel my nation has let me down or hurt me?

Action

• Forgive your nation for all the ways He has hurt you.

• Let go of all the lies you have believed about Him and the negative emotions you’ve held
towards him.

2. Seek your nation’s forgiveness

Reflections

• What seeds have I sown into my nation through my thoughts, words, and actions?

• How does my nation feel about the way I have treated him?

• What are the fruits of the seeds that I have sown into my nation?

• What are the fruits in my life and in the lives of others?

Action

• Apologies to your nation for all the ways you have hurt him and ask him to forgive you.

3. Move forward together

Reflections

• What do I need to do differently with respect to my nation – in thoughts, words, and deeds?

Action

• Ask God for a picture of how He sees your nation and write down the vision that comes
to your mind.

• Draw up a SMART* action plan for how you will better engage with your nation going
forward.

• Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

Postscript

My reference to some people feeling like Nigeria is an abusive husband that they choose to stay with by no means suggests that I subscribe to the view that those who find themselves in abusive marriages should “forgive and forget”. Absolutely not! That, is a story for another day. It merely expresses the depth of pain some people feel with reference to Nigeria.

Author: Sanyade Okoli is a senior finance professional and the Chief Executive Officer of Alpha African Advisory Limited based in Lagos, Nigeria. She is also an Analyst on Arise TV’s Global Business Report show and recently started an inspirational blog, Just As I Am.

Instagram @sanyadeokoli

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Africa speaks

Diversity, Equality and Inclusion at The Workplace

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Diversity: We all deserve the opportunity to work in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment, where we can achieve our potential. In this article, I will be providing you with tips on how to build an environment that encourages fairness, variety and the feeling of belonging amongst your employees.

What is Equality Diversity and Inclusion?

It is one thing to attach the equality, diversity and inclusion clause to every job advert (pay it lip service) but it is another thing to actually practice it.

Equality for me means equal job opportunities and fairness for employees and job applicants irrespective of race, gender, religion etc.

Diversity on the other hand, is the variety of people in your workforce. This means people of different ages, religions, ethnicities, people with disabilities, and both men and women.

Inclusion just means that team members feel valued and carried along at work. 

The steps in building a work environment where behaviors support equality, diversity, and inclusion is what I will cover in this article, but if you are aware your business needs to improve in this area, these seven tips will be a good starting point.

Create a standard/ unbiased work policy

The first step to building an unbiased workforce is creating a policy that states clearly how the business supports and treats everyone fairly, what kind of behavior is expected of each team member, discrimination and the penalty if found guilty. There should be an action plan including what steps will be taken to make sure the policy is put into everyday practice.

Project the right brand 

It is very key that your brand messaging, policies and communications consistently represent the company’s attitude towards an equal and fair workplace. Project your company to show the diversity amongst your team, host events and webinars that advertise the equality and inclusiveness in your culture.

Broaden recruitment/talent sourcing

Hiring people from all kinds of backgrounds widens the range of thinking that takes place in your office. When hiring new staff, you should advertise widely and give room for anyone qualified regardless of background to have a fair chance at the recruitment process. A good example is saying that applications from Northerners and candidates with disabilities are welcome. Diversity presents a room full of unique ideas.

Switch up the culture 

Research shows that people want to work for employers with good employment practices. How are you showcasing this diverse yet inclusive workplace? To stand out, it is important to design a culture that allows everyone to feel valued, respected, and recognized. Regular employee updates covering company performance and future plans, and with an opportunity for two way interaction needs to be a regular agenda item.

Inform and Train

Ensure all new recruits are trained on the value of a diverse workforce and how to ensure inclusivity and equality. Team members are constantly assessed by ensuring that performance reviews include questions on inclusivity, equality and diversity. Managers should support diversity, and not only be trained in legislation but also on potential biases and how to avoid them. 

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

Leadership Accountability

Your leadership team is key to forming the culture of the business. Ensure those team members in leadership roles exhibit inclusive behaviours and promote communication. Consider a specific leadership module that focuses on a zero-tolerance approach to any kind of workplace discrimination. Line managers and HR business partners have a duty to actively seek out employees who may be becoming excluded and attempt to correct this. 

Promote inclusive employee programs

Activities and events that encourage inclusion in the workplace, such as:

  • Black History Month
  • Mental Health Awareness Week

It is vital that we all are aware that just saying that you are a diverse and inclusive business is not enough. It isn’t about the policies you have in place, but more about promoting a company culture of inclusiveness where everyone feels valued and supported to do their best work.

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