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Aug 15
Citizen-Centred Service Delivery: Partnering with the Youth for Africa’s Transformation


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Keynote Address delivered by Dr Doyin Salami for the Africa Public Service Day. Doyin Salami, a renowned economist, is Faculty at the Lagos Business School and a member of the Central Bank of Nigeria's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

The Context of Civil Service in Nigeria

The Nigerian Civil Service has its roots in the colonial public service institutions that existed in the territories that later came to be known as Nigeria, from the earlier Colony of Lagos to the Northern and Southern Protectorates. The amalgamation of these vast swathes of territory, first of the Colony of Lagos into the Southern Protectorate in 1906, and the subsequent unification of the two protectorates of the North and South led to the formation of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.

Driven basically by the colonial rationale of setting up administrative convenience for its activities, it has been generally observed across much of the scholarship on early public administration that the British, rather, unfortunately, imposed a unified civil service structure on the vastly nuanced territories of the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria, with scant regard for local acceptability or durability. And this was equally without much consideration for the idiosyncrasies and differences across the fairly complex customary systems, values and authority structures of traditional societies.

The Transition to a Citizen-Centered Service Delivery Culture

As a formal organisation with a transformed notion of identity, the Nigerian Civil Service could be said to have come into existence around 1954, as a culmination of efforts geared towards the redefinition of the purpose of the Service, in line with the need to deliver public service to and cater to the welfare of Nigerians.

Crucial to the demands for a shift in the delivery orientation was the advent of the Nigerianisation policy, seeking to make the Civil Service more responsive to serving the interests and needs of Nigerians in a primary and wholesome manner. The service was located at the core of the Nigerianisation policy, "Nigerianisation of the Civil Service implying the reduction and ultimately the ending of expatriate predominance in the higher levels of the Civil Service" (Skewat, 2002).

In that period, the process of repurposing the Service was geared towards making it an institution vital to policy formulation and implementation, with the objective of improving the lot and ultimately creating life-enhancing benefits for the generality of the Nigerian people. It was strongly considered a vehicle for driving development and having the Nigerian at the centre of its operations, to enable social and economic progress, and the growth of infrastructure that caters to the needs of the people of the country.

The Nigerian Citizen and Public Service Delivery

Providing for the Nigerian citizen and ensuring his or her welfare is certainly the fundamental purpose of government and this is a responsibility it bears across all its levels, tiers, organs, institutions, agencies and departments. This obligation to citizens is, more so, primarily enshrined in the document articulating the basis of our social compact as a nation – the Nigerian Constitution, in its past and present renditions.

It is an essence brought into clear focus in Section 14 2(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, where it is proclaimed that "the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government." This notion of "welfare" referred to in the body of legislation situates the Nigerian as the Maison d'être of government, which actions must be fundamentally directed towards the promotion of the well-being of the citizen, upon whom its legitimacy rests.

Against this backdrop, it is crucial to note that beyond the political leadership, the civil service – as the engine room of government in its different iterations – is the institution with the most significant and direct impact on the life of the Nigerian citizen, and the promotion of his or her welfare, or lack thereof. It is the institution vested with the primary responsibility for implementing and coordinating the actions and activities of government, in a manner that bears consequence to the Nigerian.

As a corollary to the foregoing, it is important to emphasise that the essence of public service delivery is entailing the creation of the basis for citizens' experience of the fruits of governance, in a way that should gratify needs and have a positive impact on individuals, in addition to enhancing their well-being.

The more positive outcomes individuals experience as a result of public service delivery, the more trust and respect they would repose in the provider. Hence, there is a strong interconnectedness between service delivery, the institutions mandated to execute this (in this case, the Nigerian Civil Service) and the legitimacy consequently conferred on governments by citizens.

Re-engaging the Target of Civil Service Delivery

From the foregoing, a question that logically arises is: Does the Civil Service actually know the target of its service delivery – the Nigerian?

A set of secondary concerns are raised in unpacking this salient question, including whether the Civil Service fully understands the expectations of citizens in terms of service delivery; has adequate data to profile their needs, and the comprehensive framework to cater for the welfare and deliver benefits to them?

Understanding the Nigerian, his/her needs and expectations where public service and dimensioning these along the lines of the various socio-economic and socio-cultural categories into which Nigerians fall is critical to untangling the immense challenges of service delivery in Nigeria, and activating the "customer-centric" approach earlier mentioned.

It is easy to yield to the convenient impulse to point out other assailants of good governance and government, including the failure of political leadership and corruption, etc., as largely responsible for the derailment of national plans and efforts to improve quality of life in areas such as healthcare, education, etc. Nevertheless, such failures offer a perspective to reflect on the deficits of service delivery in Nigeria.

In spite of decades of planning, recognised indices of human development do not suggest any positive or sustained sense of progress. This is starkly revealed in the trajectory of the poverty incidence in the country, which when juxtaposed with population growth and demographic shifts reveal the contours of the dire nature of our circumstance.

Delivering on Citizens' Expectations of Government

What could be considered as the expectations of Nigerians from government, governance and service delivery? Incidentally, these expectations are fairly well framed in no other document than the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. In Chapter 2 of the Constitution, entitled "The Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy", it is not only stated that "the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government", but it is claimed that;

16. (1) The State shall, within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in this Constitution:
(a) harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, a dynamic and self-reliant economy;
(b) control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity; Also, it is further stated;

16.2 (d) that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.

As such, it can be said that in line with the expressed provisions of the Constitution, the government is tasked with the mandate of creating an environment that is vital to securing the welfare of the people. 

The Nigerian Youth

The youth are, undoubtedly, the most valuable resource of a country – and a continent, the foundation on which the future stands, and the means for delivering on the prospects and potentials of the human experience. In Nigeria, they constitute both a huge source of hope and anxiety, in terms of what they represent for the national fortune and the gross inadequacy of the planning presently being made on their behalf.

Over 60 percent of the Nigerian youth populations live in rural areas, whilst the other 40 percent live in urban and peri-urban locations. Whereas over 65 percent of the Nigerian youth is said to have some form of formal education, with 55 percent of this demographic subset being female and the others being male, so many youths are plagued by serious deficits of skills and capacity, making them highly susceptible to unemployment, underemployment, and economic exploitation. Equally, a host of them with certain levels of capability have been sucked deep into the informal sector, particularly in low-income engagements and activities, where their exertions are not commensurate with the value being produced. Hemmed in by the combination of deprivation and lack of meaningful opportunity, many are vulnerable to crimes and different forms of delinquency.

The plethora of issues affecting the Nigerian youth, while evolving from a base of material inadequacy and deprivation, can be seen to generally include low levels of educational attainment and consequently prospective lack of fitness for future challenges, the breakdown of social value systems leading them along less-than-desirable orientations and deviant behaviour, a nationally pervasive culture of indiscipline and the dearth of life mentoring opportunities. Concerns issuing from the foregoing have equally opened the youth up to the susceptibilities of religious fanaticism, cultism, crime and other socially reprehensible conduct.

The Nigerian Youth Policy situates it's very important to target demographic, their needs and aspirations, at the centre of national development and planning, while seeking to understand and proffer solutions to their issues and challenges in the process. It strives for youth development in the country to not only be youth-led and driven but for youth issues to be integrated into all the sectors of national life, in a manner that would guarantee holistic development.

As a declaration of the priorities and directions of government in relation to the youth, the National Youth Policy attempts the coordination of all the other policies dealing with the youth, both indigenous – including the National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development, the National Health Policy, and the National Policy on Education, etc. – and the ones domesticated from international instruments. 

 The National Youth Policy does not consider the youth as an amorphous category, but endeavours to direct development planning in a manner that is sensitive to the nuances of gender, religion, tradition and culture. Whether in terms of youths needing liberation from the yokes of gender discrimination, religious radicalisation or armed conflict and restiveness, the National Youth Policy provides the frame for targeting these demographic sub-categories for intervention differently and more proactively.

The African Youth and Agenda 2063

As in much of the developing parts of the world, Africa is home to surges in population growth, occurring rather disproportionately to the manners of planning being made for them, and henceforth putting the resources of states under tremendous pressure. This has in part spawned the inevitable fallout of the routine rehearsals and outbreak of conflicts that have largely come to signpost the identity of the continent.

Vital to the issue of coordinating the potentials of the African youth has been the context of a resurgent Africa, as framed within the latest 50-year grand vision to break the continent from a cycle of want and make its development essentially driven by its people, and articulated by the African Union (AU) in the declaration known as Agenda 2063.

This immense regional agenda was formulated in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, which has transfigured into the African Union (AU), towards achieving the "Africa that we want". It is conceived of as "an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena".

As equally outlined by the African Union, there are four interconnected pillars for delivering on the youth demographic dividend, particularly in view of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan towards achieving the African Renaissance encapsulated in Agenda 2063. These include a first pillar of creating opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, aimed at reducing at least a quarter of the number of unemployed youths on the continent by 2024; improving access to credit for businesses and establishing sub-regional Youth Funds; engaging the private sector for the expansion of internships, alongside CSR initiatives from African philanthropists; and promoting programmes for African youth volunteers and junior professionals, etc.

A second pillar pertains to the enabling of massive investment in education and skills development, comprising the review of educational curricula to "increase quality and relevance to the labour market and national developmental needs", with emphasis on skills development and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Education. This is to equally include the expansion of vocational training opportunities, promotion of inclusive access to education at all levels, the adoption of lifetime approaches to learning and establishment of regional educational institutions that create learning and exchange opportunities, etc.

 

The third interconnected pillar for the empowerment of the African youth to produce the demographic dividend speaks to the need to invest in health and wellbeing. This involves the institution of integrated adolescent and youth friendly health services, the prioritisation of universal access to family planning services, and the necessity of improving the nutrition of children. Moreover, it would require the enhancement of maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, and the scaling up of policies to support the reproductive rights of women, etc.

 

The fourth pillar dealing with rights, governance and youth empowerment, is about ensuring the ratification, domestication and comprehensive implementation of the African Union's Shared Values instruments, such as the African Youth Charter and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), by all African countries by the end of 2017. Also, it entails the creation of national implementation mechanisms, the elimination of all barriers to the participation of the youth in the political space, and the abolition of policies, practices and customs that have discriminatory effects on the youth, especially girls and young women, etc.

The foregoing constitute the regional framework for activating the demographic dividends that would set Africa on the part of a virile future, which is expected to be domesticated and serve as the basis of national action plans, from which programmes would be designed.

The Way Forward: Partnering With the Nigerian Youth for Africa's Transformation

The Nigerian Civil Service has witnessed a transformation from an institution basically serving the interests of the British Empire and its economic logic of exploiting its colonial outposts, to one that has made progressive evolution in the reform of its mandate. It has grown in strength and capacity as the engine room for government and governance in Nigeria. And this is despite its myriad challenges. Even then, there is still so much the institution can transform into as it works to fortify its ability to deliver on public services that would enhance the welfare of the Nigerian.

From the policy of Nigerianisation to the host of reform efforts targeted at the Civil Service, the focus had been the repurposing of a delivery culture that has the Nigerian as the ultimate beneficiary of the activities of governance. Whilst the ills of poor political leadership and pervasive corruption could be said to exert deep levels of distortion on the capability of the Civil Service to realise its mandate, it still needs to draw insights from modern 'customer-centric' perspectives to transform its public service delivery obligation into one that is more citizen-centred. This entails understanding its 'customer' in more than cursory ways and building the capacity to targets his or her needs effectively.

As the largest and fastest growing population on the continent, any programme of youth development in the country is undeniably regional in impact and consequence. Considered as the key catalyst for implementing the mandate of governance, the Civil Service is crucial to making the delivery of the demographic dividend a reality as its sprawling and country-wide bureaucracy is the principal vehicle for giving life to the agenda of the government. Yet, on a primary level, with respect to Service Delivery to Nigerian youths, there is the need to build a thorough and continually evolving understanding of who they are whilst, as the 'deep government', facilitating their effective participation in national development.

The Civil Service needs to endeavour more in promoting a comprehensive, multisectoral approach to youth issues and concerns in the country. And consequently ensure the mainstreaming of the youth, as an essential development category, into the respective agenda of all government agencies.

There is the compelling need to be more inclusive and sensitive to all the nuances of the Nigerian youth as a particular focus of its policies and programmes, whether in terms of differences across cultural contexts, gender, location (the rural/urban divide), physical states of being (disabilities), etc.

Reforming Nigerian Civil Service Delivery for a Youth-led Future

As observed in the foregoing, crucial to the concerns about a citizen-centred service delivery culture in Nigeria, at the institutional level, are not only the challenges to professionalism, but also the questions of pervasive corruption, and the lack of political will to carry through reforms in the Civil Service.

Since one of the abiding – if equally crucial – issues eroding the capacity to deliver on public services has always been financing, the tide of the haemorrhage of government resources has to be stemmed decisively through the tackling of the question of a ghost labour force. One can then imagine how much funds would be saved when the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) is achieved on a single platform.

To tame the monster of corruption, vital to the reform of public procurement in Nigeria, and the return of the Federal Executive Council to its core policy making function (away from the distraction of serving as a procurement ratifying body in a number of past years), is the imperative of inaugurating the National Council for Public Procurement (NCPP), as created by the Procurement Act of 2007.

Essential to entrenching a citizen-centred service delivery culture is the augmentation of government finances for the Civil Service to be able to deliver on the programmes required for a youth-led future that has great implications for the African continent. A key way of achieving this is through the bolstering of the revenue base of the Nigerian state, by means of an enhancement of the taxation system, the securing of total tax compliance by private and public individuals – including officials, the restructuring of corporate tax waivers, and enforcement of tax laws through the judicial system.

If the many issues and concerns that have been highlighted and reiterated are well considered, comprehensively engaged and tackled, both at the institutional level and that of the political leadership that motivates its processes, I have no doubt that the Nigerian Civil Service is still uniquely positioned to deliver on and deepen a culture of public service delivery that would positively unfetter the full potentials of a youth-led and driven future.

Culled from: Premium Times

Aug 03
Dealing with Nervousness Before and During Presentations – Five Key Steps

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Written by Dianabasi Akpainyang

Are you one of those people who automatically get a few sleepless nights at the notification of an upcoming major presentation? For some of us, even after we call its bluff and somewhat go ahead to perform satisfactorily, we still get nervous again at the next call. Nervousness seems like an enigma of sorts, doesn't it? Well, it is worthy of mention here that getting nervous is not peculiar to you or to a certain class of persons. Some of the greatest orators to grace this earth have been nervous before key speeches. You are definitely not alone in this. Perhaps you should be doubly assured after reading this point from the University of Pittsburgh:

"Experiencing speech anxiety is normal. Nearly everyone gets nervous when they have to give a speech or a presentation, even experienced speakers. The speakers that look relaxed and confident have simply learned how to handle their anxiety and use it to enhance their performance." **

Why Do People Get Nervous Before Presentations?

There are many reasons why people have their nerves rattled before and during presentations. The fearful reaction begins in the human brain. The threat of things going awry during a presentation triggers the fight or flight response in the part of the human brain responsible for the perception of the fear emotion called the Amygdala. This aligns with the natural human instinctive reaction to 'life threatening' situations. The reasons for fear are not far-fetched. It could be fear of rejection, fear of mistakes, or fear of failure. According to Randall P. Whatley, fear may emanate from your thoughts, echoing your inability to communicate effectively. You may think that your message is not important or you may not know the correct way to phrase your thoughts. You may even worry that your audience is likely to disagree with you or some people in there would dislike your personality. Fear may also come from your perceived inability to persuade, therefore the increased likelihood of rejection and disappointment.

Some Signs of Nervousness

The next time you get on stage and notice your palms sweaty and all watery, do not think of running to the doctor after the speech, your body was just responding to the uneasiness that you had put it in. Apart from sweaty palms, the following are some of the common signs of nervousness:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Goose bumps
  • Dry mouth
  • Chattering teeth
  • Shaky voice
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fiddling with finger nails, pen or any object at the disposal of the speaker

Five Key Steps to Dealing with Nervousness when Making Presentations

As noted earlier, great speakers do not cave into their fears, they confront and turn them into a passion that lights up the stage from the moment they get on it. The following are key recommended steps to help you build confidence, conquer your fear and deliver your message convincingly:

1.  Prepare and Practice Adequately. Exhaustive preparation erodes to a great extent the fear of mistakes and failure. It is a proven confidence-builder. Some antagonistic members of the audience would beat a quick retreat when they perceive that you 'know your stuff.' So rather than seek to get you to prove yourself, they would seek to collaborate. This would give your confidence an extra boost. Thorough preparation and practice will also decrease the level of your anxiety. You sure should not ignore these.

2.  Take Charge of Your Mind. Your mind and body should be under your total control, especially few moments to your presentation. If you allow your thoughts to stray into the terrain of negativity, your fear level goes up. So, strive to be in control of your thoughts and allow only positive thoughts to hold sway. Visualise yourself making a great success of the opportunity and go for it. Accept that it is normal to be nervous and so convert that reality to a strong connection with your audience. Remember that you are speaking to humans and not celestial beings. Most members of your audience appreciate the fact that you can make mistakes and will appreciate it when you do not attempt to be artificial. Relax.

3.  Exercise and Control Your Breathing. Experts have documented the benefits of exercises to self-confidence and well-being; give some time to it. According to Bonnie Gross, President of Speech Science, the shaky voice during the presentation is the result of irregular breathing, so pay attention to the way you breathe. The recommended pattern is to breathe out when your words are coming out and breathe in when you pause.

4.  Stay Hydrated. Gulp some water to keep you hydrated and prevent your mouth from getting dry to the extent that your speech is impaired. Let the words flow with ease.

5.  Have Your Back-up Plans. Especially when you are using technology as a major enabler of your presentation, get back-ups handy. If your PowerPoint document corrupts and fails to open or your external drive falls off your pocket on your way to the venue, what would be the next step to take? How about the failure of the public address system and other equipment? These system failures can be unsettling and cause you to look down on yourself, so make plans in advance to positively respond to unforeseen circumstances.

** Reference: http://www.speaking.pitt.edu/student/public-speaking/speechanxiety.html 

Jul 10
The Poverty of Lagos Urban Planning

Article written by Dr Bongo Adi, Faculty, Economics

The heavy torrential downpours of the past nine days have succeeded in exposing the poverty of urban planning or lack of it in the Lekki peninsula and also teaching Lagos an important lesson. Appropriate development planning has never been an uncoordinated, knee-jerk, and ad-hoc affair. It has always been coordinated, comprehensive, integral and robust. When you cut through a town with elevated highways without simultaneously rechanneling the drainage system, you make the kind of embarrassing flooding that has swept through large parts of the Lagoon peninsula inevitable.

The truth is that certain elements are entirely missing in our infrastructural and urban development planning. There is just no way to downplay the importance of flood plain analysis in estate development and not reap disaster when the floods come. Flooding in our tropical environment and especially along coastal planes like Lagos is unavoidable and therefore not surprising in any way. Every city experiencing heavy downpour will certainly have some areas submerged underwater as the rains gather in intensity and duration, but what determines the extent of damage is the availability of appropriate and adequate provision for surface water runoff after such heavy downpour.  Without the provision of unobstructed channels to convey flood water to either artificial or natural receptacles such as canals, lakes or even the nearby sea as in the case of Lagos, then we have provided just a recipe for disaster.   

Of note is the increasing speed with which the nearby Lagoon that normally serves as a natural receptacle for surface water in the Lagos Island is been reclaimed for real estate purposes.   There has to be due consideration of the natural surface water cycle.  Nobody seems to care what happens to runoff systems coming from the built-up areas. It is also possible that natural water flow paths have been blocked or altered by these developments.   

Every part of Lagos - not just the Island - must be sufficiently drained and linked to existing canals and all canals must open up to the lagoons and these lagoons must be dredged regularly. But it seems that this falls on deaf ears to all and sundry, including government developers.  Private estate developers in the Lagos Island seem to abide by no known rules except to fleece unsuspecting Lagosians of their funds in the guise of selling what in fact, are no better than poorly planned neighborhoods that parallels pro-poor council apartments in the UK and elsewhere in the world. They build estates while neglecting the flow system that interacts with the outside environment. The consequence is most certainly the improperly directed effluent flows that create the kind of floods we have witnessed in the past few days.  Yet I do not see this trend dissipating anytime soon as both estate developers and government seem to collude in this environmental wreckage. 

Another point to note is that the poorly constructed roads have all but given way under the unrelenting onslaught of the heavy downpours. Pot holes have quickly emerged even on roads and bridges that were very recently commissioned. You can't but begin to wonder if the engineers never factored-in obvious ecological conditions in their models and materials selection. If we add that it costs significantly higher to construct a kilometer of road in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world, you begin to understand the sort of sleight-of-hand on display in these things.   The question that challenges people like us is just how could a professional supervisor approve such shoddy work?   It is clear that substandard materials were employed or if not, consideration was not given to the prevailing ecological conditions in materials selection and handling.

My take is that public private partnerships (PPP) remain the most effective mechanism to procure infrastructural services in a system such as ours. By transferring risks to private sector, the later are incentivized to install efficient solutions and in moments like this, there's a clear culprit to blame. While we are happy that the Lagos State government has responded to some areas, I believe that a sustainable plan would be to create a robust planning system that leverages modern simulation technologies to address the longer-term solutions to these challenges. If Lagos, known to have a reserve of more competent and professional bureaucracy – better than even the federal government – can suffer these ugly situations, one wonders what would be the case in other states of the federation that are much less endowed. Yet, I strongly recommend PPPs for infrastructure service provision in our peculiar system.

Jun 15
Crowdfunding, Angel Financing and Venture Capital: Interview Session with Dr Oghenovo Obrimah

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LBS: Dr Oghenovo Obrimah, congratulations on being recognised as a top 10% author on the reputable Social Science Research Network. (https://hq.ssrn.com/rankings/Ranking_display.cfm?RequestTimeout=5000&TRN_gID=7&TMY_gID=2&dgcid=top-newauthorsmay).  It must be nice to be ranked alongside Nobel Prize winners like Professor Eugene Fama.

Dr Obrimah: Thank You. It always feels good to be recognised for one's output and productivity particularly when the recognising agent has reputation, as is the case with SSRN, which now is associated with what arguably, is the most reputable brand in academic what arguably is the most reputable brand in academic publishing-Elsevier               

LBS: Dr Obrimah, you just presented a paper at a conference (https://www.stevens.edu/events/emerging-trends-entrepreneurial-finance) with focus on entrepreneurial financing, particularly, angel financing, crowdfunding, and venture capital. What exactly do these terms, angel financing, crowdfunding, and venture capital mean?

Dr Obrimah: Venture capitalists - investors who provide venture capital financing - operate within the context of legal entities called venture capital funds. They raise capital from investors to invest in high risk, high growth ventures whose business ideas are robust enough to enable these ventures to become publicly quoted companies. Since they raise funds from investors, they are financial intermediaries - agents or firms that connect suppliers and demanders of capital.

Angel investors - investors who provide angel financing - are sophisticated individual investors who seek out promising projects that are not promising enough for venture capitalists. These ventures typically have secured a patent already, or have a product that is ready for patenting.  While these investors invest their own money, they increasingly are operating within the context of well-defined groupings, as such increasingly are functioning like a consortium of individual investors inclusive of a gatekeeper who may not invest any money of his or her own but acts as a financial intermediary.

Crowdfunders - individuals who provide financing within context of crowdfunding platforms - are a potpourri of sophisticated or relatively non-sophisticated investors seeking investment opportunities.  Crowdfunding that involves the provision of financing in exchange for debt or equity certificates is the most credible form of crowdfunding and is the sort studied by academics. Firms seeking crowdfunding list on a crowdfunding platform (e.g. Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Crowdfunder) and attempt to convince crowdfunders to invest in their business model.

LBS: Dr Obrimah, thinking about your descriptions of the three different classes of investors, it seems difficult to disentangle ventures that attract one form of financing from the others. What are the distinctive differences between ventures that attract venture capital vis-a-vis angel financing, vis-a-vis crowdfunding?

Dr Obrimah: The most important distinction is the anticipated growth rate of the company. If the business model cannot be grown so fast the company delivers a good return within a few years, a good company with a good business model may not be able to attract venture capital financing. The company, however, may be able to attract either of angel financing or crowdfunding.  If the company does not have a unique product, it may not be able to attract angel financing, but may be able to attract crowdfunding.

LBS: What was the focus of the paper you presented at the conference?

Dr Obrimah:  In my paper, I develop a theoretical model that predicts which types of entrepreneurs should approach which types of venture capitalists for financing. Since financing terms are functions of project quality as opposed to functions of the person of entrepreneurs, the paper predicts which types of projects should be funded by which types of venture capitalists. Interestingly, it appears the prediction holds not only for venture capital but for angel financing and crowdfunding as well. 

In terms of details, the paper predicts the riskiest high growth projects should be funded by venture capitalists that have the highest ability. This prediction actually runs counter to the prevailing wisdom in stock markets. In stock markets, the highest ability underwriters are predicted to underwrite the least risky issues of equity.  This has been shown to be true. As you can see then, arriving at the opposite prediction in venture capital runs contrary to the conventional wisdom, but is consistent with predictions in one of my other papers (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jeconbus.2016.05.003).

LBS: What was your main take away from the conference?

Dr Obrimah: I have always studied entrepreneurial financing from the financiers' perspective. It was interesting to find other researchers studying entrepreneurial finance from the entrepreneurs' perspective arriving at conclusions that in principle do not contradict knowledge generated from the study of financiers, such as venture capitalists. 

LBS: What are the lessons for Nigeria and Africa?

Dr Obrimah: If Africa does not get its act together, the distance between Africa and developed countries will continue to grow. Crowdfunding has emerged in part as one avenue for non-sophisticated investors to generate higher returns than they can obtain from savings accounts or bank deposits.  Neither of angel financing nor venture capital, which has been shown to be very good for facilitation of economic development are well developed in Nigeria or Africa. While these sources of financing remain largely undeveloped in Africa, they are becoming increasingly more sophisticated in developed countries. Frankly, Nigeria and Africa are increasingly being left behind. There is a need to address and attempt to redress this developmental gap. 

LBS: It has been a pleasure having this discussion with you Dr Obrimah.

Dr Obrimah: Thank you for the opportunity to engage the LBS community and visitors to our online sites in this discussion.

Apr 25
5 Ways to Keep Employees Motivated in a Recession

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An interview with Uche Attoh, LBS Faculty and Human Resource Specialist on how to keep employees motivated in a recession.​​

CC: What is Employee Motivation?

The word motivation derives from a Latin word "moverim" meaning to move. What it generally means is how you move.  In business terms motivation relates to three areas: attitude to work; behavior, which is a manifestation of the attitude; and the output which is produced.

Therefore, when we say motivation, it means the internal or external factors that will predispose an individual or employee to move in a particular direction that will lead to a positive change in attitude, behaviour and output. 

CC: What are the Signs an Employee is Demotivated?

UA: Generally, as a leader in any organisation, we need to look at the attitude, behaviour and output of employees. What is the attitude you perceive?  What is the manifestation of behaviour?  What are they producing?  When you begin to see negative tendencies in all these, it tells you immediately that people are not motivated.

CC: What can Employers do to Motivate their Employees in a Recession?

UA: There are several theories of motivation such as the Maslow hierarchy of needs. For years, managers have adopted this theory of motivation, but recent studies by Harvard Business Review has seen that some of these classical theories are culture bound and they relate to the culture in which those theories were developed. In other words, what motivates a European may not necessarily apply to an African, which is why classical motivational theories failed in many parts of the world.

On the other hand, there are universal theories and factors, which come to play when thinking about employee motivation most especially in a recession. Organisations must ensure that certain factors and fundamentals are in place in order to ensure employee motivation. These factors include the following:-

1. Organisational Justice: This is an important area that may predispose individuals to motivation. The extent at which employees perceive a high level of organisational justice determines how much employees will be motivated.  There are three dimensions of organisational justice. They include: procedural justice, interactional justice and distributive justice.

2. Equity: Employees want to know the organisation is equitable. Equity in this terms means issues like what the organisation makes and what people are being payed. What is the pay distribution between the senor employees and junior employees?

3. One size does not Fit All: An organisation must recognise that it is not one size fits all. Organisations are likely to have more than one generation of employees.  Some organisations have committed the error of believing that the same policies motivate each of the employees across different generations. Take for instance, this organisation that promised the employees who stay till retirement a huge gratuity. This promise may motivate the output of baby boomers because they are already looking at retirement, but this is a very ineffective strategy for the millennials who do not plan to stay for more than 5 years.

4. Opportunity to Alternate Income Streams/Flexible Work Hours: In a recession, some organisations give their employees different opportunities to generate revenue in order to help motivate them.  What may been seen as a conflict of interest in the past will be waved in order to help employees. For instance, some organisations may give their employees an opportunity to work from home, or allow their employees have their own small businesses as long as it does not affect their output and productivity.

5. Productivity Driven Reward: Employers should reward their employees for their performance on certain tasks, this encourages employees especially employees that do highly repetitive jobs. For instance if an employee has a target of bringing 10 clients to an organisation per week, and ends up bringing 20, the employee should get rewarded for this as this increases motivation and productivity. ​

Mar 29
Good Governance In Africa: The Need For Appropriate Leadership Mindset

​Written by Dr Okechukwu Amah

In the printing media and academic discussions, the issue of the leadership problem in Africa is a popular one. Africa has abundance of resources, and is set to be the zone with the highest growth potential and a place of choice in the world. However, this cannot be realised unless the issue of leadership is addressed and resolved. Former American President, Barak Obama, in one of his trips to Africa, instituted the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) to train future leaders for Africa. I think this is an indictment on the past and present leaders in Africa, and an insinuation that the young ones must be trained to avoid the endemic actions of past African leaders, that put the continent in its current predicament. I was involved in one of their sessions, and the zeal I saw among African youths is encouraging; this gave me the momentum to think deeply of how the desire of these young men and women for a better Africa in their days can be realised.

The current leaders in Africa are having their ways because of the weak institutions and incapacitated political system unable to offer the check-and-balance required for good governance. For example, an African leader can easily amend his/her country's constitution to allow him/her to stay in office forever because of the lapses in the system. African leaders discard the notion that there is a limit to which an individual can be innovative in a certain situation. People run out of ideas even in organisations when they stay in it for a long time. I may not know the number of years, but it cannot be the twenty and more years that African leaders aim to stay in office.

While reviewing the situation, and studying the pattern of political discussions in Africa, I concluded that Africa can create strong institutions and vibrant political systems, if those in leadership look beyond their narrow self-interest and consider the general good of all. Thus, the logical starting point is to ensure that the young up-coming African leaders understand the appropriate leadership mindset, and are socialised to accept it as the way forward, if Africa must take its proper position in the world. For the purpose of this discussion, I will define leadership mindset as why the leader opted to become a leader. Behaviour drives what we achieve;this relationship is open and can be inferred by all. However, there is a hidden determinant of our behaviour andmindset, which drives the behaviours we enact as leaders. What I intend to do in this discussion is to explain the various mindsets that leaders can have, and to describe what behaviours emanate from each mindset.

The Arbinger Institute1 looked at leadership mindset from a dimension which I label 'who it benefits.' In this classification, you can have internal mindset (benefiting self) and external mindset (benefitting others). A person with internal mindset is in leadership for what he/she can obtain. Some will define self widely to include, may be, village circle, but not more than that. A person with external mindset is in leadership for the legacy that will be left for people. Such a person does not hate him/her self, but he/she knows that leadership is all about making a difference, not in the narrow sense of the internal mindset, but for the benefit of all. Carol Dweck2 also looked at mindset from another dimension which I label 'dynamics'. This classification yields fixed mindset (does not allow for change), and growth mindset (believes that change can occur and must be encouraged). Leaders with fixed mindset believe that issues and situations are fixed and remain so forever. They believe that change comes with high risk that one should not even attempt it. For some of these people, the ruling class is fixed and others should not attempt to enlarge this class, and people should even not clamor for this because of the high risk involved. If forced to give up power, they make it impossible for whoever is there to show that they and their group are superior. People with growth mindset are open to every possibility of change provided the change will produce a better society and self. Such people encourage the search for alternatives that are better than what they are offering. However, I think none of these classifications taken singly explains the dynamics of leadership in Africa. Hence, I combined them to arrive at the classification in the figure below:

​​Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 1.21.26 PM.png

As much as possible African countries do not want to have leaders who are internal. This is because a person with internal mindset does not respect the big picture. To such leaders, leadership is a status, and followers are slaves that exist to serve the leader and obey his/her commands.  Leaders with internal and fixed mindset (quadrant 4) do not believe that any other person has the solution to a country's problem. They fight to remain in power even when they know there is nothing to offer their country. Leaders with internal and growth mindset (quadrant 3) may encourage changes, but they will only allow the changes that benefit self. If they are forced to release power, they either bring in a crony that they know will continue their destiny or make it impossible for another person to excel so they can prove their superiority over everybody. African leaders are mainly in quadrants 3 and 4 because of the weak institutions and incapacitated political systems. These self-centered leaders are always manipulating both to achieve their selfish motives.

Fixed/external leaders (quadrant 1) care for people, but believe that solution lies in one set of people. They believe that nature has allocated power to some people, and such people must protect it at all cost. They either use political or ethnic affiliation to mark out the boundary of power. When they leave office, they become godfathers appointing only those who are loyal and 'know' the problem of everybody. The weak institution and incapacitated political system create a favorable environment for such leaders to thrive. As a result of the fixed nature of their mindset, they will oppose vehemently any attempt to establish strong institutions and political systems that will be  able to exercise control over them.

The best leaders are in quadrant 2, Growth/external. These leaders care for people and want the best for people. They will support any source of best governance. They believe that one person cannot provide the solution to a nation's problem all the time. They believe that leaders must be groomed and allowed to take the stage. Leaders with growth/external mindset do not stay beyond their tenure no matter what you do or say to them. These leaders have no problem with strong institutions and capable political system, because they would not go contrary to the demands of any.

Unfortunately, Africa is in its current predicament because most of its past and present leaders have always been from quadrants 1, 3, and 4.  What Africa needs in future leaders is the growth/external mindset, quadrant 2. Unless these young ones are directed appropriately, they may end up in the other undesirable quadrants when mentored by the same old brigades. I am advocating that while the youths form coalition, they should bear this in mind. African countries need 'saviors 'and I found in the African youths that gathered for the seminar a desire and hunger to be these 'saviors'. What they need is proper direction and mentoring by those with the mindset in quadrant 2. Mindset is not a stable personality trait that has low probability of change. One can unlearn bad mindset and learn good ones. What the youths require is appropriate training to expose them to the dangers in mindsets in quadrant 1, 3, and 4.

1.The Arbinger Institute (2016). The outward mindset: seeing beyond ourselves. Barrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

2. Dweck C.S. (2006). Mindset The new psychology of success: How we can learn to fulfill our potential. New York: Ballantine Books.​

Feb 16
Musings - A Day in the Life of a Female Academic

By Dr Ogechi Adeola​​

Weather Conditions:  Humid, Lagos, Nigeria

Occupation:   Teaching (well, knowledge impartation – theoretical and practical)

New Attributes (Physical): Front hairlines greying, change in eyeglasses prescription. Stress-induced?

Disposition check (Rational):  Jovial (am); Preoccupied (noon), Reflective (pm).

New Year Resolution:  Write more journal articles, Lose Weight, Shop less (in no particular order…)

It was a bright and undramatic Wednesday morning.  Feeling a bit bored, I decided to evaluate the New Year resolutions I had meticulously penned down on January 1, 2017. I was doing quite well on the first two on my list, struggling with the third. Remembering my measures of central tendency, I scored myself an Average using the arithmetic Mean, the Median and the Mode. Not too bad for the beginning of the year! I was writing more, eating less…well, still shopping. Some things just take time, I reckoned consolingly. A wide self-deprecating grin spread across my face.

Proud of my almost 40 days of forfeiting most of the culinary luxuries of life - ice cream, fruit cake, fruit juice, fruit pastilles, yummy chocolate bars and all, I basked in the euphoria. Seated at the breakfast table, I traded orange juice for green tea, calorie-laden white bread for a bowl of Quaker oats and a bar of Mars Chocolate for a handful of Almond nuts. With a belly still rumbling with hunger but 'will' satiated, it was time to prepare for the next class. I walked back to my office calmly without any premonition of the events that will follow shortly after.

A letter just came in the mail. Not the Postmaster kind of mail which is delivered from door to door. No, not a mail in an envelope neatly labelled with the recipient's name and address, placed inside the pigeon hole in the mail section of the ground floor of the business school.  This type pops up in your handheld device, with a distinct sound that announces its arrival, whether night or day. The address looked familiar, and so did the sender. Instinctively, I knew it was not from our climes, it came from far yonder. Did it bring good tidings? I wondered. I took in some breaths, momentarily paused and then I opened it. Well, I clicked on it as I walked on.

It started well, with some nice appreciation for my time (energy?), with some acknowledgement of my output (input?), and some other phrases in the valley of the hills called 'niceties'. Then came the bombshell. The harbinger of disappointing news. An anti-climax of some sort, it was for me...a rejection letter for an academic paper I had submitted since last year. I was quiet for a while, read the 'love' note a couple of times, stared at nothing... and gave little smiles to colleagues that passed by, oblivious of the silent tears welling up inside me. Walked in a mini daze.

I decided to read the email again as I sat at my desk. Perhaps, I missed out some parts. Perhaps, there were some 'alternative facts' I missed out. I read again. Same details as the first time. What was I expecting?

How can I describe my feelings? I had been hopeful. Flashbacks of events of 2016.  I remembered the sleepless nights, the midnight candles, and the endless search for data, the writing up stage and the chocolates I consumed as I worked tirelessly. Yes, I recalled the chocolates, vividly.

I didn't feel like doing anything again that day, I suddenly lost the zeal to put in much effort into that type of research activity, again. I just didn't have the energy to start some work where the outcome could not be predicted. However, a different kind of zeal unexpectedly surged forward. The zeal to binge suddenly returned from its far-flung journey of December 31 as I opened my black handbag and brought out 'my former best pal'. A giant bar of Mars Chocolate – big, black, yummy, foreign (well, 'made' in Dublin). Ever present in the handbag (out of habit), but I was never tempted to nibble, well since the new year.

I pondered. I mused. I reflected. I ate.

Compartmentalising my emotions, I went into the classroom, disposition best described as cheery. The session participants smiled at me, I smiled back as I orchestrated smoothly – with a belly filled with scrumptious chocolate (they could never have guessed!). We discussed the changing landscape due to digital economy - Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Wakanow – strategies to succeed in the new economy. It was a good session.  Class over, it was time to go home. I made a mental note to replenish my depleted supply of chocolate…Aha!

Nightfall, the weather is cool. Taking another bite of my favourite chocolate bar retrieved from the kitchen pantry, I gradually forgot my New Year resolution as I pondered, yet again on the life of an Academic.The thrills, the highs, the lows….paper acceptances, paper rejections, conference presentations, travels, et al., feelings best described as ambivalent.

Suddenly, I felt an urge to pick up my phone again, a pull from my cocoa-binge-induced pity-party. A WhatsApp message. I clicked open. A friend just sent a quote from Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

              '...Accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.'

How profound! An Epiphany. Accept finite disappointment? Yes, I will accept the paper rejection and move on. Never lose infinite hope. Yes, there is a silver lining in every cloud. The tides suddenly turned. Once again, I am motivated. I am energised. I will pick up myself again. I will start again. I will work on the paper again, improve on it and resubmit to another journal. Opening the Venetian blinds slightly, I looked out of the window. Lagos skyline looked so beautiful. The clouds had gathered since sunset, and the winds blew cool breeze into my bedroom. Hope arose in my bosom. Like lightning flashing across the sky, two very compelling words 'I will' flooded my thoughts.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills... Psalm 121:1

I will publish more. Yes!

I will still lose weight this year. Yes!

I will not replenish my supply of Mars. A definite Yes.

I will shop less. Well…


Feb 08
Making Good Presentations – The Place of Preparation

Written by Dianabasi Akpainyang

Making presentations is an unavoidable part of life. Whether one is trying to convince parents to get a new pair of shoes, or making a sales pitch to a company's management team about a new product, or teaching a class of students a complicated subject, presentations are part of daily routine. With formal presentations, the need for effectiveness cannot be underscored. For a presentation to be good and effective, the presenter should of necessity, commit to adequate preparation and this holds true even for spontaneous (off-the-cuff) speeches common with government officials and top business executives.

The Need for Preparation

According to Dale Carnegie, "a well-prepared speech is already nine-tenths delivered." Consider also Abraham Lincoln's famous statement: "If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the axe", and you would realize that even some of the greatest orators to walk the earth valued the task of preparing well. Effective and adequate preparation is the lifeblood of successful presentations. It is the largely unseen proverbial drummer that beats away in the nearby bush while the happy bird dances brilliantly on the foot path. It is the quiet but unyielding force that propels great orators to delight audiences and birth revolutions. It is from the activities of the 'dark closets' of preparation, that podiums are lighted with candor, confidence, charisma and creativity.

Five Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Next Presentation

1.     Make out Time to Gather Information

Successful presentations are products of intense search and discovery of relevant information. Experts call this 'brooding over the topic'. Amazing orators like Abraham Lincoln confessed to the 'magic' that proper information gathering can do. Whether you are preparing to face an interview panel for a new job, or a committee to defend your contract proposal, or preparing to deliver some moralistic preachment to a congregation; in-depth information gathering should be a necessary first step to success. As you sit in silence in the car, bus, train or airplane, or as you lay on your bed during those still, silent moments before you drift away to sleep, you should think about the topic and write down striking thoughts. Use the internet, gather information from relevant print materials, and listen to people who would provide valuable insights, pay attention to underlying messages from events, widen the subject, enlarge the mind, push beyond the limits and be outstanding.

Having the right information on a subject does not only boost the presenter's confidence on stage, it also makes the audience feel a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, especially if new and useful information which translates to learning is provided.

2.     Preach to Yourself

This is my coinage for reflection and deep contemplation; the necessity of the presenter to get deeply immersed in the message until it becomes 'his own.' Failure to first get absorbed and engrossed in your message makes you inauthentic and at best, academic. Research has shown that people are unconsciously drawn to a speaker who they feel has a real message to deliver in his head and heart and zealously desires to communicate that message straight to his listeners' heads and hearts. Preaching to oneself breeds belief and inspires passion for delivery. If the message is not understood, internalized and accepted by the messenger, one would not be surprised when a somewhat aloof and mechanical presentation activity is put forth.  

3.     Analyze Your Audience

Considering in advance, the peculiarities of your audience, is critical to success in presentations. Take time to decipher their needs. Find out the number of people you would be talking to, the time (before or after a meal?), their age range, professional standings (where necessary). Anticipate audience reaction and prepare to manage them. Some listeners would appreciate humor from time to time; some would consider you unserious or a time waster if you breach the solemnity of the occasion with what they think is unnecessary comedy. Some people appreciate more visuals than words; some prefer statistical analysis tools – graphs, tables and charts than sentences or pictures. Some appreciate bullet-point summary of the message. The mindset of your audience is important too. Speaking to a group of philosophers who may generally question most statements you make requires a different approach to delivering your best friend's toast at his wedding.

4.     Practice Delivery - Rehearse Aloud

'Practice makes perfect' is not just a worn-out cliché, it is an eternal call to duty in all spheres of life. Why would football players spend five days in rigorous training and strenuous exercise regimes only to run around the pitch chasing a ball for 90 minutes? How about other athletes, musicians, and so on who spend weeks and months to rehearse only to perform for a short time? Rehearsing a presentation the way you will deliver it is highly recommended by experts. Stand, move around, envision your audience, call out the words and act out your script in advance. This will not make you look inauthentic; it would rather serve as needed reminders when you step on that stage. Your mind would play back those moments, and echo those words as you said them in your room and you will have an easier time delivering the goods on stage.

Going through your presentation the way you would deliver it on stage would also help you restrict yourself to acting within the boundaries of allotted time. You do not want the surprise of discovering that you had run out of time just mid-way into your talk. This can dishearten as well as embarrass you. 

5.     Seek Constructive Criticism

As part of your preparation process, you should seek constructive feedback from colleagues, friends and family members. If possible, rehearse before someone who would be candid with feedback. You can subscribe to a speaking/communications club and make use of the feedback mechanisms of such groups. You may record videos of yourself rehearsing and forward to group members who would watch and criticize. You could send a copy of the presentation to experts to dissect the content and make comments. Integrate feedback and garnish your presentation to suit your audience and your style. At the end of the day, it should be your presentation by you!​

Oct 06
Spontaneous Deregulation Tests Regulatory Gaps in the Digital Economy

written by Austin Okere

Just recently, I facilitated a seminar for the Lagos Judiciary at Lagos Business School with the theme Digital Economy and Legal Regulation. The aim of the seminar was to share insights on the emerging digital economy with their Lordships, and draw attention to the imperative for regulatory evolution in the face of the pervasiveness of online platforms of the kind operated by technology giants, such as Facebook, Google, Uber and Airbnb. There is hardly an area of economic and social interaction these days that is untouched by these platforms in some way.

The Regulatory Gaps

To fill the regulatory gaps in the digital economy, these behemoths have resorted to what could be referred to as spontaneous deregulation. I first encountered this term in an article by Benjamin Edelman and Damien Geradin, and has arisen as a result of digital disrupters ignoring laws and regulations that appear to preclude their business model, which is typically based on providing platforms for crowd sourcing and giving rise to the sharing economy. Believing in the efficacy of their utility model and its appeal to a pent up global demand, these disrupters seem to see many rules and regulations as belonging to the past and impractical for today's innovative clime. They, therefore, simply ignore them, opting for their own version of self-regulation, usually based on a mutual rating system between service providers and consumers. It is this skirting of existing regulations that is referred to as spontaneous private deregulation.

These disrupters make the rules for themselves as they go along because, in fairness to them, as their platforms reshape markets, the scope of activity subject to regulation tends to decrease, and various forms of protection disappear. These companies operate in interstitial areas of the law because they present new and fundamentally different issues that were not foreseen when the governing statutes and regulations were enacted.

Two major areas in which these digital behemoths  have riled the establishment are in transportation and hospitality; the major 'culprits' being Uber and Airbnb. Uber, until recently a relatively unknown company out of Silicon Valley in California, employs 160,000 drivers today and is adding an average of 20,000 drivers every month. This transport services disrupter is now valued at $41b, and operates in many major cities across the globe. Airbnb, a previously obscure company with similar roots and reach, has over 1.5m accommodation on its platform, and is now valued at $25b.

The Need for 'Platform Fairness'

Axelle Lemaire, French Secretary of State in charge of all things digital, insists that France is open to platform operators, but consumers have to be protected. She is sponsoring a law to be passed by the French Parliament which will create the principle of 'platform fairness.' Karnataka State in India, where Uber piloted its India service two years ago, has directed taxi aggregators, such as Uber, to stop operations in the State until they secure a licence from the government, triggering sharp reactions from the corporate world. Getting a licence would mean no more surge pricing, complying with the maximum fares fixed by the government periodically and registering with local transport authorities. The question is" why has it taken the Karnataka government such a long time to wake up to regulatory gaps in her transport sector?" And how many other cities are in this quagmire?

The United States Supreme Court recently ended a decade-long battle over Google's massive book-scanning project, declining to take up an appeal by authors who claimed the company violated copyright law ''on an epic scale.'' The justices denied certiorari in Authors Guild v. Google, 15-849, leaving in place a ruling handed down last year by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that said Google's project was permissible. The appeals court decision invoked the ''fair use'' doctrine, which permits some ''socially beneficial'' use of published works, such as news reporting or research, which would otherwise constitute copyright infringements.

Airbnb has had its fair share of issues with one of its largest markets, New York. A major concern is the legal regime within which Airbnb operates; one which is marked by poorly drafted laws that fail to account for challenges presented by the sharing economy. As explained by Airbnb cofounder Brian Chesky, "There were laws created for businesses and there were laws for people. What the sharing economy did was create a third category: people as businesses," to which the application of existing laws is often unclear. These new business models raise complex questions that have not yet been addressed by either legislatures or courts.

Because the threat of enforcement actions can have a chilling effect on start-ups and their users, state and local government officials should consider how their actions may affect burgeoning businesses. Officials should encourage the sharing economy's growth through collaborative efforts rather than seek to protect incumbent businesses.

Regulation Seems Too Slow in Catching Up

The slow pace of regulation evolution seems to strongly suggest that the legal profession itself is ripe for a technological revolution that will optimise the largely manual and laborious process of enacting laws and regulations in the face of the aggressive pace of digital innovation.

I recall the indignation of their Lordships when I cautioned that the learned profession could be more vulnerable than they think when it comes to disruption, and that emerging technologies like cognitive computing and other forms of machine learning can help narrow the gap between regulation and innovation.

Much as it may sound improbable, given its intrinsic consultative nature, I was not surprised when I came across an article on the World Economic Forum's collaborative platform, announcing that a Law firm, Baker & Hostetler, had done just that!

Green Shoots of Technology in Law and Regulation

According to the article, Baker & Hostetler has announced that it is employing IBM's AI, Ross, to handle its bankruptcy practice, which at the moment consists of nearly 50 lawyers. Ross, "the world's first artificially intelligent attorney" built on IBM's cognitive computer, Watson, was designed to read and understand language, postulate hypotheses when asked questions, research, and then generate responses (along with references and citations) to back up its conclusions. Ross also learns from experience, gaining speed and knowledge the more you interact with it."You ask your questions in plain English, as you would a colleague, and Ross then reads through the entire body of law and returns a cited answer and topical readings from legislation, case law and secondary sources to get you up-to-speed quickly," the website says. "In addition, Ross monitors the law around the clock to notify you of new court decisions that can affect your case."

Ross also minimises the time it takes by narrowing down results from a thousand to only the most highly relevant answers, and presents the answers in a more casual, understandable language. It also keeps up-to-date with developments in the legal system, specifically those that may affect your cases. According to CEO and co-founder Andrew Arruda, other firms have also signed licenses with Ross, and they will also be making announcements shortly.

This disruption, happening to the most unlikely profession, with a highly codified ethic, is a clear manifestation that no industry is immune from disruption in the impending fourth industrial revolution. Any industry that does not figure out how to be a part of it might as well write their obituaries. My takeaway, expressed to their Lordships after the seminar, was that the digital revolution is like a train whose drivers are the entrepreneur disrupters. The passengers are the global customers with a pent up demand for the value and convenience that they provide. Naysayers to this phenomenon can stand in front of the train and be crushed, stay on the platform and be left behind or come on board for a ride into progressive partnership.

Regulators still have much to learn about how to deal with digital platforms. They have no choice than to get more involved and get the needed expertise. But will they? The jury is still out.

Austin Okere is the founder of CWG Plc, the largest systems integration company in sub-Saharan Africa, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at CBS, New York. Austin also serves on the World Economic Forum Business Council on Innovation and Intrapreneurship.​

Oct 06
What Do New Autonomous Technologies Mean for Global Business?

What Do New Autonomous Technologies Mean for Global Business?

Amazon aspires to make drone deliveries for its Prime service. Uber, the dominant taxi service for the digital age, is experimenting with self-driving cars; Google, which has been testing self-driving cars for years, is also rumored to have a taxi service in mind. How will new autonomous technologies impact the lives of consumers and shape businesses, and what is the role of governments in shaping them? Global Network Perspectives asked our Faculty, Dr 'Yinka David-West for her perspective.

GNP: How will new forms of autonomous technology—drones, self-driving cars, new forms of robotics—likely change our lives and create new business models?

Dr David-West: New forms of autonomous technologies will certainly have an impact on lives, society and business. As these technologies gradually reduce human-human interactions in favour of either human-machine or machine-machine interactions, we are bound to see changing business and interaction models. While these may ease existing operational and business constraints, their transformative nature also bring about disruptions in some industries and redefine the human capabilities required in others.

Firstly, business processes in service-oriented industries will be challenged to better support growing digital channels and relationship management strategies for the "always" connected customers with ever-changing value propositions. As such, software platforms (and bots) will form part of organisations' critical infrastructure. Secondly, in the case of industrial businesses, hardware advancements in machinery and equipment using sensors and wireless communications networks will become standard. These will lead to the real-time aggregation and transmission of data about the machine or the context in which it is being used as we see with health data and wearables.

In both cases, the increased use of information technologies will result  in a data surge (or overload) that will require analytical capabilities to help business managers draw better insights. In order to effectively harness this data, new organisational capabilities in the field of data sciences and related partnerships will be essential. The changing customer value propositions will demand for agile organisations with flexible product design capabilities to meet customer needs. In addition, new opportunities for operational efficiency, especially in the areas of capacity utilisation and reduced downtime, will also be harnessed.​

GNP: How have new autonomous technologies already impacted businesses working in your country or region? What opportunities and threats do they present?

Dr David-West: The impact of these autonomous technologies varies from country to country in Africa, especially due to the dependence on public infrastructure; a weakness of most sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. For example, in the Global Information Technology Report 2016, the latest iteration of the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), which ranks technology readiness in 139 countries, shows SSA countries underperforming (see figure 1 for rank performance of SSA countries). Outside of South Africa and Mauritius ranked 65th and 49th respectively, other countries ranked in the bottom half.

While access to public infrastructure delimits impact in SSA, examples of existing opportunities and threats of different technologies are highlighted across industries.

Technology
 
Opportunities
LogisticsThe use of drones for logistics has enhanced delivery capabilities in cities plagued by persistent traffic congestions. This is an opportunity for emerging e-commerce marketplaces. This function transforms the job of a delivery agent from one that requires a driver's license to one that requires navigation skills. This ability has been tested by Nigeria's e-commerce marketplace, Yudala.
 
WearablesWearables and health tracking applications and devices like FitBit open up new business opportunities for the insurance and healthcare industries. Active monitoring of high-risk patients can reduce patient emergencies that may even lead to death. While these personal monitoring tools collect the data, aggregator health analytic systems from insurance companies are lacking.
 
TelematicsThe use of telematics in the transportation industry introduces opportunities such as enhanced transportation management, personalised insurance and management services for government, insurance providers and transport maintenance companies respectively.
 
TelecomsThe telecoms industry which provides a significant portion of SSA's infrastructure is also being revolutionised. In this sector, human data is gradually replacing human voice and messaging which is also threatened by non-human (machine-to-machine) data. Telecoms researchers, Ovum, estimate that by 2020 cellular machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will represent 3.4% of Africa's 1.3 billion mobile connections.
 ​


GNP: How are people and governments in your region responding?

Dr David-West:​ Generally, the responses are somewhat lackadaisical. However, telecom companies that are witnessing declining revenues from voice and messaging services in favour of data-oriented alternatives are being forced to review their business models and diversify investments. For example, the South-African MTN Group is a member of the African Internet Group (AIG), an internet platform company and member of the German incubator, Rocket Internet. AIG operates digital platforms across different industries and markets on the Continent.  To further enhance its digital service offerings, MTN has also established ICT startup incubators in South Africa and Nigeria.

Although several African governments are seeking to build digital jobs, governments' ability to understand and develop regulatory guidelines for emerging technologies usually occur after their adoption. ​



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About this blog
No, this isn't actually my picture. I just haven't gotten around to updating this section. It's good to know that someone is reading every last word though. Thanks!