Friday, January 27, 2006


A friend came into my office today and told me he is planning to leave Nigeria. This is a young, ambitious chap who had been working for an IT consultancy outfit here in Abuja. He'd spent a few years working in the telecoms sector in the States and has reservoirs of experience to offer here. This comes against the backdrop of others I know who are on the verge of bailing out. It's all Nigeria's loss. So many Naija's think "I love my country, but does my country love me?"

Now that the Immigration Service has tried to clean up its act by right-sizing, they are also planning on making it more difficult for ex-pats/foreigners to live here. Apparently, ex-pats will have to register with Nigerian professional bodies, as well as get their visa and work permit from their home country. This will make it difficult for people like me, as well as for Nigerians without green kpali, to continue living here (what if there's no professional body for the work you do? Do you really want to put yourself through visiting the Nigerian consulate in New York or London, just to get to Nigeria?) It seems like a mistake, closing the door at a time when Nigeria needs all the help it can get. Let's see what happens..

Nigeria can be a rough, unforgiving place - especially it seems if you only want to offer something of benefit. Just a small group of people make life unbearable for the rest in a country whose wealth should mean a much better standard of living for the masses. What makes people like my friend leave? Well, often they dont get paid enough, and they don't get paid on time, and they don't get apologies for the financial mismanagement which led to the cash-flow difficulty in the first place. This such a widespread phenomenon in Nigeria as to be almost the norm.

Deep and difficult questions have to be asked about what is it about Nigerian culture that good clean leadership is so incredibly thin on the ground. The same questions have to be asked about financial management.

The longer I live here, the more I realise that technological interventions or money pumped in by donors will do little to transform, unless there is a primary focus on business processes (whether in the commercial or the public sector). Teju Cole's recent "cargo cult" comparison is extremely apt in the case of Nigeria. Nigerians enjoy the benefits of cars, laptops, mobile phones and other modern technology, but live in a society which does not understand the discipline and rigour it takes to produce such technology. This creates an alienated culture where technology and modern industrial processes are seen as a mystery. No one seems to be able to solve the aviation crisis. No one seems to be able to create value-added manufacturing processes; no one seems to stem the tide of an import-economy, turning into an export-economy. So few technological interventions (in any sector) meet with any kind of success.

So what is the solution? Business process change is the key. Cutting through bureacratic business processes requires that human behaviour adapts; instead of rigid rule-following for the sake of rule-following, we need flexibility and practicality and adaptivity in the way we follow rules here. None of these three words should be a shibboleth for corruption or what they call 'sharp practices' over here. Because there should also be monitoring/score card business processes that run alongside.

Sometimes, there needs to be a reformist approach (let's see how we can tweak it), sometimes there needs to be a revolution (let's ditch this process and begin again).
Either way, examining an organisation's core business processes, then developing a strategy for improving/optimising them, is the way to go. Business analysts of the world unite!


Anonymous,  11:29 pm  

been there and done it, the only way forward is to get rid of all those old 'traditional generals'. - visit us

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