Why don’t the cockroach fly when it’s about to dead?
Ali ran towards the cockroach with a broom. The cockroach scuttled up the wall, racing towards the safety of the roof. Ali threw the broom, and with perfect aim, crushed that cockroach against the wall.
The neighbours son beside me asked: why did the cockroach not fly? Indeed, I asked myself, if that cockroach had decided to fly instead of run, it would still be alive.
But cockroaches rarely fly. Only when they feel they are in extreme danger will they fly. That cockroach did not realise till it was too late that it was actually in extreme danger. Flying is an expensive waste of resources and is reserved for extraordinary cases. It did not want to waste those resources, now it is dead.
That’s what happens to companies when their market is getting disrupted. They know there is a problem, but they miscalculate how grave the danger is. They react, but their reaction is like the cockroach running instead of flying. Then the broom hits them and then they realise - I should have flown. But by then, someone is already scraping the mess their death made off the wall.
Getting more people to visit Tinapa
Tinapa in Calabar is a great idea, but the reality of the place is a bit different - it’s quite empty, a little bit unmaintained and many of the shops are not fully utilized. I have an idea how this can be changed using free market pressure.
Rather than shops being rented out in Tinapa, the shops should be given out for free. At the end of the year, a selection process by the Tinapa managers is done where all shops are allocated to one person or the other for no cost and for the period of exactly one year.
During the year, Tinapa takes 30% of all profit generated by the shops. To ensure that they are not cheated, the shops are obliged to sell their goods at a rate with tax, and the VAT refunds are given in a central office. This central office, as it refunds VAT will also write down the sales for each shop and at the end of the month the 30% profit is to be paid to Tinapa.
What this does is that Tinapa revenue becomes a direct function of how many people visit the place, and not how many business are located in the premises. Similarly, the businesses do not have large up-front capital, they simply need to make sales, so they encourage people to come there. All businesses that bring in the least amount of money to Tinapa will then be removed from the premises and their spot allocated to another business with more potential.
This way, pressure is on the businesses as well as the management to bring more people to Tinapa.
Effective market for software based services in Nigeria is not 150million. It’s about double the number of facebook users.
What I would do if I were ICT minister of Nigeria
- My main focus would be on ensuring that Nigerians have access to information. Once the information is there, people would build a lot of things. Clearly, the internet & mobile phones are the most valuable source of information, so the focus would be on making sure the internet is everywhere available
- Offer tax rebates for every LTE capable cell-phone tower that is built in Nigeria by a known mobile company. Such that each tower is basically free to build for all mobile companies (for the next two years). Also offer tax-rebates on upgrades of existing 3G cell phone towers to 4G
- Offer tax rebates for every intercity fiber-glass cable
- Allow any citizen to offer a within-town, end-hop internet solution, be it by wifi, overhead cables or any other solution. Legally compel every provider to sell bandwidth access to local distributors at a single tower in every town. The within-town access is then completely liberalized. The idea here is that overhead cables will provide broadband for office usage, while 3G/4G technology will provide access for the average citizen
- Make WiMax license cost N5m/town and allow anyone set it up. They can buy bandwidth on a usage method from the telecom providers
- Create a Technology Incubator Building in Abuja where web-based or mobile startups can apply, pitch in front of an audience (every friday), and if their idea sounds good, they are offered 1-year rent in the office for N300k/year. Fiber-glass internet is free. Each company can have max of 5 employees, and have to leave after 1 year. Every friday & Saturday, companies get to present what they have done, etc. Create a second such Technology Incubator building in Lagos.
- Decide on a single university in Nigeria that will be made into the foremost technology university. Staff it with foreign-trained (ONLY) or foreign professors for technology subjects. Invite guest professors from foreign universities for each semester there.
- Each university is required to offer a for-profit wifi access all over the campus area. Charges are fixed at a certain sum per month - the wifi is managed by the student body - they can keep the profits
- At the end of every year, offer a “PhD Exam” for technology graduates who want to do doctorates. Pick the best 10%, and send them to South Africa, Ukraine, Belarus or India for PhD (not UK or US. We want them to come back home)
- Every 3 months, organise a technology fair for Indian and Chinese companies. They come to Abuja and display all the technology products they would like to sell (quadruple sim phones, ipad knock-off, fertilizer converter, etc). Nigerian business-men can go there and strike deals.
- Digitalize and merge all government parastatals, Singapore style. Start with a CitizenID and CitizenPassword, that will be used to access all government services. Add other services like police, customs, etc. For the development, outsource the core project to a foreign company, but the software should be designed in a modular manner. Outsource the modules in an open bidding process to Nigerian companies. Companies have to offer “deliverables” once a month, for testing. The testers are picked from Nigerian universities and flown to Abuja for a weekend of testing.
Nigerian have solved the water problem by privatising it. Most people live near to a privately constructed borehole that pumps water into plastic overhead tanks, and they can then route this tank to their private homes.
Though this method works well, it has a disadvantage. Constructing the boreholes is quite expensive, and you need electricity to pump the water into the tanks. This makes the construction of these boreholes impossible for the poorer segments of societies. Additionally, when people rent houses, they cannot construct the boreholes there.
My suggestion is this: The fire service of each town should be outfitted with a few water tankers. These water tankers every day drive around the town at 5am every morning and fill up the tanks of people. They charge the people for this service. They collect the money for themselves (i.e, the local fire service can use the money as they wish).
With this solution, all that a person needs to do is to buy a plastic tank and mount it above his house. He does not need a borehole. He pays N200 or so daily for the fireservice to fill the tanks. The government encourages private individuals to also compete with the fire service in filling up these private tanks.
In addition, when it rains, the tankers will also fill up with rain water.
So in general, I’m of the view that it’s better for towns and streets to generate their own water rather than relying on a central piping system to send in the water. However, the government can help by filling the tanks for the people. It will also help the fireservice by ensuring their tankers remain functional.
Better Prisons for Nigeria
Nigerian Prisons have several problems:
2. People are held there for years without trial
3. Extra-judicials killings by the cops
4. Society does not believe that prisons actually work. So they prefer jungle justice to sending people there
5. No food provided to prisoners
6. People get imprisoned and never released because their cases are lost
I propose a solution. Rather than the hundreds of prisons dotted all around the country, a new prison town should be constructed in the most deserted part of the country. This prison town will consist of a large prison complex, an army training station beside it and a police training station beside it. In front of it, there will be a town which is open to anyone to stay, with the targeted groups being NGOs, concerned citizens and other volunteers. The prison town will have a good number of fast-track courts that hear the cases of prisoners and decide if they can be released.
All prisoners who arrive there will work daily to build the town. The town will basically bootstrap itself - the government will build about 5 blocks, then the first prisoners that arrive there will be trained how to mould blocks and will start building the other prison blocks. They will also build the army and police training stations beside it.
Prisoners who are unable to do physical labour will be put towards making clothes.
The advantage to this system is that the entire prison activity is concentrated in one location. Prisoners who are ‘lost’ have access to the NGOs to plead their case. Additionally, concerned nigerians have access to the prisoners to help those in need. The prisons can always grow in size to accomodate more prisoners.
Additionally, the prisoners can be taught courses and trained on how to be productive to the economy. The NGOs just need to build schools in the prison town.
And finally, prison labour will create a local textile industry, and will prevent importation of the goods, keeping money in the country.
Fixing the police problem
The Nigerian Police Force is hopelessly corrupt. The corruption starts at the bottom and it goes all the way to the top. The few good policemen do have a chance against the army of corruption facing them. I propose a solution.
Reforming the federal police force
The first priority of the nigerian policemen should be to get rid of all bad eggs. Once the good cops are left, the force will work properly. My suggestion is to make a group within the police force called “Police Officer” (as opposed to the old “Policeman”. These officers earn at least N150k/month. Every policeman has a chance to be a officer. However, to become an officer, you need to have a clean record of no bribery and you need to be recommended by at least 50 citizens.
All policemen are required to wear their names and badgenumbers on their shirts. Any policeman without this information is regarded by law as not being a law-enforcemnet officer, and his commands can be disregarded.
The federal government sets up a mobile platform, where you can enter the name and number of any policeman, either as a commendation or recording something he did wrong. Every citizen enters the names of the policemen in there as they observe them going about their duty. All policemen taking bribes appear there and will never become “Officers”. The clean policemen become officers. Any policeman who has more than 30 “negative” ratings in a year gets put under investigation.
Any policeman who is unable to make “officer” level within 2 years is demoted out of the public facing police force and is put in charge of Prisons. (I will elaborate on my prison scheme in a future posting).
Creating the State Police
In addition to federal police, a new State Police will be created. However, these State Police are not the normal police force, but are called State Detectives. The purpose of these detectives is simply to gather evidence against people living within their state, and then submit this evidence to the federal police force or the courts for prosecution.
These state police are not allowed to interrogate or arrest people, unless they go with federal police that exceed their number.
All vigilante groups would be merged into the state police. The heads of the state police would be voted by community elders and other traditional institution once every year.
Why Nigeria should never have a welfare state
Many european countries run social systems. This means that everyone in the country is basically guaranteed a minimum income, a place to live and enough food to survive. I believe that this should never happen in Nigeria.
A social state is not only positive. It has some very strong negatives as well. First of all, the first victim of social economies is the family. When the state takes care of people, then people no longer need families, and families disintegrate very quickly. A core part of Nigerian culture is the strength and largeness of the family. A social system would destroy that.
A social state is very very expensive. It’s impossible to run without people paying 50% or more of their salaries to the central government to redistribute. I do not think Nigerians are prepared to do this or want this.
Then there is the tribal issue. Nigerians are not a single block of people which are interchangeable. Nigeria is made up of tribes, and a system where the Government is collecting money and resharing among people will almost certainly lead to inter-tribal blame laying. The strongest social states are usually the most anti-foreigner, and not only would Nigerians become anti-foreigner, but they would also get more tribalistic internally.
The next point is the transition into a social state. Nigeria has a large population of people who are unable to be very productive due to their educational background and their unwillingness to move to another area. If a welfare state were created, these people would instantly benefit, and would have to be supported by all the hard-working nigerians. This would be an unsustainable situation, and it would create welfare dependent cultures in places (for example, in villages).
And finally, social services kill the drive to succeed. Nigerians are agressive businessmen, and that is what will drive all future development. Guaranteeing anincome will kill that drive completely.
At the moment, the form of social services that exist in Nigeria are basically through family and through subsistence farming. People who are at poverty level either go to a village to farm, or they survive through support by families.
I believe that rather than Government ever getting involved in welfare, private individuals should be encouraged to give to private welfare institutions, preferably organized by churches and other religious leaders. This will preserve unique Nigerian traditions, while still ensuring that the poorest of society have enough to live on.
Nice blog post by Oo Nwoye.
The inflation problem
Inflation is high right now in Nigeria because the nigerian government is allowing too much oil dollars get into the hands of individuals. Yes, that’s what causes inflation. People having too much cash. A somewhat painful solution for this: The nigerian budget for the next two years should almost solely be used to hire foreign companies to build & fix roads, build bridges, set up power plants and other major and high capital industries. This will take cash out of the peoples hands and put it into infrastructure, which will lead to lowered inflation.