Nigeria and other African countries will unlock the billions of wealth hidden in their platform economy, if they can implement seamless continental and regional trade and seek funding from diverse sources, speakers at the 13th CEO Forum said.
The forum, held on Thursday in Lagos, is BusinessDay’s annual flagship conference designed for C-suite executives, diplomats and shrewd business owners to dissect key trends, best practices and successful business models. It provides a debate around emerging business opportunities and prevailing challenges they encounter while running their businesses.
Michael Cusumano, a distinguished professor of management and deputy dean at MIT Sloan School of Management, said an industry platform is a “foundation product or service that many people and organisations can use to exchange information and goods or to sell ‘complementary’ products and services”.
He said user interactions and complementary innovations would not occur, or not occur so easily, without the platform.
According to him, platforms, which are still lacking in many African countries, have the potential to bring together two or more key market participants, generate value from “network effects”, create value and get network effects started.
Cusumano said major platforms that would be needed include innovation and transaction platforms. The innovation platform, according to him, is when technology becomes the core to solve an industry need, while the transaction platform is when service becomes the core to solve an industry need.
This year’s edition of the CEO Forum was attended by Cui Jianchun, Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria; Ben Llewellyn, British Deputy High Commissioner in Nigeria; Demola Sogunle, CEO, Stanbic IBTC Holdings; Efem Ubi, acting director, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), and Kari Tukur, vice president, cluster head, customer solutions, Indian Ocean Island, East and West Africa, Mastercard.
Others include Peter Adeshola Olowononi, head, client relations, African Export-Import Bank; Tosin Sorinola, director of artist and media relations, Boomplay; Massimiliano Spalazzi, CEO, Jumia Nigeria; Lamide Akinola, head of Q-Commerce Africa, Glovo; Bolaji Olusanya, country manager, Tek Experts; Muhammed Bello Abubakar, CEO, Galaxy Backbone; Seun Oni, GMD, AG Leventis; and Wole Ayodele, founder of Fincra.
Cusumano was the headline speaker while Jeffrey Sachs, a world renowned economics professor, was a keynote panellist.
Frank Aigbogun, publisher and CEO of BusinessDay, in his welcome address, said: “Nigeria’s fintech sector keeps attracting funding and global attention is a confirmation that the private sector has the potential to rescue the Nigerian economy.”
Jianchun, the Chinese ambassador, said Africa is of interest to China.
“Trade between Nigeria and other African countries has grown tremendously. We are looking to get Chinese banks into Nigeria to facilitate transactions if the Central Bank of Nigeria is ready. We support the export of more products from Nigeria to China because the relations that the two countries have are both economic and political,” he said at the forum, tagged ‘Managing into the Future: Unlocking the Power of the Platform Economy’.
He also itemised other areas the relations between Nigeria and China could expand including the Nigeria-China GDP Strategy, as well as interventions in infrastructure, ICT, economic and military cooperation.
Emphasising the importance of Nigeria-China bilateral trade, Sogunle, CEO of Stanbic IBTC Holdings, said China accounts for 25 percent of Nigeria’s foreign trade.
He said Nigerian entrepreneurs should invest more in the export of semi-processed goods and agric produce to China, which is one of the largest markets in the world.
Ubi, acting director of NIIA, said Nigeria’s debt obligations to China was only $3.1 billion, noting that there was too much misconception about China’s loans to the country.
He urged the government to explore other sources for developmental loans as China alone could not fulfil all Nigeria’s funding needs.
“The debt trap issue is not coming from China because the country only accounts for $3.1 billion external loans from almost $30 billion Nigeria owes its creditors. The Nigerian government should look for other funding sources as China may not be able to meet all our loan requirements,” Ubi said.
He said China was ready to invest in areas Nigeria’s traditional partners were not willing to invest in, and that the country needed cooperation not rivalry.
He noted that the Belt Initiative being championed by China appeared more realistic than any other alternatives for now, because for over 150 years of relationship with the United Kingdom, there was no beneficial infrastructure built by them other than the old railway lines meant to convey agricultural produce to industrial complexes in Europe.
Olowononi of the African Export-Import Bank wanted African countries to trade among themselves in order to prevent external shocks such as the ones emanating from the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
“There should be regional globalisation in Africa to break barriers to trade and to encourage movements of goods and services as doing this will ensure the full realisation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)”, he said.
He listed projects his firm had launched to facilitate seamless trade in Africa including Transit Guaranty, Pan African Payment Platform, Africa Trade Exchange Platform, as well as support for Africa’s creative sector.
Keynote panellist Sachs said African integration was extremely important due to its huge population. He noted that the division of the continent into 54 countries had weakened geopolitics in Africa, as was difficult for many countries to come to a quick agreement, adding that African countries should be among the G20 countries.
On the contribution of Great Britain into Nigeria, Llewellyn, British Deputy High Commissioner in Nigeria, said his government had provided technical support to the Nigerian government in many areas over the years to ensure the government ran smoothly.
He said Nigerians must be allowed to choose their leaders through free and fair elections in 2023.
Spalazzi, CEO of Jumia Nigeria, said the mission of his firm in Nigeria is to improve customers’ businesses in Nigeria using the internet platforms as there is still huge room for expansion for e-commerce in the country and continent.
Sorinola, director of artist and media relations at Boomplay, said the government should intervene in the music industry to reduce piracy through laws that could address the loopholes violators currently exploit.
Akinola, head of Q-Commerce Africa, Glovo, said her firm offered complete customer experience on their platform including services such as verticals, groceries and pharmaceuticals. She added that Glovo currently has 15 million active customers and an annual sales of N15 billion.
Olusanya, country manager at Tek Experts, said with the Nigerian population, the current brain drain should not be a problem for organisations in this country, adding that only a small fraction of Nigeria’s graduates are leaving the country.
Abubakar, CEO of Galaxy Backbone wanted the government to implement the model at Galaxybackbone in many places because of the outstanding results it has achieved thus far.
Oni, GMD of AG Leventis, and Ayodele, founder of Fincra, wanted employers of labour to be open with their employees as this will give them ample time to plan for replacement of any of their workers who want to travel for greener pastures.