The attraction of entrepreneurship are the profits and other benefits which it offers. These rewards are the consequences of competing on correctly anticipated future events that may affect the prosperity of the business. Sound foresight depends a great deal on proper evaluation of the past in addition to ongoing strategic insights discovered continuously from observed patterns.
These, when mashed with obvious and highly predictable future events, support well-informed judgements and plans on how to compete going forward. Accordingly, managing Nigeria as a business which requires such entrepreneurial agility equally demands the understanding of the critical uncertainties and highly anticipated events that will determine the future course of the economy. For instance, it is increasingly evident that reliance on oil resources with inadequate economic diversification plans is like making adequate plans for famine ahead. But it does not appear as if those who manage our economies appreciate the dangerous implications of delaying effective responses to the future worthlessness of crude oil as the bedrock of our macroeconomic survival.
Advancements in artificial intelligence, science and technology generally will continue to disrupt the engagement of human labour at scale. It will also continue to disrupt the very foundations of economic life for many countries. This situation is particularly true when such States do not correctly anticipate these disruptions and after that, make adequate preparations to offset their potentially devastating effects. It is no longer news that robots are already replacing humans in large numbers in several industries. We hear testimonies to these. Today many of us in Nigeria already communicate with these artificial intelligence agents when carrying out e-banking activities in our computers and phones. It is here already. Many of our banks use them. Very soon, many other organisations will begin to deploy them in varieties of different ways. And they will start to replace humans. While these have tremendous benefits and provide the platform for business competition, it may also have destabilising consequences on job creation at least at the first phase of their introduction at scale.
Imagine also the very high likelihood of the disappearance of mechanic workshops and motor mechanics as well as petrol filling stations as we know them today perhaps in the next two decades. Electric cars have become a reality in the developed world and will only take a few years to start penetrating our markets. The implication is that there will be no more petrol or diesel-powered vehicles. Records also show that not many mechanics are required to maintain and repair thousands of such cars. When that happens; and which would be soon, where will are filling stations be? What plans are in place to rehabilitate our today’s teeming horde of mechanics? What would happen to many markets and small businesses that thrive on the back of the mechanic and spare parts markets? As a country, how are we preparing for this fast approaching scenario, knowing full well that much of the demand for our crude oil is for powering vehicles locally and globally?
Entrepreneurial management of a country requires very proactive identification of such potential threats and opportunities and responding well in advance to them. More security crisis is more likely to be unleashed with increased risks of and actual heightening unemployment rates on account of the implementation of artificial intelligence solutions in many of our industries. The threats are enormous already in the money deposit banks with the improvements in the e-banking solutions that has necessitated the subterranean disengagement of large numbers of human labour. Add this therefore to the unprofitability of over 80% of many of the bank branches and the enhanced customer service efficiencies that are possible on the back of Chatbots and other official intelligence solutions. Consider what would happen to our security situation when the currently high number of motor mechanics that attend to petrol-powered vehicles in the country and those that are engaged in petrol filling stations all lose their jobs? With the country’s finances precariously hinged on crude oil dollar receipts, what arrangements are deliberately in place to create viable employment and revenue alternatives?
As important as these questions are, it is still evident that most long-term plans of our governments hinge perilously on crude oil dollar receipts. Bogus arrangements are also being made to work with such private investors as Dangote to refurbish and re-establish our crude oil refining facilities. Perhaps, the government has its plan for consciously slowing down the speed of penetration of electric cars into the country. The possibility of such a program is however very doubtful. Only recently solar-powered vehicles are slowly being sold in some parts of the country.
The rest of the world appears to be at least a century and a half ahead of us in the way we foresee future events and respond to them. In the 21st century, we are still battling with electric power problems as if we are cavemen. While relentless research and innovation efforts are taking the rest of the world to outer planets, we are bogged down with the same issues faced by our ancestors. While other countries make plans over a 100-year horizon and get investors to finance their realisation, our responses often demonstrate strategic myopia. The many diseases that trouble the world today are being conquered each passing day on account of long-term investments made decades ahead in research and innovate to realise them. Such behaviour rarely exists in the mindset of our leadership. Rather than such long-term big picture, the concerns are usually short-term epicureanism.
Today private investors in the developed world, encouraged by their governments are investing heavily in both additional research and actual mining activities for rare minerals in other planets. They are investing in scientific innovations that will redefine new living standards and comfort levels for humans in different outer worlds. Forward-looking countries do not get stuck in the present. The investors and scientists aided by the governments do not get comfortable with the current. They always explore new boundaries to give new life as well as upscale the living standards of their people. Here, we rarely think beyond a three-year horizon if at all. If we have bluntly refused to see and anticipate the future, how can we plan for its arrival? Prospects and scenario planning are techniques that both entrepreneurs and country economy managers utilise to foresee and develop plans for entering the future reasonably. And therefore, aside the so-called medium-term plans, one scarcely finds any policy backed thinking that goes into how we make provisions for jobs for our teeming population; how to provide adequate housing of our exploding communities; how to consistently grow the economy at a significant rate and expand on the income per capita of our people in the next 10 years.
Several reasons are responsible for these suicidal failures in anticipating somewhat correctly, effectively planning and developing robust and implementable responses to possible events that may affect the fortunes of our country over a long-time horizon. The first is the dominance of the social and political veranda by a core of leadership that do not understand and are not interested in appreciating the big picture. Our leaders rarely pay attention to and try to understand the feats that countries of the same stature have achieved and how they managed to make them. There is this loss of the sense of competition and benchmarking, which holds if they still receive the praises of their uninformed sycophantic followers. Myopia of leadership frequently creates a robust psychological wall, seemingly barring them from either benchmarking against peers or against a standard of performance that was previously defined.
The lack of a big-picture mindset, in turn, is usually a consequence of a misleading belief in contentment. There are two ways to understand this. When our leaders have the unquestionable opportunity to steal from our collective treasure and enrich themselves in the process, the incentive to pursue the collective good of all particularly those benefits that do not lie within the current timeframe diminishes. That is why a lot of our political leaders act as if they are possessed by a demon on a rampage when they embark on their untamed stealing and acquisition escapades to economically provide for their children and their children’s children’s children. That becomes their selfish way of insuring their linage against the socio-economic vagaries of the future and consequently ‘content’.
Contentment, in this context, can also be extended to comprise the mental and intellectual laziness of our leadership. Our leaders are contented with mediocrity and deliberately fence-ring themselves from learning from and making sense of the knowledge gained from what happens in other better-performing countries. It is unarguably correct to state that our president and many governors of our States neither pay attention nor understand indicators of performance in crucial areas of governance and socio-economic sectors of the administered enclave. Unless Nigerian leaders begin to pay attention to what their peers are doing; and benchmarking their performances against those of their peers in different countries, they will continue to be victims of the undeserved praises of their many uninformed followers. The question sometimes is: what do our leaders learn from the countries that they visit? What do they learn from the myriads of information about developments across the globe relayed across the cable and local television, the social media and even on the internet?
Great entrepreneurs pay cautious attention to both potentially disruptive future events as well as opportunities. Our leaders need to learn that too. Posterity will not remember us for good if we fail to make adequate arrangements for their comfortable survival. Good understanding of events that are very likely to occur should always be factored into the annual plans of our governments if we are to remain viable and respectable members of the future.