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Why Businesses Should Take A Long-term Approach To People, Product, And Customers

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Why Businesses Should Take A Long-term Approach To People Product And Customers, SiliconNigeria

By Andrew Bourne, Region Manager, Africa, Zoho Corporation

Business success is perceived differently today. Buzzwords like maximization, venture-backed, growth hacking, and well-conceived exit strategies (like IPOs or acquisitions) define entrepreneurial success in the current age. In a mad rush to show high quarter-on-quarter growth rates, corporate leaders have forgotten that the true value of a business is how long it stays relevant in the market and instead focus solely on transient growth spurts even if they cost profits.

 Any business, no matter how big its initial success, needs to take a long-term approach if it’s to avoid being one of history’s almost-rans. This applies to every aspect of the business, including, people, products, and customers.

 Invest in People

 When you are a new company working on developing deep tech, discovering talent and retaining them is a challenge. Try to create and slowly nurture a pool of capable workers who will gain domain expertise over time. At Zoho, in order to sustain our long-term R&D efforts, we initially kept the teams small and worked with people who were committed to learn and understand the domain.

 Patience is the key when you cultivate talent in-house. As people refine their skills and gain deeper domain knowledge, they gradually bring their learning to the business and build a solid offering that will stand the test of time. Ultimately, it’s the culture of experimental learning that you build which keeps you going and also motivates people to stick around for the long haul.

 Build a product that can pivot and adapt

Equally important is to take a long-term approach to your product. You might be selling something simple today, but you need to be able to build on that. Take Amazon, for example. It started out selling books and gradually built out to become a trillion-dollar company. It hasn’t just focused on e-commerce either. Amazon Web Services (AWS), its cloud-computing division, keeps more than 40% of the internet up and running.

The lesson here is that long-term thinking isn’t just about having a product plan and sticking to it. It’s also about adapting to any future opportunities that present themselves. Whatever sector you operate in today, it will see disruptions sooner or later. If you can adapt to those changes, or find new opportunities in other sectors, you will be better placed for continued success than your competitors.

Keep up with customer expectations

Finally, you need to take a long-term approach to your customers. If you are constantly gaining new customers but not retaining them, you’re unlikely to see real success. Returning customers routinely spend more money on brands they’re loyal to. People are also more likely to recommend others to businesses they have had a good experience with. Simply put, it just makes business sense.

But taking a long-term focus with your customers isn’t just about the direct touch-points you have with them. Everything, including the software solutions you use, should have the customer at heart. For example, a unified tool which allows you to instantly see every interaction a customer’s had with your business (be it via voice, email, or chat), will put you in a much better position to serve them than trying to work with several different products.

Taking this long-term approach might feel overwhelming initially, but it’s much more likely to pay off than simply trying to survive from quarter to quarter. After all true success is built over time.

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Sub-Saharan Africa’s Difficult Road to Recovery

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Sub-Saharan Africa’s Difficult Road to Recovery, SiliconNigeria

By ABEBE AEMRO SELASSIE, Director, African Department, IMF

The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented health and economic crisis for sub-Saharan Africa. Within months, the spread of the virus has jeopardized years of development and decades-long gains against poverty in the region while threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

In our latest Regional Economic Outlook, we project -3 percent growth in sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP in 2020, representing the worst outcome on record for the region. The drop will be even larger for economies dependent on tourism and commodity exports. Growth in the region should rebound modestly in 2021 to 3.1 percent, but for many countries, a return to 2019 levels won’t occur until 2022-24.

Countries in the region acted swiftly to protect their people from the worst of the crisis, but lockdown measures came with high economic and social costs. Policymakers in sub-Saharan Africa now face the added challenge of rekindling their economies with fewer resources and more difficult choices.

As the region looks toward the future, uncertainty over the path of the pandemic continues to loom over an enduring recovery.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s Difficult Road to Recovery, SiliconNigeria

Confronting policy constraints and hard choices

The top policy priority should be saving lives and protecting livelihoods through health spending and income and liquidity support for households and businesses. Even with limited funds, policymakers acted swiftly with what they had.

However, countries in the region entered the crisis with significantly less fiscal space than they had prior to the global financial crisis of 2008-09. COVID-19 related fiscal support in sub-Saharan Africa has averaged 3 percent of GDP—markedly less than what has been spent in other regions of the world.

Advanced economies have had the space to do “whatever it takes.” In sub-Saharan Africa no such luxury exists, as countries struggle to do “whatever is possible” with their scarce resources.

Limited resources will ultimately force difficult choices.

Fiscal policies needed to boost the economy will have to be balanced against debt sustainability—already a daunting challenge for many countries in the region. The need to support growth through monetary policy will need to be matched against maintaining external stability and longer-term credibility. Financial regulation and supervision measures are needed to address crisis-affected banks and firms but should not compromise longer-term growth.

All the while, efforts to stabilize and grow economies must be weighed against the need to maintain social stability while preparing for sustained and inclusive growth over the long term.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s Difficult Road to Recovery, SiliconNigeria

Calling on the global community for support

Without significant additional financial assistance, many sub-Saharan African countries will struggle to simply maintain macroeconomic stability while meeting the basic needs of their populations.

The IMF has taken swift action to cover a significant portion of the region’s needs by providing about $16 billion financing this year alone to 33 countries and immediate debt service relief to 22 of the poorest, most vulnerable sub-Saharan African countries. We are working with countries to put in place governance mechanisms to help ensure that the funds benefit their people as intended.

We have also worked with the G20 to suspend debt service payments to official bilateral creditors and welcome the extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative.

But more help is needed. Sub-Saharan Africa faces additional financing needs of $890 billion through 2023. Private financial flows are expected to fill less than half of that need, while current commitments from international financial institutions and bilateral donors will cover only one-quarter of the need. Under that scenario, the region still faces a projected financing gap of $290 billion through 2023.

 No country should have to choose between paying their debt or providing food and medicine for their people. To prevent the loss of decades-worth of development gains, the region will need access to more grants, concessional credit, and debt relief.

Looking toward a brighter future

Despite an uncertain outlook, the potential of sub-Saharan Africa and the resourcefulness of its people remain clear. Now is the time for lasting transformational reforms.

Sub-Saharan Africa will find its way back to a path of green, sustainable and inclusive development. The pandemic has presented a historic opportunity to build a better future and the international community has an important role to play.

Fostering better transparency and governance to improve trust in rule of law, strengthen business conditions and encourage external support will be a key element for developing a better future. Transformative domestic reforms to improve revenue mobilization, digitalization, trade integration, competition, social safety nets, and climate-change mitigation will be critical for the region’s resilience, growth and job creation.

Nelson Mandela once said, “may your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” The long climb out of this crisis won’t come easy, but the actions and choices of today will be vital for a prosperous and resilient future for sub-Saharan Africa.


Culled from IMF Blog

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Opinion/White Papers

Our Youth and the Protests – Looking Beyond End SARS

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Our Youth and the Protests - Looking Beyond End SARS, SiliconNigeria

By AUSTIN OKERE

The youth are not our enemies; let us remember this before we do anything rash such as using brute force to quell their protests. They are our children that have come of age. Their flaws are our failings as parents. All over the world, the youth have broken ranks with the earlier generation when they feel that their future is being mortgaged, mostly through excessive greed of the “elders”.

The wind of change has been blowing for quite a while. After the global financial crisis in 2008 there was the Occupy Wall Street protests in the America. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) was a protest movement against economic inequality that began in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City’s Wall Street financial district, in September 2011. It gave rise to the wider Occupy movement in the United States and other countries. Thereafter came the Extinction Rebellion, a global environmental movement with the stated aim of using non-violent civil disobedience to compel government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse. Young Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist gained international recognition as the face of the protests for promoting the view that humanity is facing an existential crisis arising from climate change. Quite recently, there was the Black Lives Matter protests which started in America and gained momentum, after a white policeman brutally murdered a black man, George Floyd, by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The #BlackLivesMatter movement is a Global Network that builds power to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe.

Our Youth and the Protests - Looking Beyond End SARS, SiliconNigeria
Our Youth and the Protests - Looking Beyond End SARS, SiliconNigeria
Our Youth and the Protests - Looking Beyond End SARS, SiliconNigeria

The Arab Spring, closer to home is indelibly etched in our minds. It was sparked by the first protests that occurred in Tunisia on 18 December 2010 in Sidi Bouzid, following Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in protest of Police Corruption and ill treatment. It escalated into a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across much of the Arab World in the early 2010s.

The past two years have indeed been years of discontent, with protests demanding the removal of corrupt governments, better living standards, greater freedoms and more rights, toppling leaders from Bolivia to Sudan, with the latest being the forced resignation of the President of Kyrgyzstan after weeks of mass protests. The leaders of Bolivia, Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq and Sudan have been pushed out as a consequence. Youth Protests across the world aiming to take back their future is like a moving train. Stand in front of it and it will crush you. Remain on the platform and it will leave you behind; or you can hop on it for a ride into a future of social Justice and good governance.

Our Youth and the Protests - Looking Beyond End SARS, SiliconNigeria
Our Youth and the Protests - Looking Beyond End SARS, SiliconNigeria

Truth be told Nigeria’s case is not very different, even though in fairness, it did not start with this regime. It is an endemic problem that has assumed exponential proportions. SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) and the injustice they perpetuate with characteristic impunity is a microcosm of the Nigerian situation. In June 2018, CNN announced that Nigeria had overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics reveals that Nigeria’s unemployment rate as at the second quarter of 2020 was 27.1%, indicating that about 21.7 million Nigerians remain unemployed. The data also reveals that the worst-hit are Nigerian Youths (between the ages of 15 and 25 years) with over 13.9 million currently unemployed.

With the largest economy in Africa (GDP of $447b in 2019 compared to South Africa $359b and Egypt $303b), and despite her abundant natural resources and huge revenue from oil and gas exports of $32.6 billion in 2018 (according to eiti.org) it seems that Nigeria is experiencing growth without shared prosperity. The gap between the rich and poor is ever increasing, as is the gap between the “in Crowd” and those left behind. Treasury looting and stashing hoards abroad has not helped the deficit in infrastructure and the enabling environment for creating Jobs. According to TRT World, Every year, Africa loses more than $88b due to illicit capital flight, amounting to 3.7 percent of the continent’s GDP of $2.6trillion.Our youth are forced to take to immigration – legal and illegal, sometimes risking dangerous trails in the Sahara desert and across the Mediterranean Sea in rickety rafts in pursuit of survival. Nigeria has been a “country of huge potential” since independence 60 years ago. When will this giant wake up from her slumber?

Our Youth and the Protests - Looking Beyond End SARS, SiliconNigeria
Our Youth and the Protests - Looking Beyond End SARS, SiliconNigeria

It is good that our youth have found Purpose behind a common goal. The strategy, conduct and prosecution of the peaceful protests has so far been remarkable. Unlike previous ones, this Youth Movement has not been punctured by tribalism, religion nor compromised by “leaders”. The youth have stood as one, behind a vision of a better country with shared prosperity and social justice. The youth have finally proved that they are not lazy, clueless and entitled. To buttress this, PayStack, a Fintech company founded in 2016 by Nigerian Youths Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi has been acquired by global fintech giant Stripe, in the biggest M&A deal in Nigerian corporate history. Just recently, Interswtich, another Youthful Nigerian Company reached unicorn status after Visa acquired a minority equity stake in the firm, making her one of the most valuable African fintech businesses with a valuation of $1 billion,”. CWG Plc’s significant contribution to Financial Inclusion is another example. Diamond bank (now acquired by Access Bank) with 7m customer accounts after 23 years was able to add an additional 6m customers, mostly from the Bottom of the Pyramid in just one year after the launch of the Diamond Yello Account, Powered by CWG and MTN.

Our Youth and the Protests - Looking Beyond End SARS, SiliconNigeria
Our Youth and the Protests - Looking Beyond End SARS, SiliconNigeria

It is about time that the youth invite themselves to the political table, because it is about their future. It is imperative to get involved in politics right from the grassroots, where the impact is most felt. It is through such initiatives that we can ensure quality and inclusive education and healthcare for the masses while create an enabling environment to attract businesses and create jobs. It is from here that they can ensure that the voice of democracy rings out loud throughout the land (and not one political godfather installing his stooges and milking the state treasury). #EndSARS was just a catalyst, it is imperative to now look #BeyondEndSARS and focus on the broader goals of social justice and equity.

Our Youth and the Protests - Looking Beyond End SARS, SiliconNigeria

The Youth have drunk deep of this cup of knowledge and empowerment, and there is no turning back. Even though the protests end in the streets, they will be carried deep in their hearts. This movement is by no means to a destination but rather a journey of sustainable nation building. They will begin to ensure that the demand side of governance is deeply entrenched and that the voice of democracy will always be heard loud and clear at every ballot. Gone will be the days when they were used as thugs during elections and dumped soon after, and the days when they disenfranchised themselves from apathy to the pollical process and the attendant requirement of probity from elected officials. This is just the beginning; the best of the Nigerian Youth is yet to come – Finally there is hope for our dear country.

Austin Okere is the Founder of CWG Plc, the largest security in the technology sector of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at CBS, New York. Austin also serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Business School Network based in Washington, and on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Innovation and Intrapreneurship. Austin is a Non-Executive Director at Globus Bank and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Risk Management Association of Nigeria (RIMAN). Austin now runs the Ausso Leadership Academy focused on Business and Entrepreneurial Mentorship.

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Opinion/White Papers

How To Deal With Fatigue In Remote Teams

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How To Deal With Fatigue In Remote Teams, SiliconNigeria

BY ANDREW BOURNE, Region Manager, Africa, Zoho Corporation

While the pandemic paved the way for even the most staunched opponents of remote work to change their perspective, fatigue is starting to set in for some of the teams, especially for those who have been isolated for the best part of the year now. However, as restrictions relax, some companies are choosing to reopen their office with a limited workforce.

While remote work undoubtedly has certain advantages, some teams may be experiencing a morale drop after months of being stuck at home without a chance to socialize. There are also concerns about adverse mental health impact. In order to boost your team’s morale, here are a few suggestions you can try:

1. Organise virtual team building

You can organise virtual meet-ups and brainstorming sessions. An additional option is to coordinate virtual one-on-ones between staff members, giving them topics to talk about. An in-depth dive into a subject with another person can do wonders for sparking ideas and creativity.

You can also add value by bringing in subject matter experts to present specific topics. Even if it’s not directly related to what you do, the sessions can help employees gain a fresh perspective, inspire different ways of thinking and rekindle interest in ongoing projects. 

2. Give them a time out

Without the usual corporate trips or weekend outings, every day probably feels like a weekday for your employees. Consider giving your teams a few days off to bring back the leisurely weekend feel. Not only does this allow them some time to put their feet up and relax, the gesture also gives your workers the confidence that you care about their well-being and that their jobs aren’t in financial jeopardy. 

3. Introduce a mental health wellness programme

If you haven’t already, bringing a mental health professional onboard can be extremely helpful for employees who find it especially hard to deal with social isolation and loneliness. Hire an in-house counsellor or offer subsidised clinical screening to those who need help. You can also host seminars to increase awareness and initiate internal discussions to normalise conversations on mental health.

4. Get people moving

Exercise can be a great way to reignite people’s mental freshness. After months at home, they may have slipped into moving less than they did previously. You could organise a virtual group class that everyone can get involved in or make a personal trainer available to advise them on exercises and workouts.

You can also inspire them to eat healthy meals by having a chef give healthy food and snack advice, perhaps even including a virtual cook-along class.

5. Use the right tools

It might sound overly simple, but if you’re using the wrong tools, then remote and online collaboration can be an exercise in extreme frustration. Make sure you’re giving your teams the support they need by using a technology provider that offers all the tools they need, built using the same technology stack, so they interoperate seamlessly. For example, an office suite should enable productivity as well as unified communication and collaboration between teams in your office. It should also centralise your team’s workspace, simplify file storage, and streamline team communication.  

With the right tools at hand, it also matters how the leadership leverages them. If you have a social intranet platform, use them extensively to connect with your employees. At Zoho, for example, the CEO makes monthly posts about business outlook to talk about how we are faring as a company and what to expect in the coming months. He also hosts open house sessions, where people are free to bring in their concerns and ask questions. Regularly communicating with your employees, and being open about the situation will allow everyone to feel invested and secure.

Decisions to stay fully remote or to go back to the on-site office are not exclusive of each other anymore. Instead, you may find yourself opting for a hybrid solution where people spend some time in the office and the rest at home. Either way, online collaboration will play an increasingly important role in the workplace. Applied correctly, the lessons learned now will, therefore, serve you well in the long-term.

 Andrew Bourne is Zoho’s Regional Manager for the Africa region and is based in Cape Town, South Africa. He has more than 15 years of experience in sales and marketing, and has spent the last five years focusing on the implementation and testing of various business technologies. He is very passionate about Zoho and has exceptional insight into the business and marketing world.

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