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Monday, 17 November 2014

SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE: A DATE WITH NDIDI O. NWUNELI (MFR)

A man with a hoe on his shoulder, cutlass in one hand and a hat to protect him from the sun, is literally the first thing that comes to mind if you grew up in Nigeria and took the compulsory Agricultural Science class. Even with a Masters degree, it took two hours of brilliance for me to realize that I was among the ignorant percentage when it comes to Agriculture. Mrs Ndidi Nwuneli (MFR) introduced us to a world of Sustainable Agriculture as she graced us with her presence and wealth of knowledge at the “Meet the leader” event organized by the Abuja Global Shapers Hub.

Ndidi is a Harvard Business School graduate with past experience as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company. She returned to Nigeria and founded FATE Foundation, LEAP Africa and NIA. Currently the Managing Partner of African Alliance for Capital Expansion (AACE), Director of AACE Foods, Co-Founder Sahel Capital. She has provided advisory services to DFID, Ford Foundation, World Bank, Oxfam, Nigerian Ministries of Education and Youth Development. She was also listed as one of Africa’s most powerful women by Forbes.

Her desire to be a part of the agricultural sector was inspired by her anger at: The level of malnutrition in the country, amount of waste of farm produce and the high rate of importation of imported food. Now that I have your attention, I will like to share some interesting facts about agriculture and its sustainability in Nigeria.

Do you know that:

1. Agriculture accounts for 60% of employment in Nigeria
2. In the rebased economy, agriculture constitutes 22% of the GDP, it was previously 40%
3. For most of our agriculture products, we produce 1/3 of yield compared to our counterparts in other parts of the world with the same amount of land.
4. Agriculture is more than just primary production (planting and harvesting). We have distribution, logistics, processing, ICT, financing, packaging and amongst many others.
5. We have 65 agricultural research institutes and 30 schools of agriculture in Nigeria
6. Nigeria is a leading producer of Cassava, Sesame seeds, Sweet potato, Cashew, Okra, Rice and Fish
7. We are the largest importer of wheat
8. We are the second largest importers of rice
9. Average Nigerian spends 73% of his earning on food: U.S 9%, Brazil 25%, China 35%, Cameroun 43%

So what are the challenges affecting Sustainable Agriculture?

Low yield
No improved seeds
Poor mechanization
Access to financing
Access to Infotech
Irrigation problems
Lack of extension workers


Most young people today do not care about Agriculture as it doesn’t appear glamorous. There is the desire to work in offices, behind computers and make money. In most cases we do not even want to know about the sector. Some people are scared about the risk involved in agriculture but there are several modalities being put in place to reduce the challenges being faced in the Agriculture industry. A good example is; FAFIN: Fund for Agricultural Financing in Nigeria

Opportunities in Agriculture

Input

Production/processing

Storage and distribution,

Livestock,

Financing

For an event which was meant to last under an hour, there were so many questions from the shapers who were interested in Sustainable agriculture. I was one of the shapers who wanted to know how newcomers in the sector can have access to financing even without having a hands-on experience or educational background in the sector. Ndidi used herself as an example stating that it is important to practice the following:

Research
Learn from volunteering, it builds your credentials
Be disciplined
Have a board with competent people
As an employer, invest in your employees
I can go on and on but I believe you already get the point of all we have discussed. I left there with a new perception of agriculture and I may just be starting my own agriculture related business.

By: Andy Madaki
For www.abujaglobalshapers.org

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Osuofia Moments - Gidi Taxis and DVDs

My office decided to send the 'village' Andy to the city of Lagos to get inspired and learn how to make money like his mates. The routine was nothing new; Aero Contractors flight for 10:45 a.m left at 12:25 p.m with the scheduled flight for 8 a.m. Who was I to complain when some lady with a Victorian hat as big as a UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) was already upset that she was missing a wedding? I guess the real anger was the fact that she wouldn't be able to show off the spaceship on her head in the next column of BellaNaija Weddings. As usual I re-dedicated my life to Christ 42 times in the air just in case...

Now in Lagos, the first task was and is getting a car to take you out of the airport at an outrageous price, especially when the place you are off to is just ten minutes away from the airport. Wise thing to do for a struggling young man with no driver to pick me up (especially as I didn't want to get anyone out of the house on a Saturday) is to stroll from Arrivals to Departures in a bid to avoid the blood sucking airport drivers and to find a normal taxi or one that just dropped a passenger. This was how I met Udeme. Udeme is a "guy man", obviously educated, well dressed and well spoken. The type of guy who would want to discuss music, women, politics and corruption with a tired passenger who wouldn't feel like slapping him. After negotiating from N6000 to N2000 for a journey that should cost N500 in any other town, we took me on a 3-floor stairway to his Israelite journey to his car.

Udeme has a white Volvo fitted with "beep beep" alarm system which he was so happy to show off. He turned the car on and put on the A/C then politely told me he had to pay for his parking ticket. My Osuofia moment begun when he gave me a tour of his car:

Udeme: Oga, you go just siddon enjoy A/C small make I pay for ticket.
Me: No wahala.
Udeme: Oga no worry I go put movie for you now, I get cinema inside this my motor o! I even get Moet but people de abuse am so I say I no go buy again (he proceeded to show me a dusty champagne glass).

We watched a DVD with a selection of Shania Twain’s music videos and we had unnecessary small chat till I reached my destination. For some reason, I was wowed at the extent to which Udeme went to satisfy his customers with his product/service and it made me see business from a different angle. I had collected his number, used him on two other occasions and suggested him to all my friends who needed taxi services. It reminded me of how time and technology has changed from the days of my father’s Volvo where you needed two hands to open the door of the car to now having DVD players in them. Or how surprised I was when I entered Chico’s car and saw a small button which was for the handbrake… I mean we still drive cars with the huge pull up hand brake gear like thing.

In summation, just last night at some very expensive hotel in Ikoyi, I was at the lobby when the lights went out and some Romanians laughed and said “Welcome to Nigeria”. As much as I was upset at the fact that they were saying the truth (even though foreigners are not allowed to say shit about our already shitty situation), It reminded me of Udeme and the extent he went to ensure great service delivery and even wow me. Why couldn't that hotel at least have an inverter or some sort of buffer system to ensure no one laughed at their services?...Anyways, gist for another day. I think as aspiring and existing entrepreneurs we have something to learn from Udeme.It is not enough for something to be beautiful or for it to work, we must always try to make our services better… Rather than wait for or blame the government. For now I’m Udeme’s official manager. Hola if you need a taxi :p

Randomly Yours,
That Andy
June 2014

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Lasgidi Diaries (of Cold showers)

Have you ever had the shower go cold on you? From nice warm water to chilled scream-like-a-girl-cold-water? Sometimes life is that cold shower. For some reason I find myself in Lagos almost every other week lately, so I've decided to chronicle the madness.

Exactly a month ago, I was in Lagos for work, on the famous third mainland bridge, going to the airport in some fancy hired taxi driving at 160mph when I heard a huge bang. My first thought: "Drive by? My political enemies have sent people to kill me!" Ok I kid... I thought,"Hmmm I'm in Lagos, so it may be a stray bullet or actual thieves trying to steal the car". Second thought: "Did we just have a flat tyre? Ah,so this is how I will stand on this bridge with them changing tyres and all the people I know in Lagos will see me stranded on the bridge... I didn't ask myself if this was how I was going to die, if the driver steps on the brakes and car flips over the bridge and into the ocean just like the family that drowned about two weeks ago.

For once, I didn't have the chance to give my life to Christ 28 times in one hour like I always do whenever I have to fly on a plane in Nigeria. It was just another instance of life switching the shower from hot to cold on me. Ever notice how when people fall down, they instinctively look around to see who saw them fall? The ease at which priority changes in the event of a mishap... I don't think I've even told anyone in my family how I would have been food for the fishes just some weeks ago if the near-accident had been fatal. Simply because I didn't want my mother to go on a one week fast when next she hears I'm travelling to Lagos for work.

Silly as it seems, I actually believe the prayers of our parents keep us from some unforeseen harm that may come our way; especially when you consider how far from God we get these days. Besides, I will find any excuse to go to Lagos just because I know I will get to eat well prepared "Asun" in the Buka' abi Mama-Put (Cafeteria) I discovered close to were I was lodged. My "cold shower moments" always have this impact on me where I revisit my life and pick one thing in my life I need to fix or do better.

Truth is, in a moment where I felt I would have died, I realized that all I kept thinking about wasn't life after death or heaven and hell, but people I've stopped talking to for senseless reasons. I realize how much I fear malice and the need to be at peace with everybody, not necessarily as friends, but in your mind. I don't know what this is about but we actually had our tyre explode while driving that day and thankfully nothing bad happened

To some people this may be nothing but it just reminded me of these three; the 'poshest' car can still get knocked off by non-mechanical or electrical faults, a perfect life or day can still get ruined by unforeseen circumstances and finally never get too comfortable with life .When you feel everything is just alright, the shower goes from warm to cold or cold to hot.

I think I should say life is like PHCN.Just when you've found the right TV show, drink by your side and food to munch on, Boom! PHCN strikes and there goes your chilled out evening. Always have a plan B or a spare tyre I guess. Always find a reason to be thankful; some people have it worse than you.

Randomly yours,
That Andy

Friday, 31 January 2014

Lost in Translation

My younger sister called me in November and after all the pleasantries and small talk, she said “Andy, I will be legal in two weeks”. Apparently, she was going to turn eighteen in two weeks and so for her and anyone approaching that age, it is a huge milestone. In an African family, 18 or 25 doesn’t really mean anything as long as you are still under your parent’s roof. Now that particular conversation with the sister made me pause because of the type of person I am; I get to analyze, over analyze and then come to whatever conclusion I choose in this little mind of mine. For goodness sake, what is “baby” being excited about being legal? Vote? Drink? Smoke? Drive? Marry? Just what? See how I deliberately skipped the part about boys? Anyway, maybe it was just a simple comment which meant nothing but I let my mind wander. Lesson one, everything changes. She may be baby sis to but an aunty to another person, besides her mum got married at nineteen…

Let’s talk about last year; I didn’t start 2013 with any resolutions; I just started it happy after having a wonderful Christmas with friends, family and loved ones. I had this vibe that it was going to be a good year and I was where I wanted to be, with the right people around me and a lot of things worth being jealous of. The beautiful life, plans and resolutions changed, not for worse or better, life as usual just has its way of redefining existing definitions but ultimately I think I forgot all my resolutions at a point and just lived. Lesson two: At every point in life, even at your worst, someone out there thinks you’re having the time of your life and if you look closer you may find that you actually have it good. But then again, it is the half full or half empty. Religion tells you to be content with what you have and where you are… Call me blasphemous, but I translate it as “be thankful in all things but never get comfortable”.

Hello 2014, my colleague was going to church one evening and I told him to pray for me, I specifically said tell God I want to be happy this year because that’s my only resolution. We got into this small debate about why I should ask God for Joy as opposed to happiness and bla bla bla. Truth is my interpretation of Joy is: Laughter and light at the end of the tunnel, which means I will have hard times but come out strong and so I choose happiness because I don’t want that rough patch. I think I have had enough for my life, plus hey it is all about translation right? Lesson three: Being positive may come off as cocky and wishful but it beats negativity and constant pessimism.

We launched a new company on the 1st of January 2014 (I’ve added this so I can come back to remember the date when I’m old and wrinkled), who knows if it may fail or blow? The only goal was to play with the idea of a business model and see it to completion then move on. Coincidentally Facebook turns 10 this year while Zuckerberg turns 30. Another young man Evan Spiegel just turned down $4 billion from Google and $3 billion from Facebook to buy his company and at first I thought he was raging mad, then I asked: If Mark Zuckerberg had sold Facebook when he was 20, would he be who he is today? Translation: I remember how I looked at 30year olds as really old when I was much younger but now we are kissing thirty or just over it and officially proper old. My consolation came from a song where they said “20 is the new 30 and 30 is the new 20”, but then again that is just an excuse to be irresponsible said my over analytic mind. They say it is not about when you make it, but that you make it and you make it the right way. Is that an excuse to sit and wait for magic to happen? Lesson four: That idea you have, try to act on it, if it fails you either try again or get a better idea.

I should stop now. Life is all about translation, are you lost in it or making the most of it? I may never know but for now, we ramble randomly…

Randomly yours
That Andy