Fellow Nigerians, You shall not fly!!!

Gandalf

I’m guessing it’s no longer news that the Nigerian Civi Aviation Agency (NCAA) has decided to stick the middle finger at anyone foolish enough to think that they could join the rest of the world in the drone innovation thing. Forget that some of us think drones will rule the world in the next decade, the NCAA says you cannot fly, and you shall not fly.

I took a quick sample and counted a grand total of zero people surprised by the NCAA’s action. But I still think it’s actually a grand joke, and someone from NCAA will eventually come out to scream “You all got punked!”. But let’s assume they’re actually serious – what could it mean for innovation?

The first thing we noticed about the NCAA’s statement is that there is actually no classification for what it was banning. All remote controlled aerial flights were banned “fellow Nigerians” style.

ABACHA

Over the last year, Anakle Labs has invested significant resources in UAV research. Part of our research has included funding young university students who were building drone applications for their final year research. One of the ideas we had at the lab was building a drone which could fly between blood banks and hospitals in remote areas or congested cities, to deliver emergency blood and medicine. One of the young people we funded decided to take on this challenge.

So far, this chap has built the drone, and got high scores for effort. But of course the big deal is the testing and execution of the idea with hospitals (or staging areas). This is where the problem from NCAA’s ‘ban’ comes in.

The rumoured ban seems to assume only companies can own drones. What if, God forbid, an individual wants to own a drone – or builds one? So let’s look at these kids who built drones in university – these drones cost less than $3000 max. How does the NCAA expect them to test out their ideas? The rumoured ban gives no way to get experimental permits, which researchers would definitely need, in order to innovate. NCAA is telling us that these kids can’t even experiment.

If you told these kids, you must register, drone must meet XYZ specs, and must have QRS reported, it would work well for regulation, and allow the kids do their research.

Most of the backers of the rumoured ban have stated the need exists for regulation, for security reasons. I agree, yet disagree. Nigeria routinely abuses the ability to ban things. Photography bans during the military era still messes with our heads. People are not allowed to take photos in most public places, which is the reason we still don’t know what Aso Rock looks like (Ehe, Oga Tolu Ogunlesi, how far now? Show us some chanji).

So to regulate, I would only agree if the regulation is based on clearly defined protocols. It should be seamless. In truth, if the regulation was clear, and seamless, the Nigerian drone community would have embraced it, and you would get near 100% compliance.

All hope is not lost.

A guy claiming to lead the “Drone Club” has said the NCAA has actually not banned drones, or has not set ridiculous registration requirements. I do pray this is true.

In the meanwhile, a group of UAS 1 enthusiasts, including some serious players are working to get a ‘lobby’ together, and hopefully work with the NCAA to sort out the various kinks drone regulation throws up. Anakle Labs is of course invested in this process and will support in anyway possible.

As an individual, I have always believed one of the ways for Africa to grow is embracing new technology as they start out. Catching the GSM wave as it started has changed the continent, and continues to change it. Who knows what drones could do? We can’t get on that wave if we rush out to ban whatever we don’t understand.

1 = This is yet another acronym for drones

#FreeEse: Child marriage and the outcomes of cultural disrespect

Yesterday, the Punch published a report about the abduction and forced marriage of 14-year-old Ese Oruru. According to The Punch, “In August 2015, Ese, then 13, was abducted by one Yinusa and taken to Kano, where he converted her to Islam and married her.” The Punch also reports that Ese’s mother, Mrs. Rose Oruru, journeyed to Kano in an effort to get her daughter back, but returned to Bayelsa empty handed.

According to an unnamed source in the Punch report, the primary reason for not releasing the girl is because she voluntarily converted to Islam and had been married to her alleged abductor. I found this marriage excuse for abetting an act of criminality rather repugnant. It stinks! Every member of the community involved in the process should be made to face the law.

Let’s speak about how marriages are contracted across most of the South South of Nigeria.

Marriage is a multi-step process, including first a “knocking of door”, where the groom’s family officially visit the bride’s to indicate their interest in a young lady. This is where the bride’s family gives a yes or no answer to the proposal.

Once a yes vote is received, the family of the bride will have a list of gifts issued to the groom’s family. A second (smaller) meeting is then held, where the bride-price and list is accepted. A gift giving ceremony may be held along with the traditional marriage, or held as a separate ceremony.

These many steps ensure a marriage is contracted between two families, and not between two young people. Most churches would not even conduct a Christian marriage without the couple having first fulfilled the traditional rites.

In the case of Ese Oruru, this established marriage process was grossly ignored. The acceptance of a marriage between Mr Yinusa “Yellow” and Ese, a minor, without due consultation with her family, by the Sharia Council in Kano doesn’t just show a miscarriage of law and justice, but deeper disrespect and possibly disdain for the culture of Ese’s people.

This abduction for marriage case speaks to deeper issues of disregard for other cultures, something the Emir of Kano has recently accused “Southerners” of. I expect there should be respect for the fact that where Ese comes from, they do not consider a girl ready for marriage until much later in life?

In what world is it permissible for a young man to show up with a young woman and marry her without questions asked? Who are the parents of the man, and how could they accept a child brought as a wife from distant lands, without seeking to meet her parents? How is this different from the abduction and forced marriage of the Chibok girls and other unfortunate young women by Boko Haram? It has also been reported by the police that the case may possibly be that of elopement. In which case, the child is a minor, and according to the constitution, her marriage should be null and void, and she should have been immediately returned to her parents. The adult man should also have been arrested and charged for trafficking.

That the guards at the emir’s palce reportedly refused Ese’s mother the right to meet with her daughter also shows a deep disdain. Even where a culture exists, intermarriage is known as the ultimate catalyst for cultural compromise, no?

So far, the Inspector General of Police, Sunday Arase, has said only the Emir has the power to release the girl. The Emir on the other hand has stated he’d already ordered the release of the girl, with a letter to prove it. Is the culture of Kano superior to the Ijaw culture from Bayelsa, so much that a child is taken from the parents without permission – with attempts to get said child back being refused for cultural reasons?

This development leaves deep, complicated questions unanswered. For example, what is the role (and possible complicity) of the police in this matter? Is the culture of Kano superior to the constitution. I say culture because in my understanding of Islam, a woman cannot be married without parental consent, hence even by Islamic interpretations, there was no marriage between Ese and Yinusa.

It’s also important to note that the abduction preceded the alleged conversion. It is also imperative to ask if proselytizing to a minor, with a view to conversion, without parental consent is allowed. (I have deliberately decided to not discuss the suspicion that the girl was taken under the influence of marabout’s charms.)

I’m glad that Ese’s parents are keeping their head up, and seeking a legal resolution, while clearly expressing they don’t want this case to degenerate into a tribal issue. But it probably would be, if the authorities do not act decisively. We cannot build a united Nigeria, if we don’t all respect our diverse cultures and customs.

Unfortunately, even if Ese is released, the emotional trauma may never leave her. Should the marriage be successfully annulled, but her abductor had, God forbid, consummated the marriage, the statutory rape remains. Will justice be done, having seen how the entire community collaborated to protect the abductor and the unholy union? A child would have been defiled on the altar of cultural superiority.

#DroneDiaries Visiting Makoko

A couple of weeks ago, I made a promise to start a blog series, posting videos from my drone flights. It was a stupid promise. The last year has been the busiest in my life – our business has grown about 50% over the last year, and our team had doubled and is still growing. We’ve spun off business units, and are working on more projects, which are fast morphing into standalone units.

It’s not a year I thought I could afford a hobby (no, the drone flying isn’t a hobby, but I will explain that sometime later). But a promise is a promise, right? So I am going to try to keep that promise. Yesterday, I finally posted the first video from the #DroneDiaries. It’s a video from a recent flight over Makoko. But getting that video itself wasn’t straight forward.

I have always been been fascinated by Makoko. Every time I drove past the Third Mainland Bridge, I would just stare at the mass of houses in the distance and wonder what it felt like living there. I remember the first day I saw the ‘boat exodus’, the morning trip by the small sail boats, as the fishermen went out into the lagoon. It was an amazing sight. Over 20 little boats, with makeshift sails, going out to the open water at the same time, from under the bridge into the early morning sunshine. I had never seen a sight like that before.

A week after that, I drove out in the morning, and didn’t go straight to work. I went to the bridge at 7:45am, hoping to catch the boat exodus again. I did not. But I waited on the bridge and watched the fishermen go by one-by-one. I didn’t take any photos. I just stayed there and watched. Then we bought our first drone.

Makoko was the first place I wanted to fly over. It was not my first sortie. In fact I didn’t get to fly by Makoko for a couple of weeks. Then I did. I had a meeting on the Mainland, so I packed the box and loaded up in the car. The meeting was long, and slow, and I could not wait.

The meeting finally ended, and we raced to the bridge, my driver and I. Umana, my driver, is probably as big a drone enthusiast as me, and was really looking forward to this flight. We selected a spot for shoot from – beside the police post near the Yaba exit. We greeted the policemen, made them comfortable, then setup.

One of the first things you discover when you start flying any drones is how warped relativity of position could be. When an object is flying in the air, the relative position you see with the naked eye almost certainly is not where that object really is. When a drone takes off into the sky, everything seems great. But after moving around for a couple of minutes, it gets really hard to bring it over your head with exact certainty.

This is where the inbuilt map app comes in useful. You can use GPS to tell exactly where the drone is on the map. Except with the DJI Phantom (our first drone), data transmission could be impaired by distance and interfering objects or radio signals. When interference occurs, and your drone is far away, there is no way to know for certain if the building you see in front of you is right there right then, or the image was from a 30-seconds earlier, and you’re just about to crash into it.

This was the problem we had with that first flight. The distance from the bridge to Makoko is almost a kilometre, and there was a lot of interference. We just couldn’t seem to get close enough – power lines seemed to be everywhere, and the delayed imaging didn’t help much. By the time we recalled the drone, we had only seen the floating school of Makoko.  But we did take a really good retreat shot, which went into one of our ad projects.

The second time we tried to shoot, my driver had forgotten to pack the remote control. Imagine getting all excited, driving out to the bridge, parking and greeting our friends, the police, then discovering the RC wasn’t there.  We went back after a couple of weeks. This time, we took one of the new Inspire 1 aircrafts.

The Inspire is a big, big upgrade on the Phantom. It’s like getting into a Mercedes after a lifetime of driving a Kia Rio. The aircraft is larger, faster, stronger, more accurate, and the app is much smoother. This time, I also had a full time done researcher along with me. And Umana of course.

We couldn’t begin flying immediately, because we could not calibrate the drone successfully.

To complete flight check at every new location, the drone compass must be calibrated to ensure the drone connects properly with the ‘earth’. Without calibration, a drone could perform abnormally. Of course since calibration is a magnetic enterprise, it’s advised to calibrate away from magnetic fields, or large metallic objects. Our calibration on the Third Mainland failed because the bridge is one giant metallic object.

We eventually tricked the drone to calibrate. Then we flew away. It was the perfect flight. Everything was going accordning to plan. The lighting was right, the angles were right, and the winds were just perfect. When the drone returned to land 20 minutes later, we had covered pure joy in video. Except I had forgotten to push the record button!

(Hollywood sad song interlude).

We didn’t return to the bridge for another couple of weeks. When we finally did, we made sure we carried two RCs, 3 batteries and pushed the record button as soon as we took off. The only ting that could fail now…nothing could fail actually, just the shock we felt when we finally flew over Makoko’s literal ‘streets of water’.


We have since done more flights over Makoko, and we now know a few of her secrets. I am now ready to take a boat trip to see things from a human level.

Dear Local Startup, know thy market

My entertainment in the last week was provided by the witty twitter exchanges between Mark Essien and Marek Zmysłowski, founders of hotels.ng and Rocket Internet’s Jovago, both claiming their companies to be the better online hotel booking service. I have committed to using both services and writing a public review, but that’s a story for another day.

During the twitter exchanges during the week, many responses were thrown in from the sidelines, some backing my brother form Ikot Ekpene, and a small minority, Marek, Rocket Internet’s new boy. But the funniest of the side shots was this Sunday piece by Oluwole Leigh, who took a very satirical pen to the local vs. foreign conversation.

If you have not read this very funny story about Bankole, Mark and Jason’s visit to the tech industry’s favourite babalawo, you probably should.

The most interesting part of that story for me is almost innocuous, as it was subliminal. Right after the SPARK team left the babalawo’s home, there was a knock on his door. The babalawo asked who it was, and the response was a very assured Marek, who answered “Emi ni , Emi Marek ni…” (I believe that’s Yoruba for “It’s me, it’s me, Marek”).

Why does this one sentence stand out?

A few years ago, I had a short stint as a product manager, and one of my tasks was helping foreign business partners berth their products in the Nigerian market. Of course that also meant entertaining opposite number product/export managers on their (mostly first) visits to Nigeria. One of the most outstanding things I noticed was how much they knew about the country, without ever having set foot on Murtala Muhammed. They always had more data, tended to understand the local purchase patterns, and never seemed as lost in Nigeria’s complexities as I had been made to expect. Worse still, they were armed with more experience in a global market.

After my first export manager meeting, I spent the following months acquiring data on the Nigerian market. I was probably never going to have as much data, or resources as the foreign export managers, but I was determined to not be ignorant. The information I found helped us ramp up our contract values by over 500% in just over 13 months.

But that experience had taught me to respect Johnny Foreigner in the Nigerian business scene, which is why the story Marek’s “Emi ni , Emi Marek ni…” response really struck me. Its no longer surprising finding the random foreigner who understands the African market more than us locals. The average foreigner gets to Africa, spends time traveling around the continent, seeing the market, and understanding the foundations, while some local CEOs spend most of their time peering through the sales pipeline. Some of us locals often assume that because we were born here, we understand the market better. Well, that isn’t always true.

It’s not a given that living in a house means we know where the rat holes are. The reason the housekeeper often finds the rat holes, even though they’re strangers in our homes, is because they spend more time peering at the hidden corners of the house.

Oluwole Leigh, in his satirical story, also inadvertently highlights the attitude of many local startup founders, who spend more time trying to be alien to our local markets, to match Silicon Valley, while the oyinbo guys spend more time trying to understand the market. Reality is that looking and sounding the part will never equate to understanding the market we’re trying to capture.

So, instead of employing interpreters in our own market, we local founders need to start responding to the call of “who is there” with an assured “Emi ni. Emi founder ni

Disclaimer: No egos were harmed in the writing of this blog. All characters are reference in the context of their characterisation in Mr Leigh’s story, and have no reflection on their actual position in the local market. Any similarities to real life dispositions is highly regretted. This blog is in no was a reflection of my opinion on either Mr Essien or Zmysłowski’s attitudes to market development.

This generation is over-sharing, but that’s OK

I recently read Jennifer Rooney’s submission on the Apple ‘Misunderstod’ holiday ad as an encouragement of connection to the virtual world, at the expense of the real world. I could not disagree more. My disagreement has nothing to do with Apple, although I’m a big Apple fan. My dissension is more on the subject of culture, which the piece spent so much time on.

 

This year has been about the most ‘shared’ year in the history of online sharing, and the US Thanksgiving and Hanukkah holidays were the busiest days on Instagram. We are becoming more and more drawn to sharing little bits of our lives on social media. We are more likely to stop for a moment to capture the moment, and this is the cornerstone of Jennifer Rooney’s criticism. But I am inclined to look deeper – the criticism owes it’s origin toa rather more commonplace practice: the dismissal of a later generation, based on nothing more than it’s emerging culture.

Every generation of teenagers has been accused of one anti-social vice or other. It’s part of generational reductionist contempt, meant to either make the younger generation appear less accomplished than they potentially are, or condemn a popular culture that is different to the one the older generation grew up in.

The immediate past generation, my generation, was accused of bare brigandage for listening to, and growing hip hop into a worldwide phenomenon. Later on, as cellphones became more ubiquitous, the generation was accused of choosing to text, rather than make a call on those cellphones it quickly became addicted to.

The hippy generation were accused in America of being, well, too hippy. They were mostly seen as not patriotic enough, and hazed out by pot and phychedelic drugs. But guess who drove the biggest technology revolution the world has ever seen? Yep, that drugged out generation.

That generation produced Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. They produced Richard Branson and forever changed the way the world saw computers. For a generation that was generally written off, that’s a handy legacy to leave behind.

And the Internet generation? My generation. We were too soft. For most of our years, we were too addicted to the Internet and computers, not producing useful enough engineers and civil servants, and too stupid to not aim for vocations with more job security.

The jury is still out on our generation, but we have already given the world Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. My generation is driving more startup growth than any other generation since the hippies changed the world.

It did happen that after the accusations of cellphone addiction were made against my generation, my parents generation ended up adopting cellphones in huge numbers. Parents adapted, and rather than call, sent more text messes to their kids. After the social media was roundly condemned by the same generation of my parents, the generation before them (my grandparents) quickly became one of the largest demographic on Facebook. Teenagers are now abandoning Facebook for their parents, who are now sharing like never before. So sharing my not be so bad at all.

Every generation develops it’s own culture. It is often the case that each generation’s signature habit is built on what was available to them. An example is that when telephones first became urban necessities, the parent’s in the country could never understand why their children preferred to make telephone calls, rather than visit them in person.

So why are we bothered that the present generation of teenagers spend too much time on their smartphones, and would rather chat with their friends than their grandparents?

It is imperative to note that this generation of teenagers will be the ones defining the future they’ll live in. Not their parents, not their grandparents, but them. So they just may be more prepared to live in their own future than anyone else, just like every other teenage generation has always been more prepared for the future than the generations which came before them.

The future has never stayed still. The future evolves. Because if this evolution, the things which guarantee success in the future also evolve with time. Before we accuse another generation of lacking in greatness on account of it’s habits, we must ask ourselves “how did we turn out, despite our own cool addictions?”

Dear startup, great job! But what if the VCs don’t come?

ketchup_3

Last night, I read that post by the co-founder of tiketmobile, and was really saddened, but without a lot of pity. It’s sad that he had to shutter up, and power down a business that must have been his big dream. But then, someone has to fail for the business schools to have case studies.

Someone has to fail, but it’s sad when it has to be you. But the part where I do not pity Celestine, the tiketmobile founder, is where he came off sounding entitled, like he was doing someone a favour starting a business. That sir, I do not agree with. No one is sitting up at night losing sleep about how your business is doing. That’s your darned job.

Because Celestine didn’t give any insights to why the startup failed, one has to  guess that revenue was low. Unfortunately, tiketmobile won’t be the last Nigerian startup to fail because founders didn’t think through about the revenue/profit stream, while sitting on grant funding, waiting for venture capital funding.

So what is the problem here?

Over the last year, I have met too many Nigerian startups who have told me their business plan is to build a smart enough app and get VC funding. Many are going to fail. Most people who know me on the business front probably have come across my model – ww.makeaprofit.dazall aka WMD. WMD is a purely capitalist model. At least that is what I have been told. The cynical have said it’s cutthroat, while others have said that it rather paints everything a business should be doing into a small corner. But I ask, how many businesses have survived from not making profits? Or more importantly, why do we go into business?

I for one went into business so I could buy Nike Sneakers, but I was 17 then, I think. But for any grownup looking to start a business, you have to see the big picture, and realise that you are there to secure you’re livelihood first, simple. I am an ardent proponent of existentialism and one of our canons is John-Paul Sartre’s proposition that “Existence precedes essence”. Until we have solved the basic problems of food, clothing and shelter, everything else should be secondary.

In Nigeria for example, the average entrepreneur has to deal with problems of power, space and funding, along with the 3 basics of life. There is little room for error. If you fail, you call through the cracks. And no, there’s no welfare. God bless you if you have family to fall back on, but if you don’t, well God bless you anyway, because if He doesn’t, you’re done for.

This is why I’m a “make a profit” proponent. Every business decision should be taken with the question of profits in mind: will this help make a profit? If you’re not seeing revenue and calling yourself “co-founder” just because it’s cool, well, watch that thing you’re sitting on, it’s probably long.

Startup romanticism

A part of this kerfuffle that is silly is that tiketmobile did get a chance to receive funding, but I will get to that later.  Turning down investment to keep stake is silly, and may well be why tiketmobile failed. Another is the lack of business experience – too many startups flying into business (some form NYSC) without a day of experience at a job or business.

One of the guys I work with started a service last year, and could have well left to start his own gig. But he spoke to me and I offered him a deal: put your service under the company, use our resources and sell. Company takes 60% of profits, you keep 40%, but you spend nothing in sales and R&D. He took that deal. His first sale was over $10,000. Note the emphasis on the money there revenue = $10,000, cost of business = $0. I don’t know what could have happened if my friend did not take that deal, but that there is an example of how losing some stake could also mean gaining some wiggle room to breath, and also build business experience from an Autobot position.

I am hoping, before Celestine gets into his next venture, he would have found a Kenny Rogers tape and listened to “The Gambler” on repeat for at least 7 days.

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,

Know when to walk away and know when to run

Seek ye first the path to profits

The need to make profits for African (read Nigerian) startups is real. Unlike the Americans we read about on TechCrunch, we don’t have welfare or unemployment benefits. An American kid whose business has failed at least does have the option of welfare. But you Nigerian, remember when your mum said you should get a real job and you didn’t? Well, this is what they were talking about – that is if you have parents. Again, even if you have parents or relatives able to help, you can be sure to get a healthy dose of “I told you so” before you get a kobo of their money.

Let’s say you’ve passed the first test of feeding yourself, you want to expand the business so you make even more money (I believe the fancy word for this is ‘scale’), you decide to hire one or two people. That’s cool because it’s the logical thing to do. But imagine going the first month, no pay, second, no pay, and third, same, because business isn’t going too well. Well, you staff didn’t join you to understand that business doesn’t go well sometimes. They joined to get paid. So imagine that you can’t afford to pay them: what would Jesus do? Unfortunately, unlike Jesus, you can’t make a salary out of five loaves of Shoprite bread.

Some wisdom from a bottle of ketchup

Next time you happen to hold a bottle of Heinz ketchup, pay a little attention to the labelling, and you’ll find a little phrase “Grown not made.” Well, that little nugget of wisdom says all you need to know about what makes a business. It’s grown, with a plan and actions. From the moment Tiketmobile got the $5000 grant, the thinking should have been where the next funding was going to come from. Mind, I’m still a profit driven head, but if the business was setup with the intention of scaling based on funding rounds, then the guys at tiketmobile should have been thinking of step 2 right at the point go securing funding round 1.

The most annoying part of this businesses is that they did get a funding proposal from SPARK. There are reservations about SPARK’s model, and no one knows the terms Jason Njoku offered, but it’s not a fair world out there. People go on about Jason’s motives, and I ask: who doesn’t have motives? One of the problems Nigerian startups have is the illusion of owning it all. Well, if you’re not ready to chase a sound bootstrapping model, you have to be ready to lose some stake.

It’s great to own all your stake, but there’s nothing fun about owning 100% of a dead company. You dig?

By the way, Cele, Tony Elumelu does not owe you anything. But even if Tony Elumelu did bring VC funding, remember…

The low hanging fruit, development, and the rest of us

Often when the history of civilisation is written, it is the names of the elite who make it as heroes. The rich and the middle class make the news, and the poor who stood in the advance of harsh weather – well nobody cares about the poor anyway. Which is why @ceezeks’s article on Low Hanging Fruits (LHF) interested me so much.

I’m a self confessed existentialist, who drank up St. Thomas Aquinas’s thesis and declared it the gospel of development. As such I tend to stay suspicious of superlatively lofty ideas which seem rooted in the sky. I love big thinking. In fact “big thinking” is one part of my company’s three-legged mantra – and I currently live and breath as the product of big dreams.

So why do I disagree with the assertion that chasing the low hanging fruits will inspire mediocrity?

I once wrote a blog on how governments can directly put money in the pockets of unemployed youths in local communities. I also have the privilege of seeing the difference simple infrastructure can make in the lives of local communities.

My grandmother is from a small Eniong community in Odukpani LGA, Cross River State. The community is small in population size, but blessed with arable land. Every year, during the rainy season, the farms are flooded, bringing fresh humus to the soil, which allows the people to farm every year on the same spots and record good yields. They mostly cultivate what European chefs call ‘gourmet vegetables’, and boy, those peppers and garden eggs taste amazing. The same floods also bring tons and tons of fish into the flooded forests.

At the end of the flood season, the locals would have constructed huge dams across the rivers, catching most of the large fish coming back out of the floods. When the farm lands dry out, the farmers return.

This amazing cycle continues year after year. Tons of produce come from the farms, millions worth of fish is caught. Yet the people are mostly poor, for a very simple reason: because they can’t store their farm produce or fish, they have to sell way below the market value, hence they are stuck in subsistence.

As far back as I can remember, the every incoming government had promised a road to that community, and never built it. A road would have made the market more competitive, and cut short the two hour journey by boat to the market at Itu in Akwa Ibom. Better still, a road would have allowed the community site their market in their own community, which would bring the buyers in there, and expand the economy. The people of the community would have had a chance to monetize their famous hospitality by building small restaurants and motels, since the travellers would need places to stay and eat too.

Now imagine if the electricity project I heard has finally started came through, and someone went and setup a storage facility and unionised the farmers, so they can opt to either sell their fresh produce, or store them. That ability alone would increase the value of their goods by over 25%. Simple things like roads and electricity really can provide quick wins, and unlock billions in revenue.

Consider on the opposite side of the river, where farmers in Akwa Ibom have recently been smiling a lot more, because Godswill had happened to them, and their governor had taken a big hoe into the state, and built roads all over the place. The argument about the size of state revenue vs. the development is for another day. The point here, is in the contrast between the two states, as regards infrastructure. I’m not sure Akwa Ibom has a quarter of Cross River’s agricultural potential, yet Akwa Ibom is likely to dwarf her sister state in actual revenues, simply because the farmers in Akwa Ibom have a choice of markets to take their produce to.

Low hanging fruits are evil, huh?

Remember when the world economy tanked? Guess what the US and German governments did? The started building more roads (and other infrastructure). By putting money in construction, they were able to stimulate the economy along the entire construction supply chain.

It’s important to build the base of development by providing the basic infrastructure and social services: roads, water, power, healthcare and schools. Do the basics, make those basics accessible to the poor and get out of the way, so businesses can do what they do best – make more money to create more jobs to more people.

LHF as a concept is great, I belief. It often builds sustainable systems, since the people who benefit from LHF projects often see the near term benefits. Local appreciation is a key stone in building the foundations of sustainability. History doesn’t need to remember the poor, it just has to ensure they are taken care of.

But I sign off by agreeing with Chuba Ezekwesili here. A governor building a much needed road, and throwing a party to celebrate it is insane. The people are celebrating in their hearts already, so there is no need for a party. They are celebrating as they whistle to the market with more produce than before; they are celebrating as they wave their hands in the wind as they are driven past their friends’ villages; they are celebrating as they thank the Governor who built the road in their kitchens at dinner.

Again, while I praise roads and other low hanging fruits, it’s no excuse for any overfunded governor to do same. I don’t expect to be praised for doing my job at the office everyday, and you are only doing your job. Shut up and carry on.