June 21, 2009

No power, no infrastructure !Yet Chinese factories are flourishing in Nigeria

By Okechukwu Onwuka
I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them! —Madam C.J. Walker,  America’s first black female millionaire.

Minister oF State for Energy

Minister oF State for Energy

RECENTLY, a tertiary institution in     Ogun state was reported to have     included Chinese language as a course in the school’s curriculum. Chinese ownership of over 70 per cent of the factories in Ogun State was identified as one of the drivers for this initiative.

The Chinese factories are not limited to Ogun State. They have several factories in Lagos and other states of the federation. A significant portion of factories in Nigeria are owned by Asian, Indian or Lebanese companies. My position is not to prevent foreign nationals from setting up factories in Nigeria but some of my concerns and fears include: What attributes do they utilize to run successful manufacturing establishments that Nigerians are unable to grasp?

How do they break-even running on diesel generators in the midst of our poor infrastructure and power supply? What does the future hold for us as Nigerians and our children when Nigerians focus primarily on importation, buying and selling while foreigners take over the manufacturing and productive sectors? Are the Asians more gifted naturally than Nigerians? Are there underhand benefits that the foreigners enjoy from our government and regulators that Nigerians do not benefit from? We may be undergoing a critical phase of “industrial colonization” without knowing it.

I have visited a number of these Asian owned companies and have made a number of observations in the way the businesses are run when compared with the way Nigerian Companies are operated. Some of these I’ll highlight below:It is usually difficult to tell who the managing director, manager or supervisor is in the Asian firms. There is a general low key disposition across board. Simple dress styles and no apparent class distinctions.

The major pre-occupation is to get the job done.Senior officers are constantly moving around the business premises. They are not locked away in some big, air-conditioned, lavishly furnished offices from where they issue commands as is common with Nigerian firms.The Asians appear to enjoy every bit of their work. You never get the impression that they are suffering as is common in our local parlance for work.The Asian companies are usually deployed in locations where cost of land and property are relatively cheap. They are prepared to live in the same environment under moderate standards of living to see the business succeed.

Many executives in these firms rarely drive brand new Jeeps or luxury cars. You’ll find many riding in ‘tokunbo’ cars or the lower end of Asian cars such as Kia, Hyundai etc. In contrast, a Nigerian CEO/MD who does not drive the latest luxury car or SUV would be an exception. Although the conditions of service for the many Nigerians who work for them can be said to be poor compared to Nigerian owned companies, you find the Nigerian workers more loyal, disciplined and committed to work productivity in the Chinese firms. Why is this so? The good news is that we are gifted all round to overcome these challenges and write the name of our country into the world map of great nations.

Retired squadron officer Paul Okpue is a good example of one right approach. After serving two terms in the Delta State House of Assembly, he has set up a bamboo factory in Delta State. Thankfully, he did not set up a diesel importation and supply business. He was not deterred by the insecurity situation in the Niger Delta or the power situation. In 2000, he attended a seminar in China on economic utilization of bamboo which is usually wasted for the most part in Nigeria. His products include wall, window and floor panels, kitchen utensils, toothpicks etc.

They have handled the floor panels of the NICON Hilton Hotel, Abuja among other jobs. Though expansion funding and international standard finishing are current challenges, the future is bright given the exceptional price advantage his products have over the imported tiles and regular wood laminate materials. Florence Seriki of OMATEK Computers is another great success example.

Money is a form of energy
The law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed but can be transformed from one form to another.

There are many forms of energy. These include sound energy, mechanical energy, potential energy, kinetic energy, etc. When you drive a car, the fuel (potential) energy in the petrol is converted to heat energy in the engine. The heat energy in the engine is converted to mechanical (kinetic) energy which is then converted to motion energy as the car moves from one location to another.

The same heat energy in the engine is   converted to light energy (Vehicle    lighting), sound energy (horns) and others. Without fuel (petrol or diesel) in the tank, no matter how well designed the car’s engine is, there can be no motion. Even if the driver intends to move the car, is a qualified driver, honest and healthy, nothing will move the car without fuel in the tanks.

Unless of course you
manually push it, a condition that is not the design intent of a vehicle.While it may appear silly for anyone to think of driving a car without fuel, many  go into business ventures in an analogous setting. An entrepreneur primarily combines many resources in the quest to achieve the business objective. It is the efficiency with which the resources are utilized that affects the quality and quantity of results achieved. It is not possible to do nothing and have money roll-in without end. Money is only one of the many products of successful entrepreneurship.

The more energy you invest, in terms of hard work, discipline, planning, passion, resource utilization etc, the higher the conversion into money energy. It has been said that it is wise to have money work for you instead of working for money. That is true but the interpretation of the concept can be very far off-the-mark for many aspiring and practicing entrepreneurs. Minimum amount of work must be exerted before cruising levels are achieved.

You expend energy and efforts to earn the money in the first place. You spend a further energy in research, investment strategizing and other activities required to identify what platforms to use in growing your money. Such platforms include investing businesses, inventions, factories, trade, stocks, bonds, partnerships or directorships. Poor judgments in these areas can result in devastating financial losses, broken friendships and trust.