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New Year: Old opportunities, new direction

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By Okechukwu Onwuka
CONGRATULATIONS for making it into this wonderful new year of our Lord, 2010. Despite the gloom of last year, I’m so very excited at the many opportunities that are available to us to impact our country for good.

My prayer and hope is that we shall make more efforts this year, individually and collectively to make our country a much better place for our children, born and unborn. I’m also optimistic that those of you who are gifted with strong leadership and project management skills will identify the opportunities that will be best suited to your talent, gifts and abilities.

Such alignments will benefit our society immensely as we prepare for the great journey ahead.
Nigeria is so blessed; it would seem as if we don’t even need to be creative or innovative to identify viable project opportunities. Quite often we hear or read about the puzzle regarding how a nation can be so richly blessed with mineral and human resources yet be so poor and backwards. In reality, the poor state of things results directly from scarcity of social and infrastructural amenities. There is a scarcity of banks that are truly customer service oriented.

There is a scarcity of government officials who want to leave a legacy of governance. There is scarcity of affordable healthcare. Farmers need fertilizers. We need good roads. We need regular power supply. Food is scarce and expensive. Oil and gas is in abundance but utilization is poor.

There is an acute scarcity of employees who are hard working and committed. Solutions to these problems will richly reward the providers, materially, mentally and spiritually. Specifically, let’s look at a few of the opportunities in Nigeria.

Ait travel. This opportunity is created by the bottleneck of airport taxi costs. Because many airports are located far from residential areas, expensive airport taxis remain the only option for those who cannot arrange for pick-up. Unlocking the potential in air travel lies in attracting some of the relatively well to do road travellers to travel by air. Road travel between Lagos-Owerri, Lagos-Kaduna, Abuja -Port Harcourt would cost an average of N3, 000.

The equivalent air journey costs N17, 000 for flight ticket alone. Add an average of N8, 000 on airport taxis, you have the minimum air travel cost of N25, 000 (almost $170. Simply crazy).  Many road travellers will gladly pay N10, 000 for air tickets if the airlines offer free or cheap transport to major cities, bypassing the airport taxis.

The planes will be more filled, leading to more frequent flights, better utilization and profitability. The few airport taxi operators can be re-employed as drivers of the shuttle buses. Major hotel operators can also partner with airlines to operate airport shuttle buses. Everybody wins.

Low cost residential housing. If the majority of our building projects can take a shift and focus on providing quality housing for under N5m as opposed to the luxury homes of N40m and higher, the demand will outstrip the supply for a long time to come.  Food supply. Nigeria’s food supply remains a challenge. Projects in fish farming, agricultural silos and preservation will remain lucrative.

Those of you who have seen the high amounts of fruits such as oranges, pineapples, guava and cucumber that gets spoilt and are ultimately wasted will understand the available opportunities. The bad roads that lead from the farms to the market place thereby preventing the farmers from timely and cost effective access to the market represent opportunities for light rail or road projects by Governments or private entrepreneurs.

Auto mechanic workshops. With the high number of imported, expensive and new cars on our roads, immense opportunities exist for gifted and trained technicians or Mechanics who can set up workshops that can offer great service at a price that is better that what obtains at the few authorized service centers.

Sea transportation. Our waterways remain largely underutilized. Those who remember Baba Kekere and Itafaji, the two ferry boats that plied the Mile 2-CMS route some years ago know the great value that such projects can add to the community. Similar services can be established along the Lekki-Lagos, and Lekki Ikorodu routes. With the terrible state of our roads, why should sea travel along the coastal states of Lagos, Delta, Rivers and Cross River not be exploited? These opportunities remain untapped.

Light rail services or TRAMs. Congested city areas such as Lagos and Port Harcourt need TRAM services like yesterday. Using TRAMs will help reduce the unpredictable time losses in traffic and also generate improved economic activity. Investors in the transport sector should strongly look at alternatives to road transport because even in developed cities, eliminating road traffic bottlenecks remain a challenge. People who have visited London, South Korea, Paris, Munich and other European cities know this trend too well. Rail transport remains the fastest and most reliable mode of transport on land.

Power: Micro hydro power plants and solar systems. I see many companies and individuals powering their offices and homes using  solar systems. Small hydro power plants will also gain ground. These projects will take advantage of the freedom to generate power outside the national grid for capacities below 1MW. The power saboteurs are in for a shock.

The list seems inexhaustible. Whatever option or idea you choose to pursue this year, be sure to give the idea adequate preparation, analysis, planning to develop a strategy that will optimize your chances of success. If you don’t have the expertise, please use specialists to conduct detailed technical and economic feasibility analysis, strategy formulation or project management plan for projects that interest you.

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