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Economic recession not abnormal, but… —Idris

By Moses Nosike

Shuaibu Idris, studied Accountancy from Bayaro University, Kano; he also acquired a Masters Degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Wales. Having initially worked with Board of Internal Revenue, Kaduna state briefly and subsequently gathered over 10 years of banking experience in Lagos. Shuaibu also put over 10 years of meritorious service with Dangote Group, where he initially headed their Human Resources, Administration and Corporate Affairs, and later advanced to be Executive Director in charge of Sales and Marketing Flour before leaving the company in December 2010 as the Deputy Managing Director, Flour Mill Group.

These experiences garnered over the years and several executive management/leadership and skills development courses attended both in local and international schools such as Lagos Business School, Harvard University, Cambridge University and Howard University to mention but a few, positioned him to establish a financial and Management consultancy firm, Time-Line Consult Limited with offices in Lagos, Sokoto, Kaduna and Gombe.

In 2007 and 2011 Shuibu Idris contested for governorship post in his state, Kaduna when he ventured into politics. In this interview with Moses Nosike, he revealed the importance of capacity building in small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurship in our society and or any given business environment to spur economic growth. He also revealed the challenges of setting up business in Nigeria. Excerpts:

Idris

What is the focus of Time-Line Consult?
We are management consulting firm engaging in capacity building, fairly impacting knowledge. It is so because I have started working since 1985 till date, 31 years of working experience. Obviously one would have had some level of experience one would want to impact. There are quite a number of other senior professional colleagues of mind in the field and we seek to impact knowledge back to the society that trained and helped us to where we are today. So, we do capacity building. Again, we do a lot of research – marketing research, operational research, product acceptability and a whole lot, both for government agencies and corporate entities. Last but not the least, we do financial advisory services which is a bit wide, managerial and financial etc. Sometimes we help business organisations to review their standard operating procedure or if they don’t have we develop an SOP for them. We also look at the structure of organisations, sizing and recommend best practices that help organisations grow and achieve their objectives.

We’ve been talking about training of SMEs to make the sector better, do you look at that area in terms of training?
Well, to train an individual costs money. Most organisations, being small, medium or large don’t spend much money on training and when you are looking at big organisations, they send their workers regularly on skills and leadership trainings to improve their managerial and leadership competencies. Small businesses generally shy away from spending money to develop staff. When you are faced with this kind of environment, how do you expect SMEs that are grappling with market and competition, interest and exchange rates changes, etc to save money for training? We’ve not come across any SME yet requesting for our services in this regards. However, in my individual capacity, there are some non governmental organisations that normally organise training and competitions for SMEs and I have met with some of their beneficiaries and even serve as a mentor/coach to some of the beneficiaries of their grants. But we also do business planning and feasibility study on behalf of SMEs and we help them to implement such business plans for feasibility studies. Some of them are not able to approach banks directly to access capital or loan, so we also help them out in that regards.

Most Nigerian youths don’t have the skills it takes to create jobs for themselves, even with their education, how can we tackle this challenge?
Unfortunately, we have educational system that has some level of inadequacies. The educational system that we are running today prepares people to be workers, to sit down in an environment where they are paid salaries. We hardly train people on things that are hands on skills for survival and not just brain skill. That is the major shortcoming of our system which we need to urgently review. Recently there was a talk on how to introduce entrepreneurial training in some of our secondary schools and tertiary institutions. Personally if I were to advise on that one may recommend an urgent review of our current system to have entrepreneurship study in our curriculum. If you see quite number of graduates in the US, Europe etc. secondary school graduates, I don’t mean university or other tertiary graduates, quite number of them in the US or Europe don’t go to the next level of education to acquire diploma or degree, they stopped at secondary school and go out to set up their businesses because the level of education they obtained at secondary school is enough to guide them start up things that would help them fend for themselves. For instance, former Manchester United coach, Alex Ferguson, he left secondary school in his Scottish village and started work in an organisation and after a while he left and started his personal business before he went into soccer. The challenges we are having in Nigeria is that the quantum and way we run educational system in Nigeria makes it near impossible for our teaming graduates to take or run a business on their own makes it difficult for them. We are a country of one hundred and eighty million population with enormous amount of resources. Is it agriculture? we have livestock farming and many others. Normal circumstances if the education system is structured well, the knowledge and skills acquire from the secondary, tertiary institutions should position our youths to set up personal businesses instead of waiting for employment that may never come.

With the challenges in the economy today what would be your advise to someone who wants to venture into SMEs?
I believe the advises would differ from the person who wants to set up poultry farm and another who wants to set up catfish farming. Unfortunately setting up business and doing business in Nigeria is very challenging. There are difficulties such as, no good road network, electricity is a major issue to mention but a few. Today we have an average annual demand of energy in the country fifteen thousand megawatt, national daily production is less than four thousand megawatt. So imagine the level of energy consumption shortage. Transportation is a major issue. We need to move from one part of the country to another when conveying goods but it’s difficult in Nigeria. For instance, I produce mango and ?passion fruits, Cashew, Guava etc. in Kaduna, but the cost of bringing them to Lagos in a trailer is equalling the total cost of the goods. But the fact remains that, even in this difficult situation we can’t fold our arms and expect manna to fall from heaven. We must keep trying hoping that things would change for the better.

Within the first one year of a four year tenure, the economy is experiencing recession, since you are involved in research what can you proffer as solution to the economic recession?
Asking about the remedy is a difficult one because a lot of things are involved. Economic recession is normal, there is nothing abnormal about it. There are times the economy will boom and sometimes it experiences recession where it could have ?issues such as falling commodity prices, devaluation, and inflation etc. When, we have an economy that is infected with one of these crises, tendencies are you will have recession. One of it is financial crisis which might be caused by debt crisis ie where a country is indebted and is not able to pay, or if the banking sector has enormous bad debt that plunged them into crises that situation could lead to recession. The third one, where we have prices of commodities declining sharply. For instance, Ghana and South Africa which their major export earning product is gold; if the price of gold goes down the economy can be affected. Take Nigeria and Angola; if the price of oil goes down, the earning capacities of the economies reduce. Again, crude oil is a commodity so the economy can be affected. Most countries of the world, if price of commodity decline it will affect the economy of the country. It is so because when there is low demand for such product production will slow down and when production slows down, employers of labour will find a means to cut down cost of production and when they are doing so, people will loose their jobs because when two elephants fight, the grass will suffer.
Obviously those are the consequences of this situation today in Nigeria. The solution is to look for a dynamic and functional economic management team, be it in the CBN as well as Ministry of Finance. There are quite a number of policy prescriptions that can be considered to spur growth.


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