By Yinka Odumakin
IT was an admixture of excitement and deep introspection about my country, Nigeria, as I listened to Mr Zu Zhiwei, Chairman of Longrich International, addressing global leaders of the company at the Lake Stadium in Suzhou on Saturday.
The story of Zhiwei is an interesting one. He started out life as a carpenter, but today presides over Longrich, a Chinese multi-billion dollar company established in 1986.
The company had its research and development institutions in America, Japan, France and China, and is currently building a $50m factory in Nigeria.
Longrich is the largest and most advanced centre for the research, development, manufacture and sales of cosmetics, healthcare and household products in China with their trademark in 184 countries and products in over 50 countries of the world.
The company is rated 42nd in 2014 Direct Selling News, DSN, top 100 MLM companies in the world, and accounts for 3% of China’s GDP and a five-star hotel.
As it is its tradition since berthing in Nigeria, it took 138 Nigerians on a nine-day trip to China beginning October 23. The all-expenses-paid trip was made under the auspices of its annual global convention. The Nigerian delegation was the largest outside China. Out of the 66-star directors the company currently parades, 42 are Nigerians!
There are five 5-star directors of the company globally, four of whom are from Asia and the fifth being from Africa, Mrs Titilayo Ejimagwa of Nigeria. She made a very inspiring speech, as well as my very eloquent and machine in human form brother, Seun Osofisan, a 3-star director at the summit. With Chabe, a 4-star director from South Africa, they made members of Power to Generate Wealth, PGW, very proud.
Like the title of one of the books of my late brother, Pius Adesanmi who was buried in Canada last Saturday as the summit was underway, Naija No Dey Carry Last, Nigerians showed class in all aspects at the event. Chilote Chibuzo did us proud as he hosted the stage impressively with other Chinese comperes. The Nigerian musical performance was the best at the dinner event the following day, with Ghana coming closely behind.
Global Vice-President and CEO International Marketing, Mr Alex who also MD Nigeria, was full of smiles as Nigerians took centre stage.
But that was where it ends for us. The whole event is, on the other hand, a thing of sadness to see the strides China has achieved compared to Nigeria which was at par with the Asian country in the early 1970s in all spheres of human development. Today, Chinese companies are totally in charge of rail construction and some of the few roads work going on in Nigeria.
Mr Zhiwei’s company is giving a better life to Nigerians who would have been condemned to penury by the chaotic and opportunities-denying situation in the country. Some of the people in China would not have come near the Murtala Muhammed Airport in their lives if they were to solely depend on what Nigeria offers. They probably would have been among the 98% of the banked Nigerians who do not have N500,000. But they have escaped a life of penury and toiling just to find food to eat in a country that denies its citizens a better life.
The most profound statement Zihwei made that got me thinking of Nigeria not being part of the modern world was when he said: “Capital should not be looking for cheap labour but chasing after artificial intelligence line.” There is nobody in the government or private sector that is addressing this critical issue in the modern economy. The biggest companies in our economy are using cheap and casual labour. The best companies on our Stock Exchange are dealing in sugar, salt and pastries. The richest man in Nigeria is starting a refinery next year, but he will not be doing 3D or artificial intelligence petrol but an ordinary one that Rockefeller was producing 100 years ago. He recently said he would be moving 60% of his wealth to better climes.
It is worse at the government level. Our government is not addressing any issue in modern governance or productivity. We are busy sharing rents from oil and VAT and lynching ourselves over very limited opportunities because a few are interested in command and control and do not want people to be in freedom and enjoy prosperity.
We are not addressing any of the issues shaping the global economy and corporate governance. We are locked in discussions about cows and grazing routes. There is no direction in our economy and a total lack of understanding of what it takes to modernise.
One other issue that came up in China is the failure of our system to allow individuals realize the best of potentials through the jar of life. The whole arrangement is about manipulating the system to give undue advantage to people on the basis of geography, while others are suppressed on the basis of the same factor.
Of all the 138 Nigerians who travelled to China, there was nobody from the North. The stockist from Kaduna and the one from Jos were from the South. They worked to achieve at their individual levels and not because of any quota and federal character.
Our country is going nowhere until we create a society where people are allowed to rise to the best of their abilities without let or hindrance. We must create a jar of life where every bean rolls to its weight.
If Nigeria would try to catch up with the world in the development, it must decentralise and allow the constituent units to develop at their own pace and fulfil their destinies. We must devise ways to help the weak and build their strength but we must not weaken the strength to hold them down to level with the weak.
There is the urgent need to break the country into zones of development and allow each of the sections to begin to leverage their strengths for accelerated development. We have had enough of using the factors of production on the gambling table in Abuja rather than enhancing our productive base.
This is the biggest of the factors that have made Nigeria the global secretariat of poverty today and we should not wait till the country becomes totally ungovernable before we do something about our situation. The situation where only two per cent of our banked citizens have more than N500,000 in their accounts is a recipe for chaos arising from extreme inequality.
Outside selling exhaustible oil to fund conspicuous consumption, we must embrace productivity, make our citizens become functional and not unproductive beings whom we use to share free money in Abuja. It’s not too late for us to start the journey of becoming part of the moving world, lest our country totally becomes part of the dregs of humanity.
…Artificial Intelligence: Time to act is now
Thanks to technological advances over the past few years, manufacturers are close to offering such leading-edge MRI solutions. In fact, they’re exploring new AI applications that span virtually every major industry, from industrials to the public sector. With better algorithms and increased stores of data, the error rate for computer calculations is now often similar to or better than those of human beings for image recognition and several other cognitive functions. Hardware performance has also improved drastically, allowing machines to process this unprecedented amount of data. That has been a major driver of the improvement in the accuracy of AI models.
Within AI, deep learning, DL, represents the area of greatest untapped potential. This technology relies on complex neural networks that process information using various architectures, comprised of layers and nodes, that approximate the functions of neurons in a brain. Each set of nodes in the network performs a different pattern analysis, allowing DL to deliver far more sophisticated insights than earlier AI tools. With this increased sophistication comes greater needs for leading-edge hardware and software.
Well aware of AI’s massive potential, leading high-tech companies have taken early steps to win in this market. But the industry is still nascent and a clear recipe for success hasn’t emerged. So how can companies capture the value and see a return on their huge AI investments?
Interactions with end customers of AI suggests that six tenets will ring true once the dust settles. First, value capture will initially be limited in the consumer space, and companies will achieve the most value by focusing on enterprise “micro verticals” — specific use cases within select industries.
The technology stack also suggests that opportunities will vary by layer and that the most successful companies will pursue end-to-end solutions, often through partnerships or acquisitions. For certain hardware players, AI might represent a reversal of fortune after years of waning interest from investors who gravitated toward software, combined with heavy commoditisation that depressed margins. The advent of AI opens significant opportunities, with solutions in both the cloud and the edge, generating strong end-customer demand. The takeaway is that countries and companies need to act quickly. Those that make big bets now and overhaul their traditional strategies will emerge as the winners.