Monday, January 25, 2010

Project Management for Nigeria

Production of useful goods and services in Nigeria is about zero. The GDP still hinges almost entirely on the export of crude. What economic activities, by state, should we be engaged in, and how are we doing?
My suggestions:

Energy in Enugu, the coal city. Independent Power Production should be allowed to flourish.

Roads in Lagos (the current governor Fashola made rapid progress, but now has all but stalled. Has the money dried up? Is he tied up in political knots? What would it take to complete these road construction projects and move on to the next phase?) . Town planning should also be important in Lagos. Megacity is what they're calling it. Well, make it happen - trains, free trade zones, public spaces, cultural centers...good enough for the future.

Tourism in Cross Rivers. Tinapa and Carnival are huge success stories. Make them bigger successes.

In Adamawa, it's time to fix the bloody Gombe-Yola road, so that you can save hours in transport of people and goods to Yola. Also, grow synergies between American University in Nigeria (the Atiku school, we know that Atiku's net contribution to Nigeria - I'll be quiet) and the Federal University of Technology in Yola. Currently, nobody's doing this, and both schools have weaknesses and potential.

In Ekiti, the so-called Fountain of Knowledge, put everything that will make it the education leader. Start with a flood of internet access.

Tourism in Bauchi is centered around Yankari, the upgraded and under-utilized games reserve resort. Promote Yankari and grow tourism beyond Yankari.

Kano has the potential to represent everything Hausa - in culture and entertainment.

In Plateau State, Jos has become the center of pop in Northern Nigeria. It's time to take action on the deadly riots that occasionally pop up in this fabulously beautiful city. When this happens, Jos will easily regain its place as the expatriate heaven it once was.

Osun state has everything: Ife culture, Osogbo arts, universities, waterfalls and rocks, ...

Abuja, if Nigeria ever got serious about the law, could house developments in constitutional law and civil society organization.

Port Harcourt, ...

More later. I met a woman last week that runs a company that has been taking over and upgrading power plants in Nigeria. As a result, power generation is at a higher, but still low, level. We can chip away at our problems - one city, one state, or one sector at a time.

Friday, January 22, 2010

One of Nigeria's finest in science and technology

Source: The Jellyfish Engineer

John Dabiri, 28, California Institute of Technology: Photo by John B. Carnett; digital imaging by Neil Duerden

It's just after sunset in Long Beach, California, and John Dabiri stands on the end of a wooden dock, peering down at the water. In his white sneakers and striped polo shirt, Dabiri might be just another boater checking out a well-known local spectacle: a pulsing mass of hundreds of softball-size moon jellyfish that regularly gather here.

It's the green laser lighting up the water that gives him away. Just beneath the surface, one of his graduate students records the motion of a single jellyfish with a custom-built, high-definition video camera and a water-particle-illuminating laser. Every so often, she hands it up to the biomechanics professor for an adjustment, then sinks down again to record the pumping of another jelly. The measurements will be fed into software programs that reveal the intricacies of how jellyfish push off their own wake -- a doughnut-shaped whirl of water known as a vortex ring -- and thus use less energy to propel themselves forward.

Already, Dabiri's findings are inspiring design improvements in data-collecting buoys, military submarines, even onshore windmills. Which isn't to say that the Navy's next fleet of deep-sea vehicles will be soft and bulbous. "What we're trying to do is not just mimic what we see in nature but to extract the relevant design features -- like the vortex rings," Dabiri explains. "In nature you have evolution, with its own set of constraints. We don't have those constraints as engineers. We can start with something like a jellyfish and take advantage of the fact that we have propellers and steel to build things that look nothing like it but perform as well or even better."

It was only 11 years ago that Dabiri boarded a bus from Toledo, Ohio, bound for his first semester at Princeton. The son of Nigerian immigrants -- his father is a math teacher, his mother a software developer -- Dabiri always imagined he would go into the auto industry. But by his junior year, he'd developed a fascination with fluid mechanics and was offered a prestigious summer fellowship at the California Institute of Technology. Dabiri had already lined up an internship at Ford Motor Company, but at the urging of a professor he backed out and got on a flight (his first ever) to California, where he was soon camped out in front of an aquarium tank, studying the boneless, brainless jellyfish.

It wasn't what Dabiri had pictured. He hadn't taken a biology class since 10th grade and never had much interest in marine life. Growing up in Toledo, he never even learned how to swim. But the summer project -- which evolved into a co-authored paper on how lessons from jellyfish movement can help cardiologists track blood flow in the heart's left ventricle to predict future problems -- captivated his interest in the growing field of biomechanics.

The next year, Dabiri returned to Caltech as a graduate student. He completed his Ph.D. in four years and was offered a professorship there after preemptive offers by Princeton and Illinois. He was 24.

Since then, Dabiri has taken his research from the lab to the open ocean. Together with his graduate students, he developed technology, like the laser-imaging system, to make real-world observations possible. (The next step is a camera that films the jellies in 3-D.) And he's become convinced that many of our next mechanical innovations will have their roots in the natural world. "We're just starting to see connections between biology and engineering and technology," he says. "When you suspend reality for a second and think about animals as machines, you realize that your equations don't care whether you're looking at a 747 or a jellyfish."

For a more detailed, yet enjoyable profile, see http://pr.caltech.edu/periodicals/caltechnews/articles/v41/jellies.html

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

James Mamza writes on management of Niger Delta funds

UTILISATION OF 13% DERIVATION
by James Mamza

The utilization of the 13% derivation has been a big problem for the development of States in the Niger Delta region. There is no doubt that Nigeria is the sixth largest oil-producing nation in the world. However, mismanagement by successive military and elected officials of these States have left them under-developed and in a poverty-stricken condition. The States lack basic infrastructures such as good road network, potable drinking water, available health facilities and affordable housing programmes, In addition to experiencing continual environmental degradation.

The Military and Elected officials of these states concern themselves with amassing wealth by awarding inflated contracts to relatives, friends, Political Parties and spouses. Yet, despite the over inflated contracts, the jobs are never completed.

Clearly the actions of selfish leaders have lead to the mismanagement of state resources and poor developmental plan, which have consequently resulted in instability, anarchy and disorder in the states, by dissatisfied citizens.

Solution
The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) under successive administrations came up with commissions / authority such as the Niger Delta Development Authority (NDDA), the Oil and Minerals Producing Development Area Commission (OMPADEC) and now Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). These Authority and Commissions were aimed at solving the problems enumerated above. This has clearly not been effective.

It is my opinion that an infrastructure master plan should be developed in conjunction with FGN, NDDC, the States and professionals from various sectors (construction, engineering, architects, health professionals, legal experts, financial advisers, and Consultants) to come up with a master plan and develop costs for the growth and expansion of road networks, hospitals, schools, portable drinking water, housing programmes taking into consideration the uniqueness of each state. The community heads should therefore, be informed through stakeholder workshops and in turn they can enlighten their people so that they are adequately informed of the true position of the proposed developmental master plan. Though, this is merely one solution to the myriad of problems being experienced in the Niger Delta Region.

Further, I propose that any agreement entered into with the stakeholders must take into consideration the fact that FGN will use 6.5% of the 13% or half of the total derivation for the actualisation of the master plan, over each term of office (usually a period of 4 years). This will ensure that the money is truly spent for the development of the region and will not disappear into the bottomless pit of corruption.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Gospel for Small Businesses

You've got to hire people you can trust (in terms of ability and integrity) to do the work of your company.
You've got to let go, allow your people to work.

So many Nigerian small business owners are actually what Rich Dad, Poor Dad's Robert Kiyosaki would call "self-employed." They do not have scalable businesses, that is they would faint if the amount of customers/business/money doubled. Why? Because there is one person - the owner - doing a lot of critical work.

If the fear is of people running away with your money, then design a system in which people can't run away with your money - some checks and balances. Then go off and network for more clients, hang out on the beach, learn more about how this internet thing can transform your business, or just do something more high value than going to work everyday to boss over your employees.

Sometimes the fear is of the people you hire becoming "bigger" than you. Think about this: while your employees are bowing, sweating, and generally kow-towing to you, they are wasting brainpower that they could have used to make money for you. Look at Accenture, a company that lets smart people work their bums off. Whoever the owners of accenture are, are they making money or not? They are making money even though their employees have high status.

If you're paying them, you should be letting them work. Right?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Craigslist and the cloud

Craigslist is awesome but there's no Craigslist Nigeria, so there is NAIRALIST. Great for buying stuff and finding jobs, personal ads...

Cloud computing with google apps and google docs is great for personal productivity and also for small organizations. The news is that you can now upload ALL file types to the google docs servers. Nice how Information Technology is evolving.

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