Saturday, July 30, 2011

How to make 500,000 Naira in three easy steps

1. Request information from a Nigerian government agency under the Freedom of Information Law.

2. If an official asks you why you need to know, reply: "because Y has a long tail and two branches"

3. SUE for denial of access.

That's why it's called a RIGHT.

Here is one history of the FOI bill: "It began late in 1993, few would have been willing then to give what ultimately became the FoI movement a snowball’s chance in hell of making it into the law books. General Sani Abacha was in power and transparent government was not his thing. To drive the point home, he spotted trademark sunshades, even at night..." (by Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, for ThisDay)

And here is an explanation of the law: "You have the right to request for information, whether written or otherwise from a public institution. You don’t have to explain why you need the information and you can even go to court to compel the institution to comply..." (by Funmilayo Akinosi, for NigeriansTalk)
Meanwhile, Ghana is fighting for their FOI law. (Nigeria - 1 , Ghana - 0)

Monday, July 25, 2011

How can I get my dollars direct?

I noticed that there is a gap of over 10% between the official exchange rate and current black-market rate. While the official rate crashed around July 1st to 150naira per US Dollar, your mallam will sell to you not at 153 (for a typical 2% spread) but around 166 (a very atypical 11% difference).
It makes sense that the official rate is low; the dollar is so poorly that no currency has a right to do worse, but how do you explain the high dollar price on the streets? The newspaper (ThisDay) is reporting that this is due to a shortage of dollars created by a Central Bank policy pegging dollar supply to Bureaus Des Change.

If only we could automatically change currency at the points of use, like I used to do with my U.S. Visa debit card. It basically got you any currency - even Naira, at local ATMs - at the best possible exchange rate. But now I have a Nigerian visa card that accomplishes much less. The bank offers a "dual-currency" debit card as well, but the processing time for that application is about four months. They assured me they were not kidding about the length of time, no, it's not a joke. Four month wait for two currencies. Four week wait for 100 currencies --> Let's just say America has a more developed financial services sector than Nigeria.
Meanwhile, with the same currency selling for 150 one way and 166 another way, there is arbitrage, or what my brotha Mr. Bismarck-Rewane termed "a round-tripping paradise."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Can My__ Make It?

The site formerly known as MySpace has fallen so far in traffic rankings that it's now neck-to-neck with the NewYorkTimes (each being around the 85th most visited site in the world)

MySpace is trying to rediscover its "cool", refocusing on artistes (rather than generic social networking).

Can this company pull off the turnaround?
Thoughts: What can they do to be more popular in Nigeria?
How can this work for you?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good tidbits on grassroots investment

We want a wealthier society, in which even the poorest (or at least the median earners) have a dignified lifestyle. Here are some newsbits from around the web that give one hope.

Photo: Smiling Farmer from

1. "We have to go out and get investments and get that money into the country." - Olusegun Aganga, explaining the focus of the Ministry of Trade and Investments. Source: Daily Trust

2. Ndidi Nwuneli, a successful serial NGO founder, has turned her focus to Agriculture. She writes for Business Day every Tuesday on Agriculture, including Eating Beyond Our Means last week, and Transforming Our Farmers into Entrepreneurs on July 13th.

3. EFInA, a Nigerian NGO funded largely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, religiously tracks Access to Banking/Capital/Finance. As most Nigerians remain outside the formal banking sector, and too many are unbanked (formally or informally), EFInA funds ideas that increase financial innovation and access - e.g. through its s-weet Innovation Fund
By the way, here is the EFInA report on the Financial Services Landscape in Nigeria (2010).

4. (Source: Business Day - CBN and small enterprise funding)
The Central bank has earmarked funds for grassroots lending/investment, which include since 2009:
  • N200 billion Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CASS) Fund being channeled to farmers: through state governments to farmers’ cooperatives and unions within their constituencies, and also through private promoters/projects.
  • N200 billion guarantee scheme for new loans to SMEs to be provided at bank’s prime lending rate
  • N500 billion manufacturing and infrastructure (power and airline) intervention fund
  • CBN also set up Entrepreneurship Development Centers, EDCs, to train citizens in locations around the country (see ALF-EDC); as well as a Nigerian Incentive-based risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), to reduce banks’ perception of agriculture as ‘highly risky’ and consequently expand bank lending to the agricultural sector from the current 2% to at least 10% within the next five years.

Should you avoid office politics?

If organizational conflict is inevitable, and you cannot avoid it because it often involves important questions, you need to understand how it typically gets resolved [...] organizational conflicts are resolved through influence. The groups with bosses that have influence will get what they need. Those groups whose bosses lack influence will not.

To be an effective boss, you must influence others -- people and groups over whom you have no formal control -- to get what your group needs and to work for what you believe is best and right. Your own people count on you to do this because they cannot do their work well otherwise. Your organization depends on voices like yours to keep it on the right track.

The best way to build influence is to create ongoing relationships for mutual advantage. There's no reason you cannot do this while holding yourself to high standards of openness, honesty, fairness, and respect.

"Playing politics" and wielding influence in a political environment aren't the same. Ironically, the way to cope with dysfunctional "politics" is to engage others, not avoid them. Hunkering down will only make you less influential and so less effective.

Engage those around you -- not to play political games but to build real bridges -- if you hope to accomplish the work that you believe needs doing. (Read more...)

Source: Why avoiding office conflict is not an option

by Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback for Fortune Magazine

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Borrow Borrow

People keep asking you for small "loans" of money (that they will never pay back), what do you do - A, B, C, or D - which is your favourite answer, and why?

A - Tell them now is not a good time for us to be lending money. We are saving for the kids' college, retirement, or the like. But I am happy to help you get a bank loan or figure out a budget.

B - If the amount is small, I ask what they can do for me. Perhaps they can house-sit and take care of the family pet when you're away, or help paint the house, clean the basement, or build a deck? Sweat labor can pay you back as well.

C - I would tell my sibling that I won't be his or her finance company anymore, but that each of the previous loans is now a gift and that I don't expect repayment.

D - If I can afford to help (a family member), I feel it is my responsibility to do so. But rather than continue to get nickel-and-dimed, I would sit down with them and look at giving a lump sum for the year with no other asks allowed during that period.

Source: Lending money to family members, at CNN Money Magazine:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

15 TRILLION Naira target

Mr. Olusegun Aganga just resumed his new job as Nigeria's Minister for Commerce and Investment. He was Minister of Finance before being returned to this new (post-election) cabinet.

According to him, the mandate of the Ministry is to contribute to the financing of the Nigerian economy by raising N15 trillion naira from the private sector. I think the job description fits his background, and thus I expect a resounding success.

There have been other ideal appointments to the cabinet as well, notably the return of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to head the Ministry of Finance. It's not just hype, she will be a good shepherd of the Nigerian economy (I don't mean taking us to the slaughter though :)

Monday, July 04, 2011

The mood

On the one hand, people are working hard and innovating. There is a lot of motion in the streets. There is a lot of "starting up" and a lot of competition.

A painting (unknown title) depicting workers, by Olumide Oresegun

On the other hand, many people have no money - they are unemployed, or they have worked and not received pay. Wondering if we will get there - will Nigeria be wealthy in the near future? I have a good feeling...

Previously on UpNaira