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BusinessDay 13 April 2018

Friday

Friday 13 April 2018 28 BUSINESS DAY FEATURE Promoting infrastructure maintenance in Nigeria through ‘ownership culture’ Poorly maintained infrastructure depresses the quality of lives and contributes to anti-social behaviour that threatens the socio-political environment. Eliezer Workplace Management, a leading facility management firm in Africa aims to change this, writes ENDURANCE OKAFOR. It was a Saturday evening and hundreds of Lagosians are attending a wedding reception at the Tafawa Balewa Square. It was a gathering of the bourgeoisie mixed with the proletariat. There was much merry, eating and drinking. It is said that nothing is free but there were free food and drinks in this occasion to go round. The only problem was that there were no toilets anywhere in the complex where these Lagosians who had so much to eat and drink would go. Due to lack of a comfort station, the guests turned the complex into a huge public toilet. The putrid smell polluted the environment and made it uncomfortable for anyone hanging around for long period of time. This reflects how Nigerians treat public facilities and infrastructure. In many countries of the world, including South Africa, citizens imbibe what is generally known as ‘ownership culture’ in infrastructure maintenance and management. Ownership culture in this context alludes to a situation where citizens and government treat public infrastructure and facilities exactly the same way they handle their private property. Few years ago in South Africa, a national fought another compatriot for throwing a plastic can outside a public bus. The attitude of South Africans to public infrastructure is that it is theirs and they must guard it. However, this is not the case with Nigerians, especially in Lagos. According to experts, ownership culture is beneficial not just to the citizens but also to the government. “To participate effectively and actively in management and maintenance of infrastructures, we need to take ownership of those in our communities,” David Korede, the Executive Director of Eliezer Workplace Management, told Business- Day by mail. Apart from making cities attractive to visitors, it reduces the number of communicable diseases in the country and elongates the people’s lifespan. Experts say Nigeria needs to spend three to four percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure building and maintenance. Much of the expenditure goes to maintaining existing infrastructure stock. Ownership culture helps to reduce maintenance spend on the part of the governments at the three tiers of government, enabling to concentrate on developing new infrastructure. Experts in the facility management sector, such as Eliezer Workplace Management recommend the concept of ownership culture, as ownership does not only have to do with rights, liberties and powers but also carries with it corresponding burdens in the nature of duties, liabilities and disabilities which prescribe and regulate how an owner should utilise his property or infrastructure for their own benefit and also that of others. The exponential growth of the population in Lagos State brings with it a unique challenge of inadequate infrastructure and a maintenance plan that is grossly insufficient for the sheer number of people who utilise public infrastructure. A large flock of people migrate to Lagos on a daily basis in the hopes of getting opportunities and scarce white collar jobs. Akinwumi Ambode, Governor of Lagos state at a public function said that on average, about 123,000 people migrate to Lagos daily from different parts of Nigeria. If half that number truly migrates to Lagos every day then there is truly magnificent nightmare in terms of infrastructural sufficiency in relations to the population. Meanwhile, the Lagos State Waste Management disclosed that the centre of excellence generates between 12,000 metric tons to 13,000 metric tons of waste daily. This is generated by an estimated 20 million population which are said to be inhabitants of the most populous city in Africa. Lagos population in 1871 stood at 28,000 and grew to about 252,000 in the 1970’s, today, Lagos population is one of the highest around the world, and it almost same as the population of Ghana. Considering these numbers, it is necessary therefore to have appropriate Assets and Facilities Management plan in the state, as effectively managed facilities in line with modern ways of organizing and structuring maintenance, will bring about the tendency for increase in life expectancy and sustainability of values. Maintenance of public properties is described as the combination of any continuous actions carried out to retain properties and infrastructure or restore it to an acceptable condition. Maintenance culture is concerned with the planning and control of construction resources to ensure that they are necessary take care of or repaired and renewal is also carried out with maximum efficiency and economy to enhance the quality of the property. Recent survey by Eliezer Workplace Management shows that adoption of ownership concept will have a positive effect on growth, economic stability and reduce cost of maintenance. Individual attitude, lack of proper maintenance culture has major influence on the present condition of the existing infrastructures. The idea of ‘Ownership Culture’ To participate effectively and actively in management and maintenance of infrastructures, we need to take ownership of those in our communities is encompassing; it involves accepting responsibility, personal accountability, creativity and innovation especially using ownership judgment and making independent but learned decisions in promoting growth and development. This sounds simple and straightforward, but taking ownership actually has a cultural dimension. In some cultures, it is expected and often times rewarded when people take ownership of tasks while it is punished and ridiculed in some cultures. In Nigeria, the culture does not support or reward independent and innovative thinking especially when the risks of failure are considered too high or when the consequences of failure may be too steep to bear. This leads therefore to the premise of adopting ownership culture to management of Lagos State Assets, Infrastructure & Environment and also to the country at large. The Lagos-based, leading facility Management, Eliezer Workplace Management, introduced an initiative tagged “My Lagos, Our Lagos,” this was derived from finding a balance between Policies that government can create, to how every day Lagosian engage the policies and its interaction with the infrastructures and environment. Maintenance culture in Nigeria is one of the lowest around the world, especially, in principal towns and cities like Lagos where the majority of public properties and infrastructures are located. In the rural areas, the story is different and pleasant to hear. The traditional practice of communal clearing of community owned places such as market playground is in almost every village and in private homes. Also, it is customary to refurbish building interiors with mixtures of cow dung or natural red clay. The end result is attractive and totally indigenous. While on the other hand, low priority is accorded to property management in the urban areas which leads to neglect of public infrastructures. There are also little or no maintenance policies and therefore no such culture exists. Neglect of maintenance has accumulated consequences in rapid increase in the deterioration of the fabric and finishes of public infrastructure, accompanied by a harmful effect on the contents users (the residents and beneficiaries of the infrastructures). Due to poor maintenance culture on one hand and partly due to the absence of an appropriate benchmark, the life of these public infrastructural development do not last before reaching the total obsolescence state. When this happens, it becomes a big problem for both the government and the inhabitants of the state, and as such there is the need for both parties to treat such infrastructure as though they were their private investment, in order to get the best of the development through proper maintenance policy and habits. Knowing that only knowledgeable citizens make informed decision, Eliezer Workplace Management, director, Korede said “the company is committed to taking the practice of Facilities Management in Africa to International best practice through education, technology, and information using Nigeria as a pilot.” All Lagosian who works and reside in Lagos will eventually arrive at a crucial intersection, also with the government involvement in both maintenance and infrastructural development, this initiative believes at some point, the residents of Lagos state will turn right and buy-in to attitude of ownership management style regardless of status, tribe gender and ethnicity. Turning this direction means that every resident will be ready to work in same direction and put a stop into improper utilization and management of state infrastructure or facilities. The Lagos State and Nigeria government by extension are also to play their part by engaging its citizenry on ownership concept awareness across the length and breadth of the state by establishing a social group to re-engineer the society. Sensitization of the populace to achieving positive waste management culture towards proper waste handling and disposal cannot be overemphasized.

Friday 13 April 2018 C002D5556 BUSINESS DAY 29 INTERVIEW ‘At CWG, our business model puts us ahead of competition’ Technology no doubt has redefined the business environment and service delivery to customers. Adewale Adeyipo, vice president, Sales & Marketing, CWG in this interview with Modestus Anaesoronye explains how businesses are riding on technology for value creation. How will you assess the Nigerian business environment? Business on its own cannot function without the environment, and that is why there is interdependence between them. Business activities can only do well in favorable and viable environment. Oftentimes, such environment is influenced by major government policies, and the availability of infrastructure in any society largely affects the ease of doing business in that environment. Nigeria’s business environment in the recent years hasn’t been the best for an average entrepreneur and SMEs. It is characterized with fear and so much uncertainty. Fear on its own is a feeling induced by perceived danger, and this has a way of affecting business decisions because you have little or no power to control the consequence. One however can create measures and processes to navigate business dealings around it of course with some level of caution. Uncertainty is extremely bad for business, and so leaves you with no boundaries. Businesses don’t like to be in such situation where possible outcomes (good or bad) will be difficult to predict. Business environment like the social, political, cultural and economic factors greatly influence the level of FDI, and Nigeria is not immune to this. In Nigeria, several factors affect the advancement of businesses, and these factors make Nigeria’s business environment unfriendly and unsafe for investment. How will you assess Nigeria’s competitive brands and marketing landscape over the years? The unpredictable consumer behavior has largely influenced and also contributed positively to the remarkable yet competitive brand positioning we have witnessed in recent years. The production of goods and services has shifted from what we think it’s appropriate and ideal to produce, to understanding the target audience and the entire ecosystems of such products and services. The intelligence and quality of data required is huge and must be reliable. The population in Nigeria will continue to be strength for the country and the same has become the major driving force for major multinationals coming into the country despite the unconducive business environment. However, due to the lack of economic growth (increase in purchasing power) of the lower class and medium class, most of these organisations are recycling the same customers especially for premium goods. This has resulted to the highly competitive Adewale Adeyipo environment for major brands. The key asks are: What does the consumer want, how best can we produce it and offer the same, what competitors does best and what our brand is great at?. Major concentration will be on what the brand is great at. Again, the use of social media has also become a perfect marketing tool for building brand awareness. What is the future of the business and why do you think your services will continue to remain relevant? We are enabling growth using technology. We are a platform service provider leveraging technology to enable growth. The truth is, technology is vital to the success of almost every company in every industry. Whether it’s healthcare, retail, or any other industry, they all need technology for various reasons. From optimisation, automation, cost savings, creating new revenue channel etc. The good news is that technology is perceived to be a ‘problem solver’ hence the need for it is on the rise. Share with us your core values and operational philosophy that drives the operation of CWG ‘Can do Spirit’, despite challenges in the environment? Customer first, that is why you will find CWG CEO in a customer’s office for support issues, that is the core of our operati At CWG, how do you intend to deploy creativity to further boost Returns on Investment (ROI)? We understand the business of technology, where technology by itself is a means to an end. We are simplifying the application of technology to enable growth. Technology is an enabler but can also be a problem and overwhelming if not properly managed. Organisations tend to forget and neglect their core operations; battling with the same business enabler they have deployed to enhance growth. At CWG Plc, we are deploying solutions to address these challenges. We are focusing on the expected outcome for these organisations taking away the complexity of IT deployment. A bank is deploying ATMs to enhance its operations, discourage the inflow of customers in the bank branches; but the challenges encountered deploying and maintaining these ATMs is more than the problem they were trying to address in the first place. From I.T staff cost, huge capex budget, service availability, staying abreast of technology solutions, new inventions/ roadmaps etc. can be quite burdensome. Today we are deploying ATM as a service to the financial institutions, where the expected end result which is customer’s accessibility to financial services is the focus. Absorbing the financial institutions of all the IT concerns is one of our key roles. Financial institutions can focus on their core operations, while we enable growth deploying solution in line with their business objectives. We create solutions for SMEs to grow their business with less concern on the technology that drive the business. Today we have tailored ERP platforms for various sectors of the economy. Our solution enables SMEs to keep track of their business accounts, record sales, create and send invoices to customers, track expenditures and generate reports, which ultimately can be used to make better business decisions. All these are done without the complexity of deploying a huge IT infrastructure or IT budget. Same for Insurance, Cooperatives, Health, Transportation. We are playing in all the major segments of the economy enabling business and co-creating with relevant stakeholders. Access competition in the market, and share with us your unique selling proposition? Competition is about creativity. Your brilliant innovation is as good and valid as the minute it was launched. Anyone can create an add-on from where you stopped or create a new product or services to address the gaps in your product. The answer to this is that you have to keep thinking. Getting better at what you do. To stay ahead always requires a lot of brain power and intuitive ability. In CWG, we leverage on the knowledge and trust earned over the years from our ‘over 150 corporate clients in all sectors of the economy. We have transited from the ‘what question’ to the ‘why’. Understanding the customers’ business and providing the solution that answers the why? We say ‘Why do you need this technology/ solution and not necessarily what technology do you need’. With this in mind, we have been able to create value and longtime strategic partners. In the area of growth projection, where do you see CWG in the next 5years? CWG will be one of the leading service platform provides out of Africa in 4-5 years. We are well positioned for that. The company has repositioned itself, reengineered its operations, people and process to harness the opportunities before us. After 25 years of doing business and providing services to major corporations in Nigeria and west-Africa, being strategic partners to major multinationals, you can be sure we understand the market trend and we are responding appropriately. We understand the new definition of customer service as regards deployment of IT and value creation. We understand the season we are in; going by our knowledge of the Nigeria IT world and supported by events in other similar economy like ours; we made a paradigm shift using the learning’s of 25 years which is a lot of sacrifice for the company, so that we can remain relevant for a long time. CWG will be around for a long time creating incredible and innovative services in and out of Africa. How do you maximise this target position to take the brand to the next level in 2018? Today, in CWG, I’m responsible for sales, marketing and product management. Our people are the first major asset we have and we will continue to leverage on this. We have created and still creating a lot of campaigns and road shows on brand awareness especially on some of our products and services. We have some unique services/ products that will position the organisation as one of the top minds in innovation in this country. Our smart metering solution, our ERP platform (built purposely for this market), our solution on mobile financial services to mention a few. We have a dedicated team in product management that keep abreast of happenings in the technology world and advise the organisation on the next big things to focus on. We do a detailed market survey and we prioritize these activities based on market needs/ demands, trends and identified gaps especially in our immediate world. Manpower development is key to the growth of every organisation, what is your approach to training? Training is one of the basic policies in the organisation. Going by the customer base and the rate in which we churn out solutions, we have to continuously train our resources. Today, we have other 30 high end software developers and testers that cannot be static in their knowledge. We have over 400 outsourced enterprise technical resources/ consultants working with major multinationals in Nigeria and West Africa; we support a large percentage of ATMs across 36 states in Nigeria, managing, supporting and doing customisation and over 10 commercial banks on their core banking application. All these could have only been done through intensive trainings and retraining of our staff. We also leverage our partnerships with major technology providers and OEMs across the globe to enhance the skills sets of our employees. We have structured and exchange programs for skills acquisition and knowledge transfer. To support our business and customers, we started a training academy in 2010, where we train and engage fresh graduates in our training facilities. We provide classroom and practical knowledge on all our solutions for 3 months. The most qualified ones after the 3 months program are often employed by the company. These are measures we are taking to ensure adequate empowerment for our people.

24 Seven April 2018