No. 36: The Fight Continues for Governance and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Independence

Key Points

1. The saga around the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria governor continues;
2. The Central Bank governor is handily backing up his reputation;
3. President Jonathan could get a black eye from this fight; and
4. The independence of the Central Bank of Nigeria is in the balance.

The Saga

The February 20 suspension of Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi for “financial recklessness and misconduct” drew many a side-eye. Two months prior to the suspension announcement, Governor Sanusi made claims that Nigeria’s National Petroleum Company had failed to repatriate 49.8 billion USD to the government, before reducing the claim to 20 billion USD.

Governor Sanusi challenged his suspension on the grounds that it is illegal for the President to suspend the Central Bank Governor under the Central Bank of Nigeria Act. This past Thursday, Nigeria’s High Court declined to rule on Governor Sanusi’s challenge. Check out Governor Sanusi’s response.

The suspension is not the only issue Governor Sanusi is dealing with. The Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria is pushing to investigate his use of 1 billion USD while CBN Governor. Nigeria’s High Court has struck down to-date and Governor Sanusi has provided a detailed response.

Dueling Reputations

Governor Sanusi points to the stability of the Central Bank of Nigeria and its effectiveness in fixing the country’s banking system, controlling inflation, and stabilizing currency as wins. The global investing community has taken note and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Governor Sanusi advising other central banks on their activities when the dust settles – unless the forensic audit of the NNPC proves the company’s financials to be in good shape.

President Jonathan, on the other hand, could be licking his wounds from this fight and the continued threat of Boko Haram in parts of the country. The results forensic audit of the NNPCs financials will serve as vindication for one or the other.

Central Bank Independence

The bottom line is that this situation has big implications for the independence of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Will future governors have Governor Sanusi’s fate on their minds when making decisions? If so, we could very well see the slow unwinding of the governance structure Governor Sanusi helped develop.

No. 35: What I’m Reading Today

Davidson profiled Muna Musiitwa on her work in Africa. Great nuggets on key questions for mapping the way forward on the continent – [http://buff.ly/1ojta8X]

Jason Njoku does some nice analysis on property values in Lagos in parallel with tech investments – [http://buff.ly/1ojtfsY]

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has paid a good bit of attention to Africa, including a $10M initiative to support the development of financial journalism – [http://buff.ly/1ojtkgt]

Ben Leo, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, provides six key things the Millenium Challenge Corporation should focus on – [http://buff.ly/1n4f3Vb]

My Nigerian brother, Odini Nwakuche, is making waves with his clothing venture – [http://buff.ly/1n4f8Iv]

No. 34: Zendesk IPO Predicts Dropifi’s Future

The Dropifi team probably felt chills running through their bodies while watching Zendesk’s share price rise 49 percent on day one of its IPO on Thursday, and then reach a $1B market cap on its second day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Here’s why:

1. Big Sandbox – In its Form S-1 filing, Zendesk highlights International Data Corporation intel pointing to the customer relationship management market being $20.7B, as of 2012. Zendesk did $72M in revenue in 2013. Couple that with IDC’s projection that software as a service (SaaS) platforms will grow 10x faster than legacy platforms in a world with 76M small-to-medium sized businesses, and you get the picture. Zendesk has 42,000 customers. Dropifi has 8,000 customers. Dropifi has a lot of sand to work with to build its own castle.

2. Little Sibling Effect – I’m the oldest of my siblings and after breaking through many new seasons of life, I’ve watched my siblings do everything better than me. Dropifi has the same opportunity to watch Zendesk’s missteps and capitalize on the lessons learned. This will be critical in customer acquisition. With more than 8,000 customers, Dropifi is behind the 10,000 customers Zendesk had in its fourth year of operation.

In David Cummings’ post last night, he pointed to design as one of the big differentiators between the first and second generation SaaS companies. Dropifi may have some work to do to compete with Zendesk here. This has been a tough post to write because I want to pull out my yoga mat every time I pull up the Zendesk site.

The bottom line is that Dropifi has an opportunity to scale massively. After hearing David Osei, CEO of the company, speak at Harvard’s Africa Business Conference, the company certainly has the hunger to make this happen. More than 10 500Startups companies, which recently eclipsed the 500 mark, have been acquired. Dropifi is already the incubator’s first Africa-originated company. If Dropifi can avoid acquisition by Zendesk, Salesforce, or another player in the CRM space, perhaps we could see it be 500Startups’ first company to reach IPO-status. 

What else? Do you think Dropifi has what it takes to compete with the likes of Zendesk?

No. 33: What’s Your Reputation?

Your reputation is powerful. I recently sat in on a workshop covering best practices for managing one’s reputation. The three prevailing themes were:

1. What do you perceive your reputation to be?
2. What do you want your reputation to be?
3. How do you plan to make your desired reputation a reality?

None of these is very helpful if you do not know what your reputation actually is. That requires the hard work of going to someone and asking them to tell you about yourself.

I will never forget the wise words of Margaret, one of my middle school classmates. I’m walking to the school bus after classes had ended for the day, making all kinds of pompous comments. I was that not-cool kid who tried extra hard to fit in. Foolish.

Finally, Margaret got fed up and stopped me before getting on her bus: “You think you’re the s%#t, but you’re not.”

If I was born with a tail, it would have been tucked all the way between my legs. I had an idea of what I wanted my reputation to be, but had lost sight of what my real reputation was. I had no idea that humility rather than jackass-like behavior was necessary in managing my reputation. Margaret’s insights helped me re-calibrate.

So, before you receive an unpleasant dose of medicine like that served to me by Margaret, develop a level of self-awareness by:

1. Identifying a core group of people who represent the various parts of your life;
2. Asking the people in that group for their observations of what your reputation is;
3. Getting their thoughts on what you might do to maintain, repair, or enhance your reputation;
3. Asking for them to encourage you whenever they notice you making positive gains and to hold you accountable when they see you stepping backwards; and
4. Checking back in periodically with this group to gauge how your reputation is changing.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17

What else? What other things are key to managing your reputation?

No. 32: Reflections from NYU Africa Economic Forum

“I don’t feel pressure from being the President of the Toronto Raptors. I feel pressure from Africa.”  The energy that entered the room when Masai Ujiri said that at yesterday’s NYU Africa Economic Forum is why I am still awake.

Masai went on to say that his work would be a waste if he didn’t have any impact in Africa to show for being NBA Executive of the Year or potentially winning an NBA championship. Boom!

Masai’s speech was the highlight of the NYU Africa Economic Forum, though three ideas from other speakers really got my brain going and I may dive deeper on them later this week.

Makhtar Diop, World Bank VP for Africa, explained how pursuing a credit rating for Senegal while he was Minister of Finance provided investors data they could understand, subsequently increasing their level of interest in placing capital in the country. 

Ken Ofori Attah, retired CEO of Databank, stressed the importance of Diasporans marketing Africa well. 

Eric Guichard, CEO of Gravitas Capital and Homestrings, highlighted the opportunity for the structuring of projects to satiate the perceived lack of capital and projects from the perspectives of companies and investors, respectively. 

Kudos to the NYU Africa Economic Forum team for keeping me up way past my bedtime!

What else? What ideas struck you at the NYU Africa Economic Forum?

No. 31: Here’s My Issue with the IMF/World Bank Africa Rising Seminar

When I first saw, the agenda for the Africa Rising seminar at this year’s IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings, I posted a tweet:

Probably not the wisest thing to not provide any context. So, here goes.

My issue with the seminar is the makeup of the panels. I believe there could be a greater representation of African academics and practitioners. Currently, 30 percent of the panelists are African nationals. Considering that the topic is Africa, this strikes me as odd.

Consider the following promotion of the Africa Rising Conference slated to take place in Mozambique next month.

The Government of Mozambique and the IMF will convene a high-level conference in 2014 to take stock of Africa’s strong economic performance, its increased resilience to shocks, and the key ongoing economic policy challenges. The Africa Rising conference will be held May 29-30, 2014, in Maputo. The event is intended to follow up on the 2009 Tanzania Conference, which helped galvanize international support for Africa after the 2008 financial crisis. The conference will bring together policymakers from Africa and beyond, the private sector, civil society, academics, and private foundations with the goal of sustaining the current growth and sharing its benefits among African populations.    

I find the statement in bold odd considering the relative struggles much of the rest of the international community faced after the financial crisis. Furthermore, the statement defaults to Africa somehow being dependent on externally driven development. I think the structure of this week’s Africa Rising seminar could potentially do the same.

Afara Global exists to see a world in which African and Western countries engage economically at an eye-to-eye level. To do that, you need the right people at the table. While the majority of the panelists are quite impressive, I think the right people are not all present – at least not in this seminar.

A few candidates come to mind for future reference:

Amadou Hott runs Senegal’s newly established sovereign wealth fund and chairs the development of the country’s new airport.

Rolake Akinkugbe is Head of Energy, Oil and Gas Research at Ecobank.

Alexander Chikwanda serves as Zambia’s minister of finance. As Africa’s biggest producer of copper, the country has had to deal with global copper prices while driving inclusive growth at home.

Yaw Nyarko is Professor of Economics at New York University and is Director of the university’s Africa House and focuses his research on technology and economic development, and has done work on human capital.

Dambisa Moyo is CEO of the Mildstorm Group and has a global view on economics and development from an African perspective.

Rentia van Tonder is Head of Renewable Energy, Power and Infrastructure at Standard Bank.

Akinwumi Adesina is Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and has earned a lot of attention for his efforts to grow Nigeria’s agriculture sector. He could speak to inclusive growth and structural transformation and economic diversification.

Who are some people you think would make for good panelists?

No. 30: I Enjoyed Speaking at Yale’s Sankofa54 Conference

I am on the train headed back from Sankofa54: The Youth Empowerment Conference, nicely put on by the Yale Undergraduate Association of African Peace and Development. I spoke on a panel addressing Africans Investing in Africa, an issue that has kept
me awake at night since high school. The other panelists were Solomme Lemme, founder of Africans in the Diaspora, and Adewumi Mobolaji, special advisor to the CEO at Aso Savings and Loans Bank.

Solomme challenged the audience to imagine the impact 1 percent of the 60 billion dollars that is remitted to African countries could have on development if targeted towards initiatives focused on creating transformative change on the continent.

Adewumi covered macro developments that are creating the environment for increased investment on the continent, while also highlighting challenges that are still present in the quest for a strong investment climate on the continent.

I found a way to weave an Anansi story into my talk – major win.

One of today’s keynote addresses came from Ladi Delano, an entrepreneur who has been getting it done for about a decade. He made some great points on the need for the extermination of Africa’s corruption problem. He discussed the need for greater manufacturing to meet consumer demand. He cited a recent meeting he had with the head of Massmart Nigeria and how little sense it made to him learning that all of its products are imported.

Another keynote speaker was Obinna Ukwauni, a senior economics major at MIT. Beast. This guy has started an initiative to teach robotics to secondary school students in Nigeria with support from organizations like Shell and Innoventures – quite impressive. He plans to use this as a step towards launching a school in Nigeria in partnership with MIT’s Media Lab.

Last night, Nobel Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee discussed the challenges of being a mother and in-demand activist. She did not regret having missed a significant portion of some of her children’s lives on account of her belief that she was laying the foundation for their futures. Tough.

I was really impressed that undergraduates put on a conference of this caliber and I appreciate YAAPD inviting me to speak. I look forward to next time!