Why are Nigerian brands not on Nairaland and other local social media platforms?

Nairaland was social media before social media became anything in Nigeria. While it has failed to match its potentials, at least when compared with what Facebook and others have become, it retains its potency. In fact, every time a top Nigerian brand gets slammed on the site, the Executives quake.

Despite the impressive page views, none of the major Nigerian brands have a presence or spends on Nairaland. And it’s not about Nairaland alone; same goes for most homegrown social media websites such as World Junction, Naija Pals, etc.

Is there something wrong with local social media websites that the average Joe like me doesn’t know?

Social media has become so critical to branding and marketing that companies that don’t do it are practically toying with death. Well, nobody is going to get shot for not going online, but it’s now an existential risk eschewing social media.

The significance of social media in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Nigerians are said to be the most mobilized country in the world where 76% of all internet traffic run through our mobile phones despite the crappy data service served by the Telcos. Nigeria also has the highest number of Facebook users in Africa. I don’t know if that counts for anything but at least, it got Zuckerberg to get on the plane and see what’s happening out here in Lagos. So a company that doesn’t reach out to eyeballs where they congregate is only wasting its time.

You only need to visit profile pages of major companies in Nigeria to see how important they take social media. Hardly do you find any of these companies without dedicated teams just creating content on Facebook, YouTube, etc. on a daily.

This is apparent because social media companies are no longer small boys. Check out the following facts: Facebook is worth a whopping $331.39B as of December 2, 2016, while Mark himself is now the 6th richest homo sapiens, worth $51.7B, just from sharing updates and videos of cats and naked girls. Snapchat, which was invented just like yesterday, has been valued at $20B. Microsoft just bought LinkedIn for $26.2B (Just give me the change on top, I swear, I will stop ranting forever!). Facebook bought Instagram and WhatsApp for a combined $20B.

The smallest of the major Social Media is larger than most countries; Facebook (1.79B) is bigger than China (1.4B).

Ok, we get it, social media is important!!

With all the money spent on social media, why are Nigerian social media sites not benefiting from the spends? Or why are Nigerian companies not spending on Nigerian websites?

So many arguments exist:

The Nigeria social media environment is not big enough.

Some argue that social media in Nigeria is not big or the local websites don’t attract viewers. The assertion is simply not true as there are metrics to show otherwise. Nairaland has more engagement in Nigeria than Facebook. It currently ranks as the 7th most visited website while Facebook comes in as 8th. Many major stories are broken on Linda Ikeji, Bella Naija, Nairaland, etc. Those who love tatafo know where they tune their antennas.

Nigerian social media is unstructured for structured brands

Home grown social media in Nigeria is like Oshodi market where area boys reign supreme. That is true, a trip through Nairaland is like walking in a Brazilian Favela. But Nairaland is tame compared to Reddit, where vitriol and porn rain down like typhoon. Top brands, such as Amazon, HTC, Red Bull, Ford, Nordstrom, etc. are making a kill on Reddit. Reddit has also hosted top names like Bill Gates, Obama (yes, Obama!) on a section called AMA (ask me anything).

Nigerian brands prefer foreign platforms

Colonial mentality or social media imperialism where nothing homegrown is good enough? However, when you figured out that Linda Ikeji bought her N600M mansion in Banana from money made online in Nigeria then the argument falls flat!

So the question is – why do companies in Nigeria shun local social media. I’m not talking about advertisement but creating a profile and reaching out.

Telcos, banks, and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG – there is an acronym for everything) are the largest spenders on marketing in Nigeria. I don’t know the fraction of the global spend of $23.68B that came from Nigeria, but I know it should amount to something substantial, at least from the Nigerian perspective. What if a portion of what we spend is diverted to social media websites such as World Junction and Nairaland? If the world is expecting a 26.3% increase in spending on social media ads in 2017, shouldn’t Nigeria grow even much more?

Why I may not know the actual answers to this debacle, I know they have to do much more to become the platform of choice for brands and advertisers. They need to engage more, provide robust tools needed for targeting, curating and analytics. Going back to basic level, they even need business development executives to go after potential brands.

Who shall tell our stories?

I have spent the last few months reading, researching and discussing with many payments industry experts on what the new wave of FinTech and payment innovations mean for the world, Africa, you and most importantly me.

I’m sorry that I have to use the FinTech jargon. Just like big data, cloud, etc. FinTech as a buzzword is already annoying the heck out of me!

Opinions, just like the sands of the Eleko beach, are many, cheap and quickly forgettable. However, what is not disputable, is that a lot of innovative things are happening all over the world and it is likely that the financial world as we know it may be gone soon.

Meanwhile, if I ask the average Joe or Jane, as the case may be, about the companies leading these packs, you get fancy names like Atom, WeBank, Ant Financials, Stripe, N26, Monzo, etc. Everyone is talking about BlockChain, Open Banking, PSD2, Trump, etc. So where is Africa?

Before anything else, I need to say that Africa is not a country!

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many companies doing fantastic things in different countries in Africa, but the average African doesn’t know about them. Yeah, you want to mention M-Pesa? Vodafone invented M-Pesa for Safaricom in Kenya and Vodacom in Tanzania and partly funded by DFID.

While the world is begging the USA to start doing instant interbank transfer, Nigeria and other countries like Zimbabwe have been doing it for centuries, but who knows? Outside of Africa, more people know about UK’s faster payments than Zimbabwe’s ZIPIT. Does ZIPIT means “to keep quiet”?

Tax collection is a mess in Nigeria, but the TSA platform from Remita is sufficiently more advanced than what can found in other countries, but who knows?

mCash, recently launched in Nigeria, promises to upend merchant payments but hardly did the story get beyond the border before it was rudely sent back home.

MyCash is a pure-play digital bank in Zimbabwe run out of a tiny office on a shared infrastructure, but I can bet that you are reading about it here for the first time.

Africans may not have achieved the level of development seen in western countries and Asia, but not everyone has been sitting around climbing iroko trees. However, while we may be furiously developing payment and other technology solutions, hardly do we get the word out.

If we think others will tell our stories, we may have to wait until chicken grow teeth. Letting the world know isn’t just about the beautiful 15 minutes of fame that everyone craves, but more importantly, to encourage our youth that good things are also possible in Africa.

Even though the technology behind M-Pesa may have come from Vodafone, the airtime it got spurred the rapid development of mobile money across Africa, and it is one of the good things exported by Africa to the world.

We need more beautiful stories to be told. But much more, we need storytellers.

mCash would change the future of payments in Nigeria

The Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), along with numerous banks, have launched mCash as an alternative payment system in the populous country in Africa.

mCash rides on USSD and anyone can easily use the code to make payments at large stores, corner shops, etc. The mCash payment system, which is automatically available to over 28 million account holders in Nigeria, can be used with any smart or feature phone.

The Central Bank of Nigeria has been pushing electronic payments in Nigeria for years. The elaborate program, dubbed Cash-less Nigeria, was driven massively in partnership with banks, switches, schemes and other stakeholders. The results have been fantastic as electronic payments in Nigeria is on a tear.

Despite the massive success of the Cash-less Nigeria program, merchant payments using Point of Sales (POS) terminals have not been as successful. Payments at POS terminals have been bedeviled with a lot of issues: High cost of terminals, which has been exacerbated by the devalued Naira. Poor telco data/GPRS infrastructure. Overregulation of participation and fees, which has made the business to be highly unprofitable. The list of issues goes on.

It was no surprise that banks started pulling back. Many at times, merchants desirous of having terminals are not given because they may not have enough transactions to allow the banks breakeven.

Not deterred by these, NIBSS and some banks rallied around to design a new payment system which would latch on to the recent success of the USSD banking in Nigeria.

Rising from the ashes of mobile money in Nigeria, another failed experiment in the quest for a cashless society, banks quickly repurposed their USSD codes to connect directly to bank accounts instead of mobile wallets. As the average Nigerian is already used to using USSD codes to load airtime or select call back tunes, there was an immediate affinity. USSD banking in Nigeria now has more users than all other channels apart from payment cards.

The mCash payment system allows account holders to dial their bank codes or a special general purpose code and then pay any merchant. The paying customers and merchants do not need to be with the same bank. The transactions ride on the existing NIBSS Instant Payment infrastructure. Merchants get settled instantly instead of waiting until the next day as it would be for POS transactions. Banks do not need to create additional back office processes as the payment transactions are treated like regular NIP transfer payments.

Even the merchants love the new system as they would not need to pay interchange or MSC.

This is a new payment system and the jury is still out on how transformational it could be. It has all the potentials of a successful platform: reach, ease of use and cost to merchants.

Understanding the MMM Absurdity

My recent post on MMM Ponzi drew divergent responses. On Bella Naija, my backside was practically roasted with the vitriolic comments from those who feel that MMM is a divine intervention. After all, why is it my problem if someone wants to start a bonfire with his money?

On LinkedIn, the responses are direct opposite. Almost everyone agreed that MMM is a scam and only a stupid person would do it. Of course, there are few guys on LinkedIn who share the opinion that it isn’t my problem.

Truth be told, it is really not my problem.

But then, the troublemaker in me wouldn’t just roll over and die. How else can I describe the absurdity of MMM but to do a simulation of the investment with hyper-return?

So let’s say James, a friend of mine, decides to “invest” N1,000,000 in MMM by January 2017. If he doesn’t touch the money and keeps re-investing capital and interest, this is what he gets by January 1, 2018. A stratospheric 2,230% return!

Initial Seed 1,000,000
January 1,300,000
February 1,690,000
March 2,197,000
April 2,856,100
May 3,712,930
June 4,826,809
July 6,274,852
August 8,157,307
September 10,604,499
October 13,785,849
November 17,921,604
December 23,298,085
2,230%

My birthday is January, and considering I would be hitting a major milestone in 2018, I should expect a fantastic gift from James, right? Wrong! I can bet that James would be dead-ass broke by then.

Trust me, if such a guarantee return exists, all we need Buhari to do is ask Aunty Kemi, the Minister of Finance, to put in about N100B and he can use the N2.3 trillion Nigeria would get by January 2018 to fix Lagos-Ibadan Express road, fund the outstanding salaries of the APC governors’ states, build 3 more refineries and drop in about N200B for 2018 investment. Come 2019, we will have N4.6B to spend. It’s election year and we will return Buhari with all happiness.

For me, I can put in N10M and just chill for a year; a year’s wait doesn’t kill anyone. With N232M, I can make a foray into real estate and live the rest of my pipe dream life in luxury.

It doesn’t make sense right? Yes, it doesn’t!

MMM Ponzi – There is always a Mugu in Lagos!

I was doing a random research of recent and stumbled on the current list of top websites in Nigeria (October 2016). The list is dominated by the usual names – Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Nairaland, Linda Ikeji and MMM Office. Wait, what’s MMM Office?

It’s a Ponzi scheme and it has its own Wikipedia page. It has taken Nigeria by storm, so much some people are almost selling their cousins just to invest money there. The relevant authorities have however turned a blind eye, for now.  The Guardian Newspaper recently wrote about it; the comments from Nigerians would make you weep!

It’s amazing that 10 years after I wrote about Ponzi schemes in Nigeria, and that it would come back again, it actually did. Wait, does that make me a prophet? Of course, I’m not. If I was, I wouldn’t be blogging but flying my own private A380 around the world.

Deji, can you just concentrate? Focus!

10 years ago Nospecto ravaged Nigeria with promises of 106% return per annum. I remember quite a number of friends and colleagues (luckily no family members) piled in their salaries into the deal expecting a big payout because they knew someone who knew the cousin of the uncle of someone who got a payout. I’m lost!

It got so bad that many account officers of a certain bank used their customers’ money to do kalokalo. The bank later perished but it wasn’t because of this. I mean, who knows?

But that wasn’t even bad enough. Penny Wise came out with a scheme that blew my hat off!  This is how it worked. You give them a paltry N2,500 for a slot and over a period of 9 weeks, the scheme will pay out a cumulative of N251,390. Effectively, you multiply any amount you put inside by 100 in 9 weeks. Interesting!

I blogged about it and someone even said I would die of poverty! The vitriol was so caustic! I didn’t die, I’m not poor either but he got scammed.

Anyway, like all pyramids go, the bubble burst and the schemes went tits up.

It’s 2016 and MMM is the new King of Ponzi. Everyone is on it.

Everybody knows my stand on Ponzi schemes – if you do it, I cut off all ties with you. I have absolutely no apologies. Before you get your guns and take potshots, two reasons for my stance:

You sincerely believe that the MMM Ponzi Scheme is real

It means you lack an analytical brain and would walk right into an oncoming truck believing it’s Lego. I know some Ponzi schemes may appear legit and you need investment banking grade knowledge to unravel it. That’s understandable and if the illegality is explained to you, at least, you can comprehend and run for dear life. However, if you earnestly believe that MMM stands for something legit and logical, then you are probably not smart enough to be trusted with anything important.

You know that MMM is a Ponzi but want to take advantage

Ponzi schemes are as illegal as they come. Well, not as illegal as shooting someone or doing some of the things Donald Trump joked about. To take advantage of illegality just for the money means you are greedy, desperate and can do anything for money.

You are probably not someone I can trust with anything important.

I don’t run a business but I know that if a staff of mine does MMM, he’s on his way out.

I can bet my next month salary that the MMM Ponzi will collapse soon – either from its own weight or when the Central Bank moves in like they did 10 years ago.

See you in 2026

Well, I would be back in 10 years’ time to talk about the next Ponzi scheme. There will always be a Mugu in Lagos.

Addendum

I wrote the following articles 10 years ago. I didn’t have anyone to help proof-read then so be careful of the grammatical errors – don’t read aloud as you could choke.

NOSPETCO: A Classic Ponzi Scheme

Pennywise HYIB: The king of Absurdity

Original article on BellaNaija.com

Is Nigeria ready for digital banks?

There is so much confusion out there about what digital banks are. Bring a thousand self-proclaimed experts and you will probably get two thousand different definitions.

I am confused too, but for today, let’s pretend that I know what I want to say.

A digital bank, sometimes called a direct bank or online-only bank, is a type of bank where there are no branches and interactions with customers are through the internet, and of recent, mobile apps.

There is a distinction between mobile money and digital banks. Mobile money is usually a wallet accessible from mobile phones using SIM Tool Kits (M-Pesa by Safaricom in Kenya) or USSD (M-Pesa by Vodacom in Tanzania). Mobile money is primarily driven towards financial inclusion and the most successful examples are mobile telco led.

Mobile money is limited in features, have less than required interoperability with existing financial payment systems and for these reasons have failed in countries with a sizable chunk of middle-class population. MTN and Vodacom just shuttered their mobile money services in South Africa.

Digital banking is also different from mobile banking in the sense that mobile banking is banking on the mobile phone for accounts which are already opened in a traditional bank. So if you decide to smash your phone in the latest craze of clapping while taking a selfie, you can visit your nearest bank branch to wink at the new teller while taking cash over the counter.

Is Nigeria ready for a digital bank? Let’s analyze this from a simple point of view – what would it take to have a digital bank in Nigeria.

Regulation

Forget about the story of enabling technologies and a shift in demographics: Banking is a highly regulated business which the government has 150% interest in. There is a financial and documentary barrier to having a bank. N25B anyone? That aside, the Central Bank of Nigeria has different classes of banking licenses for which a digital bank type is conspicuously absent. Not to be deterred, some brave individuals are bootstrapping digital with minimal microfinance bank licenses. But having MFB as part of your brand is so meh.

Prospective Customers

Digital banking isn’t financial inclusion. One is driven by capitalism and the other by altruism. Digital banking is narrowly focused on middle-class customers who are tech savvy or comfortable enough to do their transactions away from the banking halls. Trust me, I’m one of them and our Nigerian local association is large enough.

Going to a bank branch in Nigeria is an exercise in self-flagellation. Sending someone else to a branch on your behalf is worse than water boarding. You endure endless traffic, you could get robbed coming back, the tellers don’t smile anymore (they were never smiling), you could age literarily standing in the queues for hours and when you get to the front of the queue, the system is down.

While mobile banking hasn’t been successful in Nigeria, it has been more of the poor back-end of the different banks. In fact, banks have been more inclined to open new branches and chase around for deposits than providing an awesome mobile or web experience.

Trust me, many of us would not miss going to a bank branch!

Trust

At no time in my life has my salary been good enough, so I don’t play with it at all. To hand over my hard-earned money to a digital bank without a branch where I can go make a scene or head-office where I can join others to picket is asking for too much.

I’m not so sure if the average Nigerian trusts an average Nigerian. Trust comes from ubiquity and longevity; a digital bank would need to be in the face of Nigerians for a while before it can be trusted. That would cost a lot of money in marketing – radio jingles, TV adverts, billboards, social media, tie-ins, etc.

During this love session, the digital bank must never ever, ever, ever, ever, make any mistake, if not the trust will deflate like a pricked balloon.

Customer Support

Things would go wrong, not once, not twice but as many times as it could go wrong. When this happens who will provide support? The contact centers of Nigerian companies are notorious for adding to problems and not solving them. Complaining about an emergency is an exercise in futility and even floor managers are impotent and wouldn’t help you.

A digital bank must build customer service into its core. It would be difficult but not impossible. Floor managers must also be able to make decisions.

Cost of transactions

Banking in Nigeria is very regulated much more than a C Compiler (if you get the joke). As Nigeria is still a cash-based economy, a digital bank with no debit card offering is DOD (Dead on Departure). However, giving cards would also be a DOA (Dead on Arrival) as the Central Bank mandates that the first 3 transactions are free for the customers (not the banks). A digital bank can probably never have its own ATM network. How would it fund it when it would cost at least N20M per ATM gallery?

I’m not a pessimist but I can’t figure out how it could be done at this time. Maybe an alliance with large banks? I don’t know any philanthropic bank in Nigeria who is ready for free ATM withdrawals for customers of digital banks.

Technology

Traditional banks are a mishmash of disparate systems held together by badly implemented integrations: Nothing works. Data are held in silos and never talk to each other. It’s a technological hell-fire where badly behaved bits and bytes are sent by the god of science.

These technologies are also insanely expensive and with USD beyond the reach of everyone, building a digital bank on available technologies is a business suicide.

The good news is that digital banks are mostly building their own technology stack (Atom, Starling, Simple, Monzo, Fidor, N26, etc.) and Nigerians have the intellectual chops to build better platforms than even these guys.

Established networks, especially MasterCard, are also lending their weight behind these initiatives to allow digital banks enter into mainstream interoperability.

Features

Traditional Nigerian banks offer everything and probably nothing. However, the average Joe like you and me just want a simple current or savings account, a debit card to go with it. You can throw us some overdraft or personal loan when we go broke. Let’s be able to send and receive money to/from other banks. Let’s be able to take cash from the ATM and when the dollar is available, let’s use our cards abroad.

We want an awesome mobile app. USSD banking is a must else don’t even bother talking to us. The internet app must be great and we don’t want to click until our fingers break just to do anything.

SMS and email alerts are compulsory and should get to us instantly. Don’t also lose our money to fraudsters. When we have transactions to dispute, don’t try to mock our intelligence or stretch our patience beyond limits. Let someone answer our calls and proffer intelligent analysis/solutions to our issues when we dial the Contact Center number.

These are not too much to ask for and I believe any digital bank worth its salt should be able to deliver them.

Conclusion

It has been a rambling long post but barring cost of transactions and technologies, digital banks can dip their toes into the storming river of Nigerian banking.

I think the country is ready now – there would be many casualties at first but over time, these digital natives could become behemoths, and you never know, appear in the top 10 of largest Nigeria banks.

 

5 mistakes I made mentoring

There is no greater joy, for me, than helping others achieve their career potentials. I’ve few things that really make me happy; mentoring is right there at the top. Followed by beans cooked in red oil. And then èbà with èfó rirò.

Just like my mentees, the mentoring journey has taught me quite a number of interesting things which I think would be nice to share with others who may want to annoy their younger friends and colleagues in the name of mentoring.

The joy of coaching others doesn’t mean it comes easy to me and those I mentor.  In fact I could be very exasperating while trying to help others: I’ve heard phrases like “Na by force?”, “Na fight?”, “E don do!

I’ve made a gazillion mistakes helping others achieve their dreams but the following 5 stand out remarkably.

My aspiration is not yours

When I was younger I wanted to be everything – from piloting a plane, to going to the moon and every random career in between. I finally found myself studying engineering in the university, which I barely excelled at, and eventually ended up a banker.

Guess what? I wanted all my mentees to work in banks. I extolled how banking is a nice career, how you could move up and own half of Banana Island.

Utter rubbish!

Luckily I learned quickly that as a mentor, my job is to help my mentees achieve or exceed their life’s goals and aspirations. Instead of shoehorning my own myopic career ideas into their already jaded brains, I started listening to them, discussing their ambitions and helping them move towards that.

Professional career is everything

I used to look down on people who wanted to do things that don’t fit into my narrow view of professional careers. How stupid I was!

Luckily nobody has been hurt yet as I never had the chance to force people talented in non-professional inclination into suits and ties. Imagine the damage I could have done to Usain Bolt if his mum was my cousin? He would probably be slaving his backside at some law firm now.

I’ve since understood that success comes in different flavors and at the beginning those who don’t want to be professionals may look different from me but it doesn’t mean they don’t know what they want to do.

Careers and family are zero sum

A colleague told a friend of mine that she thought I was cold to her because she wanted to get married. That wasn’t the reason but it showed how bad my view about family and career used to be.

To have an outstanding career, something has to give, but mine was on the extreme side.

It took a long time for me to come around to the fact that you can have a good family life and an outstanding career. It is going to be tough but tough things are what successful people do.

Competing with mentees

Sometimes I set goals for my mentees and I to achieve and most times I beat them hands down. It never had the right effect.

Mentees look up to me for strength not as competition and when they lose it had demoralizing effect on them.

I’ve since learned to coach, support, encourage and sometimes give a little kick to the back side but I would never again compete with my mentees. Next time I should take on competition of my own size.

Giving up easily

There is nothing as annoying as giving your time and effort to move a mentee ahead and he’s not measuring up: He’s taking time to slack off or doesn’t appreciate the effort. The natural thing for me was to think they weren’t serious or deserving of my time so I promptly bumped them off.

How wrong of me! Yes, it is still annoying but I’ve since learned that Rome wasn’t built in a day. No kid growing up has ever stopped walking just because of occasional tumbles. So I’ve learned to chill a bit and give as many second chances as I can muster. After all I used to be annoying too and others took second bets on me.

The upside to mistakes

Knowing nobody is perfect is the biggest step towards Nirvana and this has helped me more in life than anything else. Instead of killing myself from doing the wrong thing, I simply learned from it and moved on.

Making the same mistakes over and over again is a different story entirely – you may need a trip to Yaba Left to find out why your gear is stuck at 2. Like my old boss, Joshy, would say – mistakes are allowed, errors are unforgivable – whatever that means!

Finding good in a bad economy

It’s hard to see a silver lining in the awful economic cloud currently flogging Nigeria’s backside.

But as an unrepentant and obsessive optimist, I’m sure there would be something good to come of this. If history is anything to go by, quite a number people start their journeys to success when things go titsup.

Real Estate
Things are really cheap now, especially for my cousins abroad. In fact cost of houses are going down while dollars exchange rate is going in the other direction. So if you live outside Nigeria and you couldn’t afford to get your own place in Lagos or elsewhere previously, this is the time to do it.

Export
Some people have been doing export for a while but I think the time is ripe for Nigeria to go into export frenzy. We all know how to copy, let’s over copy and paste this!

Nigeria is full of abundance of everything except FX. For example, hide and skin from the north are processed for export to those making shoes and fancy bags. We have cashew, timber, shea butter, etc. It’s easy to get into the game.

Finding customers may be a bit tough so that’s a job you need to do. Quality is also an important factor, always supply what has been requested.

Software and FinTech
This is the big one. In the last 2 years, I have worked with incredibly smart people; some are colleagues while many are vendors. This bunch of smart guys are building fantastic software and services that can be used anywhere in the world.

While their Nigerian customers are finding it hard to pay because of the economy, they can easily sell their services to those outside the country. The quality of their web applications and mobile apps would compete favorably on the global scale considering that their cost would be lower.

In fact, if I ran a global organization I would have my software team in Lagos, as their cost would be lower while getting same or even better quality.

Buying companies for pennies
Investors know that cash flow, ROE and ROI are kings. The rest is semantics.

If you checked the NSE of recent you would have laughed your boxers off. Big names are trading for next to nothing. They don’t even qualify to be called penny stock anymore, we should call them free stock.

Now this appeals to long term or Nigerians in diaspora investors who would want to hang around for the long haul. Reality is that we would get out of this funk so the best time to position for the future is now.

While I’m very optimistic that Nigeria would get out of this funk, I also know that’s dependent on the country to think its way out of the mess. If it doesn’t start with Buhari and others, it could start with me and you.

Maybe I ain’t in the best position to say this; I took the easy way out.

Learning to learn

It’s well known that the brain is like a muscle – the more you learn the better you become. In fact studies have shown that being intellectually active correlates with longer and more fulfilling life. Learning stretches the brain more than anything else.

I would have thought that a lot of people know this but sometimes it amazes me why many think it’s cool to be ignorant.

Let me break this down.

Nobody’s born with all knowledge but learning to learn is, arguably, the most important skill in life. Any knowledge or skill you have this evening is probably going to end up obsolete tomorrow morning but as long as you continue to explore and you are curious, you probably going to end up fine. That is, if you don’t eat the fruit of good and evil knowledge; Adam didn’t heed that warning as he was just too curious.

How then should you handle a friend who asks you about things he could have checked out on the internet – I mean, Google doesn’t require subscriptions?

Why is it hard for older people and sometimes senior professional leaders to learn new things? Why do people think it’s beyond them to just pick up a book and read?

Why can’t we just go the extra mile to enhance our careers by learning new skills instead of blaming everyone for how long we have been stagnant?

Knowledge is power

If raw power is of any use, then grave diggers would be richer than Mark Zuckerberg but hey it doesn’t work that way. He had knowledge, used it to make us play Farmville on Facebook and now could provide enough dollars to crash the exchange rate to N100/$. I know he won’t do it though.

Your career and life could change dramatically with learning. You can be fortunate to learn some things easily (like tatafo) but the reality is that you have to read again and again and again to have life impacting knowledge.

This is a late evening rant – I wonder who stepped on my tail this morning!

 

5 things you don’t know about Nigerian ATMs

Just a few years ago, we practically begged people to use ATMs instead of queuing up at the banking counters but at least that has changed. But then the change came with friends, family and other random people asking me random questions why they can’t brew a nice cup of coffee at the ATM.

Some of the oddities are explained here.

Why doesn’t the ATM retract cash?

If you forget to take your cash abroad (places where the snow falls in January) the ATM simply takes it back and then reverses the amount. Sounds convenient and nifty for forgetful souls like me.

Why doesn’t it do that in Nigeria?

Well it started that way until some dudes figured out that they could take out a bit of the cash and trick the ATM to withdraw everything back, crediting the full amount.

Warri no dey carry last!

Why doesn’t the ATM accept cash?

I remember walking into a NatWest Bank when I was in school and feeling funky with myself, deposited some scraggy notes into the ATM instead of bothering with the dour looking cashier. It went smoothly and I got my credit almost immediately.

Some random banks tried it in Nigeria but the experiment reminded me of Icarus. Icarus thought he could fly, strapped on some wings and jumped. It was his last jump.

Cash accepting ATMs have to count the cash, scan the notes and determine the currency by staring at it. Unfortunately the cash notes in Nigeria have been to more places than I could safely describe on the Internet without getting my HR to invite me for a serious conversation. NSFW!

The ATMs choked on the cash and the experiments went south. Simply put, we mangle our cash in Nigeria and no ATM made of man has been able to overcome that. A few banks are still struggling with these devices but I know as long as we still roll up our notes, write things on them like jotters or stuff them inside sostén then cash accepting ATMs will never work.

Why do I have to input my PIN for another transaction even when I haven’t removed my card?

There is something funny that happens in countries like Nigeria where you need lots of notes from the ATMs for even the simplest purchase. In the US, usually maximum withdrawal is $300 and nobody apart from Nigerians take that much cash.

Equivalent of that amount here is N84,000, that depends on who you ask though. Since ATM cannot just open its guts for you to point and select your cash, it can only push out at most 40 notes. So an average transaction in Nigeria needs multiple withdrawals.

What if you forget your card and it doesn’t require PIN for the next transactions? Actually that’s the way it was and suddenly forgetful people, who have taken their cash and gone, are separated from the rest of the money in their accounts by the next dude on the queue.

Their wailing and gnashing of teeth made banks to reconfigure the terminals. The wailing stopped but not the gnashing of teeth.

Why does the ATM have blue background and yellow text by default?

The engineers who configured the first set of ATMs in Nigeria have no taste. Next!

Fortunately some banks have since seen the light and have gone on to do graphical interface designs. Nothing impressive at this time though. One of these days when I have less to do, I may wander around comparing screens.

Who is the girl that talks on the ATM?

I don’t know her! I swear, she ain’t my cousin.

While she loves to say “Thank you for banking with us”, I know she’s saying exactly the same at other banks; she’s probably promiscuous and has no loyalty.

Nota Bene

You can ask me other random question on anything you want to know about ATMs and I will do my best to answer them. I’m not an expert so don’t scream blue murder if I try to pull the wool over your eyes.