Let there be light

In Genesis 1:3, God said, let there be light and there was light. And guess what, that light has been on for the past billions of years since creation. It runs on nuclear fusion but that is by the way.

What is actually on my mind has to do with Nigeria. The presidential election results have come in and President Goodluck Jonathan has won. Whether the losers would contest at the Supreme Court is not actually my problem now. My real problem is how do we get power to work in Nigeria? Someone was asking about the two biggest problems we have and I said electricity and infrastructure and the rest are symptoms. I could be wrong but I know it is easier to turn to crime when you are poor than when well off even though rich people tend to pull off some spectacular heists (Think Madoff).

So if the new government can deal with one of these two problems, I would love whosesoever is the president to fix the power problem.

The figures look ominous indeed. Nigeria with a population of 150M (I don’t believe that number but there is nothing else to work with) has a measly 4,000MW power output. To put it in perspective, that is a 60w light bulb for every 2,250 Nigerians. South Africa down south has 50.5 Million souls with 44,000MW output. If we are ever to match SA, we need to ramp up to 130,000MW. Now, that is almost impossible to reach with few years but what if we strive for just 50% of that, can get the extra 61,000MW in 7+ years? At a nominal cost of $1M per MW, I know the government can’t build this out even with a sincerity of heart. Where can they pull $61B from? That figure is almost equal to the total annual amount we would make in oil revenue if we export our normal 2million barrels of oil per day at the benchmarked $85 per barrel but I don’t know if our Senators can starve for Nigeria. And that is for generation alone: We need a new transmission grid and a distribution network. All these could cost even more than the cost of building the new power stations.

Maybe it is not as bad as it looks. Prior to 2001, Nigeria had serious communication problem but when government exited the scene and liberalized the market, the transformation has been tremendous. It’s 10 years since that magic happened and today we are the largest telecoms market in Africa. 10 years ago, we had less than 400,000 working lines which is equivalent to 375 Nigerians sharing a working phone. If each line is used to the fullest, each person can make only 4 minutes of call each day. But as of February 2011, 90,583,306 mobile lines are active in the country. Last year alone (2010), MTN raked $5b in revenue with $3 of that in pure profit.

Currently government has a liberalization policy under works which wants to divest the entire current power infrastructure save for the transmission line that will be managed by a contractor (not Pentascope, I pray!). To attract investors, government has a plan of jacking the cost of electricity up; while almost everyone is balking at the idea I believe it is better as long as 1 – the cost is less than running my generator and 2 – the power is good and consistent.

The energy market promises to be huge though generator and diesel importers will go under. Unlike telephone which one could do without, electricity is like food; you can’t just but use it. If the market booms, the cost of production of goods and services would reduce, merchants would make more. Artisans would flourish. Of course tax income would improve for the government and the economy would grow like a raging vine. With that, there should be more revenue for the government to actually build infrastructure and maybe for once, Nigeria can be great.

I believe God created the president in his own image so let him declare for Nigeria: Let there be light!

Core banking software in Nigeria as of 2011

It wasn’t long ago that Nigeria had a gazillion banks but one and half banking consolidations later, we are down to about 24. By the time the other half of the new consolidation is concluded, we might be left with about 15 or so but until then fingers are crossed. While the banks that survived the regulatory apocalypse might be interesting to purveyors of merger and consolidation services, the core software that these banks use tickle my curiosity.

Access Bankwww.accessbankplc.comFLEXCUBE
Diamond Bankwww.diamondbank.comFLEXCUBE
Equitorial Trust Bankwww.equitorialtrustbank.comGlobus
Fidelity Bankwww.fidelitybankplc.comFinacle
First Bank of Nigeriawww.firstbanknigeria.comFinacle
First City Monument Bankwww.firstcitygroup.comFinacle
Guaranty Trust Bankwww.gtbank.comBasis
Intercontinental Bankwww.intercontinentalbankplc.comFLEXCUBE
Oceanic Bankwww.oceanicbanknigeria.comFinacle
Skye Bankwww.skyebankng.comFLEXCUBE
Spring Bankwww.springbankplc.comFinacle
Stanbic IBTC Bankwww.ibtc.comEquinox
Standard Chartered Bankwww.standardchartered.com/ngeBBS
Sterling Bankwww.sterlingbankng.comBanks
Union Bankwww.unionbankng.comFLEXCUBE
United Bank for Africawww.ubagroup.comFinacle
Unity Bankwww.unitybankng.comBanks
Wema Bankwww.wemabank.comGlobus G10*
Zenith Bankwww.zenithbank.comPhoenix


  • Stanbic IBTC is concluding its migration to Finacle which goes live on July 1, 2011
  • Wema Bank has started a project to migrate to Finacle and should be concluded within a year

The software Lineup

Now (2011)Next year (2012)
  • Finacle – 7 (29%)
  • FLEXCUBE – 7 (29%)
  • Globus/T24 – 4 (17%)
  • Basis/Banks – 3 (13%)
  • eBBS – 1(4%)
  • Equinox – 1 (4%)
  • Phoenix – 1 (4%)
  • Finacle – 9 (38%)
  • FLEXCUBE – 7 (29%)
  • Basis/Banks – 3 (13%
  • Globus/T24 – 3 (13%)
  • eBBS 1 (4%)
  • Phoenix – 1 (4%)

Finacle is a complete suite of banking application from Infosys, one of the largest technology companies in India.

FLEXCUBE is from Oracle Financial Services. FLEXCUBE was initially i-Flex software but the company was bought by Oracle in 2005 during one of its famous spending sprees. A bit of history: FLEXCUBE was originally developed by Citibank and was spurned off as Citicorp Information Technologies Industries Limited, an independent company. FLEXCUBE is highly regarded globally with about 700 installations in 125 countries and has won Core Banking Solution of the Year and Application of the Year from The Banker.

Equinox is a rich functional universal banking solution from the Neptune Software Plc. of UK with has about 60 installations across the world.

Globus is the older version of T24. Both Globus and T24 are from Temenos of Switzerland. Before the consolidation, Globus had 15 installations in some of the biggest banks in Nigeria but has since lost ground during the 2004/5 banking consolidation to Finacle.

Basis and Banks are from ICS Financial Services, a midsize Jordanian/UK software company with about 45 installations worldwide.

Despite the fact that the Nigerian market is dominated by 2 major software from India, the core banking software business is rich and varied worldwide. To read more about other banking systems, head over to http://www.inntron.co.th/corebank.html.

Will Amazon eat Google's lunch?

There has been a lot of news lately in the Android camp and they have ranged from the good to the bad. Nothing ugly yet.

Let’s start with the bad. Google was forced to come out to defend its decision not to open up the Honeycomb version of the hugely successful Android mobile OS immediately. It said it needed to make some things work properly before device makers start to play with the release. Previously Google has been heavily criticized for being hypocritical since it was the ring leader of those who like to bash the Apple ecosystem as closed and then evil. The rebuttal by Andy Rubin placated only few nonetheless seems everyone would need to keep fingers crossed until Honeycomb comes out.

And the good news? Amazon jumps into the Android pond. The splashes would definitely make quite a lot of people wet.

Prior to now Google was the only software heavy weight in the Android zone with many calling it an 800 pound gorilla. One of the criticisms of the Android experience has been the mess of the official Android market place and the risk of the openness of apps submission. It got so bad that Google had to use the kill switch to nix some rouge applications siphoning users’ data. Now apart from the 1984 styled intervention, Google hasn’t done much to change this. And then Amazon steps in.

Everyone welcomed Amazon’s entry into the apps store business and despite the Apple lawsuit against the use of the apps store name; it has been a roaring success. It is not rocket science, Amazon has extensive experience with retail business and it has done well with it; you can feel this with the ease of using the Amazon apps store.

Some said Google should be happy that Amazon is validating Android but I think Google should be scared: Wouldn’t it be stupid to think that Amazon, who started as a book seller in 1995, would be content with selling just apps? Amazon moved from selling books to selling everything including hardware. Today, Amazon is the largest seller of retail cloud system and has the bestselling reader, Kindle. Kindle has been an explosive success, considering that it can’t do anything apart from e-books (more or less). So what if Amazon starts to sell tablets? That shouldn’t be a problem, I guess.

But Amazon is not like a Samsung or HTC, it can force Google’s hands. And if Google doesn’t play ball, what stops Amazon from creating a fork of the Android and going in another direction? That is the scariest possibility and it is based on the fact that Amazon has skills that Google doesn’t have; customer service. With good customer babysitting, you can be sure than an Android experience from Amazon is almost going to floor any other approach and even if Google goes on with the big 4 manufacturers, HTC, Samsung, Motorola and LG, Amazon forging alliance with the small time players would definitely hurt the other parties.

The market for sub $100 smartphones is going to be terribly huge; and with customer service for phones not like free email service, Google might find itself as the loser. And because Android is “open” there is absolutely nothing Google can do about it.