A Think Tank For Small Businesses In Nigeria

Over time, the dynamics of doing business all over the world has changed drastically. The basics remain the same; buying and selling of goods and services. However, the 21st century has exposed the whole world to better and more effective ways of doing business. More specifically, technology has transformed the ways and cost of communication and productivity; the internet, powerful and affordable mobile devices etcetera. Its called Digital Darwinism in some circles. The application of these technologies has disrupted the ‘traditional’ ways of doing business and various traditional business owners in Nigeria are scratching their heads and asking how they can keep up and take advantage of the slew of opportunities that these changes could bring to their ventures.

Today, a lot of people have done the deep dive into social media, created websites for their businesses and are finding new ways to expose the business that they do. However, the strategy around determining exactly what works, what does not and how to improve leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of businesses in Nigeria are satisfied as long as ends meet and business growth is perceived. The truth remains that people are trying different things to solve their business problems using technology and have in fact been successful. Some people are also creating capabilities around technology and delivering these as services to small businesses who can afford it. However, the typical small business is not exactly positioned to throw a budget at hiring an individual or a consultant to help them identify ways that they can use technology to run and grow their businesses X times better or faster.

There is no doubt though, that technology could help us as a country develop more small businesses and create more jobs. There are fundamental problems with infrastructure which we can choose to bask on, but that’s not the focus of my thoughts at the moment. With the resources available to us today, a lot of business owners have found ways to leverage various technologies to help their business be successful. This raises the idea of a think tank. As a small business owner in Nigeria, where is the first place to go if I want to find the basics of using technology to solve my business problems? In other parts of the world i.e. North America, Europe etcetera, it is pretty straightforward to buy a tool on the internet to help achieve a certain goal or objective towards the solution of a problem. In Nigeria, however, our situation is peculiar. Unfortunately for us, early adopters of the internet made use of it with fraudulent intentions and as a result, have earned us a poor reputation. Apart from that, we have basic infrastructural challenges that have made it difficult to make considerable progress in the era of electronic payments. I digress.

We need a think tank dedicated to helping small businesses in Nigeria. A group of proven experts and successful business owners that lend out their brainpower on a public forum for the purpose of sharing their knowledge and experiences running their businesses. Also, that help other business owners in Nigeria tackle the various socio-economic problems they encounter. The platform of choice could be a bulletin board that eventually evolves into a physical group that meets, sets up conferences and seminars that are not profit driven, but focus on educating current and future small businesses and teeing them up for success. I understand that there are already groups of this nature out there but the major differentiator will be moderating the core group on this think tank and ensuring that the goal remains to help small business owners who consume the information.

There is the age long thought that people will steal ideas, or that certain things are ‘secrets to success’. However, in order for us to move forward towards our greater good as a country, we need to start seeing past the self serving mentality of hoarding ideas and tribal knowledge. No group or organization of people can move forward or mature without sharing knowledge and ideas or collaborating. The things that differentiate a new country from a 50 year old country are the knowledge, skills and techniques they’ve acquired from experience. If small business after small business fail or don’t reach their potential because they are making the same exact mistakes, then unemployment will continue to be a problem and our economy will never get past our excessive dependency on oil. In other words, we have failed at creating jobs and building a sustainable economy.

The idea here is, creating an online curated think tank for Nigerian small businesses. A volunteer, carefully chosen group of successful entrepreneurs and business owners in Nigeria that help others succeed by sharing their knowledge from experience, brainstorming ideas, and debating solutions to socio-economic problems related to technology. This is just a personal opinion.

[Photo Credit – Lola Akinmade Åkerström]

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