Expert Perspectives: Reviving Businesses Through Inclusion (I)

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Over the last four (4) editions, we have treated diverse issues, sub topics and covered the many sides of inclusion – inclusive business and inclusive governance, in order to demonstrate the importance to both social and economic development.

It can be proven that the bright side of any economic recession is an opportunity for innovation and the development of local content that will not only resuscitate the economy, but also lift over half of the population out of poverty. Although the concept is still emerging in many African nations, it has proven beneficial to business growth, quality, and sustainability. Besides, the practice of inclusion has reduced the number of people left at the base of the economic pyramid in developed countries. Considering the fact that imbibing the inclusive business model in Africa is capable of changing the business atmosphere and economic dynamics; improving the quality of lives of the people and ensuring sustainable development, we share below excerpts from discussions with Nigerian SMEs and large sector players who have hands-on experience in running inclusive businesses across a full value chain.
With over three billion of world population living on less than $2 per day, these population constitute the Base of the Pyramid (BoP), businesses can through their set up and activities reduce this number of people at the BoP, therefore fostering growth and sustainability.
Raliat Oyetunde, CEO/Lead Consultant, Prinsult Global Consulting Limited

Eradicating poverty is all about inclusion, developed economies across the world have already embraced this model to improve the lives of their citizens by offering incentives to companies that include citizens at the BoP, in order to encourage others to do more. In establishing my company, we considered inclusion from the start by offering opportunities for small-holder farmers to make more income even as the company can source sufficient and quality cassava from these farmers – thereby transforming these small-holder farmers to commercial farmers and improving their livelihoods. This singular decision to integrate small-holder farmers led to a direct effect as top multinationals began to signify interest in the company’s product. Investing in a small business yields ripple effects of opening up bigger opportunities for the inclusive business model. Multinationals should engage and pull up SMEs while SMEs include more people at the bottom of the income pyramid in their business chains, in order to eradicate poverty.

Government legislation needs to create awareness to stop ‘unnecessary’ importation of products that can be sourced or produced locally. Although poor yield is a hindrance to reaping full benefits of inclusion, the introduction of new technology to support the local supply chain is necessary for the success of any inclusive model. Furthermore, stakeholder engagement is key to ensuring trust, profitability, as well as the sustainability of the inclusive business model.
Yemisi Iranloye, Managing Director, Psaltry International Limited

We need to reduce the importation of foreign products, especially food products that we are capable of producing in Nigeria therefore, it is simply wise to seek partnership with local farmers/skills. In order to make these locals fit for the purpose, businesses should imbibe the inclusive business model by training, empowering, and financing these farmers to make them meet purpose. The effect is that more volumes from farmers enable the company/business meet production as well as quality.
Definitely, access to finance is always needed to move people at the BoP upward, to create sustainability, as well as eradicate poverty, but budding entrepreneurs should start small, grow and make their mistakes while small in order to avoid major errors when big. Government and large private organisations are also needed for funding, to make Nigeria a better place.
Mezuo Nwuneli, Co-Founder/Director, AACE Foods

Setting up a business from the scratch as inclusive is paramount. If we are going to have natural and locally made products then, materials have to be locally sourced, especially with immense resources available in Africa. Foreign countries come into the continent, exploit our African resources, process and resell them to the continent as processed products. Nigerians and indeed Africans should start exploring and processing available raw resources domestically, in order to improve the economy and sustain their businesses.
Moreover, purchasing indigenous products is inevitable to attaining economic growth thus, Nigerians at all levels need to have a change of orientation towards local products. To inform this change is the urgent need for publicity, education, marketing, and awareness. Although not all products can be locally produced yet in the country but, the capabilities and resources of Nigerians and Nigeria must be maximized first before looking outwards. Besides, local brands must always produce and package products and services that meet international standards in order to draw the market to purchasing locally-made products.
Joycee Awosika, Founder/CEO, Oriki Group

Inclusive business is about seizing the need of the country in starting up a sustainable business. Our company was set up primarily to stop ‘unnecessary’ importation of food products to Nigeria in order to deliver fresh and quality products for the Nigerian populace at the same time create one brand from small-scale farming. We therefore approached inclusive business by bringing several small-scale farmers together to form a local supply chain. This increases yield and higher returns for these farmers through creating a ready market for their products – this is a first and major step towards lifting up the poor in the society.
Often times, Nigerians are skeptical of purchasing made in Nigeria products because of quality but, it is important that both packaging and content are capable of competing with international brands. Though it seems difficult sourcing quality and unique materials in the country, especially for packaging yet, it is important to look inwards and activate the creative Nigerian nature in order to navigate these challenges.
Shola Ladoja, Founder, Simply Green

Nigeria can revive her economy by embracing inclusive models as a strategy for resuscitating many failing SMEs and improving quality of lives. Stimulating and revitalizing indigenous productions to promote product quality to meet international standards is also easily achieved through the engagement of indigenous people (integrating everyone in process, activities/production).
Nigerians are seemingly attached to foreign products and this challenges the local development of indigenous products whilst pricing them out of the reach of many citizens. The effect of this hinders high returns for these local businesses. Promoting local content is therefore important to reverse the impact of a dwindling economy, failing businesses, and deepening poverty.
To achieve successful inclusive business ideals, there is also an urgent need for information – research, exposure, and training (both local and international) on the organizational level. On the personal level, sacrifice, focus, perseverance, resilience, and persistency are key to enterprise growth and development for entrepreneurs. Moreover, every aspiring entrepreneur should prepare for opportunities and maximize them.

Finally, every Nigerian, has a role to play in promoting inclusive and sustainable businesses and development by engaging the government and demanding good policies.

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