According to a World Bank study, poor infrastructure in parts of Africa has “reduced national economic growth by two percentage points every year and cut business productivity by as much as 40%”
Another report by the African Development Bank explains the clear and direct link between good infrastructure and total factor productivity by stating that “infrastructure services enter production as an input and have an immediate impact on the productivity of enterprises.”
In short, infrastructure is key to business and no matter what kind of enterprise you run, you will interact with one or more of the challenges Nigeria has in key areas of infrastructure.
Business resilience becomes important as many small businesses are a long way from having any influence or control over their often limited access to these amenities. That doesn’t change the fact that you have a business to run. Tempting as it may be, your energy cannot be expended in lamenting the deficit. You must instead find the opportunity in each moment. Alter your approach towards something more realistic considering the circumstances. Try as much as possible to factor potential shortfalls into your budget. While not bulletproof, these preparations help you to carve out your own path toward a solution. As you create these alternatives, it is important to note that this is an area of growth – and therefore opportunity – within our own government and your industry in Nigeria.
Dealing with the Deficit
Innovation is key to business survival and a major way to bridge the infrastructural deficit. This does not mean technology or even complicated solutions. It simply means being adaptive in your process management. It means thinking through your challenges and coming up with solutions that fit your particular circumstances. For some enterprises, it means solar panels as an alternative to famously unreliable electricity distribution companies or generators which come with the added cost of fuel. For you, it might be using mobile phones with smart technology instead of laptops. For others still, it is offering value-added services to your customers. Whatever it is, it will solve a problem and strengthen your service delivery process. Innovation is part and parcel of building a resilient business.
Your business growth is crucial because the dynamic nature of entrepreneurship means that if you are not expanding your frontiers, you are being left behind by new trends and approaches. You must always be aware of the next opportunity. Do not be stuck in the old ways you know and do not fall for the idea that a problem must be fixed before you move on. Sometimes, you simply must move on.
Remember that your competitors are facing the same problems you are. The difference will be determined at the point of price and quality. Whoever can create the most quality at the most competitive price will generally win. Quality here is not an objective measure of perfection but the minimum standards that will be accepted by your regulator (government) and customers. Do not seek to be more perfect that the people you are servicing. Do not live in pipedreams. Do as much as you should to remain competitive. As you grow, your products and services can improve. But you need to start somewhere.
Tips on Bridging the Infrastructure Gap
- No matter how it feels, the problem is not fatal. There will be a solution and you have to look at it from as many angles as possible. But even if there is no solution, moving on from that idea is a solution in itself. If you do not have the capital or the time to solve it, it may be time to move on to something else. If it is key to the development of your business, there will always be time and resources to circle back to it if you keep pressing forward. But stopping there can mean you sink all your resources into the problem and harm your business in the process.
- You should study and map out potential problems before you even set out on the adventure of that particular enterprise. There will always be critical infrastructure needed in every sector you engage. Approach the problems one by one and see if you have the solutions in hand or mind and if that solution makes sense on the balance sheet.
- Think also about the long-term effect of this deficit. Do not project a solution. Project that this problem may never be solved. How would that affect your business? Will it be fatal to your long-term goals? Always plan with the worst-case scenario in mind.
- In planning how to deal with the infrastructure deficits, you will learn what is a necessity and what is not. The most efficient businesses will survive. Always have your mind on eliminating waste and spending only on what will enhance productivity, keep quality up, and keep your pricing competitive.
- The pandemic era has taught us that things can change in an instant and alter how we work. There has to be a “bare-bones” approach to your planning. If you had to pick only two of the five things you ‘need’ to produce, what would you pick? Can your business continue to exist with only those two things to fuel it? Those are the bare-bone essentials of your business.