The Managing Director, BCX Nigeria, Mr. Ayo Adegboye, spoke with Emma Okonji on the need for government to support small and medium enterprises by developing policies to ensure stability of businesses
As the year winds down, how will you describe the activities in the technology sector in 2018. What were the challenges and prospects?
Let me begin with business activities in 2017 that was characterised predominantly by economic recession, which ushered us into 2018, where businesses driven by technology, enjoyed relative stability as a result of exchange rate that normalised in 2018. The federal government in her wisdom, tried to stabilise the naira to dollar exchange rate and that helped in business stability to some extent in 2018. The stability in exchange rate allowed for predetermined business decision among organisations. Although it was still rough for businesses at the beginning of 2018, but towards the end of 2018, the measures earlier put in place by government, started manifesting, which helped businesses to become relatively stable towards the end of 2018.
Do you see stability in businesses in 2019, given the fact that it’s going to be election year?
I see such business stability still playing out in 2019, provided the federal government will be ready to develop and maintain policies that will ensure relative stability in business in 2019, especially businesses driven by technology. If the government does not maintain policies that will ensure business and economic stability, then our foreign direct investment (FDI) will be adversely affected and what that means is that business and the economy will suffer. So we need stability in our social political and business environment in 2019, and this is the dream of drivers and owners of businesses. Again, the candidate that will emerge winner of the presidential race, will determine the economic outlook of our great country Nigeria in 2019 and beyond. We need leaders that can drive the economy to profitability so that businesses will thrive.
2019 is around the corner and it is an election year, where as usual, government at all levels mop up money for election campaigns. Do you see this situation affecting technology businesses in 2019?
From past experience, election years always affect general businesses, not just technology driven businesses. But as a technology company with flare for business, we will always try to mitigate the effect of election year on businesses. The truth is that during election year, it is not only the businesses that feel the heat, the customers also feel the heat, because the ripple effect will definitely extend to the customers and the entire business chain is affected. But like I said earlier, BCX Nigeria is a technology company, providing technology solutions to companies, so we are fully prepared to mitigate the adverse effect that the 2019 election year will bring to businesses, through the development of the right technology solutions for businesses. But as we do our part to mitigate the effect, we are hopeful that government establishment like the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), should be able to take up its responsibility to help and protect technology companies like BCX Nigeria and others to remain in business.
As a technology solution company, how your firm cope in the outgoing year. Can you share some of your prospects and challenges?
For us, we tried to carry our customers along in 2018, and we have a belief in BCX that doing business is not about making profit alone, but it is also about upholding business integrity and making the customers satisfied. Our priority is to give customers value for their money and that was our strategy for 2018. Again in 2018, we were able to sit closely with customers as trusted advisors and helped them optimise their operational expenditure (OPEX) to enable them remain competitive in business.
What are your projections for 2019?
We have good plans and business projections for 2019, which include the plan to reach out to more customers in 2019, while still maintaining our existing customers. We plan to improve on our service offerings in 2019, and we are beginning to look at how we can make good investments on behalf of our customers in such a way that they will have economy of scale in their businesses. We are also looking at increasing our service offerings for financial institutions in 2019, whereby we will help them reduce the cost of doing business in all their branches. So we are coming up with innovative solutions in 2019 that will drive businesses to more profitability. Cost of running a successful business in Nigeria is relatively high and we are looking at how we can reduce the cost in 2019, though technology the appropriate solutions. Again, in 2019, we will be expanding our service portfolio in order to reach out to more customers. Having signed on Cannon in 2018 to provide them with the best technology solutions, we plan to have more signups in 2019.
What are the expected government policies that will drive businesses in 2019?
In the area of government’s policies that drive businesses, I will say that government has done a lot in this regard, but we want the government to do more in terms of developing policies that will make business a lot better in 2019. Government needs to do more with the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in Nigeria as currently been championed by the federal government. Government should come with policies in 2019 that will address the issue of multiple taxes in business, especially for the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). There is need for government to take a deeper look at the informal sector and come up,with policies that will address their issues. Government should de-emphasise the idea of ‘Trade Money’ where certain amount of money was given periodically to market women. The focus for government should be on sustaining livelihood because the ‘Trade Money’ will not solve the challenges of the market women, since it is temporal and short-lived. Another policy area that government should focus on in 2019, is on the barrier that exists between large corporate organisations and small organisations, especially when they are doing business together, which is not noticed when two large corporate organisations are transacting business. The 90 days and 120 days payment window policy should be reviewed downward in 2019, especially with business transactions between large corporate organisations and SMEs.
Is BCX considering partnership with government in 2019, as a way of business expansion?
Part of our strategic roadmap for 2019 is to look at more ways of doing business with government through the public-private partnership arrangement. We are also open to Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement as long as the project is profitable.
What are some of the identified solutions you plan to release that will drive customer business in 2019?
In 2019, we will be looking more in the areas of business analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Leaning (ML) through the use of robotics. The idea is to engage customers in a more profitable way, and help them take informed business decisions that will further drive and sustain their businesses. We will also be looking at developing solutions around Internet of Things (IoT) and increase our Business-to-Business (B2B) and Budiness-to-Customer (B2C) strategies for business growth and continuity.
The federal government is keen about job creation. How will your firm key into this intuitive to create more jobs for Nigerians?
We have different solutions and service offerings as well as initiatives that will boost job creation in 2019. In terms of staff strength, we have been able to add 30 per cent to our staff strength this year and we hope to increase the number next year, going by out business plan for 2019. For example we will be announcing our technology competition in 2019, where we will be inviting over 5,000 software application developers, out of which about 100 will get to the final stage and we are willing to hire some of them, partner with some of them and others will become gainfully employed by organisations that need their services, based on their skills.
What is your projection for 2019 and beyond?
Technology is evolving and we are growing businesses with technology evolution. Although technology adoption is still low, but those that have embraced technology to drive their businesses, are already reaping from the gains of technology, which are quite enormous. For example, adoption of cloud computing is still low among businesses in Nigeria. I want to use this channel to commend government for the data sovereignty policy that is driving the way we consume technology. So I see a lot of business opportunities coming to Nigeria, when data are hosted and domiciled in Nigeria as against hosting of critical data aboard.
As managing director of BCX Nigeria, what are your plans and vision for BCX Nigeria business?
As managing director of BCX Nigeria, I want to reach out to more customers in 2019 and beyond. I am looking forward to increasing customer satisfaction index in 2019 and beyond. We will be commissioning customer satisfaction index next year to get feedback from customers in order to serve customers better. I have equally set up an in-house call centre, from where we can interact with our customers to know how they are doing in their various businesses. The essence is to understand customer challenges and prospects, in order to serve them better. I have several other initiatives and strategies to move the company and our customers forward but I will like to keep those ideas close to my chest at the moment.