Category Archives: Entrepreneurs

Will AI Take Our Jobs in the Emerging Economies of Africa?

“No one can expect to do the same thing for life.” Jing Bing Zhang

Daily, we are being reminded of how artificial intelligence (AI) would render many jobless in the nearest future. Simple reasons; cost is reduced, efficiency is better.

As much as 137 million people are about to lose their jobs in Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia, as reported by a recent report of International Labour Organization. That is about 56% of their workforce.

A Swedish firm has invented a technology to milk cows. McDonalds is starting to use automated kiosks at their eateries to take orders via computers. Can you imagine how many jobs would be eliminated if that happens to all the McDonalds eateries?

Conversely, AI also creates jobs for humans, but maybe not exactly in equal number as they have removed. That’s why the disruption is real.

As I try to understand and answer the big question, would AI take our jobs in Africa? I reflect on the following scenario.

Automated Waiters in Tokyo

About 3 months ago, I facilitated a session generally aimed at honing the creative skills of the participants during an environmental festival. In my illustrations, I mentioned how a restaurant in Tokyo uses AI to eliminate the job of waiters. The only people working at the restaurant are the cooks and someone to facilitate your payment. Food orders and delivery are done via a tablet computer found at every table and delivered via conveyor belts respectively.

The creative lesson in that illustration is using an idea that has worked somewhere and applying it in your work. The idea of the restaurant is a borrowed one from the way Amazon works. When someone browses for a book on Amazon’s website, after a while, the website suggests items similar to what he/she has searched for earlier. For the restaurant, when you order a food with a particular taste, the tab suggests to you other meals that have similar tastes. That’s really innovative.

However, as our festival was promoting sustainability, environment wise, I was trying to promote use of innovative ideas for solving environmental challenges. The takeaway point is to borrow ideas that have worked elsewhere and apply it in solving an environmental challenge.

A participant was not comfortable with the use of AI though as she thought it defeats sustainability. It doesn’t promote a strong pillar of sustainability, people. That’s quite right.

Sustainability is relative. What is sustainable in Japan might not be a sustainable solution in Nigeria. The societal, social and economic conditions are hugely different. Very true.

Whatever be the case, AI means a lot of economic sense, and since entrepreneurs are expected to provide solutions that would create jobs, they would go for efficient services.

Phone Airtime Resellers in Nigeria

I cannot ignore but share this same message I regularly get on WhatsApp. To ignore buying airtime using hot naira codes from our banks and walk outside to resellers wherever they maybe to purchase one so they don’t go out of jobs. A clear case of passion over strategy.

This wouldn’t work. Its tedious, inefficient and costlier. Those resellers should become innovative and see AI as a tool they can use. They should manipulate how they can still resell airtime and make profit. How does this fit into this era which cashless transactions are continuously promoted?

Simply asking people to be passionate without putting a sound strategy of achieving a result would not yield good results.


What Should We Do

Should we advocate for non-application of AIs in some places or promote people get the skills needed to survive the future of work?

It is time to start creating jobs that would not be overtaken by AI. “Automation and robotics will definitely impact lower-skilled people, which is unfortunate. I think the only way for them to move up or adapt to this change is not to hope that the government will protect their jobs from technology, but look for ways to retrain themselves. No one can expect to do the same thing for life. That’s just not the case anymore.” Mentioned Dr. Jing Bing Zhang, a renowned leader in the field of AI.

The necessary employable skills one needs to possess in the future does involve elements of AI, to have digital/IT skills. What one needs to is to carry out a SWOT analysis of oneself. In your threats section, does AI have the potential to overtake your job? If yes, I think it’s time to redefine your strategy and improve your strengths and most importantly, your weaknesses. Especially since your digital skills are weak.

And on a general note, Nigeria, as a federal government should promote digital literacy in secondary schools to make sure it is preparing its citizens for the future of work.


Understanding Success; the Case of the Richest Man in Nigeria

A very long time ago, I remember reading a publication of Daily Trust Newspaper about the richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote. The two things I remember vividly about that article today were that he got a loan of 500, 000 Nigerian Naira and he was once in Lagos for something. Until recently, I listened to a TV programmer who intends to shoot a documentary about the success of this man. I was not the only one listening to him, other brilliant youths were. Some of them, like me, weren’t interested in the documentary that was not even out, just after listening to a bit of how the programmer intends to narrate Aliko’s story. Reason being that we already heard a lot about him and hearing it again will not give us a fresh impetus of motivation, some said like me. However, others mentioned he is the grandson of Dantata, a very wealthy man of Kano State then. Their premise is that he inherited the great amount of wealth and almost automatically rich at birth.

Listening to their arguments, my memory was immediately called into question, trying to remember whether it was a loan he got or money he inherited to start his business. Whatever it was, many preferred to learn about other entrepreneurs who they haven’t heard from before or who have no rich lineage, except if Dangote’s story is made more appealing with new information.

Last year, my mentor introduced me to an amazing author. He gave me an audio book of his. I played it only when I was in the car. All through, I was hearing the most wonderful analysis of how certain people achieved success, more than others. Ever since listening to that book, I had been interested in always understanding how people achieve success, beyond the ordinary.

Malcolm Gladwell was the author and the book was Outliers. Outliers is a story of success. He discussed how different people achieved their great success beyond what we ordinarily ask. “It is not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t”, he stated.

Malcolm persistently argues that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success. He touches on the story of the Beatles, Bill Gates, Korean Airlines, Japanese paddy rice farmers, a certain type of education in the US, why Asians are more brilliant than the rest of us, why your birthday will determine if you make it to the National Football team of Canada and so on and so forth. Malcolm has sold the argument to me; there is something beyond effort that makes us succeed. I totally recommend this book to you.

Before listening to the audio book, I thought I have heard all that there is about the success of Bill Gates, Microsoft founder. I was wrong by the time I had finished listening to that book. Bill Gates was not just smart and woke up on a faithful day to start putting together a computer processor. The general story on the street is that Bill had a wonderful idea of a computer, dropped out of Harvard, developed it and became successful. That easy. The same general thinking many of us possess of Aliko Dangote’s wealth. He inherited the money, and so multiplying it should be easier.

But the truth is, Bill Gates is who he is today because had enjoyed nine golden opportunities. He was lucky to be sent to a public high school that had a computer (time-sharing terminal as they refer to mainframe computers then). It was among the few High Schools in America then with such a computer.  He was also lucky to live close to the University of Washington thereafter and he would wake up between 3 am to 6 am in the morning to code on their computer. His proximity to their computer lab offered him the opportunity to visit it more frequently in those odd hours of the morning. After about seven years, he had been programmed for more ten thousand hours, a feat he himself says is difficult to match by more than 50 people in the world then.

If you have ever heard of the ten thousand hour rule, this is where it came from. It was Malcolm’s analysis. To know the other seven golden opportunities that made Bill Gates then, read Outliers.

After more than forty years, Microsoft is still doing excellent today. Dangote Group is in its fourth decade, expanding across Nigerian borders.

Same message someone kept reiterating over the weekend that managing a business for a very long time is a herculean task. Many entrepreneurs fail before they even celebrate their five years anniversary. Like me, I started two businesses with some friends. One was quite successful, earned us profit but we quit after two years. We just lost interest I think.

I know there is more to Dangote’s story than the loan or inheritance or sleeping under trucks. If I can have it my way, I wish to get an outlier’s analysis of the richest man in Africa. I haven’t read any book about him though, so perhaps it is already there. I want to know what he did every day for the past ten years before he took that loan. What type of school did he go and what type of education did he receive? How many hours did he spend doing other business before he got his breakthrough? What was the neighborhood around him like? And the rest.

I remember after I finished listening to the audio book last year, I asked myself if Dangote was an outlier. What qualifies you to be an outlier as described by Malcolm, is a lot and intriguing.

Many people say if Aliko’s business was not in Nigeria, he will not be as rich. Why?

Subscribe to my blog post below to know why and my analysis of what I think of him as an Outlier?

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