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BUSINESS & ECONOMY

A Brief History of Small and Medium Enterprises of the World

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By Naseem Javed

In the lands before time, the Hunter asked the women why they did not start assembling baby furniture out of dinosaur bones and selling them at Gatherers’ meet; the idea became the unicorn of the period, and the rest is history, so it was written, so it is told. Guess where IKEA came from…

Today, little has changed; small and medium enterprises have become the originator and prime backbone of trade and commerce across all the nations of the world. About a century ago, the USA was an ocean of only SMEs, which grew into large and also global giants and an entrepreneurial nation was born.

A few decades ago, China was also an ocean of SMEs. Now, observe its industrial powers; just a decade ago, India created oceans of SMEs, and how it may become the global driver. Now awaits Indonesia, Nigeria, and dozens of other nations, precisely carving their crafts and improving entrepreneurial transformations to change the global economic maps. Asia has a billion SMEs, whereas China and India added 500 million SMEs to the pool. Brand-new math is needed to figure out how to cope with such numbers.

The sophisticated planning of the national mobilization of entrepreneurialism, where up-skilling of exporters and re-skilling of manufacturers demands special skills. This is about streamlined teams and policies as a federal mandate to uplift the citizenry. Can European Union or African Union or BRICS figure out how to mobilize national SME sectors, but how can they start, and where can they lead? How will they cope with hundreds of millions of SMEs and have organized models?

The financing dilemma of the Green Economy: Why is green economy and climate change financing still at a standstill? Decades have passed while hungry stomachs still cannot decipher the global challenges of EDG or COP28. How Africa is going to manage global landscape?

Access to finance is not the answer: On SME fronts, access to finance is commonly considered as a ‘nest’ that allows the right environment for an ‘egg’ to hatch; hence, to foster their expansion plans, the financial world is primarily occupied with arranging Fintech and access to finance as a nest for the free range eggs, the SMEs of our times. Nevertheless, finance and economic leaders still need to know where these eggs come from, why and when they are laid, by whom and for what specific motivation at what sacrifice, and what will happen when they are finally hatched.

Financial wisdom still needs to be able to fathom why each such egg will always start with a unique song and new tempo, all emerging in different colors. But why, because the SME sectors, like an aviary surrounded by its mystery, struggle only to blossom further in their rights and in their way. There is no single master rule, reference, guideline, business plan, formula, blueprint, or book explaining why one of them suddenly could become the largest-ever project for the nation. Entrepreneurialism resides in these gravity-defying, breaking-all rules, high-speed by chance of decision making and risk management, and business economic models meet growth.

After all, such narratives like nursery rhymes, generally out of the league of academia and for lack of symmetry, precision, and predictability mostly banned from the MBA curricula, but now due to global access to digitization, all such topics are exposed rising to a new level, where ‘fintech’ may only be some strands or straws to build the nest but not the ultimate or the last solution in the upbringing of SMEs. Just like the debt ceiling, outside being schemes, can never run successful economies. Only when national mobilization uplifts 10% or 50% of enterprises on progressive tracks climate change thinking and a Green Economy will come into action.

Fintech is like acupuncture on a dead body unless entrepreneurialism is present like the prime circulation artery is throbbing and pulsating. A real live economy is entrepreneurial because a solely numerically-run economy is just a facade of an already dead economy, like a postmortem without any plan to win a gold medal with a motionless body.

Dangerous to our economic growth; the economic mindset, traditionally highly prone to measurements, lives and dies by numbers; everything is narrated by size and dimension. This intuition allows comfort for always what is measured as big and what is measured as small. Actuarial thinking is not entrepreneurial thinking.

Entrepreneurial mysticism rejects all this as nonsense because it already manages the greatest games of entrepreneurial fertilization based on orchestrated chaos, juggling innovation, futurism, consumerism, and all with global applicability. The mental juggle has no time to measure the size but cope with the potentialities of local/international markets and large-scale possibilities.

Facts: The mindsets are divided for good reasons

Big is big by numbers, as small is small by numbers. On the other hand, entrepreneurial mindsets have yet to learn why such measurements exist. They only see Coca-Cola vividly as a worldwide operation when they hold an empty bottle in one hand and some dark powder in the other. Equally, when they toss a metal plate attached to a few wires in the air, they already see a telephone device changing the world forever.

Snatching crayons from children and trying to strangle such a vision at the early fertilization stage is nothing less than economic crime. Crushing down entrepreneurialism at every step for not being precise and ‘predictable’ and not immediately rewarding are all deep-rooted causes.

Facts: The trillion-dollar-rich and in comfortable gluttony, the world’s hospitality industry could not see the pinhole leaking air in the air mattress: The Airbnb was just a slap to awaken them. Ten thousand similar examples still need to be revisited to bring the mathematical wizardry of economics any closer to the out-of-the-box-crazy risk-taking visions of entrepreneurialism.

Silence on such topics may only point to competency levels. Therefore, when the largest economy within a nation is the SME economy, and when SME sectors are still abandoned, unidentified, uncategorized, and undigitized, then national economic leadership must embrace entrepreneurialism to improve the performance of dying economies. Plan and execute extremely well, as the world enters the Top round of top elections…

No further proof is required as SMEs are the future of nations; they are the largest pool of entrepreneurialism and potentially large global operations. Futurism demands futuristic literacy to decipher the global-age economic landscapes, and SME sectors require national mobilization of entrepreneurialism to quadruple productivity, performance, and profitability via global exportability.
Study Expothon on Google. The rest is easy

Naseem Javed is a corporate philosopher, Chairman of Expothon Worldwide; a Canadian Think tank focused on National Mobilization of Entrepreneurialism Protocols on Platform Economy and exportability solutions now gaining global attention.

Courtesy: Modern Diplomacy


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BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Inquiry on General Babangida’s Involvement in Conventional Banking despite Introduction of Islamic Finance in Nigeria

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Dear Editor,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to express my curiosity and seek clarification on a matter that has caught my attention, specifically pertaining to General Babangida’s involvement in the conventional banking industry despite his role in introducing Islamic finance during the financial reforms of his military government in Nigeria. Vide your special article commemorating his 81st Birthday published in your esteemed news website: https://focus.afrief.org/trending/a-salutary-tribute-to-general-ibrahim-badamasi-babangida-architect-of-islamic-finance-in-nigeria/

It is indeed noteworthy that General Ibrahim Babangida played a pivotal role in shaping the economic landscape of Nigeria by introducing Islamic finance principles. It is fascinating to witness the implementation of Islamic finance in Nigeria, as it promotes principles that align with religious and ethical values. General Babangida’s efforts to introduce this form of finance were undoubtedly commendable, reflecting his commitment to establishing an alternative financial system that adheres to Islamic principles.

However, recent observations suggest his active participation in the conventional banking sector in Nigeria. Certainly, it is intriguing to see General Babangida’s continued involvement in the conventional banking industry, which operates under different principles. While some may argue that his involvement in both sectors is simply a matter of personal choice, it raises questions about the compatibility of his actions with the ideals and principles of Islamic finance. While the former is interest driven, the latter prohibits interest related transactions completely.

I wonder if General Babangida has ever publicly addressed this matter or explained his reasoning behind being active in both sectors. It would be enlightening to hear his perspective on how he reconciles his involvement in conventional banking with his efforts towards promoting Islamic finance. This has raised questions in my mind and perhaps in the minds of others as well.

I am keen to understand the rationale behind General Babangida’s dual engagement in both Islamic finance and conventional banking. Does this reflect a strategic approach to diversify Nigeria’s financial sector, or are there specific reasons behind his involvement in conventional banking despite advocating for Islamic finance principles?

Additionally, it would be interesting to explore the potential impact of his dual involvement on the perception and growth of Islamic finance in Nigeria. Does his presence in the conventional banking industry hinder the progress of Islamic finance, or does it have the potential to bridge the gap between the two sectors?

I believe that delving into these questions could provide valuable insights and generate constructive discussions within the Islamic finance community in Nigeria. By shedding light on General Babangida’s dual involvement and the potential implications, we can further enhance our understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by the Islamic economy in our country.

Thank you for considering my questions, and I look forward to reading more about this topic in your esteemed Focus on Islamic Economy.

Sincerely,

 

Abba Musa Mamman Lagos

Kaduna


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BUSINESS & ECONOMY

10 Megatrends Shaping the World in 2024

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The report, “Navigating Megatrends Shaping Our Future in 2024”, was launched during the first day of the World Governments Summit (WGS) 2024, being held under the theme “Shaping Future Governments” from 12th-14th February in Dubai. The report examines the indicators that shape these megatrends, supported by evidence from today as well as future expectations. These trends inform decision-makers and foresight experts about various sectors and the potential opportunities in each.

Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, said, “This report has been launched in line with DFF’s efforts to identify and communicate those trends with the most potential to shape opportunities and strengthen local and international partnerships to overcome current and future challenges.”

“The challenges that face us on our journey to the future require that we are agile enough to be able to adapt to rapid change. It is vital we pay attention to the signals we detect – only then can we be prepared to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. The World Governments Summit provides a platform for discussing these challenges and exploring the opportunities.”

Materials revolution

New types of materials will create a shift in the industry, with solutions based on artificial intelligence (AI) such as biopolymers, biorefineries, and chemical recycling paving the way. These solutions will facilitate the development of new biological and novel materials that could rival plastics.

Boundless Multidimensional Data

Enabled by developments such as 5G and 6G in addition to advanced connectivity, the availability of raw data will vastly increase. The Internet of Things (IoT) will continue being deployed in healthcare, agriculture, and smart cities, especially in the Middle East.

Technological Vulnerabilities

The cybersecurity sector will boom amid a sharp rise in smart home devices and wearable tech. According to a report by Allianz, the annual cost of ransomware is projected to reach around $265 billion by 2031. Meanwhile, the debate on the future of decentralised finance will continue.

Energy Boundaries

Advances in tech and the growing demand for energy will drive the pursuit of alternative sources of energy. Novel materials and machine intelligence will enhance current sources of energy, including their distribution around the world – and in space.

Saving Ecosystems

Approaches to conservation will be more interdisciplinary and future-focused, taking into account both societal and environmental factors. Driven by resource scarcity, climate change, and shifts in social values, environmental impact management will become increasingly holistic.

Borderless World – Fluid Economies

The world is witnessing a rise in unmediated transactions in finance, health, education, trade, services, and even space, which are blurring boundaries and creating more cross-border communities. Advances in communications, computing, and advanced machine intelligence will accelerate the creation of a borderless world that will change the way we work, live, and connect.

Digital Realities

The spread of 5G and 6G networks will enhance the applications of autonomous technologies and IoT. As quantum technologies become scalable and reliable, immersive experiences will become even more realistic.

Living with Autonomous Robots and Automation

Robotics and automation will increasingly be deployed across industries beyond automotive, manufacturing and supply chain logistics. This will provide opportunities for efficiency and innovation, although there will also be ethical challenges to address.

Future Humanity

New workplace norms will emerge, with people needing to adapt to non-traditional skill sets in areas such as digital literacy, communications, culture and sustainability.

Advanced Health and Nutrition

Accelerated progress in advanced machine intelligence, nano- and biotechnology, additive manufacturing, and IoT will transform health and nutrition, improving health and wellbeing for people of all ages. Technology will reduce, if not eradicate, some communicable and non-communicable diseases and enhance the sustainable use of and access to water and food.


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BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Africa’s New Online Foreign Exchange System will Enable Cross-border Payments in Local Currencies – what you need to know

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The high cost of making cross border payments on the African continent has driven governments on the continent to seek options of settling trade and other transactions in local currencies. This has given birth to the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System which was formally launched in Accra, Ghana, in January 2022.  Development economist Christopher Adam, who has studied the exchange rate policies of African countries, answers some key questions.

Why are African countries exposed in the international currency market?

Three main reasons. First, African economies are small and as such are highly dependent on trade with the rest of the world. Their exports are dominated by primary commodities including oil and gas, minerals and cash crop agriculture. On the import side, they purchase a whole range of goods – from essential commodities not produced at home such as fooddrugs and medicines, to capital goods and energy. A large proportion of these are sourced from China and other major economies of the global north. But because African countries are small relative to their trading partners they rarely have the power to determine the prices of imports and exports. They are “price takers” in world markets. And with world prices being set in the major reserve currencies of the world (the US dollar, euro, yen and renminbi), African countries are exposed to movements in these world prices. Second, “intra-African” trade is still a relatively small proportion of the total trade of African countries.

Finally, since African countries’ currencies mostly can’t be directly exchanged in international transactions, the dollar remains the most widely used currency in trade, even between African countries.

What’s required for the system to get off the ground?

The basic idea of the system is to be able to settle trade between African countries without having to use the US dollar.  There are two major challenges with that. First, intra-African trade accounts for less than 15% of Africa’s exports at present (although supporters of the African Continental Free Trade Area expect this to grow significantly over the coming decades). The African payment system therefore does not eliminate the role of the dollar (or other foreign currencies) in trade settlement entirely.

The second issue is that trade is not balanced between African countries. For example, Kenya exports goods of higher total value to Ethiopia than it imports from Ethiopia. If Ethiopia paid in its own currency, Kenya would end up with Ethiopian currency that it didn’t need. Some form of settlement currency that is acceptable to all is required – most likely the US dollar.

What are the challenges and potential risks?

Since trade rarely occurs instantaneously, some institution in the trade financing chain carries the exchange rate risk. Because of the gap between placing an order for imports and receiving them to sell in the local economy, there is a risk that the value of local currency will change relative to the currency in which the import is denominated.

In the “old” system, this risk is borne by the trader because everything is priced in dollars. The local currency value of the income from exports or the local currency cost of imports will change with movements between the local currency and the dollar, but the banks and those counterparts pricing in the dollar are protected.

Under the new system the same allocation of risk will remain in “external trade”. This currency risk is also present for intra-African trade.

An important question for the new African payment system is: who bears the exchange risk if one African currency depreciates relative to another? Should the importer carry the risk, or the exporter? Can and should the African payment system bear this risk of exchange rate movements itself? Where both currencies are volatile, traders might still prefer the relative stability of settlement through the US dollar.

The success of this system also depends on scale. The more trade settlement is routed through it, the easier it will be to settle in local currencies. Large currency imbalances will be less common. But until the system achieves this scale, the African payment system will need a strong balance sheet so that traders and participants can have confidence that settlement will be swift and risk free. It is unclear at the moment how this is to be achieved.

What is the best case scenario?

If the system can address the trade imbalance problem, provide clarity on risk management and reach scale, it could be very successful. But this is all going to be driven by underlying economic performance. Improved settlement will help but what is really driving this is the structure of trade. The more the economies of Africa can develop intra-African trade and the less dependent they are on extra-African trade, the less will be dollar dependence in trade. This growth in trade depends to some degree on trade settlement and trade financing but much more on production, consumption, trade policy and fiscal policy.

Christopher Adam is a Professor of Development Economics, University of Oxford


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