The Convener, Time Management and Productivity Summit in Nigeria, Mr. Afolabi Abiodun, speaks to OZIOMA UBABUKOH on the slow growth of SMEs and minimum wage, among others issues
The issue of minimum wage has remained a sore point in Nigeria, how can TAMS be of help?
We are all aware of the challenges with the government’s budgeting framework. We are told that a large portion of the budget at the federal, state and local government levels is spent on recurrent rather than on capital expenditure. That is to say, budgets are supposedly spent on salaries and servicing government rather than on developmental projects. Now, when such figures are brandished, they give the feeling that government at all levels are taking care of their workers, but therein lies the problem.
The elephant in the room is that huge chunks of those monies are siphoned through the menace known as the ‘ghost worker’syndrome. This is where TAMS benefits the economy and people of Nigeria. As a biometric workforce and productivity management application, TAMS helps to reduce and eradicate this syndrome by ensuring that real people who are working earn what they have productively put in, thus plugging the huge holes caused by heavy wastage on phantom salaries.
In this regard, it tackles all forms of redundancy like time theft, lateness, absenteeism, buddy clocking, etc. and reduces systemic inefficiencies through prompt resumption and attendance at duty posts in our cities and villages. This gives room for more rewards and bargaining power for people who are actually working.
The Lagos State Employment Trust Fund was established to provide financial support to entrepreneurs in the state, but more than 30 per cent of them, despite making profits/gains, are not repaying the loans. What are the implications of this?
It is unfortunate that such a laudable programme is being abused, yet people habitually point accusing fingers at the government. Obviously, this scenario will hinder accessibility to credit and grants by worthy entrepreneurs, who are in dire need of financial aid and may discourage more governmental and development support for budding entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, has the agency been able to ensure that such people are made to fulfil their obligations?
Could you give a helicopter view of the functions of TAMS in a modern society?
We are in an age where technology holds the ace and is advancing at a rate faster than virtually everyone can keep up with. Everything, from brushing your teeth to manufacturinghas been impacted by Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. As technology ensures that things are done in a quicker, simpler and more effective way, it has inevitably impacted the world of work in diverse ways.
Someone once wrote that, ‘Information Technology benefits the business world by allowing organisations to work more efficiently and to maximise productivity’. You see, the motivation behind TAMS is to help the contemporary business owner deal with the challenges of managing employee productivity. TAMS is focused on helping organisations of all types and sizes (especially SMEs) to optimise employee performance by curbing time-theft, apathy, lateness and absenteeism.
Hence, its user-friendly functionality and accessibility as a web-based application that comes complete with all essential human resources management modules such as time attendance, shift management, leave management, performance management, payroll management, and so on. TAMS provides simple reports, analytics and infographics that aid speedy and better decision-making.
According to Mo Ibrahim, Africa continues to be poor because of corruption, poor management of resources and visionless leadership.
How do you situate Nigeria’s challenges?
I sincerely appreciate true leaders like Mo Ibrahim for his commitment to Africa’s development and his concern for the future of the continent. It is no longer news that Nigeria is a paradox. A country blessed with abundant resources but has the ignoble disadvantage of poor political leadership to manage those resources. Palpable poverty of the masses is contrasted by ostensible opulence of a few who are gorging on the dwindling commonwealth.
I think the curious problem is a lack of vision and understanding that without human resources, a country cannot ensure the judicious, creative use and sustainable deployment of other resources. In fact, Vice President Yemi Osinbajolisted honest visionary leadership, good governance, letting the private sector and markets lead, diversification from resource-based revenues, developing the potential of the human resources available as factors that would make Africa, and indeed Nigeria, work, as is the case in other regions of the world.
Countries like Singapore, China, Malaysia, India, even Tanzania, Botswana, Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, etc. are proof ofwhat visionary leadership and accountability can do to a struggling nation. Our innumerable policies, plans and frameworks have only managed to produce meagre returns. Yet, evidence of the brilliance of the Nigerian mind was captured in the unverified report that a Nigerian economist in one of our top universities authored the economic template used by Botswana in the 1970s.
Yet, even that same university and others across the 36 states of Nigeria are struggling to be ranked among the top 1,000 universities in the world and have consistently failed to produce researchers and graduates that can be relied upon to proffer practicable solutions to the myriad of problems troubling the nation.
Do you think the Federal Government has done enough toencourage the growth of Small and Medium-scale Enterprises as well as the rise of entrepreneurs in the country?
Against the backdrop that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises play a key role in the Nigerian economy and employ over 80 per cent of the country’s labour force as well as accounting for almost half of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product, it is obviously not enough.
Ever since the present administration initiated, among other reforms, a 60-day National Action Plan on the ease of doing business in 2016 with specific deliverables and timelines for implementation, has there any deliberate attempt to find out if it is working? If indeed, it has impacted business in the country. In fact, primarily, the question should be ‘ease of doing business for who?’ Is it just to have talking points that sound nice on the pages of newspapers, or when our officials attend summits like the World Economic Forum and provide sound bites for foreign interviews?
You see, if policy-making were a sport in the Olympics, Nigeria will lead the medals table by a wide margin. We are famous for churning out communiqués, ideas and so many theoretical frameworks. But our problem has always been improper implementation and, critically, sound research that seeks to understand what is on ground to see how policies willproduce results and performance surveys that periodically gauge the execution of such.
MSMEs, the world over, are regarded as engines of growth, yet in Nigeria, they have been left to sink or struggle for air in the sea of complexities and adversity. Poor power supply has hamstrung or killed many promising businesses; access to capital is the monster that must not be mentioned; security has been left to the dogs. If indeed, there are endless possibilities for Nigeria’s economic growth as touted by the government, we are still waiting to peek at them.
From your perspective as the anchor of TAMS, what critical steps will you recommend to make things better in the country?
Some time ago, the current Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, declared without mincing words that Nigeria’s economy is an unproductive economy built on 36 states sharing oil monies. That, surely, is a dire situation that screams, ‘National Emergency!’ Do we need the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, or indeed Bill Gates to tell us that we are not in a good place? Where we are as a nation is a predictable consequence of our poor record of accomplishment and of accountability in the execution of our innumerable developmental plans and efforts at injecting sanity into our public affairs.
Lack of time management has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society and we are all witnesses – even victims – of its manifestations in corruption, infrastructural decay, apathy, poverty, and so on. But, it will be difficult to have any meaningful development if we hesitate to demand accountability, not only of resources and budgets, but also of time in the private sector and at all levels of government. Because, as we all know, no society can make progress if the culture of disregard for time is allowed to hold sway.
Making Nigeria productive again is the ultimate goal of TAMS and the various initiatives that we have created, sponsored or supported, such as the TAMS Summit and TAMS Ambassadors awards. The summit is now in its third year of driving the conversation for workplace and national productivity in all sectors of the Nigerian economy against the backdrop of issues like time management and employee performance. In addition, the TAMS Ambassadors award is designed to challenge employees to be self-motivated and committed to delivering exceptional performances on a consistent basis.
For this, I have been called Nigeria’s timekeeper and productivity activist. Never mind, I will persist as long as I know that productivity directly affects a company’s bottom-line and our country’s development. Once again, the vision of TAMS is to leverage technology to inculcate a culture of productivity in corporate and public workplaces across the nation. In today’s work ecosystem, organisations and small business owners are willing to embrace the capabilities and possibilities of full stack human resources management or stand-alone software applications to automate and integrate their employees’ work cycles from recruitment to retirement.