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Why Should You Support Local Brands?



This week in Singapore, the Woke Salaryman put out one of the best explainers on what it means for Singaporeans to support local products and services.

In a series of cartoons (sponsored in collaboration with the office behind Made with Passion), the online media publisher took aim at the flaws of local brands being entitled to support from the local consumers.

The case study was a hypothetical small side-hustle of baking and selling cookies – incidentally an activity that became an obsession for many during last year’s lockdown. (So perhaps, not hypothetical.)

Even though the cookies might have tasted like cardboard, out of friendship, the baker is told that the cookies taste great. Pleased, he continues to give away his baked goods. His stoic friends soldier on, receiving them with forced smiles.

This cookie-monster situation escalates. Warming to these half-baked compliments, the baker decides to quit his job to start a cookie business.

“Naturally, other people won’t buy your friends’ cookies. Eventually, your friend is forced to shut down the bakery, losing their initial investment and lots of time,” the cartoon said.

Asking for support

It also pointed out that “supporting local” is falsely used as guilt-tripping to buy local products, even if they turn out to be inferior.

A quick scan on social media and online shopping platforms also revealed some shops that asked for support on the basis that they are a “local brand”, even though their products are largely commoditised and in some cases, off Taobao.

It was just over lunch this week that a new acquaintance and I spent some time discussing the ill-fit from designs of a well-known local clothing store. In the end, we pointed out, we’ve lost hope that the clothings’ fit would ever be reliable. Over time, that “local brand” support wears off.

The cartoon points out that instead, honest feedback would help local brands stay competitive. In the long run, our local brands become more valuable.

It was a simple presentation, but it offered much to chew on.

This is a simple lesson on business: before starting a new venture, does the proposed product or service address a large-enough demand to justify the investments and the ensuing risks? Is it good enough?

To get there, that trusted inner circle of feedback counts. But if familiarity bias takes over, a budding entrepreneur doesn’t get the hard truth needed to set business goals in order.

Accurate feedback

This is a natural conflict. Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist at Wharton School of Business, notes that while romantic partners and close friends might be more informed about who you are, “they share that pesky desire to see you positively”. (He suggested that colleagues are better at accurate feedback, because they are motivated to see you accurately.)

There is, though, a counterpoint to this. Sometimes in Singapore, a country that is so small and often unforgiving, perhaps we have also given ourselves too slim a margin for error.

What the cartoon depicted was true, but how can businesses then act on honest feedback? What’s helpful is a community – including customers – where small business owners can bounce off ideas on how to improve a product or service, or to execute a strategy. But while there are small communities that have popped up among small entrepreneurs, the rise of the influencer business has also meant some gaming of “likes” among local brands to drum up interest.

How far this artificial inflation of fancy for local brands will go – and the full cost of this – is yet unknown. It is a pity – the bigger benefit to having such a community should be in the more tangible things: refining business plans, sharing ways to grow the brand as success attracts competition, cross-selling, or tackling a new customer base together. Singapore brands should fly the flag, together, but with the right intentions. And we have brands that we can be proud of – we also want more of them.

Singapore brands can be build on the country’s unique selling points to create a niche product. “Perhaps one day we will see Singapore culture being exported as a product that is in demand all around the world, like K-Pop, anime, American TV, etc,” the cartoon points out. “Until then, we have to be honest to our local brands so that they can fulfil their true potential. Because (to) ‘support local’ is a choice, not a rule.”

Which brings us back to the implicit point behind the cartoon. Perhaps what is better to bring together – and hold on to – as a Singapore brand identity is the one that focuses on quality and standards.

In valuing this ethos, a budding entrepreneur is dignified by any negative feedback he receives on his product or service. It cuts out the favourable home bias that threatens the survival of a local business. And this, combined with a vibrant, authentic community for small businesses, might alleviate some of that risk inherent in entrepreneurs starting out on their own in a small market.

None of this is easy. But the truth is, the path of least resistance is rarely the best one.

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What is the Truth About Africa’s Largest Economy?



The immediate implication of a chasm which public information management in Nigeria has successfully created between the government and the people is that the country now has two major debating groups.

The first group is made up of those who adversely criticize whatever President Muhammadu Buhari does or fails to do, while the second group consists of those who see no wrong whatsoever in the activities of Buhari’s government.

The two groups have something in common which is that most Nigerians do not understand either of them.

Perhaps because both groups are unaware of this situation, they have continued to seize every opportunity to eloquently disagree with one another on every subject so as to convince us that they have good points either way.

So, when Edo state governor Godwin Obaseki last week painted a frightening picture but which looks like a true story of the precarious Nigerian economy, the resultant huge war of words between the pro and anti-Buhari crusaders especially the non-state actors could not have surprised any analyst who has followed street debates in the country.

As if to sensitize people on the state of the nation’s economy, Obaseki had raised an alarm that our finances have gone so low that last month,government had to print more money for states to share to meet their obligations.

This was unacceptable to some people who decided to react to the allegation.  First, was an unsigned statement that government was unaware of any printing of money as alleged. One comedian immediately tweeted that “the man didn’t say you were aware, he said you printed.

”The second reaction described the governor’s alarm as a lie while the third educated us on the correct terminology for what happened – lending, not printing. Painfully, what should be of concern to us has been buried by the controversy.

The fact that what was shared was a form of loan seems to establish that there was not enough to share. Whether the extra that was borrowed was printed or conjured by a magician cannot controvert the fact that Nigeria is hugely broke.

If such truth must be told to put our status in correct perspective, then Obaseki’s alarm can hardly be wished away especially if his entire statement and not just theexcerpt on printing is read in full.

Indeed, there are vital parts of the statement that have been ignored. For the benefit of those who may not have read Obaseki’s statement, here is a crucial aspect that ought not to be downplayedor discountenanced.

According to the governor, “everywhere else, governments rely on the people to produce taxes and that is what they use to run the local government, state and the federation.

But with the way we run Nigeria, the country can go to sleep. At the end of the month, we just go to Abuja, collect money and we come back to spend.

We are in trouble, huge financial trouble. The current price of crude oil is only a mirage. The major oil companies who are the ones producing are no longer investing much in oil.

Shell is pulling out of Nigeria and Chevron is now one of the world’s largest investors in alternative fuel, so in another year or so, where will we find this money that we go to share in Abuja?”

This quotation is no doubt a veritable wake-up call for us all to rise to the occasion and change our spending habit.

This is more so when the governor also clearly stated that it would be unfair for Nigerians to expect one man – Buhari, to be left alone to face the enormous problems.

In other words, the governor’s statement created no room for claims and counter claims amongst politicians or supporters.

It is also important to make the point that this is not the first time some of us are getting confused about the internal sources of Nigeria’s colossal loans.

Last month, Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced that his corporation could no longer bear the huge subsidy payments of over N120 billion monthly subsidy for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).

The NNPC according to Kyari has been absorbing the cost differential between the actual and selling cost of the product by recording it in its financial books.

Not many understood the statement. From which of its books does NNPC get such huge sums every month? 

If NNPC had been paying all its funds into the Federation Account as legally expected what magic does the Corporation employ to accommodate massive subsidy payments; is it by merely writing the amounts in its books?

Indeed, during the peak of the Covid 19 pandemic, there were certain expenses which Nigeria was too broke to accommodate and which both the NNPC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), graciously accepted to co-settle.

Do these two bodies have their own supply of funds? Answers to a question such as this may illuminate the state of Nigeria’s finances Is Nigeria really in financial trouble, if so, to what extent?

The latest answer to this question was given a few days ago by Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed who said “the nation’s debt profile was still within sustainable limit.”

The statement was quite comforting on its face value but the situation on ground appears to counter it because if we still have capacity to borrow more, why not go ahead and resolve the numerous issues waiting to be settled?

From basic economics we can imagine that our current inflation rate reflects a decline in the purchasing power of our naira which is itself not available to many. Only last week, the National Bureau of Statistics released her consumer price index (CPI) for March 2021.

In the report,inflation was said to have risen to 18% in March representing 0.82% when compared to 17% recorded in February.

Similarly, food inflation rose by 5.0% to 23% in March from 22 percent in February. The report is worth worrying about especially as the scarce funds available are swallowed by personnel costs across the nation. How do we develop?

The body language of the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele at the press conference where he was requested to react to Obaseki’s comment, showed he was visibly upset that his sacrifices do not appear appreciated.

Of course no responsible CBN can watch her nation in trouble without intervening. Again, no one doubts that our CBN has never been this stressed in history.

Governor Emefiele must take solace in the fact that he has been able to withstand the vagaries of the economic weather of Nigeria in the last couple of troublesome years.

To say that Nigeria is super broke is not an indictment but telling the truth about our situation for general enlightenment.

One of the advantages of educating people on the true status of our economy is that it can have an effect on the increasing demands by different striking Nigerian workers on all kinds of expectations.

What displeases Nigerians is not the disclosure of the true state of their nation’s economy but the transparent inequity where at this critical stage, some people still enjoy wardrobe, newspaper or other forms of annoying comfort while others are dying.  

Dr. Tonnie Iredia is Former Director General of Nigeria Television Authority (NTA)

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Burundi Army Has To Fix its Asocial Behaviour – Mental Health Expert



Burundi has been in both local and regional press for very bad stories that bring out the worst of the country’s Military.

According to Hervé Mugisha a Burundian social commentator and journalist, in the space of a month (March-April), or even less, three soldiers killed three individuals. And this, by premeditation. Among these murders, the most emblematic is that of Lt Col Blaise Nimpagaritse.

According to Annick Nikokeza, coordinator of the platform of psychosocial and mental health workers (PPSM), incidents that should remind us that in every workplace, clinical supervision of staff is an imperative.

“We never would have imagined that he was capable of committing such a despicable act.” Stunned, family, neighbors, friends, everyone is speechless in the face of the aftermath of this crime.

Following one too many drinks, as he conceded during his flagrant trial, Lt Col Nimpagaritse shot point blank at a waiter at the Ku Mucamo bar. It is located in the urban municipality of Muha, Musaga area, Kinanira II district. It is south of the economic capital.

However, if those close to him are to be believed, such an incident could have been avoided if the psychosocial services had taken up his case early. “There is no doubt that the irreparable would have been avoided,” argues one of his army promoters.

This brother-in-arms of Lt Col Nimpagaritse testifies: “Despite his jovial air, his friendliness more than once, he kept telling us that these fits of anger when he takes one too many drinks, one day would cause him pain”.

The alcohol, the anger… The Achilles heel of the other two of his colleagues. According to corroborating testimonies, when Corporal Eric Nzobakenga, soldier of the Mukoni camp in Muyinga, shot Moussa Ntibazokura, Mukoni zone chief, he had had one too many drinks.

Ditto for Master Corporal Fidèle Kwizera, the soldier from Gihanga in Bubanza, who committed murder on Tuesday April 13 following a dispute over a memory card.

Cases, during the presentation of quarterly achievements, Wednesday April 14, that Alain Tribert Mutabazi, Minister of Defense did not fail to mention, preferring to put into perspective. “Isolated cases, in no way should reflect the moods of the entire military corps.”

Originally, a “badly lived” history

In view of this series of murders, Annick Nikokeza, coordinator of the Platform of Psychosocial and Mental Health Intervenors (PPSM) believes that in each workplace for the improvement of productivity, social security, it is imperative to ” have clinical supervision.

“It’s especially at this time that burrs of all kinds become rife. Regularly in the army there should be physical and mental aptitude tests. ” Depending on the results of those assessments, she continues, this would prevent a gun from ending up in the hands of the wrong person.

According to her, what should always be kept in mind is that this kind of behavioral reactions such as aggression, impulsive behavior, excessive consumption of tobacco, alcohol are not trivial. .

“Most of the time, it is the consequence of badly lived antecedents (trauma, disappointment etc.), which have remained buried deep within themselves without being exteriorized,” she points out.

In this case, advocates Ms. Nikokeza, in addition to the vigilance of superiors, case-by-case treatment is required. “Also, it is necessary that during the moral talks, the debates can be held with broken sticks. Otherwise, it is the image of the big mute that risks being chipped. “.

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Do We Have A Politician In The Person Of Dr. Kayumba?



My friend Dr. Christopher Kayumba has caught me by surprise. All along he had presidential ambitions? I will find time to discuss with him broadly about his “serious” political ambitions: Ambitions to lead us!

I don’t know why he kept this immense ambition from me. I guess I did not qualify to have privy to “top secret”. Maybe I was gullible and naïve. Either way, I am in awe: a pure sublime moment.   

For now, I want to digest a press release he issued, Tuesday March 16, 2020.  Kayumba, announced the formation of the Rwandese Platform for Democracy (RPD).

He said this is a “forum to advance, promote and contribute to the development of a freer; democratic; secure; sustainably peaceful and developed Rwanda.” He didn’t mention his fellow founding members, but promised to do so in future. I hope that future is near.

Kayumba’s formation of RPD, is, he clarified, “necessitated by unattended to weaknesses in our social, economic, and political system revealed by COVID-19 and deeper problems of widespread poverty and inequality, injustice, historical cycles of armed violence that continue to plague our nation especially originating from groups based in the DRC, the lack of Individual and media freedom, as well as endless exiles all of which have, for many years anchored our county’s continued underdevelopment.” To quote him just in part.

In ink, all his ideas are good, well-articulated. Anyone would expect a person with a Doctorate to express their views, good or bad, without ambiguity.  But I have some questions, concerns and observations to make. I will combine them in five points.

One: Now that Kayumba has declared Presidential ambitions, he has presented himself for unavoidable immense public scrutiny regarding i) his credibility ii) his ability, iii) his background, iv) and his real motivation. How and why? If he manages to mobilise a constituency that buys into his ideas, what will precede is assessing whether we have a politician in the person of Kayumba who can be considered by the public as a trusted servant.

He has a myriad allegation of sexual assault including one against his former student at the University of Rwanda. He served a one-year prison sentence for a felony committed. He has a long list of other offences, including public nuisance or tort of law. Will he survive all these ailments? Won’t he be hanged by the court of public opinion? I hope he expects to be judged, attacked, and criticised as duly. How he manages to impugn from this net of bugs remains to be seen. It would be unexpected that, anyone with the caliber of Dr. Kayumba is not knowledgeable enough to understand that those malaises are recipes for the assassination of political ambition of any aspirant from the word go.

Two: By law, a convict who has served a jail sentence of more than six months, according to the Rwandan Constitution, is prohibited from holding a public office. How will Kayumba escape this axe? He knows better, presumably.

Three: Kayumba is an intellectual, a political analyst, and has welded fame through his pen. One time he told me that when people ask him how he earns a living, he responds: “I earn from thinking.” Equipped with his academic credentials, and access to a resourceful network of people in power, security, academia, business and foreign offices that provides him with informed orientation on political dynamics, one would conclude that he can make vital contributions to society only if he had discipline.  Question is, can Kayumba be rehabilitated and what would it take or he should expect the public to ignore the facts, and trade his credibility for his ability? I will pose this to him.

Four: Kayumba recently wrote two letters to the President. The contents of the letters were markedly contradictory, but raised some fundamental challenges of the contemporary Rwanda. He also accused Kagame’s government of very serious crimes and policy oversights. It was an ugly package. The ordinary folks on the streets whom he assumably spoke for did not know about it. Those who read it, did not give much fuss, but they did casually discuss it because some of its content merited a debate. The intended ignored him, so did the President.  This might have rubbed Kayumba the wrong way. For observes, Kayumba known for harbouring an attitude and an ego that disarms his ability to admit he can honourably go wrong. “He is a disgruntled man,” a political pundit told me. “He needs attention,” another said, but it’s this that left me in stitches: “A drowning man will hold onto a snake.”

Finally, and on a serious note, Kayumba has invited something unpleasant. Take any dimension and you will not find a convincing pointer. His links with a foreign country promising to bankroll his political ambitions. “This is a very dangerous snack, Dr.!” I imagined my opening line when I finally talk to him. For so many times Kayumba lectured me about patriotism and ‘Ubukotanyi,”. I had never imagined he would accept to be financed and supported by a foreign state for they would be meddling with our internal politics, an act that has almost made some countries go to war. I will divulge details of this allegation against him after speaking to him.

I want him to be the first person to hear from me about these details. But this will be an interesting discussion because he never had light words for Dr. Frank Habineza, founder and chairman of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, weeks before he ran for President. Not only did he question his Doctoral authenticity, but also his source of financing and his ability to mobilise a sound constituency. Habineza must be sending him winking emojis via WhatsApp!

I will leave a disclaimer. There is tendency to blackmail critics and those who hold a divergent view, a culture Kayumba himself mentions in his political brochure. I can categorically state that I never betray my friends, but I too don’t pledge allegiance to people we fundamentally disagree on matters as strong as those Kayumba has declared and is getting involved in. Never!

Nevertheless, no one should be stopped from being ambitious. Let the times and circumstances be Kayumba’s judge, I believe.

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