Govt. has no business in business - Hajiya Maryam Yusuf
Hajiya Maryam Bolanle Yusuf FCEM FAIE, is the Vice Chief Executive Officer of KAM Groups Nigeria Limited. In this interview with ROYAL NEWS, she spoke on her business life and many more. Excerpts:
No, doubt you are woman of many parts and Captain of Industries, going by the current economic realities of Nigeria, how do you assess economic atmosphere of this country generally, Is it favourable or otherwise?
Our country Nigeria is just coming out of recession and we all know what recession means. We have recorded a negative growth for the fifth quarter in a row with an aggregate slump in GDP of -1.5% in 2016 and this translates into low purchasing power, lack of patronage for local goods, massive stock build-up in the warehouses of manufacturers, workers placed on stood off or outright lay-off, loss of revenue to the Governments, non-performing loans, credit crunch and a host of discomfort to the populace. This is a challenging time for all. Nobody is favoured. Recession calls on everyone to be at wits end. Home grown economics is the panacea to recession and this is what the present administration is preaching and in some sectors, supporting.
May we know more about your companies? E.g. discuss briefly about Mistufik, Kamfarm and the rest.
In the beginning, I joined my husband in his business as a Trader and later, we became Industrialists with many ventures. I am on the board of these companies in their capacities as Special Purpose Vehicles and as separate business entities, but the brand name, Kamwire is overshadowing. Mistufik Nigeria Limited and Bitkam Enterprises are my own companies to sustain the Trading arm of the conglomerate. Along the line, I appreciated the opportunity in Farming, particularly crop farming and I obtained the permission from my husband to venture into this sector and so far, so good. Myself and my team have progressed into the processing of agricultural yields from the farms. We produce processed Gari under the brand name of ‘Kamfarm’. We produce lots of Yams, Plantains, Melons and other arable crops in commercial quantities. The growth of Nigeria's GDP lies in Agriculture and Manufacturing.
Companies in Nigeria are not waiting for government in some aspects, including energy and other infrastructure needed in manufacturing and production, how do you source for energy to power all these companies and how does that situation affect your business vis-à-vis retail cost of your products, are high or reasonable low? READ ALSO:Asiwaju of Offa, Chief Emmanuel Adesoye dies at 79
Government anywhere in the world has got no business in Business. Government should be busy with good governance, capacity building, provision of enabling environment (infrastructures) and investment-friendly policies for local entrepreneurs and direct foreign investors. Unfortunately, the infrastructures such as Power, Roads, Railways, Gas Pipeline networks, Waterways are not enough. For example, there is no Gas Pipeline Network anywhere in Kwara State for cheaper energy whereas it is abundant in Lagos. The economic playing field is not level. However, we are fortunate in Kwara because of the establishment of Ganmo Power Substation by Saraki Administration which provides relatively stable power supply to our factories. We are also reaping the benefit of being nearer to Kainji and Jebba Hydro energy sources. Until lately, the Naira/Kwh was affordable, but the new tariff of N45.45/Kwh is discriminating and excruciatingly expensive, almost 100% increase in one fell-swoop. How can those of us in the Steel Industry with high energy demand compete with imported products? No way. We have put on our thinking caps and very soon, we shall extricate ourselves from the claws of the DISCOS and become Eligible Customers of the GENCOS with reduced tariff. We have provided own Transmission lines from the Substation to our installations. We are not owing any DISCO anything.
Are they on the high side or what?
The retail cost of any of our products is the lowest in the industry because we have to compete effectively against local manufacturers and imported products, even the substandard ones. The economic space does not favour high selling price.
What are the economic challenges facing your companies?
Kwara State is a land-locked state. We need good road network for ease of moving in raw materials and moving out finished products. As a leader in the Steel Industry, we need venture capital at reasonable rates of interest. We need intervention/low priced and long tenor-funds for the farming venture as well for the processing factory. We also have the challenge of skill gap in Automation and Systems Engineering, Project Management and Information Technology Security. The current exchange rate has ballooned the cost of hiring of expatriates. We need skilled Nigerians.
Are you suffering from negative impacts of smuggling into the country?
Smugglers are Industrialists' killer squad. They aid dumping and distribution of sub standard products. Unfortunately, our borders are porous. Smuggling has worsened the present economic recession as a result of dumping of substandard products into the market place thus closing the market against local manufacturers of quality products. For example, eighty-five percent of Galvanised Roofing Sheets in the Eastern market are imported substandard products. We look forward to SON and the Nigeria Customs Service to rescue us from this killer squad.
Would you say tax regime of all tiers of government in Nigeria are favourable to economic growth and development?
The Tax to GDP ratio of 6% in Nigeria is low and any effort to boost it is welcome but the issue is that many Nigerians are not in the tax net particularly those in the informal sector and those whose names are not on any payroll. This omission has made Governments in Nigeria to make a scapegoat out of Industrialists and formal Business people. Multiplicity of tax, especially at Local government level is a sore point. They are like mosquitoes humming in your ears throughout the night. You cannot get a good sleep.
With all these challenges identified which are causing headache to mean already, how do you think women like you still succeed in Nigerian economy as Managing Director?
Women are the finest creation of the Almighty One and they are gifted with perseverance and resilience. We are endowed with the fruitage of long-suffering and forbearance always believing that there shall be honey tomorrow. Managing the home and managing the business are not easy tasks but I thank God for the gifts given to me. My husband being an industrialist knows what it takes to run the business and he appreciates the little I am contributing. He backs me up with every support I need. My education at University of Ilorin for the first degree and University of Lagos for the second degree is an asset that I have put to use effectively.
What are the initiatives that you have for your companies in terms of expansion?
Manufacturing what we need in Nigeria using locally sourced raw materials is the ultimate room for expansion. We are not going to rest until we source all our raw materials locally. It is the best way to expand. We are part and parcel of the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan and we have keyed into it.
And what is your company corporate social responsibility like for the communities where you operate?
We are conscious of the inadequate infrastructures around us and we know that the government cannot provide everything. We try our hardest to provide these infrastructures within the hosting communities. We have provided roads, repaired some major highways, gave out transformers to boost energy supplies, sank boreholes, built places of worship and outright cash donations to the needy.
Your message to Nigerian women and ladies.
Let Nigerian women be partners and friends to their husbands, mother of their children and determine to work with their own hands and the most important of all, safeguard their spirituality – that is the way of life.