Made in Africa – Radical Thoughts on Cultures We Have Adopted

Kenneth Igiri

A few experiences over the past few months have made me think about how we live as Africans and what we can do as a people to better our macro economies. As you read this be aware that I am not some racist or separatist. We must co-exist with the rest of the world but I believe there must be a balance  in the practice of “giving and receiving”,  “buying and selling”. The way things are now, the flow of wealth and goods is grossly out of balance we as Africans living in Africa are at the receiving end of loans, the buying end in terms of trade and it keeps getting worse.

In addition, do not consider me some kind of absolute genius because I am writing this. What I am writing today is not new. It is practically common knowledge but like a lot of knowledge we possess, it remains in our heads. We do nothing with the knowledge. Because we are afraid? Uncertain, not confident? I do not know why but it is just the way things are: we fail to create much value with our knowledge. It remains in our heads and in our mouths.

Dr. Myles Monroe of blessed memory wore suits a lot. But he also taught me about Hellenization: the process the Greeks used to convert a large portion of the know world some two thousand five hundred years ago so strongly that even when the Roman Empire took over, Greek was still the dominant language in most parts of the world where natives of different lands had to communicate. The English did the same thing with countries we now call the Commonwealth Countries. (We actually pride ourselves in being identified with the Queen’s “common wealth” which is very distant from us, a matter for another day). Because of this process, we speak English.

 

Why Do We Wear Suits?

Suits evolved over thousands of years  in Europe but the basic concept of a suit, along with boots and hats and coveralls is this: Europe is in the upper hemisphere. It is cold and as much clothing as necessary is not out of place. So why do we  wear suits in Sub-Saharan African. We can pardon East Asia for adopting English culture in this manner because they are also in the upper hemisphere. Maybe we can even pardon South Africa. But Nigeria? Ghana? Cameroon? Togo? Why do we wear suits?

There are twenty five or so banks in Nigeria, maybe about thirty in Ghana. A 2009 report stated that about 60,000 members of the work force in Nigeria were bankers. Assuming a person had only one suit and typically changed it every three months, in one year 240,000 suits would have been imported. That is not very significant because we have left out the ties, shirts, air-conditioning, dry-cleaning, refrigerating, etc. What was your reason again for wearing suits? Prestige? Conformity? Custom?

Imagine what would happen if every bank in Sub-Saharan Africa chose two days in a week to “not wear suits”. Radical? Maybe positively radical. New jobs sewing smocks, Adire, Isi-Agu and the like. Less air-conditioning, better productivity etc. Soon, more modern, work-friendly designs of local fabrics will emerge, much like what happened to the original English Suit! Radical, did you say? How about no suits at all? Cringe.

 

Why Do We Eat Chinese Food?

Apologies to the Chinese but as much as I appreciate Chinese food I must ask: why it is much more expensive? Because it is imported? Possibly. Why do we take pride in and photos of ourselves visiting Chinese restaurants? Something has happened to our sense of identity. When a foreigner tastes Banku or Moi-moi, he or she typically does it because he wants to have a new experience as part of his or her tourist adventure. I can assure you that if you open up an African Restaurant in New York most of your customers would be fellow Africans. If your bring KFC or something from China I cannot read to Accra however, it becomes the in thing for all Africans. The rich and powerful show their power by visiting such places regularly. “I will do KFC today” “I did Chinese last night” sounds very prestigious to us. Amazing. I learnt some time last year that local Poultry farmers are unable to produce the amount of chicken required to sustain a certain eatery in Accra. I am not against any of these, I just think the imbalance is disheartening.

 

What Does Our Breakfast Look Like?

Cheese, bread, Kellog’s Cornflakes? Baked Beans? Sausages? Let’s think about it: How many tables in Holland have Akara, Corn meal, Moi-moi, Hausa Cocoa on a regular basis? This is not hate speech, I am just considering the issue of balance. What are we offering to the world? What is the world buying from us? Are we really “living large” or just drowning ourselves slowly?

 

I Challenge You

Let’s do an experiment. Can you choose one month this year in which to eat only Made-in-Africa breakfasts, wear Made-in-Africa clothes from head to toe (if your work allows), and seek out one useful gadget or piece of artwork made in Africa. I think we do have something to offer the world. I am hoping and praying that the generation coming after us will still believe that.

Five Things I learnt from the Road Side Food Vendor

Business is theoretical for most of us. We read about it, we discuss it, we go to school to earn degrees on it but we never actually do business. On the other hand some people do a lot of business without attending ‘ Business School’ or reading any books. Sure there is a balance between the two and I do believe there is something we can learn from both sides. I passed by a food vendor’s kiosk this morning and noticed a few things that can scale. I will call her Yayra for the purpose of this blog post and tell you what I learnt.

 

  1. Yayra Owns Real Estate

Yayra does not pay any rent. Maybe she pays a little money to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly for placing her kiosk where it was but in my opinion by owning her own kiosk she has cut off a certain recurrent cost. Once she covers the initial cost of procuring the cost, she is free. Cutting off unnecessary costs is a valuable business strategy. Her business model does not require an elaborate building (at least not at this stage) so she keeps it simple and owns something that is fit for purpose.

 

  1. Yayra’s Kiosk is Agile

Recent studies have begun to focus on how quickly businesses can adapt to changing environmental factors. I believe there is even a methodology along this line called Agile. Without studying this methodology Yayra is practicing an aspect of it. She can quite easily move her kiosk if need be. She is disaster ready and has a BCP plan, a simple one: too much rain, move the kiosk! Earthquake warning, move the kiosk! Government policy impact, move the kiosk! Simple. It reminds me of last year’s demolition of the market at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle (now Interchange) which put the affected shop owners through many meetings for compensation. Yayra would not need compensation in such a case, she would only need to move the kiosk!

 

  1. Yayra’s Services are Explicit

Yayra does not need much advertisement because all her wares are visible through the thin glass that makes up the upper part of her kiosk. Everyone who comes close can see clearly what the menu is: the steam emitting freshly cooked rice, the heap of eggs, the red stew turgid with assorted pieces of meat etc. No need for questions. No need for elaborate explanations because everything is clear. If a product needs to be explained too much then it is probably not in the correct market segment. I can imagine how utterly confused some of her customers would be if they stepped into Holiday Inn! I can imagine how difficult it is to explain to some people why a 70x50ft plot at Appolonia costs $19,000 (currently).

 

  1. Yayra’s Customers Are Monarchs

At Yayra’s shop, everyone determines what they want. Rice, three cedis, salad, one cedi, macaroni, one cedi. If you like, Rice, ten cedis, fish five cedis, etc. Very flexible payment plans. It is almost like the model that has become popular in the last decade or two: Pay As You Go! When customers can control their costs, they love the service provider.

 

  1. Yayra Operates a Lean Workforce

What is the optimal number of staff required to run Yayra’s Kitchen efficiently? One! One, yes one! The customers can wait in queues on both sides of the kiosks. She can attend to them personally one at a time. They are not irate, they are willing to wait. This means at this stage, Yayra does not need a queuing system or an ordering system. She does not need an online portal to process orders. She does not need a nice looking reception. She does not even need another waiter, no, not at this stage, maybe later. Yayra knows what she really needs in order to keep her costs down. Do you?

 

Conclusion

It is amazing the things you can learn when you observe. It can even be more amazing if we can apply to our lives every valuable thing we learn every day. Ownership, Agility, Product/Service Definition, Customer Focus and Cost/Staff Optimization are just a few things we have seen in a slightly different light by passing through Yayra’s Kitchen. I’ll keep my eyes open. I am sure I will see more lessons in the everyday grind of life and when it’s significant, I will share with you. Please share with others.

Path Error When Installing SQL Server 2016 on Command Line

Error

The input setting “SQLUSERDBDIR” has invalid character ” ” “. Retry setup with valid value for “SQLUSERDBDIR”.

Fix

Do not using quotes when specifying the /SQLUSERDBDIR,  /SQLUSERDBLOGDIR,  /SQLTEMPDBDIR, /SQLTEMPDBLOGDIR parameter values i.e. /SQLUSERDBDIR=M:\MSSQL\Data NOT  /SQLUSERDBDIR=”M:\MSSQL\Data”

It was different one version earlier.

Persistent Database Mail Queue

So we  have this ancient SQL Server 2005 instance sitting in some high security environment. I want to have mails fire daily with details of health checks but I find my mails simply queue, reporting ‘unsent’.

I do the regular checks and they look OK. Mail queue is started and inactive. Database Mail XPs is enabled.

  • sysmail_help_status_sp
  • sysmail_help_queue_sp @queue_type = ‘Mail’ ;
  • exec sp_configure ‘Database Mail XPs’

Further checks on OS level show the following error in Event Viewer:

/*
Database Engine Instance=XXXXXXXXX;Mail PID=6792;Error Message:
The update to the database failed. Reason: The EXECUTE permission was denied on the object
‘sysmail_logmailevent_sp’, database ‘msdb’, schema ‘dbo’.
*/

/*

1) Exception Information
===================
Exception Type: Microsoft.SqlServer.Management.SqlIMail.Server.Common.BaseException
Message: There was an error on the connection. Reason: Login failed for user ‘<DOMAIN>\sqlserverpost’., connection parameters: Server Name: <SERVER-NAME>, Database Name: msdb
Data: System.Collections.ListDictionaryInternal
TargetSite: Void OpenConnection(Microsoft.SqlServer.Management.Common.SqlConnectionInfo)
HelpLink: NULL
Source: DatabaseMailEngine

StackTrace Information
===================
at Microsoft.SqlServer.Management.SqlIMail.Server.DataAccess.ConnectionManager.OpenConnection(SqlConnectionInfo ci)
at Microsoft.SqlServer.Management.SqlIMail.Server.DataAccess.DataAccessAdapter.OpenConnection(String dbServerName, String dbName, String userName, String password)
at Microsoft.SqlServer.Management.SqlIMail.IMailProcess.QueueItemProcesser.ProcessQueueItems(String dbName, String dbServerName, Int32 lifetimeMinimumSec, LogLevel loggingLevel)

2) Exception Information
===================
Exception Type: System.Data.SqlClient.SqlException
Errors: System.Data.SqlClient.SqlErrorCollection
Class: 14
LineNumber: 65536
Number: 18456
Procedure:
Server: <SERVER-NAME>
State: 1
Source: .Net SqlClient Data Provider
ErrorCode: -2146232060
Message: Login failed for user ‘<DOMAIN>\sqlserverpost’.
Data: System.Collections.ListDictionaryInternal
TargetSite: System.Data.ProviderBase.DbConnectionInternal GetConnection(System.Data.Common.DbConnection)
HelpLink: NULL

StackTrace Information
===================
at System.Data.ProviderBase.DbConnectionPool.GetConnection(DbConnection owningObject)
at System.Data.ProviderBase.DbConnectionFactory.GetConnection(DbConnection owningConnection)
at System.Data.ProviderBase.DbConnectionClosed.OpenConnection(DbConnection outerConnection, DbConnectionFactory connectionFactory)
at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlConnection.Open()
at Microsoft.SqlServer.Management.SqlIMail.Server.DataAccess.ConnectionManager.OpenConnection(SqlConnectionInfo ci)

For more information, see Help and Support Center at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/events.asp.
*/

So guess what, I did it the ‘quick’ way. I gave the SQL Server Service Account sysadmin! Yeah, I know, you thought I was going to say the SQL Server Agent Account. Well NO, because databasemail.exe is an external process which logs in as the service account to do its job.

ORA-00313: Open Failed for Members of Log group in Physical Standby

The scenario is we have an Oracle Dataguard Primary/Standby pair perfectly working (as far as we could see then) . We had need for a DR test which typically involves failover to the Standby. After failing over and reversing the log shipping we found that the logs were not being applied in the new standby. The apparent error in the alert log of the now Standby Database (formerly primary was:

ORA-00313: Open Failed for Members of Log group 5 Thread 1

First we noticed that the number of log groups in the new primary was actually three NOT five so one thought was something had gone wrong with the fourth and fifth log groups so we tried to recreate alas the error we received indicated that the log groups already existing thus confirming our fear since we could not see the log file groups in v$log:

ERROR at line 1:
ORA-01184: logfile group 4 already exists

We then dropped both log file groups 4 and 5 and recreated them on the primary. Note that clearing the log file groups on the primary did not solve the situation. We eventually cleared the affected logfile group on the standby database and we were able to get Dataguard working again after bouncing the standby database.

alter database clear logfile group 5;

I should also mention that you cannot manipulate online redo logs on the standby database.

Useful References

Bug 12575481 – Activating standby database with missing Online Redo Logs may fail with ORA-7445[ kcrcls] (Doc ID 12575481.8)

How to Recover from Loss Of Online Redo Log And ORA-312 And ORA-313 (Doc ID 117481.1)

VCLRUNTIME140.dll Missing After Installing SSMS

So I complete this SQL Server 2016 installation successfully adn then install SQL Server 2016 Management Studio which now comes as a separate package. I thin attempt to log on to the instance by I get the following error:

“The program can’t start because vclruntime140.dll is missing from your computer. Try reinstalling the program to fix this problem”

After trying a number of things these are the steps that worked:

  1. Uninstalled the existing version of Microsoft Visual C++ 2015 Redistributable (x86) and installed Microsoft Visual C++ 2015 Redistributable (x86) – 14.0.23026 downloaded from here.
  2. After performing step 1 I could then get SSMS to load at least but got a different error when object explorer was about to load saying :

“This is pre-release software. The license has expired”

I then took additional steps:

  1. Uninstalled the existing version of Microsoft Visual C++ 2015 Redistributable (x64) and installed Microsoft Visual C++ 2015 Redistributable (x64) – 14.0.23026 downloaded from here.
  2. Repaired my installation of Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 Shell (Isolated)
  3. Rebooted the compuer

We Choose How We Are

 

Imagine stepping out of you house every day, walking across the street with a bucket of trash in your hand and just throw it all on the bare floor. You do it the first day, the second day, the third day and on and on. You are completely comfortable with yourself, no guilt, no second thoughts, no hesitation. You just give birth to a rubbish heap right in front of your home. No one stops you so you go right ahead and while everyone minds their business.

Soon everyone in your neighbourhood joins and you work together assiduously to build a mountain of trash front of you several feet wide. It smells everyday, keeps rising and is about to close up the major road that runs in from of your line of houses but no one, no one in the neighbourhood says STOP! There is an amazingly enthusiastic communal effort to turn the empty space in front of you street to a rubbish heap. Everyone comes together to work hard at it. Day after day everyone plays there role.

The worst part of what I just wrote is that it is not an imagination. It happened for real at Avenor, Accra over a period of a few months right before our eyes. It made me think that maybe those who say most people on earth have some degree of madness or the other may be right. It made me wonder whether Botha was right about Negros. I know about this developmental communal effort because I drive through this area almost every week day and pondered on how people felt living like this.

The bottom line is whatever we see happening in our community is something we have collectively created. Something we have chosen to live with. We choose to create traffic jams with double parking. We choose to create filthy public washrooms by standing on the toilet seat. We choose to create despots by saying nothing. We choose to live in darkness by importing generators. We choose to remain on the disadvantaged end of exchange rates by purchasing foreign products exclusively. We choose financial shipwreck by spending everything. Funny enough when the mountain we have been building for years suddenly starts growing out of proportion we cry out to the West for help!

What are you choosing today by a simple act of negligence, carelessness or foolishness. Know that when it becomes a mountain staring at you, you will have to live with it.

Crowd Funding is Native to Africa

One of the most beautiful things about Africa is the value we have for family and community. When we give birth we do not have to pay nannies, our mothers-in-law are there for us. When we want house helps, we can readily get distant cousins from our home towns (at least when I was growing up). When we want to school abroad the village chief calls a meeting and everyone contributes to send us to school in the hopes that we will make the village proud at the end of the day. When we want to start business all we need to do is work for Uncle Okoro for a few years and he will set us up (happens in Nnewi). Community is a concept native to Africa. These days we are becoming more western, more individualist, focusing more more on our nuclear families. It could be a culture shift or just a response to economic pressure. In the mean time the west is re-defining the concepts of community through such innovations as Social Media, Crowd Funding and even Bitcoins. So many things can be achieved faster when people come together. This is largely an African ideology.

Crowd Funding allows one to get support for a projects or startup using small amounts of money from a large number of people. Think about it. You want to build a bore hole for your community and you need GHC2000.00 and no charity is willing to give you that amount at a go. However you do have a thousand Facebook friends from all over the world who trust you and can afford to give you the equivalent of GHC2.00 each in any currency. Your project is done! You have a business proposition which borders on Social Entrepreneurship. You may want to start an Orphanage or an Old People’s Home and you need GHC10,000.00 seed capital. One hundred of your friends who also have one hundred friends you can raise GHC100,00.00 at GHC1.00 per person depending on your determination.

Now let’s go to two key questions: WHY and HOW?

Why would ten thousand people give you GHC1.00 each? Because they trust you. Family and community are based on love and trust. Trust is a powerful concept that binds Africans together. They trust that you will actually do the project not buy a car. They trust that you will let them know when and how the project is done. They also trust that where applicable you will somehow let them benefit from the returns of your project,

How can you achieve this Crowd Funding? You definitely cannot go around with a basket asking all your friends for GH1.00 each. Besides they would definitely be embarrassed that all they can give you is GHC1.00. The answer lies in an online platform and https://ventsell.com/ is one of such platforms. Do not waste another second. Start a project this month.

https://ventsell.com #CrowdFunding #Events

AD 2017 01 01

This is my 136th post and my 6th year on this blog. Just this afternoon I had a small chat with one of my bosses regarding our tendency to analyze so hard that we fail to even start something worthwhile ever. I recalled a statement I heard from Pastor Poju Oyemade a few years ago along the lines of “Ready, Fire, Aim!!!” which speaks of the need to make a move before perfecting you move in certain circumstances. I thank God I made a move with my books and with my blogs. It can only get better.

I encourage you to see this first day of 2017 as another opportunity to make a move. Many people can advise you or help you analyze things but only YOU ALONE can feel the heat of the vision burning in your heart. Mark my words, when something is a real vision it typically will be beyond the borders of current knowledge. We really cannot accurately analyze it until YOU give birth to it. So make a move. Ready, Fire First, then Aim.

One of the most precious resources we are given on this planet is time. We cannot afford to waste it because it impossible to recover. Risks are better taken when there is more time ahead of us to recover in the case of a failure than otherwise. In other words, If my first attempt fails when I am twenty years old, I still have more than forty years to learn and try again. But if my first risk is at forty, I have a dicey situation. If you are yet to take a risk, find what is burning in your heart and go for it NOW!

Let me round up by recording my word of advice to myself and my friends this year. Please add these to your arsenal:

* Respect Time. It is passing quicker than you think. Strive to do more with less. Account for your activities. Work towards identifying the returns on every hour of every day spent. Difficult but possible.

* Acquire Assets. Assets create wealth, liabilities deplete resources. Currency is given to you for a certain period of live so you have an opportunity to acquire real assets. Knowing the difference between assets and liabilities and spending on assets is strong wisdom.

* Read Enough Books. You do not have time to know everything so look for knowledge that will enhance your life’s pursuits. Too many books simply makes you an analyst of other people’s ideas. Relevant books will make you an expert in a specific field.

* Give. While the earth remains, seed-time and harvest will never cease. One of the primary purposes of wealth in any of its forms is for it to flow round. Allowing wealth flow through you generates more fulfillment that merely amassing it indefinitely

* Nurture Relationships. Once a week smiles won’t cut it. Work on really getting to know a core group of people of like vision. Give time, give a smile, ask about their welfare, engage deeply. Learn to really love.

* Honour God. So many things are out of you control already so why not just relinquish the steering wheel and give God first place. “Many are the plans in the heart of a man but it is the Lord’s counsel that shall stand.”. In the final analysis, God rules so make Him King already.

I pray for you that God will consume you with an obsession this year that will wake you up every day before 5:00 AM. That you will become completely uncomfortable with the way things are and look for how they can be. I pray that the ship of your life will not be driven by a sail but by an engine with deliberate direction and the required bursts of energy.

Thank you for making time to stop by my blog every once in a while. I wish you and your a Glorious New Year. 2017 can become a new season for you once you take action in the correct direction. God is waiting on YOU!