Cross River North – What We Can Do With Our Okadas BY AGBA JALINGO (PART 1&2)

In Breaking News, Opinion, Politics

Part One

From media records, between January and December 2021 alone, over 1000 bikes have been shared in the five LGAs of Cross River North, mostly by politicians and a few individuals who have also adopted okada, as empowerment for the people. And more are still pouring in as we approach the 2023 general elections.

The cost of one bike throughout the year 2021, has hovered between N350k to N420k, depending on the type you are buying. If we stick with N400k x 1000 bikes, that will amount to N400 Million Naira for purchase of those bikes alone. Each bike rider delivers N1k daily to the bike owner but if you own one and ride it yourself, you could amass up to N3k daily for yourself. That’s a  N400 Million+ hardware economy there.

Transport from the LGA headquarters to most of the villages takes an average of N300. To amass N3k daily will mean each biker has to lift at least 10 passengers a day, on average. But, let us discount all the bikes distributed in previous years and assume that all the 1000+ bikes distributed in 2021 alone, are working on the road and lifting at least 10 passengers each, daily at N300. That will amount to lifting a total of 10,000 passengers daily amassing N3 Million. This does not include all the other bikes distributed previously, for over 15 years now. So, let us do some elementary, data driven opportunity analysis.

The five LGAs of Northern Cross River Senatorial district have a combined land area of 4,527km², and a combined population of 1,015,300 people as at 2016, estimated to be nearing 1.5million people by 2020. By our population, Cross River North alone is larger than Cyprus, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Cape Verde, Seychelles, Bahamas, Dominican Republic and several other countries with less than a million population. By land area, our senatorial district is also bigger than Hong Kong, Singapore, Malta, Mauritius and several other nations under 4000km². Most of these smaller countries have thriving and bustling economies that are catering for their people, with Singapore and Hong Kong, far ahead of Nigeria.

With a hypothetical N400 Million hardware investment, 1000 bikes, 10,000 daily passengers and N3 Million daily revenue, it is a waste of resources I repeat, not to take deliberate steps to digitize the relationship between these forces, with a view to creating a digital retail economy that will target these itinerant players and enable them create and distribute wealth among themselves.

How to do this will form part two of this article tomorrow.

Merry Christmas and God bless you.

Yours sincerely.

Part Two

In part one of this forecast, I tried to use data to approximate the value of the Okada economy in the Cross River North senatorial district. I also promised that in this second part, I will proffer what I think we can do with our numerous Okadas. Assuming but not conceding that I was one of those sharing Okada to my people or planning to, having realized the potentials in the sector and the need to harness them, I will:

  1. Either adopt existing ones or fund a start-up competition to create a secure indigenous logistics enterprise app or bot, that will also offer a bouquet of services including passenger, goods, information and services delivery like GOKADA, UBER, BOLT, MY RIDE etc. A bot, short for robot, is a software program that performs automated, repetitive, predefined tasks. Bots typically imitate or replace human user behavior. Because they are automated, they operate much faster than human users. They are software not hardware. Like apps, bots are not expensive to create.
  1. For instance, we could call our own app or bot WeRollBikes. Note that the app or service will not be owned by any politician or by the government. It will be owned by the young start-up(s) who created the solution. But the politicians can deliberately instigate the creation of the app by funding the start-up competition and providing the initial capital for the app or bot’s development and promotion on Google and Apple stores, as well as deliberately patronizing their services to encourage others and to ensure flow of capital.
  1. Promotion of the app will include lobbying to get most bikes within the senatorial district to register for free, like you register your car on uber/bolt app, and also present the 10,000 daily riders an irresistible offer of the juicy retail services the app or bot is capable of dispensing. This has a potential to draw in the first 1000 bikes within the first 100 days from launch and that is a huge market already.
  1. Every bike on the app or bot, will be assigned an immutable electronic ID. That ID will immediately begin to generate the bike’s digital footprints henceforth, solving security and crime issues associated with Okada by making them easily tractable. Whatever activity the rider uses the bike for on that app or bot, will have digital footprints.
  1. Just like Gokada and Bolt, every WeRollBiker will be given improved security and safety safeguards to upgrade in their bikes before registration can be completed. The additional safety fittings to the WeRollBikes will not only help to drastically reduce accidents and fatalities, it will also create a new line of products for local sellers of protective helmets and glasses, protective jackets, gloves, elbow and shin guards, etc.
  1. Riders will also receive, read and agree to legally binding client data protection and customer relations commitments in their online agreements with the app or bot, and click “agreed” before registration is completed. Regular and updated information on client data protection and security will be communicated in regular bulletins to the riders, in local languages via the bot.
  1. If all of this interaction enjoys the deliberate support of State actors and those who influence the political economy of Cross River North and those who are sharing Okada for constituents now, it will combine to transform our ecosystem and create a digital retail economy anchored on BIKES and DATA, to deliver not only safer and more respected transportation of humans and goods from place to place but will also be the backbone of a retail economy that will deliver fast and reliable products and services to itinerant players in our rural communities and small towns.
  1. As the app or bot facilitates the seamless interaction of these forces, it will lead to the creation of thousands of itinerant private sector jobs in:

— healthcare 

— Education

— Agriculture 

— Transportation

— e-Commerce

— Sports

Etc. COVID 19, proved that all those services can be offered online.

  1. Though, it is arguable that almost every bike rider in Cross River North has an active phone line, the same cannot be said of internet connection to those phone lines. All the five LGAs in the North do have internet at their headquarters but the level of internet penetration in most of our rural areas is acutely abysmal. And that is part of the infrastructure that needs to be bridged by stakeholders to enable this idea to flourish lavishly. The idea can commence with the present level of internet penetration but projected expansion will require faster internet connectivity.
  1. The good news is that the Elon Musk StarLink Internet project is coming at the perfect time. Unlike previous communication satellites which are 60,000km far above the Earth’s atmosphere, Starlink internet satellites are orbiting at only 550km above the Earth’s atmosphere and nearly eliminating the need for terrestrial base stations, laying of transnational and cross country fiber cables and building of masts. Subscribers are only required to pay $100 to pre-order one terminal and an additional $500 for the connection kit, which is a little smaller than a DSTV dish and can be installed in your house or on any safe roof and it creates an internet cell with a hotspot of up to 15miles radius. Stakeholders can facilitate the purchase and installation of these kits in safe spaces in our communities to create multiple cells of 15miles each. You will not need the stress of going to the existing network providers to negotiate data.
  1. The Starlink satellites internet services are already on offer in the US and EU but will only cover the entire habitable earth by 2023. Their services will however become active in Nigeria from Q1 of 2022 and promises to deliver broadband speeds up to 300 Mbps to anyone in all parts of the country regardless of how rural your village is. Reviews by customers already on the service are reporting greatly improved internet speeds, already changing their ability to stream and go to school online.
  1. Automated technology is blind to prejudices. The system is robotic and pre-coded. It cannot be manipulated by our daily biases or political prejudices. It doesn’t know APC or PDP or AAC. It is also easier to track disputes from automated tech than manual processes. So no one needs to be afraid of it. On a whole, the decisions of an automated system are more trusted and reliable than those of humans.
  1. Automated technology reduces human contact to the barest minimum and increases output as humans relieve management processes, particularly handling of cash, to AI. Therefore, as the Data/Okada Economy becomes increasingly digitized and more organized, revenues, both for the riders union, for government, for riders themselves, for the technologists and the itinerant vendors in-between, will begin to increase.
  1. The thing about technology revenue is that when you get it right and it’s starts coming, it gushes in like blood from a sudden deep cut. There are no reliable statistics to use and project in our district but potentially, this has the capacity to transform that sector from the N40 Million+ economy it is today to over N500 million in under one year.
  1. The cleaning up of the books and proper organization of the sector with tech and the massive data the app or bot will generate will also make it easily accessible and position it as a prime bride with substantial acceptability to raise expansion funds from venture capitals as tech start-ups.
  1. This is not to say, this idea knows it all. It is my own thoughts about how I wish this practice can be improved. I do not in any line or paragraph, claim that this idea holds all the solutions. I am saying that, after twenty years of doing the same thing the same way, let’s try to do it a little differently and see if we can get more results.

It is my Boxing Day offer to whom it may concern.

Yours sincerely.

Citizen Agba Jalingo, Publisher of CrossRiverWatch and a rights activist, is a Cross Riverian and writes in from Lagos.

NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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