IMG_4861

“…and from today, what was Fleet technologies will now be known as Vatebra Limited.”

What’s in a name?

“It plays a monumental role in a brand’s growth and perception, meaning it can completely make or break a company. For every company whose name becomes an entrepreneurial landmark – Apple, Uber, Google, etc. – there are countless whose names don’t properly reflect the brand, and the company suffers because of it.” – Adam Fridman, Inc.com

Couldn’t have put it better myself. But MD/CEO, Kunle Akinniran did last night, when he unveiled the new brand identity of what we knew as Fleet Technologies, now known as Vatebra Limited.

He told the story of Fleet Technologies’ development over the past 13 years, from building e-government software solutions, to online result checkers, identity management, biometrics and e-payment solutions.

Now, naming a child is no easy task. Naming a business, no less. You’re fighting against years of goodwill, and familiarity, and inertia, and plunging into the great unknown. It can be a struggle to find a word or group of words that tells your brand’s story, sounds pleasing to your customers’ ears, gives insight into your position in the industry and remains relevant for a long time.

Vatebra

According to Mr. Kunle Akinniran, after the management at Fleet Technologies tried out different names in Yoruba, Latin, Greek, and a flurry of other languages, they arrived at…Vatebra.

Vatebra

The second he uttered the words, in the midst of an electric atmosphere, I made a mental connection. It turns out I was right: Vatebra was derived from ‘vertebra’. It refers to the series of small bones forming the backbone in a body – in a sense, the body’s support system. And when you think about it, it does make sense. Each of the products the development team at Vatebra has built, is an integral part – a solid foundation, if you will – of the lives of the governments and private institutions that use them.

Products

Beyond Now

You don’t need a prophet to tell you that Nigeria’s little honeymoon with crude oil is finally over. Thank goodness. Even with a miracle, a barrel of oil is unlikely to ever cost much more than $40 again. Looks especially scary when you consider that Saudi Arabia has set up a ginormous sovereign wealth fund in preparation for a post-oil era. Consider we can now all safely agree that electric cars are in fact the future. And we’re here sitting on our hands, waiting for oil prices to make like Lazarus and rise again.

Before the big unveil, (former) Fleet Technologies invited Dr. Doyin Salami to deliver a lecture titled Beyond Now: Nigeria without Oil. He’s a rockstar in the business/economy space in Nigeria, and after reading his credentials and listening to him speak, it’s not hard to see why.

Dr. Salami is an associate professor at Lagos Business School, been a Principal Consultant for USAID, EFID, World Bank, the Nigerian Federal Government and holds a doctorate from Queen Mary College, London.

Dr. Doyin Salami

Dr. Doyin Salami

A few things to note from his lecture. Oil production makes up only 9-12% of Nigeria’s economy (surprising, I know). Nigeria is an oil-exporting economy and is in reality, not driven by oil. The problem is, 72% of government revenue comes from oil. Think that’s bad? Think again. 96% of all our forex earnings come from selling Crude Oil to other countries. So, even though our output is mostly non-oil, our ability to trade with other countries is firmly bound to Oil.

So, it’s not hard to see why everyone’s losing their shit that oil prices have tanked. If Nigeria will survive the coming years (possibly even thrive), we need to move on from the blessing (or curse, depending on your point-of-view) of oil. Dr. Doyin thinks technology is the next logical step and I’m inclined to agree.

In 2000, ICT made up around 0.25% of Nigeria’s economy base. Now? It’s swollen to around 10%. I’ve made a small chart to illustrate my point.

Chart

Translation: technology is the fastest growing facet of the Nigerian economy. This is interesting because when technology is applied and democratised, it disappears.

I digress. Where were we? Nigeria.

So, the big question here is, if we can agree that Nigeria’s future is bound to technology, are we prepared/wired for technology? Is there a foundation, over which we can build products or services to export and earn forex? or at least, reduce our insatiable demand for it?

We created 1.9 million new jobs in 2015, and received 3.2 million graduates into the labour market. That is, added 3.2 million to the massive, growing backlog of unemployed Nigerians. Considering context makes it even worse. 80% of those 1.9 million jobs were earned in informal (read: low-wage, unsustainable) sectors. How fit-for-purpose are the graduands we keep churning out year after year?

If you look at things in this way, you’ll realise that if we don’t fit the bottom of the pyramid – education, infrastructure et al – then we cannot glean from technology even if it becomes available to us. For example, APC promised to cater to the needs of the poorest Nigerians (even though they swear they never said such a thing). If we were to carry out such a programme, and somehow found the funds for it, how would we go about determining who the poorest in Nigeria are? Do we have a coherent, relational database that any government agencies can pull information from? LOL.

At the end of the day…

There’s a lot of work to be done if we will ever live up to the Giant of Africa moniker we love so much. And like Dr. Doyin Salami said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, followed by another in the right direction”.

From all indications, Vatebra’s big brand re-launch is a step in the right direction, because they have positioned themselves as a backbone as far as technology is concerned in both the public and private sectors in Nigeria. The question is, what will happen…beyond now?

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