By Carl Umegboro
HERACLITUS of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher of the late 6th century in his famous apothegm said, “The only constant is Change”. Literally, whether change is desired or not is inconsequential as it occurs independently; devoid of assents or prior notice. And the earlier people prepared their mind for it, the better as it is inevitable. This is thus, a clarion demand for reprogramming the minds to adapt as it occurs. Not even resistance deters it except to be left behind; an unhealthy option.
Typically, the major and fastest agent of change is civilization which everyone profoundly cherishes. Nobody in the right senses will kick against civilization due to the comfort, speed and productivity it offers. However, the bad side of it is, the same pace it opens new opportunities to the sensitive minds, is also how it pushes out the indolent and conservative minds out of jobs and businesses.
For example, the evolution of modern computers; Central Processing Units (CPU) and laptops sent conservative typists and typewriter-merchants that were insensitive to upgrade out of jobs and businesses. Similarly, online shopping has become the most utilized medium across the world thereby affecting daily sales of shop owners. Arguably, technological advancement is moving fast.
Presently, foodstuffs including fresh tomatoes, potatoes, vegetables and even native cooked foods are ordered online and delivered with ease in Nigeria. Likewise, the usual taxi business which required people to board on the road is being overtaken by connected system which can access, negotiate variety of taxis in the comfort of the living rooms.
Churches are not left out as people in the comfort of their homes now actively participate in church services same way as onsite worshippers. In banking industry, higher volume of transactions is currently done virtual which reduces human activities in the banking halls alongside overhead costs. Of course, by design, banks are profit-oriented and not charity organizations, hence, will always switch over to most cost-effective system.
Conversely, the labour market is adversely affected as technology drops human activities thereby increasing unemployment ratios. Even those already in employment are likely to face more retrenchments as their services can be rendered cheaper and more efficiently through technological revolution.
For emphasis, on September 3, 2019, an energy firm, Oando Plc sacked about 100 workers. Similarly, on November 21, 2019, First Bank of Nigeria recorded a mass sack of staff numbering over 1000 across the federation. The record goes on. The umbrella body of the workers; National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) threatened fire and brimstones to reverse the action.
Though the solidarity was commendable, unfortunately, NUBIFIE forgot the employers’ obligation to discharge employees is to be laid off accordingly. The union overlooked to do a feasibility study vis-à-vis the management’s unflinching action, without any panic against possible collapse of the bank by the volume of the retrenchment. This is a critical oversight.
For instance, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) can now withdraw and also collect deposits into customers account in few seconds. The implication is that scores of contract staff that mount the tellers may be drastically reduced to virtually zero. Believably, all banks are working in that directions which implies that more retrenchments are looming particularly in the banking sector in the new decade.
Realistically, NUBIFIE and other unions may not do much to counter the trend. This is because they cannot provide the funds to subsidize overhead costs; to secure their members’ jobs. Convincingly, the bank discovered an alternative mode to handle operations without such a crowd of employees. To call a spade, a spade, the sacks were no accidental discharge but necessitated by profit maximization which is its major goal.
Laudably, a leading financial institution, United Bank for Africa (UBA) recently recorded a massive recruitment drive of about 4000 new staff alongside promotion of 5000 existing staff members with inspiring increments. However, the truth must be told. Industrialized economy is rapidly succumbing to digitalized economy.
The top-secret is technological innovation that economically, efficiently handles human tasks. In other words, repositioning is crucial. A stitch in time they say, saves nine. Sensibly, those not considering modern economy are vulnerable to be victims of the contemporary economic dynamics. Another bitter truth is that government alone cannot provide the much needed jobs for the high number of unemployed population.
However, governments must obligatorily provide the enabling environments for businesses to thrive. Economy must be stimulated and made attractive for investors. And essentially, insecurity must be unrelentingly wrestled not merely by empowering security agents but creating jobs for unemployed populations alongside empowerment with skills acquisitions. Government must meet these critical demands.
Interestingly, the most striking feature of the new economic direction is that it can empower distressed persons from zero level to financial independence without capital unlike the phasing-out industrialized economy. Above all, it creates secure incomes alongside conventional vocations. Instructively, most of the capitalists in the developed economies do not survive by commonplace hustling but Connected economy.
Thus, whilst it is ideal to have exciting new year resolutions, big dreams and accept nice predictions, efforts must be put in top gear to think outside the boxes. People should expediently, ardently consider realignment. By the rapidity of technological advancement in the world, it is obvious a lot of employments may be in danger.
The way out is to embrace the modern economy to run with the changes against the challenges. Connected economy, distinctively, thrives by merely building relationships and fostering connections, rather than assets (money) and stuffs as exists in industrialized economy. However, extreme caution is required as scammers have infiltrated digitalized economy knowing it is the new face of the world economy.