Thursday, 15 August 2013

REVIEW OF RURAL TRANSFORMATION ROUND TABLE BRIEFING



Microfinance plays a key role in developing entrepreneurial activities in rural areas of emerging economies. This was why the team of the Youth Agro Entrepreneurs attended the round table briefings on the ethics and values for rural transformation through microfinance banks and industrial development cooperatives organised by the office of the special adviser on ethics and values to the Presidency.
The event was hosted at the International Conference Centre Abuja on the 13th of August 2013 at the Benue Hall venue. In attendance was an exhaustive list of dignitaries which included Dr Reuben M. Jaja, Chief Dr. A. Olu Aduloju, Hon. Chief Jethro M. Akun, Mr Haggai Gutap, Gabriel Owope, Maj. General Charles E. Airhiavbere and all the major microfinance banks in the country. The host was the outspoken and multilayered Dr Sarah Jibril.


Ethics and values are a slippery topic to discuss in any area of governance or administrative operation in Nigeria. While a general consensus is easily reached about the negative impact of operating financial institutions outside of the ethical frameworks, it becomes very opaque when specifics are discussed. The questions and answer sections of this round table briefing illustrated this once again. Issues about the percentages and interests rates to be charged by microfinance banks was met with answers that raised more questions than proffering clear insights into obtaining loans from microfinance banks to engage in rural based enterprises. Precious little time given to actual microfinance bankers to speak about how ethics and values would help build trust that is needed in providing these services to rural dwellers nor were we able to gain an insight into how one goes about setting up microfinance banks and their source of funds. The policy makers that spoke were all keen on regulating the activities of microfinance institutions and passionately in favour of a shift towards entrepreneurship. They just lacked the rigorous detail and clear data that a banking professional would have supplied to quell the worries of business owners interested in micro-financing. As a social innovation incubator interested in training entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector, this was a drawback to the briefing and we had to resort to actively interviewing participants during the tea break to get what we needed to know. At the day’s end we were left wondering what the events management team and the technical aides to the policy makers had actually done to prepare their employees for this event.

Good policy makers enact and promote policies that help shape their societies. This requires a clearly functional system that compromises of a well informed and detailed backroom staff to provide the technical expertise in the areas the policies would affect. In a nutshell – policy makers are only as good as the staff/aides that work for them. For effective 21st century policy making, we need to raise the bar to a model of distributed systems where complexity is handled by sharing the workload to the margins rather than imposed from the centre – the brave new world of differentiation and dissolution is upon us.
What the event lacked in quality information was made up for by the networking opportunities provided by the meeting. We were able to meet with policies makers with clout and vision to help actualize our vision. Information not available through grand speeches was suddenly accessible and demystified in short personal exchanges. All and all, it was a productive days briefing for enthusiasts of rural development.