If you have been hanging out with entrepreneurs and tech guys (they like to be called Tech-preneurs), you will come across a popular tech-preneur jargon called “scaling”. You see these days everyone wants to “scale”.
So let’s quickly define what “scaling” is
“scaling” is about growing revenue at an exponential rate while only adding resources at an incremental rate. Achieving scale might mean increasing your revenue to $2k, while cost moves from $200 to say $250. Sounds cool right?
Let’s consider this scenario, if it usually would costs you $200 to generate $1k, if you increased that $1k revenue to $2k and your cost moves from $200 to $400, you have not necessarily scaled! This is because you doubled your revenue while doubling your cost as well.
Scaling is not synonymous to growth. You can grow revenue and not achieve scale. You are not scaling if your revenue and cost grows at matching rate. This means that scaling involves careful planning, if you will ever get the chance to brag. “ We have scaled”
We would look at two major ways scaling is achieved;
- Product/Service Expansion
- Geographic Expansion
Product expansion typically involves layering on additional product lines to further engrain your position within your product value chain and of course capture a wider target audience.
For instance, an online retail business selling mobile phones – say www.mobo.ng can expand its product offering to include PCs and accessories. This product expansion drive will position this mobile phone retailer within the computer electronics value chain while expanding its customer base.
So rather than www.mobo.ng just being known for just mobile phones, the business then has a reputation for offering a wider product range. If www.mobo.ng successfully implement its product expansion plans, the likely outcomes will be an increased revenues and a wider target market.
However, it is important to note this revenue increase would only make business sense in the event that the revenue increase outstrips the cost of providing this additional service (in terms of percentage increase).
Scale can also be achieved via geographic expansion. For instance, our case study online retail business – www.mobo.ng started its operations from Lagos, Nigeria.
As a result of appreciable demand from other parts of the country www.mobo.ng might decide to make its services available in both Port Harcourt, Onitsha, Abuja or even go “international” to place like Ghana and Kenya (Nigerian Techpreneurs have a thing for these places)
Surely this will address demand from these additional locations, but www.mobo.ng must also take cognizance of the cost of providing these services in the new locations, for the geographical expansion to make sense it should be lower than the benefits of such expansion.
In Nigeria, amongst techpreneuers there has been a craze for massive geographic expansions in the name of scaling. I have seen articles on building a Nigerian Startup or a Startup from Nigeria, essentially pressuring founders and entrepreneurs to “scale” to other African countries because Taxify has “scaled”.
Let me clearly mention here, the fact that your business began operations in Ghana and Kenya does not necessarily mean that you have scaled! You might just be digging the grave for your business. Scaling must never be an emotional decision, it must be a business decision.
Operating efficiently in Nigeria alone is tough! Nigeria is large (183 million people strong and counting). I reckon that before you consider a regional expansion, you should have conquered a certain market (especially your local market).
DON’T SCALE WITH YOUR INEFFICIENCIES! You must understand your local market, gain control of all (at least most) of your business dependencies. Understand and address your business problems first before thinking expansion.
In fact, I advise that businesses should start with a single product line to learn about the market, then layer on additional complimentary products before thinking of geographic expansion.
Learn to take your punches on a small scale. Trust me, the market will punch you! It will be a disaster to get punched at the same time in 3 different countries.
Trust me, Nigeria is large, but very diverse. Your strategy in Lagos won’t probably work in Kaduna and you would have to tweak your approach in Abuja.
Ask entrepreneurs, Lagos is fast paced, the traffic is killing. But Abuja is a lot slower and complacent (at least from the Lagosian perspective). If your value proposition is convenience for instance, the way an Abuja resident thinks of convenience is way different from the Lagosian view, hence you must find a way to tweak your product offering or delivery method to suit both markets, let alone Kenyans and Ghanaians.
So, thread with caution. The slow steps of a Tiger should never be interpreted as cowardice! Once you have a full hang of your business and you strike, No one will be able to stop you!
What policy changes, other challenges hold for MSMEs in 2020 – Chief Economist, PwC
The startup companies are valued at over $1 billion because the uncertainties of doing business in Nigeria are quite high.
It is a given that 2020 has been one of the most trying years for business owners and entrepreneurs. Some businesses have been crushed completely, with some left barely breathing.
The year started with the announcement of the increased VAT rates, moved on to the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant challenges, the global oil crisis and its implications on national revenue, and just after the easing of the lockdown, the recent increase in fuel price. What do all these connote for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises that were already groaning under stiff economic policies and trying to survive the hard days? Your guess is as good as mine.
Taxation in the middle of a pandemic
Amid all of these challenges, the government (through its agencies) trying to widen its tax net and improve revenue, with more duties and tax options being imposed on Nigerians. Just recently, as courier and logistics business operators were still trying to grapple with the implications of the increased NIPOST license fees, when NIPOST and FIRS went on a social media war of words over which agency is constitutionally justified to collect the Stamp Duties.
There is also the recent rental tax announced by the government, a move still being protested by unions who have argued that this pandemic period is a time for the government to give out palliatives, not widen its tax net.
What do the multiple changes and challenges in 2020 mean for MSMEs?
In a recent tweet on his handle, Partner & Chief Economist at PwC Nigeria, Andrew Nevin (Ph.D.) noted that the current circumstances will stifle the entire economy and constrain MSMEs from growing, as it is quite difficult to grow in an economy that is not growing.
“… The complexity and cost of governance and the fiscal crisis is leading to a situation where successful companies in the tax net are subject to more and more taxes, which means they cannot grow and some companies in the formal economy will try to move back to the informal economy, further compounding the issue,” Nevin tweeted.
… the complexity and cost of governance, and the fiscal crisis is leading to a situation where successful companies in the tax net are subject to more and more taxes, which means they cannot grow …
— Andrew S. Nevin, PhD (@nevinomics) August 7, 2020
Nevin also noted that even though the SMEs employ over 80% of the country’s workforce, the startups in Nigeria hardly get to the point where they are valued at over $1 billion. And this is because the uncertainties of doing business in Nigeria are quite high. Gokada, for instance, had a thriving business environment and was set to break even when the new policy was introduced banning motorcycles across major routes in Lagos. This, he said, shows the uncertainty of the business environment in Nigeria.
… a very good example is GoKada … they invested heavily in Lagos, and the Governor was supportive .. then for perhaps very good reasons security requires that the business is banned … and the GoKada investment has been lost …
— Andrew S. Nevin, PhD (@nevinomics) August 7, 2020
In addition, attracting global capital to scale a unicorn requires more money than are readily available for risky companies in Nigeria. The challenging business environment and the ‘reputation’ associated with the Nigerian flag makes it very hard to get sufficient external capital.
According to him, SMEs entering the formal sector means higher productivity and monitored payment of taxes. Yet, entry into the formal sector is still a choice most small businesses do not want to embrace due to the economic environment.
“… if the cost and complexity of entering the formal sector is too high, then the SME will elect to stay in the informal sector with all the attendant issues, including that they can be subject to harassment by the authorities,” he said.
He noted that the large SME sector arises partly from unemployment and people rushing into entrepreneurship as a means of livelihood; as well as the difficulties to grow a large and strong business.
“These type of statistics always tell us the sector is huge but it is huge because it is too difficult to grow big companies, so this is not a sign of strength. The best structure for the economy is to have strong large companies that then create room for SMEs to be part of their ecosystem.
“Large companies raise standards (look at quality of Dangote companies for example) and raise productivity and create opportunities for others so large SME sector is sign that business is too difficult because if Nigeria was functioning correctly, we would have 100+ Dangotes in the Economy,” Nevin tweeted.
Explaining the challenges of MSMEs in Nigeria, Chairman and Managing Partner at Ofuani Maidoh & Co, Clement Ofuani, noted that small businesses in Nigeria have more pressing challenges to deal with than the government-imposed fiscal burdens.
Ofuani told Nairametrics in an interview, that the harsh and hostile operating environment makes for a more serious challenge for small businesses.
“Epileptic electricity power supply, inefficient transportation system and insecurity impose more operating costs on MSMEs than the fiscal taxes listed,” he stated.
Ofuani, who served as Senior Special Assistant to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on Policy, explained that the Finance Act waives income tax for companies with turnover below N25 million, thus granting fiscal reliefs to most small businesses.
“The stamp duty on rental agreements and other agreements are additional burdens as is the increase of VAT to 7.5% but the below-the-table taxes paid by MSMEs in form of unreceipted ‘taxes’ to the security personnel along the transportation corridors, and to bureaucrats for normal government services are the greatest frustrations that make Nigeria uncompetitive in global commerce and as an investment destination,” Ofuani stated.
Amid all of these formal and informal challenges, it becomes very difficult for the small start-up to grow beyond its startup stage and become a big company.
The on-going pandemic and recent policies have done little or nothing to address these challenges and despite the palliatives, loans, and support schemes being launched by the government at various levels, most of these small businesses will still find their growth stunted by some of these “unreceipted taxes”.
COVID-19 Update in Nigeria
On the 11th of August 2020, 423 new confirmed cases and 6 deaths were recorded in Nigeria.
The spread of novel Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) in Nigeria continues to record significant increase as the latest statistics provided by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reveal Nigeria now has 47,290 confirmed cases.
On the 11th of August 2020, 423 new confirmed cases and 6 deaths were recorded in Nigeria, having carried out a total daily test of 2,355 samples across the country.
To date, 47,290 cases have been confirmed, 33,609 cases have been discharged and 956 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. A total of 319,851 tests have been carried out as of August 11th, 2020 compared to 317,496 tests a day earlier.
COVID-19 Case Updates- 11th August 2020,
- Total Number of Cases – 47,290
- Total Number Discharged – 33,609
- Total Deaths – 956
- Total Tests Carried out – 319,851
According to the NCDC, the 423 new cases were reported from 22 states- Lagos (117), FCT (40), Ondo (35), Rivers (28), Osun (24), Benue (21), Abia (19), Ogun (19), Ebonyi (18), Delta (17), Kwara (17), Kaduna (15), Anambra (14), Ekiti (11), Kano (9), Imo (6), Gombe (4), Oyo (3), Taraba (3), Bauchi (1), Edo (1) and Nasarawa (1).
Meanwhile, the latest numbers bring Lagos state total confirmed cases to 16,074, followed by Abuja (4,525), Oyo (2,890), Edo (2,399), Rivers (1,972), Kano (1,643), Kaduna (1,628), Delta (1,613), Plateau (1,584), Ogun (1,497), Ondo (1,324), Enugu (914), Ebonyi (888), Kwara (882), Katsina (746), Borno (690), Abia (663), Osun (652), Gombe (635), and Bauchi (578).
Imo State has recorded 485 cases, Benue (430), Nasarawa (371), Bayelsa (346), Jigawa (322), Akwa Ibom (235), Niger (226), Ekiti (193), Adamawa (185), Anambra (156), Sokoto (154), Kebbi (90), Taraba (78), Zamfara (77), Cross River (73), Yobe (67), while Kogi state has recorded 5 cases only.
Lock Down and Curfew
In a move to combat the spread of the pandemic disease, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days, which took effect from 11 pm on Monday, 30th March 2020.
The movement restriction, which was extended by another two-weeks period, has been partially put on hold with some businesses commencing operations from May 4. On April 27th, 2020, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari declared an overnight curfew from 8 pm to 6 am across the country, as part of new measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19. This comes along with the phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in FCT, Lagos, and Ogun States, which took effect from Saturday, 2nd May 2020, at 9 am.
On Monday, 29th June 2020 the federal government extended the second phase of the eased lockdown by 4 weeks and approved interstate movement outside curfew hours with effect from July 1, 2020. Also, on Monday 27th July 2020, the federal government extended the second phase of eased lockdown by an additional one week.
On Thursday, 6th August 2020 the federal government through the secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 announced the extension of the second phase of eased lockdown by another four (4) weeks.
|Date||Confirmed case||New cases||Total deaths||New deaths||Total recovery||Active cases||Critical cases|
|August 11, 2020||47290||423||956||6||33609||12725||7|
|August 10, 2020||46867||290||950||5||33346||12571||7|
|August 9, 2020||46577||437||945||3||33186||12446||7|
|August 8, 2020||46140||453||942||6||33044||12154||7|
|August 7, 2020||45687||443||936||6||32637||12114||7|
|August 6, 2020||45244||354||930||3||32430||11884||7|
|August 5, 2020||44890||457||927||17||32165||11798||7|
|August 4, 2020||44433||304||910||14||31851||11672||7|
|August 3, 2020||44129||288||896||8||20663||22570||7|
|August 2, 2020||43841||304||888||5||20308||22645||7|
|August 1, 2020||43537||386||883||4||20287||22567||7|
|July 31, 2020||43151||462||879||1||19565||22707||7|
|July 30, 2020||42689||481||878||5||19270||22541||7|
|July 29, 2020||42208||404||873||5||19004||22331||7|
|July 28, 2020||41804||624||868||8||18764||22172||7|
|July 27, 2020||41180||648||860||2||18203||22117||7|
|July 26, 2020||40532||555||858||2||17374||22300||7|
|July 25, 2020||39977||438||856||11||16948||22173||7|
|July 24, 2020||39539||591||845||12||16559||22135||7|
|July 23, 2020||38948||604||833||20||16061||22054||7|
|July 22, 2020||38344||543||813||8||15815||21716||7|
|July 21, 2020||37801||576||805||4||15677||21319||7|
|July 20, 2020||37225||562||801||12||15333||21091||7|
|July 19, 2020||36663||556||789||11||15105||20769||7|
|July 18, 2020||36107||653||778||6||14938||20391||7|
|July 17, 2020||35454||600||772||3||14633||20049||7|
|July 16, 2020||34854||595||769||9||14292||19793||7|
|July 15, 2020||34259||643||760||6||13999||19500||7|
|July 14, 2020||33616||463||754||10||13792||19070||7|
|July 13, 2020||33153||595||744||4||13671||18738||7|
|July 12, 2020||32558||571||740||16||13447||18371||7|
|July 11, 2020||31987||664||724||15||13103||18160||7|
|July 10, 2020||31323||575||709||20||12795||17819||7|
|July 9, 2020||30748||499||689||5||12546||17513||7|
|July 8, 2020||30249||460||684||15||12373||17192||7|
|July 7, 2020||29789||503||669||15||12108||17012||7|
|July 6, 2020||29286||575||654||9||11828||16804||7|
|July 5, 2020||28711||544||645||11||11665||16401||7|
|July 4, 2020||28167||603||634||6||11462||16071||7|
|July 3, 2020||27564||454||628||12||11069||15867||7|
|July 2, 2020||27110||626||616||13||10801||15693||7|
|July 1, 2020||26484||790||603||13||10152||15729||7|
|June 30, 2020||25694||561||590||17||9746||15358||7|
|June 29, 2020||25133||566||573||8||9402||15158||7|
|June 28, 2020||24867||490||565||7||9007||14995||7|
|June 27, 2020||24077||779||558||4||8625||14894||7|
|June 26, 2020||23298||684||554||5||8253||14491||7|
|June 25, 2020||22614||594||549||7||7822||14243||7|
|June 24, 2020||22020||649||542||9||7613||13865||7|
|June 23, 2020||21371||452||533||8||7338||13500||7|
|June 22, 2020||20919||675||525||7||7109||13285||7|
|June 21, 2020||20242||436||518||12||6879||12847||7|
|June 20, 2020||19808||661||506||19||6718||12584||7|
|June 19, 2020||19147||667||487||12||6581||12079||7|
|June 18, 2020||18480||745||475||6||6307||11698||7|
|June 17, 2020||17735||587||469||14||5967||11299||7|
|June 16, 2020||17148||490||455||31||5623||11070||7|
|June 15, 2020||16658||573||424||4||5349||10885||7|
|June 14, 2020||16085||403||420||13||5220||10445||7|
|June 13, 2020||15682||501||407||8||5101||10174||7|
|June 12, 2020||15181||627||399||12||4891||9891||7|
|June 11, 2020||14554||681||387||5||4494||9673||7|
|June 10, 2020||13873||409||382||17||4351||9140||7|
|June 9, 2020||13464||663||365||4||4206||8893||7|
|June 8, 2020||12801||315||361||7||4040||8400||7|
|June 7, 2020||12486||260||354||12||3959||8173||7|
|June 6, 2020||12233||389||342||9||3826||8065||7|
|June 5, 2020||11844||328||333||10||3696||7815||7|
|June 4, 2020||11516||350||323||8||3535||7646||7|
|June 3, 2020||11166||348||315||1||3329||7522||7|
|June 2, 2020||10819||241||314||15||3239||7266||7|
|June 1, 2020||10578||416||299||12||3122||7157||9|
|May 31, 2020||10162||307||287||14||3007||6868||7|
|May 30, 2020||9855||553||273||12||2856||6726||7|
|May 29, 2020||9302||387||261||2||2697||6344||7|
|May 28, 2020||8915||182||259||5||2592||6064||7|
|May 27, 2020||8733||389||254||5||2501||5978||7|
|May 26, 2020||8344||276||249||16||2385||5710||7|
|May 25, 2020||8068||229||233||7||2311||5524||7|
|May 24, 2020||7839||313||226||5||2263||5360||7|
|May 23, 2020||7526||265||221||0||2174||5131||7|
|May 22, 2020||7261||245||221||10||2007||5033||7|
|May 21, 2020||7016||339||211||11||1907||4898||7|
|May 20, 2020||6677||284||200||8||1840||4637||7|
|May 19, 2020||6401||226||192||1||1734||4475||7|
|May 18, 2020||6175||216||191||9||1644||4340||7|
|May 17, 2020||5959||388||182||6||1594||4183||7|
|May 16, 2020||5621||176||176||5||1472||3973||7|
|May 15, 2020||5445||288||171||3||1320||3954||4|
|May 14, 2020||5162||193||168||3||1180||3815||4|
|May 13, 2020||4971||184||164||6||1070||3737||4|
|May 12, 2020||4787||146||158||6||959||3670||4|
|May 11, 2020||4641||242||152||10||902||3589||4|
|May 10, 2020||4399||248||142||17||778||3479||4|
|May 9, 2020||4151||239||127||11||745||3278||4|
|May 8, 2020||3912||386||118||10||679||3115||4|
|May 7, 2020||3526||381||108||4||601||2818||4|
|May 6, 2020||3145||195||104||5||534||2507||1|
|May 5, 2020||2950||148||99||5||481||2370||4|
|May 4, 2020||2802||245||94||6||417||2291||2|
|May 3, 2020||2558||170||88||2||400||2070||2|
|May 2, 2020||2388||220||86||17||351||1952||2|
|May 1, 2020||2170||238||69||10||351||1751||2|
|April 30, 2020||1932||204||59||7||317||1556||2|
|April 29, 2020||1728||196||52||7||307||1369||2|
|April 28, 2020||1532||195||45||4||255||1232||2|
|April 27, 2020||1337||64||41||0||255||994||2|
|April 26, 2020||1273||91||41||5||239||994||2|
|April 25, 2020||1182||87||36||3||222||925||2|
|April 24, 2020||1095||114||33||1||208||855||2|
|April 23, 2020||981||108||32||3||197||753||2|
|April 22, 2020||873||91||29||3||197||648||2|
|April 21, 2020||782||117||26||3||197||560||2|
|April 20, 2020||665||38||23||1||188||466||2|
|April 19, 2020||627||86||22||2||170||436||2|
|April 18, 2020||541||48||20||2||166||356||2|
|April 17, 2020||493||51||18||4||159||317||2|
|April 16, 2020||442||35||13||1||152||277||2|
|April 15, 2020||407||34||12||1||128||267||2|
|April 14, 2020||373||30||11||1||99||263||2|
|April 13, 2020||343||20||10||0||91||242||2|
|April 12, 2020||323||5||10||0||85||228||2|
|April 11, 2020||318||13||10||3||70||238||2|
|April 10, 2020||305||17||7||0||58||240||2|
|April 9, 2020||288||14||7||1||51||230||2|
|April 8, 2020||274||22||6||0||44||226||2|
|April 7, 2020||254||16||6||1||44||204||2|
|April 6, 2020||238||6||5||0||35||198||2|
|April 5, 2020||232||18||5||1||33||194||2|
|April 4, 2020||214||5||4||0||25||185||0|
|April 3, 2020||209||25||4||2||25||180||0|
|April 2, 2020||184||10||2||0||20||162||0|
|April 1, 2020||174||35||2||0||9||163||0|
|March 31, 2020||139||8||2||0||9||128||0|
|March 30, 2020||131||20||2||1||8||121||0|
|March 29, 2020||111||22||1||0||3||107||0|
|March 28, 2020||89||19||1||0||3||85||0|
|March 27, 2020||70||5||1||0||3||66||0|
|March 26, 2020||65||14||1||0||2||62||0|
|March 25, 2020||51||7||1||0||2||48||0|
|March 24, 2020||44||4||1||0||2||41||0|
|March 23, 2020||40||10||1||1||2||37||0|
|March 22, 2020||30||8||0||0||2||28||0|
|March 21, 2020||22||10||0||0||1||21||0|
|March 20, 2020||12||4||0||0||1||11||0|
|March 19, 2020||8||0||0||0||1||7||0|
|March 18, 2020||8||5||0||0||1||7||0|
|March 17, 2020||3||1||0||0||0||3||0|
|March 16, 2020||2||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|March 15, 2020||2||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|March 14, 2020||2||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|March 13, 2020||2||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|March 12, 2020||2||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|March 11, 2020||2||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|March 10, 2020||2||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|March 9, 2020||2||1||0||0||0||2||0|
|March 8, 2020||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|March 7, 2020||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|March 6, 2020||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|March 5, 2020||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|March 4, 2020||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|March 3, 2020||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|March 2, 2020||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|March 1, 2020||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|February 29, 2020||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|February 28, 2020||1||1||0||0||0||1||0|
BEWARE: Harmful products are on your local store shelves!
Consumers are to look out for the manufacture and expiry date before consuming a product.
Time was when the seal on a product bearing a NAFDAC registration number was considered the ultimate seal of authentication. Nowadays, not only are substandard and adulterated products dragging the market share with genuine products, some of them now falsify the NAFDAC seal of approval – registration number.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) recently advised consumers to beware of some products with fake registration numbers being sold in stores and outlets. The agency advised Nigerians to always examine a product thoroughly (particularly food, drugs, medical devices, or packaged water) before purchasing. Consumers are to look out for the manufacture and expiry date before consuming.
The agency’s Director of Public Affairs, Dr Jimoh Abubakar, while speaking during a recent interview said: “examine the content of the product, the seal of authority or the approved registration number from NAFDAC which is sacrosanct; NAFDAC registration number is not just a number, it is not plate number of a vehicle.
“The number is a rigorous scientific elaboration of a product through our laboratory analysis and through certain compendium references, and after all these by NAFDAC, a product will then be certified for safety, efficacy and wholesomeness”.
In summary, the registration number from NAFDAC is a confirmation to consumers that the product (content and processes) has been examined and is now certified fit for human consumption. The certification process ensures first that good manufacturing practice has been followed, in the right location and environment, and with the right contents, before the product can be labelled.
A recent experience
I purchased a multi-vitamin from an online store recently, and the product was delivered four days later. I was about to break the seal and consume when I noticed there was a slight difference in the name.
I examined the packet closely and discovered that even though the product had been packaged in exactly the same orange-coloured package, the name was different and the details showed that it was manufactured somewhere in Lagos state (the expected product was supposed to be manufactured in the USA).
I wanted to return it outright but then I convinced myself on the need to patronise locally made brands as well if it could give me the same results. I typed the registration number into the NAFDAC verify page and this was the result; “Warning! This product is fake. – report product”.
The scourge of fake registration numbers
In as much as registration numbers are a key differentiator between approved and uncertified products, NAFDAC has admitted that there are fake registration numbers out in the market.
According to Abubakar, the agency is also on the lookout for perpetrators of this deceptive act, even as consumers have been urged to take an extra step in examining a product before consuming it.
He added that technology had made most things easier now and urged Nigerians to visit NAFDAC’s website to get more information about products.
He noted that some products are listed on the website, especially sachet water, as the agency’s staff strength is not enough to be everywhere or to police the country’s population.
“Public awareness and information are very cardinal for people to help themselves; NAFDAC leverages so much on public sensitisation. So, people must help themselves on the consumption of these products,” he said.
Harmful products alert!
Sometime in July, the agency sent out a public alert notifying consumers that the “Pure Tassie Organic Apple and Blackcurrant Juice originating from Australia” had been examined and considered unsafe for consumption, due to unacceptable level of patulin (a mycotoxin) which had exceeded the maximum limit in fruit juice.
The agency’s verdict had also been confirmed by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, before the alert was sent out.
According to the notice, the level of patulin content in the juice is high enough to “induce liver, spleen and kidney damage”, and also toxic to the human immune system, causing nausea, gastrointestinal disturbance and vomiting.
In the alert, NAFDAC implored importers, distributors, retailers and consumers to immediately stop the importation, distribution, sale and consumption of the affected fruit juice, urging them to turn in all current stock of the product to the NAFDAC office, although no mention is made as to compensations for their losses.
A month before this, there was a similar alert from the agency about three cosmetic products namely “Sifu Kunyit Day Cream, Sifu Kunyit Night Cream and JJ Skincare Glowhite Night Cream”.
The products were confirmed by the agency to contain hydroquinone, tretinoin, betamethasone valerate and mercury, all of which are targeted at lightening the skin and changing the pigmentation.
Given the quantity used in these products, NAFDAC confirmed that they can cause damage to the kidney, get absorbed into the blood circulatory system and increase the risk of skin cancer along with other ailments.
Apart from harm caused to the user of products containing mercury, NAFDAC confirmed that mercury can disrupt the brain development of unborn children when consumed by nursing mothers, and also inhibit brain development of young children.
This time around, the products originated from Malaysia and had been imported into Nigeria. Deducing from the notice, one can see that the product had already been banned by the Malaysian Ministry of Health before ever it was imported to Nigeria.
In April, it was a World Health Organisation (WHO) alert on falsified Chloroquine products in circulation in Africa, all originating from three African Countries are Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger.
Why would people buy banned products?
A trader who spoke to Nairametrics confirmed that it is possible for such products to still be imported despite being banned. Tolani, who manages a warehouse where she sells consumables (snacks and drinks ) in wholesale quantities affirmed that when supplies are being made, the suppliers sometimes introduce new products at ridiculously lower prices.
“Some of these brand names that we know are very expensive and their price continues to increase without regulation. So, sometimes when we make to buy new stocks, the supplier can show us a new and similar product that is even less than half the price of the popular brands we know, so we buy them as well.
“They are all imported products, and people like to try out foreign products so we know for sure that they will buy it from us,” she explained.
She added that there was no way to confirm at such times whether or not the product was original, imitated, safe or harmful since the traders are no experts.
“They are foreign products, and I believe that if they passed through customs officers and entered the market, then they should have been checked there” she added for emphasis.
Any synergy between NCS and NAFDAC
Consuming harmful products is bad enough, but exchanging hard-earned money for things that could be detrimental to one’s health is even worse.
NAFDAC already has to combat imitated or harmful drugs produced locally. Doing same for imported products means they have even more on their plate to deal with. The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) is responsible for manning the borders of the country and monitoring what goes in or out, and if unsafe products still find their way into the country, it means that there are gaps that need to be sealed.
Tweets on the NCS twitter handle shows that much of the organisation’s activities have been centred around the impounding of smuggled bags of rice, kegs of vegetable oil, cartons of spaghetti/macaroni, bags of foreign sugar, cartons of soap, bales of textile materials, parcels of India hemp, NPK fertilisers and vehicles among others.
There is a striking absence of activities around the importation of fake or harmful drugs or other consumables, and all the focus has been on the more lucrative items contained in the import prohibition list such as frozen or live poultry, refined vegetable oils, cocoa butter, bagged cement, etc.
Even though pharmaceutical and consumable items make up 5 out of the 25 item list, it would appear that the list has not been updated recently in line with the recent public alerts from NAFDAC.
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Clearly, consumers will have to take precautions themselves as NAFDAC has advised because the agencies appear to be overwhelmed with the amount of criminal work going on in the space. Thankfully, some products now include a sealed number on the packet which the consumer is meant to text to the unique code and confirm the authenticity. Unfortunately, consumers are often in a hurry and not many are patient enough to wait for the confirmation message.
From creams to drinks, foods, drugs and other things that are used in or on the body, an extra minute for verification might just be the deciding factor at the end of the day.