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  • Writer's pictureBolaji Akinola-Alli

Large Scale Productivity

How productivity at the state, organisational and individual level can propel Africa towards prosperity.


A couple of years ago I read a book called Prosperity Paradox and it changed my life. It introduced me to the concept of market-creating innovation, and the shift in focus from poverty alleviation with charity to the creation of prosperity for all.


It impacted me so much that if you have ever seen the screensaver on my phone, you would see this excerpt from the book:

“When many people in a region understand that they can begin to solve many of their problems (fend for themselves and their families, and gain status and dignity in society) in a productive manner-that is, by participating in the new market as investors, producers and consumers-they are more likely to change the way they think about their society.”

The authors of this book, Clay Christensen and Efosa Ojomo have dedicated a significant part of their lives to spreading the gospel of market-creating innovation, which I have clearly become a disciple of.


This blog will focus on the participation of society as producers.


 

With over 1.3 billion people, and a median age of less than 20 years, Africa's youthful population presents a significant opportunity for economic growth and development [1]. However, in a situation with high unemployment and unskilled youthful population, we are in a situation where the youth are not prepared for tomorrow, they are equipped with outdated skills which make it difficult to actively contribute towards becoming producers.


I believe productivity is a key to economic growth, and Africa, with its abundance of untapped human capital, is well-positioned to drive this growth. Large scale productivity in sectors with high job creation such as agriculture and manufacturing, has the potential to lead Africa out of poverty and into an era of sustained economic prosperity.


Moreover, at the heart of large scale productivity is the need for skills development.


 

So How Can Africans Become More Productive?

Productivity is a measure of how much input it takes to produce the desired output. If you are analytical like me, then a simple equation might help:

By playing with the levers of inputs and outputs, we can identify ways to become more productive.


Moreover, productivity means different things from different perspectives, therefore I will explore three perspectives of productivity at the National, Organisational and Individual levels.


1. Nationwide Productivity

Productivity for a state is the measure of the the monetary value of final goods and services produced in a country in a given period of time, say a quarter or a year. This is what economists often refer to as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) [3].


The wealth of a nation can be boosted by investment to build a larger stock of factories and machines. It can also be boosted, often more cheaply, by decreasing the rate at which factories and machines wear out, break down, or are discarded [5].

I believe African countries should double-down on what it currently does, but become more efficient and productive, rather than starting new ventures and diversifying its economy.

For example, Nigeria should focus on producing and refining more oil and gas products, rather than diversifying its economy in the short-term and for the Democratic Republic of Congo this could be more robust lithium production and refining capacity. This does not mean African countries should not explore other ways of generating revenue, but rather focus its limited resources on exploiting its core competencies, by becoming more efficient and productive.

“It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less.” – Nathan W. Morris

2. Organisational Productivity

For an organisation (business or non-profit), productivity is the measure of how efficiently and effectively it utilizes its resources, processes, and strategies to achieve its goals and objectives.


The pursuit of individual productivity is healthy and worthwhile. However, unless you work independently outside of an organization, the benefits will be limited. To make a real impact on performance, you have to work at the system level. [4]


Three (3) ways to improve organisational productivity:

  1. Create an Effective Structure: The behaviour of a system is largely defined by its structure and makeup [5]. Therefore, we can alter the behaviour of our organisations to become more productive by creating a system of tiered layers with clear roles and responsibilities, that allow issues to be escalated and addressed in a timely manner.

  2. Improve Transparency: When information is freely shared within an organisation, it reduces the time spent searching for it or making decisions . It also fosters trust and collaboration among team members, which can boost morale and motivation.

  3. Build Capability: Adopting technological innovation and providing training to team members enables a system to operate more efficiently, and become more productive.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer

3. Individual Productivity

As Individuals, productivity is simply the measure of how much meaningful work we can get done with the limited time we have in the day.


To produce high quality work, we need to remove distractions and increase the intensity of our focus, otherwise we (Africans) risk becoming only a market of consumers, fixated on trivial things like social media opinions, with no production capability.


Cal Newport has an equation from his book titled Deep Work which summarizes this well:


High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus).


The more productive we are as individuals, the more activities we can take on and the better the quality of work we produce. The benefits of becoming more productive are numerous as they help provide us with the opportunity to spend time with our loved ones, healthy work-life balance and sufficient time for personal growth.

Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives." -Titus 3:14
 

The pursuit of individual productivity is healthy and worthwhile. However, unless you work independently outside of an organization, the benefits will be limited. To make a real impact on performance, you have to work at the system level. [4]


Large Scale Productivity holds the key to unlocking Africa's economic potential and leading the continent out of poverty. By focusing on improving productivity at the individual, organisational and state-level, Africa can harness its human capital to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth for all.



 


References

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