Last week, I made a tweet, based on information from a source, about Ecobank closing down 79 branches. I was wrong. It is 74 branches. The reaction by certain sections of Nigerian Twitter was expected. My tweet was simply one about job losses, but given that I am who I am, a “wailer”, the tweet was taken as political. And they reacted accordingly. Now, there is no gainsaying that Ecobank’s “restructuring”, to use the euphemism the bank used in its statement, is as a result of more than usual losses. But the details, as usual bear querying. The bank had a 23% increase in earnings from 2015, yet recorded more than double its losses in the same period. What does that tell you?
To me, it says that the environment under which the bank is operating became tougher. Ergo despite earning more on paper, they were spending far more to operate. Of course the argument can, rightly, be made about them having too many branches, which is really too much fat. We are in 2017, not 1990. Nevertheless, the increasing cost of keeping those branches running has began to show. Then there are the non-performing loans…
Juxtapose all of this with MTN’s first ever loss, and the reaction by that company in sending 280 people home, then consider that one of Nigeria’s big FMCG companies, Procter and Gamble, quietly let go of 30% of its workforce just over a month ago, then the scale of the devastation that the harsh operating environment is wreaking on businesses, becomes all the clearer. Then finally, there is the lead story in today’s Guardian, about what is happening in the ports.
Dear social media propagandist, I understand that you have a job to do. I understand the need to insult people like me, and call us names. I do not begrudge you. There are bills to pay, and I respect that. However, it will do you a world of good to understand something — these job losses that are ongoing in an economy y’all claim is out of recession, have an effect along the entire value chain. A friend who lost her job in Q1, has had to let her driver and nanny go. That one job, has affected two other people. Who knows how many more?
We are all in this together, whether you care to admit it or not. Our key interaction with our government now should be to let the economy breathe. Nothing more, nothing less.