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Sunday, October 17, 2021
Blog / The Benefit of Collaboration (In The Face of a Depressed Economy – The Nigerian Experience)

The Benefit of Collaboration (In The Face of a Depressed Economy – The Nigerian Experience)

"Two are better than one. If one falls down his friend can help him up" – Eccl 4:9-10

"A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.." Eccl 4:12b


In the 2009 edition of the CBAN Anchor magazine, I addressed the issue of pricing especially as it impacts the bottom line in an economic recession scenario. This issue has continued to plaque the Christian book industry in Nigeri

a.The fall in the naira value compared to the dollar exacerbated the situation leading to a lot of colossal losses to many book importers and distributors.

The mere fact that many goods are bought on credit and the payment duration of an average of 90 days is inadequate to consolidate the gods abroad (mainly the USA), ship, clear and sell before remitting to the publishers, tells the story! An increase in the exchange rate combined with the low sales volume as a result of the economic recession, has made it difficult for many importers to thrive. Many have resulted in selling below landing costs just to be able to generate income to pay the publishers abroad, thus cutting deeply into their capital. What is the way out of this? How do we as a body mitigate against these strenuous forces, which is beyond our control? My answer is COLLABORATION!!!

Thinking outside the box

Stringent problems require stringent me* asures to mitigate against or resolve them. Under these rather harsh situations we find ourselves in Nigeria, it is time for the association as a body and individuals to begin to think outside the box

The strategies of the late 90’s and early 2000’s cannot meet the challenges that have been thrown up since 2008 when the exchange rate catapulted from 120 to 190, when the stock market crashed and people lost their life long investment and savings in a swoop. It is time to think outside the box. This write up is not only intended to proffer solutions but to stimulate us to start to thing collectively on how to get us out of this quagmire. What is it that you did in the 90’s and early 2000’s that made sense? Why is it that these strategies don’t work now? They worked then because of a, b and c factors. Have these factors and situation changed? If so your strategy has to change in order to meet the emerging challenges and conditions we face now


Where is the Market?

I am always amassed when I hear of many big booksellers going to pay huge sums of money to ‘some’ association of booksellers all in the name of wanting to move their product. With all the education we have, the connections and wherewithal, it means that there is something severely wrong with our strategy. Nigeria by my own estimate has 200 Million people. Of these we can safely assume that 10% are ardent readers, and that is a rather conservative estimate! That is 20 Million people. This population also include the primary, secondary, tertiary institutions which CBAN is not really effectively servicing at the moment. So the estimate of 10% is very conservative indeed.

Now, assume we sell a book worth N1000 per person per year that comes to 20 Billion Naira! The question: Do we as a body sell up to 20 Billion a year? My guess is NO! But we can make it! We can sell that much! So where is the market? Why can’t we make such level of sales which we have demonstrated is even not optimal? This throws up the question or rather phrase – “COLLABORATION”.

We are not collaborating at all!!! Everybody wants to out do the other. No sharing of information, no sharing of ideas, etc. Until we realize that we need each other we will continue to run in circles. A clear example of this is the price war amongst importers, especially in Lagos. As long as this continues, we will continue to short change ourselves and erode our bottom line.

The map in figure 1 shows the population distribution around major towns/cities in Nigeria. We need to put or get data on these areas – Hotels, Schools, Churches, Banks, Parastatals, etc. This will help us target the market with the right materials and products. There is no one shop or importer that can cover the entire region. Hence again the need for COLLABORATION.

A person who resides in say Warri knows the terrain very well, he also knows the people, knows what sells and what does not sell. Another shop in Kano has items that have been sitting in the warehouse for years and these items can easily be sold in Warri. If there is collaboration, the Kano shop can discuss with the Warri shop and send the items. These are sold in record time and the profits shared as agreed! This is just one way to collaborate. Can we achieve this? YES! if we are determined and sincere and honest.

My Experience with Collaboration – The Good, the bad and the Ugly

  • Sometime ago I had a particular title in large quantity. I was having difficulty in selling fast enough to meet payment to the publishers who were breathing down my neck! I discussed with a colleague in another city who decided to help to market them as he was convinced he had the market. 70%+ were eventually sold and instead of the person paying me the money was “wacked”. This is one of the dangers of collaboration. Where there is no sincerity, honesty and integrity it will not work.
  • Shop A in another city had a similar problem with so much stock and no much sales. I discussed with an outlet outside the country as I did not have capacity to take the stock myself. Bang!! Sales in this outlet have been so fast that more of the product is being requested.
  • A store in another city got an order to supply a church some 500 copies of a book. We discussed terms. I ordered and supplied. The store got paid by the church, took the commission and paid me my portion. This shows that with understanding we can get a lot of product moved across this country.

In all these TRUST and INTEGRITY are key ingredients. Without these, Collaboration won’t work.

Other Ideas

  • Facebook: I first noticed the power of the social network in 2009 when I needed to travel to Germany from London. I had limited cash and wanted a cheap flight. For lack of what to do I logged onto my facebook page. On the page was a posting from BA announcing a cheap flight of £50 to Frankfurt. I quickly paid and off I went to Frankfurt. This tool can also be used for selling books and posting information. In fact in the last few months some 2 to 3 booksellers have started to use facebook to disseminate information and create awareness. The cost is almost close to nothing and this will add to the bottom line!
  • Emails: Technology is catching up. Emailing customers is another cheap way to ensure visibility. This is a very effective tool and I highly recommend it
  • Churches: We have abundance of churches. Many do not have bookstores. We can collaborate with them to help open a mini bookstore. This will help our pockets and theirs too. You may need to make the investment of even providing the shelving for them. If the sales people the church put in charge are effective then your ROI will be achieved in no time. This too is helping to spread the Gospel.

Some Suggestions:

  • Sharing Information is key to ensuring an efficient collaboration system
  • Create a database of buyers across the country
  • Combined advertising on the media – AIT, NTA (morning ride), etc. This will help spread the cost and participating bookstores will be mentioned with their addresses. The CBAN EXCO can coordinate this.
  • Collaboration with churches to open outlets
  • Collaboration with state governments to introduce some of our books to their schools and also introduce curriculum. For example “gifted hands” can be a must read for every Junior secondary school student.
  • Price Equalisation Research ( we may glean from the CBA American experience).

All these suggestions require openness, fairness, integrity and in warri parlance “NO BAD BELLE” for it to succeed


It is obvious that the CBAN members have a lot to do to capture the Nigerian market. We seem to be running around in circles attending to the same customers. We are busy fighting ourselves and not thinking strategically. We can achieve a lot more by collaboration and I hope that this little article will stimulate us to do the right thing and explore our huge market.

I sincerely hope that one day we as a body will be strong enough to take the bull by the horn and stampede this monster that has been ravaging us for so long!

DR. Anthony O. Akpokene
CEO Flomat Books Limited, Warri
Phone Number: 08059451064, 08136456529
Email Address: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Official email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Office line: 0803139673, 07029494472

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