The chicken or the egg, which comes first? We have been stuck with this question for decades. While it is easy to say you cannot put your cart before your horse, it has not been so easy to decide whether the egg or the chicken cam first. Possibly, answers may have been provided to the chicken-egg debate, check out the analogy that introduces another third party, the proto-chicken.
The debate about which comes first has spilled into other discourses and created a similar situation of dilemma for experts and scholars. One of such topics of interesting discourse is the debate over which should take priority in an economy, the business/entrepreneurship or its regulation. Answers to this have provided sharply divided views of people as in the chicken and egg case, with some taking the side of regulations while others stick to the business and entrepreneurship taking priority.
This was a focal point of debate between the enterprising minds at the Centre for Social Awareness, Advocacy and Ethics. In its most recent webinar on the World Bank Doing Business Report for 2019, the panel of youths deeply analyzed the regulatory system of Nigeria and argued on its viability for promoting business in Nigeria.
The main question was “How do regulations affect the energies of entrepreneurs concerning developing their businesses?”
It is undeniable in Nigeria, that a young startup could easily be stonewalled when faced with Nigeria’s labyrinth of regulatory systems. Generally, startups do not have the foresight and experience of navigating these murky waters of regulations in Nigeria and since most startups are bound to make mistakes, they find themselves falling into more pitfalls than their pockets can take.
However, a legitimate question in support of Regulations is, what if a business being undertaken is illegal or is potentially able to harm the society if unregulated. This raises the question of the public duty the government has to protect its citizens by making sure that the consumers are protected from substandard goods and services which are common to unregulated industries. For example, if barbing is unregulated in Nigeria, there is a high possibility that I could enter a shop and instead of having a haircut, I leave with a bloodied head, thanks in part to the novice who has set up a barbershop without anyone calling him to order. An injury is very possible considering a situation where anyone without certification can pick up a clipper and call himself a barber. It is therefore pertinent to note that regulations are as important for the safety of the society as encouraging entrepreneurship could be.
A unique point remains that in the labyrinth of regulations, bigger corporations fare better and the reason is not far-fetched. Usually, they tend to have more experience in navigating the industry compared to new entrepreneurs; they have the capital to maintain experienced and specialized solicitors who are tasked with navigating the several stages of regulation. Pitting such large corporations against young startups is like creating an uneven football field and expecting a fair endgame.
Can we also ask ourselves why societies with deregulated business environments like the United States tend to contribute more to creativity and inventions compared to highly regulated economies which cannot match such?
At the end of the day, the answer to our first question asked will depend on which position you are answering from, shall we regulate businesses and kill creativity or shall we allow creativity thrive at the expense of public safety and consumer protection?
ENL Ajiboye Jesutooni
Contributor, CSAAE Blog