JOHVINE WANYINGO, Country Manager, Infotrak Research & Consulting Nigeria Limited. Mr. Wanyingo has 14 years’ experience in Marketing and Social Research, handling both local and multinational clients in Sub-Saharan Africa, and was an Associate Instructor for Centre for Applied Research Training – (SCART) at Strathmore University. He holds MBA Operations and Project Management from Maseno University, a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from University of Dar es Salaam and a Diploma in Social Work and Community Development from the Regional Institute of Business Management.
Iam a Kenyan by birth and an African by naturalization because of the nature of my work. I have worked in various countries in Africa. I did my first degree in Law, University of Dar es Salaam. I have a second degree from the same University in Business Administration, marketing option. Of course I have my MBA from Maseno University in Kenya. I have been in research for the last fourteen years. I began my research career in Tanzania as a transcriber. I used to transcribe Swahili which is a national language in Tanzania and a regional language spoken across East Africa community. While I was in campus, sometimes I would spend the night to transcribe at least to get something for my upkeep. I went further to become an interviewer with Steadman Research Group which was later bought over by Synovate. It didn’t last long before it was bought over again by Ipsos. Having worked at Steadman Research as an interviewer, after completing my course, I was absorbed into the qualitative department as research coordinator before being promoted as field manager for the region whereby I served various countries within my position but based in Kenya. In March 2009, I joined Africa Development Alternative (ADA) as a consultant on an IOM (International Organization of Migration) funded project. Worked with them for a period of six months on international development research focusing mainly on socioeconomical aspects. After that I got an opportunity to join Infotrak, one of the Sub Saharan leading and fast growing indigenous research firm having been incorporated in Kenya.
The major focus of Infotrak was to offer research on credible grounds and also looking at a local face because in as much as Steadman was locally owned; the real owner was a Briton. In the early 90s we had other firms like TNS, RMS Consumer Insights, RI etc. but market and social research was not fully established. Steadman Research started doing opinion poll in 1995 on small scale just looking at the popularity and by then worked in collaboration with Gallup Polls. With the collaboration with Gallup International, Steadman opinion polls started gaining credibility and reliability. However just like any other poll, they never lacked controversies especially when polls don’t favor a particular interest. I worked in Infotrak Kenya as the Field Operations manager by then Infotrak had offices in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In 2007 Infotrak started to collaborate with Harris International which gave us a global outlook and we had to spread our wings in Nigeria, South Sudan, Rwanda and of course USA. We started doing a lot of Harris polls and these polls were being done in two levels.
There’s what we call syndicated polls –something like an omnibus, done and funded by the company. We branded it Politrak s and it was being done and funded by the company, no company was funding it. I can remember in 2007 Electioneering period the opposition party in Kenya was leading in most of the Polls. We received a lot of bashing from the then ruling party (government) with claims of doctoring polls to favour the oppositions. All manner of allegations were leveled against the Company and the management with threats to shut down the firm. The government alleged that we were being funded by the opposition, foreign governments and organizations. The Ethnic profiling of our CEO who incidentally comes from the same tribe as the then Leader of Opposition. We have journeyed for the last eleven years doing opinion polls. Others are financed by international bodies, political parties etc. We do not only do opinion polls in Kenya, but in some other countries too.
We have done public opinion polls in Uganda which predicted that President Museveni was going to win in February 2006, our prediction was correct for the Uganda polls. We also did it in the Tanzania where we worked with the ruling party. Though we didn’t publish it but the result was topnotch because it predicted that the ruling party CCM which has been ruling since the independence in 1961 would retain power. We went further in the same year 2006 and did the polls in Zanzibar which predicted the correct outcome of the ruling party retaining power. So this has been giving us credit and motivation to do more polls. The recent one we did in Ghana elections of 2016, not funded by any party and not published but shared with the aspirants of various political parties and our finding then had indicated that President Nana Ado was going to win the election with 54.6 percent and when the elections did hold, it mirrored our poll result.
WHY DID YOU LEAVE YOUR SUPPOSED LUCRATIVE LEGAL PROFESSION FOR MARKET RESEARCH?
You will be surprised that in Kenya if you studied law outside or within the country you have to go back and sit for a diploma course at the Law school. This was not my choice career path and did not perform so well on the course which discouraged me in joining Law School. At one point I was doing this for my parents who wanted me to be a lawyer but inside me I was thinking something else. In fact, it will surprise you that in my high school days I was known as a doctor because of my love for sciences. That was my nickname. I love Mathematics and that was why I went back and ventured into a lot of statistical work and while at Steadman which is now known as Ipsos. Why I love research most is that just like any other profession, you meet several people and we travel a lot. Through research I have been privileged to do research in 17 countries which I wouldn’t have had I chattered the course of legal profession. I wouldn’t have had that kind of exposure and in meeting with the profiled men and women including Presidents. In Nigeria as well, we have been doing polls even currently we are doing some polls but on non-disclosure basis. We don’t publish them but share with various stakeholders for policy direction. We do them with our International partners and non- governmental organizations. Once we do the polls it helps them in setting up policy direction. I will tell you one thing … Inasmuch as people do not love the science of opinion poll, but perception is reality, because you know electorates have become so much empowered and so informed lately. They know what they want from their leaders,
SHOULD OPINION POLL RESULTS BE PUBLISHED?
Undeniably, they need to be published. Can I tell you why? Whether a poll is commissioned by an individual, like currently several of them in Nigeria are commissioning for the 2019 elections. You can see the online polls that are being run by the like of Sahara Reporters, The Guardian Newspapers; The Punch, the political Talk shows, radio stations calling programs on popularities and asking people who they will vote for in 2019. Such thing has helped politicians to develop manifestoes and to know what the people need. We have been doing opinion poll for the past twelve years by our governance and policy department and it has given us an edge. We get a lot of requests asking us when we are going to publish our opinion polls. But it’s a bit tricky in Nigeria for some obvious reasons of being sensitive due to heated political environment.
WHAT ARE THE MOTIVATIONS FOR THE POLLS YOU DO THAT ARE NOT SPONSORED?
Just like any other firm would advertise their services, the syndicated polls we advertise our services and also it is to educate the masses on their rights to good governance. Infotrak motto is to bring the information to your hand and beyond sharpening your edge, we want to bring information in your hands and whatever you do with the information is left for you. It may influence the voting: it can work in favor or against a candidate depending on how they consume that particular information. There are polls we invest on. Once we invest we don’t release everything and there are people that come to buy our data so we have opportunity to sell. Whether we make a loss or profit, it’s either here or there. The only thing is that we do our polls every three months but as we enter full political cycle like we have elections coming in February next year, we start doing our polls monthly; projection is from June this year is to start monthly polls if we get partners to work with.
LOOKING AT THE NIGERIA SITUATION DO YOU THINK OPINION POLLS REFLECT THE POLITICAL REALITY ON GROUND?
They do at a certain angle but I have seen some polls that are dismissed and even me as a pollster I do dismiss them also because you don’t see the creativity in the poll and the reliability. For example, if you tell me today that the economic situation has improved and the fight against corruption has improved and Nigerians are happy that they are feeling economically empowered. With the corruption perception index recently released by the Transparency International, Nigeria is up the ladder in the ranking. Yes, we can see the lip service towards that but the real fight against corruption is far from being felt. So some of these opinion polls are done to scare opponents. I have seen polls published in the local media especially in the radio and I wonder how
genuine they are. So if opinion poll is independently done, it may reflect the views of the people but it will never reflect the opinions of the people if it’s at the whims of whoever commissions the project.
IT AMAZES ME THAT SOME OF THESE POLL RESULTS ARE RELEASED BY MARKET RESEARCH COMPANIES
I think so. I don’t have full knowledge but I remember in 2010 or 2011, there were some polls being done by one of the pollsters, Ipsos Mori before it merged by Synovate and these polls were being dismissed all over by the then opposition parties like ACN, APGA, Labour, and others but PDP was happy about the poll because it kept on showing they were leading. So you may never know. I have told you that at Infotrak level that yes we have polls commissioned but we don’t publish commissioned polls. For Syndicated polls which we have no one paying for it we may publish depending on the thematic areas. We work on principle that if we do poll for you on private level we give you the finding. The beauty of polling is the quick turnaround time. It’s only in research that you can commission in the morning and get the result in the evening, thanks to technology which has revolutionized research, firms are now using technology. At Infotrak we no longer do PAPI, we do online surveys and CATI, it helps with reliability because you can minimize the interface with the data thus reducing absolute errors.
HOW DO YOU SEE MARKET RESEARCH PRACTICE IN KENYA?
I look at the figures published on Euro monitor on the size of Market research projected growth from the 2017 figures of $44.51Billion. Currently Africa is really struggling to have a fair share of this cake. With Nigeria leading in Revenue size despite the 2016/17 recession, followed by South Africa, Egypt and Kenya. Kenya has had relative peace; that has seen the multinational firms and organizations scrambling for the space due to the publicity given by the major pollsters. If I reflect back about ten years ago, there were fewer firms such as Steadman which is now Ipsos, Infotrak and Research International. We have a lot of them come in now. There’s free space with so many numerous agencies which if not put to check can make the industry a bit messy.
However, with stronger umbrella bodies like Market and Social Research Association (MSRA) just like NiMRA regulates in Nigeria the industry can self regulate. There are healthy competition practices in market research in Kenya since clients have from a large poll to select from. Many advertisers now work with research agencies in product handling. The industry has grown in as much as I cannot compare it with Nigeria where you have so many brief case research companies bring unhealthy competition and undercutting. In Kenya almost ALL the major players in research in industry have a presence. The price war is one major challenge that we have and clients have options because of the existent of many players. Again the global players are enjoying economy of scale because they get research commissioned at the global arena. It is also very expensive to run a research company. Recruitment of the right staff has become a challenge because apart from statistical components, there’s no institution that is offering research as a faculty. Synovate saw the gap and introduced SCART
HOW DO YOU COMPARE RESEARCH IN EAST AFRICA AND WEST AFRICA? WHICH ONE HAS MORE PROSPECTS?
When you talk about West Africa, talk about Nigeria because it’s the giant within ECOWAS and this is where the market is, you have the people, the purchasing power and you are guaranteed to move volumes because of the size of the market. Ghana tries but the value is lower and not comparable. In Nigeria you will be sure, inasmuch there is presence of bigger players like Kantar, Ipsos etc., you should be doing something if not in the market but also in is social research.
Many NGOs do a lot of research. The only problem is that their research tends to be prolonged. So it can engage you for as long as one or two years on a fixed budget thus limiting the time to do business development and marketing ordinarily. Another industry threat in Nigeria, I have realized is that some clients are creating in-house research department complete with staffs thereby reduce the number of briefs channeled out. This is denying us the opportunity and I don’t know bodies like NiMRA, AMRA can champion our course, lest the Agencies soon close shop. I consider it a big threat. I think publication like Research Intelligence should appeal to the clients and that; inasmuch they are at liberty to create them in- house research department, let it be just for consumption and generation of market insights; but should allow research agencies handle the field execution and Analysis. One thing I like about Nigeria market is that advertising agencies collaborate a lot with research firm, this kind of synergy should be encouraged across Africa.
LOOKING AT THE VOLATILE NATURE OF OPINION POLL, DO YOU ADVOCATE THAT NGO, OR MEDIA HOUSES SHOULD CONDUCT OPINION POLL?
I will not advocate for media houses to handle because most of the media houses are owned by the same politicians and there’s no way they will be objective. I would not also advocate for NGOs. Let NGOs be doing their advocacy. Research is science and it has to be methodological. You have to go and collect the data. So if the NGOs were to be involved in it, are they also suggesting that we in research and marketing should get ourselves in the advocacy they are doing? Certainly we don’t have to do that so people should know their areas and keep to their lanes. I would advocate the NGOs should do the advocacy work they are doing and rely on research firms for the finding.
CHALLENGES WITH OPINION POLLS IN AFRICA
One thing we have seen with opinion poll is that once you publish them people tend to believe that you side the leading side. That’s most painful aspect of it. It’s an area that is surprising, not only in Nigeria but everywhere in Africa even in the developed economies. Let people just accept the science about it. Let’s accept that it is an opinion. “Polling is merely an instrument for gauging public opinion. When a president or any other leader pays attention to poll results, he is, in effect, paying attention to the views of the people. Any other interpretation is nonsense.” George Gallup. I will tell you that we have challenge at times; in research we have margin of errors and absolute errors. For instance, if they feel so close to party A, and I tell you that my likeness is for party B and if the interviewer introduces biasness he may code party A, so will in the end influence outcome albeit negatively. The absolute errors are the errors created by the interviewers’/ data punctures or analysts who are not objective. Objectivity and professionalism is important while conducting the poll and do not be afraid of the bashing because the bashing will be there.
HAVING SPENT 7 YEARS IN NIGERIA WHAT ARE YOU TAKING HOME TO KENYA?
I’m going back with a change in taste and style, my dressing code has changed. I am now full Nigerian. I envy the senatorial and Chief Obafemi Awolowo cap signature dress code. In fact, it was so funny that during my campaign (I contested for an elective office in 2012/13) I was baptized oga because of the signature, that’s one thing I am taking. Another thing I also love the most is the food; we don’t do pepper soup in my country. I love plantain so much and it’s one thing we also lack in Kenya and East Africa and it’s one of my best foods. I can do plantain Monday to Monday. The aggressiveness of my Nigerian brothers and sisters is amazing. I always thought Kenyans were aggressive until I came to Nigeria and found that here people are go getters. Nigerians love adding value to themselves. You meet someone and he would never tell you he has one degree its always two and counting….. One other thing is that we are the most religious nation in the world and I love it, because God is always first for us where ever you are and in spite of infrastructural challenges and community clashes. I have visited 19 states in Nigeria with each state having their unique challenges but they would never stop praising God. That’s has been a driving force. What surprises me is, people rarely take tea/ coffee in the morning rather they eat swallow (solid food). Above all, it’s an interesting market and the people are so lovely. I have not had any reason to regret in this market.