2:56 am - Friday February 28, 2020

ECONOMIC SUPERPOWER OF THE 21ST CENTURY: ‘Nigeria is Africa’s Black China of the world’-SAM Hill, Senior Contributing Editor, Newsweek magazine ….argues ‘Kano-oldest city in West Africa is more busier, closely cosmopolitan like New York City’ * Reveal encounter with Nigeria’s former Central Bank Governor, HE Muhammadu Sanusi II, the 14th emir of Kano *Talks about Community Engagement and Social Development Initiative, a nongovernmental organization in Maiduguri that helps female victims of the militant group Boko Haram BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF


ECONOMIC SUPERPOWER OF THE 21ST CENTURY:

‘Nigeria is Africa’s Black China of the world’-SAM Hill, Senior Contributing Editor, Newsweek magazine

.argues ‘Kano-oldest city in West Africa is more busier, closely cosmopolitan like New York City’

* Reveal encounter with Nigeria’s former Central Bank Governor, HE Muhammadu Sanusi II, the 14th emir of Kano

*Talks about Community Engagement and Social Development Initiative, a nongovernmental organization in Maiduguri that helps female victims of the militant group Boko Haram

BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF

IN THIS REVEALING ARTICLE, SAM HILL, ONE OF AMERICA’S HIGHLY RESPECTED, FINETST INVESTIGAVE JOURNALISTS penned a profound, educating, illuminating article, well-researched to assure Nigerians that Nigeria is a great superpower being seeing in the international community a the ‘Black China of the world in the 21st century,’ beyond the shores of Africa.

In the articulated piece, this writer did not mince words as he demonstrate a deeper knowledge of all factors needed by Nigerian economy to attain the enviable status in the comity of nations. Not wanting to depend on hearsay, the reporter was on ground in Kano, one of the busiest, most cosmopolitan city in Wet Africa that can only be compared to New York City in United states of America.

In a flowery article, he argues that a thousand years ago, this was one of the richest cities in the world, the terminus of the cross-Saharan trade that brought salt to exchange for slaves, gold and ivory. The palace has 5-foot thick walls, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, stone pathways and ornate mosaic domes. On the walls are large color photographs of a serious-looking man wearing a white turban with a veil across the bottom of his face. The two tails of the ceremonial knot that holds the veil in place look like bunny ears.

Meeting with Nigeria’s former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor

In his words: “The man is Muhammadu Sanusi II, the 14th emir of Kano, the second most important religious position in Nigeria. I watch as his assistant crawls across the carpet on his hands and knees. Bowing his head to the floor, he hands my business card up to the emir, then crawls away backward. Sanusi motions me to sit.

“I’m here to find out what the future holds for Nigeria. I’ve been told the emir is one of the “three or four” people who may know the answer. It’s an important question, and not just for Nigerians. In 30 years, Nigeria will be, by population, larger than the U.S. By the end of the century it will be the third largest nation in the world, behind India and China, and the most densely populated large country, with more people per square mile than even India. It will have more Muslims than any other country in the world, and more Christians. And if it can get its socioeconomic act together, it may also be the continent’s first superpower. It’s got a tremendous number of advantages that should help it do that: resources, scale, talent, work ethic and a democratic government, but it has an equally long list of challenges. I’m hoping Sanusi can tell me which will win out.

“The emir has a degree in Sharia, Islamic law. He also has a master’s in economics. Before becoming emir, he was head of the Nigerian equivalent of the Federal Reserve. His reform agenda was so aggressive it was known as the Sanusi tsunami. It earned him recognition as the top central banker in the world. He has an equally ambitious agenda for his emirate. I listen as he describes a future that has stronger rights for women and children; he also explains how to use education and child support laws to end child marriage and slow population growth. He talks about modernizing agriculture and investing in its value chain. Can it happen?

This flawless article take the reader through Nigeria’ independence era in 1960. “When you’re standing on a dusty street ankle-deep in trash, watching young men load a cart with 5-gallon jugs of water that they will sell door to door to homes that lack indoor plumbing, it’s not easy to envision Nigeria as a superpower. Expectations for the country have been high before: just after independence in 1960 and during the Africa Rising enthusiasm of a decade ago. And yet, despite having had so much going for it, Nigeria has remained stuck near the bottom of the indexes used to compare nations—social progress, human development, peacefulness, governance, innovation, fragility, corruption and ease of doing business—while Asian nations have taken off. Nigeria is not a failed state, but neither is it a successful one. Oge Onubogu, who leads the Africa programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace, says, “Nigeria lurches from one crisis to another, but whenever you think it’s about to topple over, it pulls itself back.” It’s in one of those crises at the moment.”

Yemi Koyejo of the Nigerian-American Multicultural Council in Houston says that all Nigerians want is “a decent life.” She says this comes down to basic services. “It’s really bad right now in Lagos, and if it’s bad in Lagos, imagine what it’s like in the rest of the country. The average person wants shelter, security, health care and electricity.”

“Meanwhile, the population is exploding, growing more than twice as fast as the world average. That is especially true in the North, where fertility rates are typically around seven children per woman. Except in Lagos, local governments struggle to collect taxes and provide basic services. “Middle class” is defined as the ability to afford bottled water and a generator. Even more worrying to most Nigerians is the security situation. On average, seven middle-class Nigerians and oil field workers are kidnapped and held for ransom every day. Only a few years ago, most people made the short trip from the capital Abuja to Kaduna by road. Now, most go by train. At Christmas, an ISIS offshoot of Boko Haram released a video showing 10 Christians being beheaded in Maiduguri. Every conversation about traveling ends with two words: be careful. Amenities in luxury condos include bulletproof glass.”

Highlighting evergreen role played by the Community Engagement and Social Development Initiative. (CESDI), the award wining journalist state “that the security situation is linked to the economy and that those who commit cyber fraud, extortion, piracy and robbery do so because they have no legitimate way to participate in the economy. They are entrepreneurs of violence. “If you have something at stake, you won’t be enticed to wear a suicide vest,” says Fareedah Yahuza Yashe, who runs the Community Engagement and Social Development Initiative. (CESDI is a nongovernmental organization in Maiduguri that helps female victims of the militant group Boko Haram.)

“It’s hard to make progress anywhere, but it’s particularly hard in Nigeria. A complex set of policies and agreements keeps the peace between Nigeria’s many constituencies—a population of over 250 ethnicities split evenly between Muslims and Christians. In practice, that makes it hard to get anything done. A bill to increase transparency in the oil industry has been stuck in the National Assembly for 19 years. And many are resistant to change. In 2014, Sanusi was fired from his banking post for exposing corruption. Soon after his appointment as emir, Boko Haram suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the mosque next door to the emir’s palace, killing over 120 people. Now, the governor of Kano state and a frequent target of Sanusi’s criticism, Abdullahi Ganduje, wants to break up the emirate to reduce Sanusi’s power.

Many of the issues, and much of the gridlock, come back to oil. Roughly $100 million worth of oil pours out of the ground each day. Spread across that huge population, that’s only about 50 cents per person per day. That’s not enough to make everyone rich, but more than enough to make some very rich. It’s estimated that 80 percent of the proceeds from oil has gone to 1 percent of the population. It’s money worth fighting over, and that’s what Nigerians do at every level of the economy. Oil has given politics an outsized importance. As Onubogu says, “If you’re excluded from politics, you’re excluded from the economy.”

“Oil accounts for 97 percent of Nigeria’s official exports. Over the past 21 years, the benchmark price of oil has roller-coastered between $17 and $145 per barrel. High oil prices have encouraged fiscally irresponsible policies, like excess spending, vanity public works, subsidized imports of refined petroleum products, currency manipulation and high levels of protectionism. During boom times, Nigeria splashed around oil money hosting international events like the 2003 All-Africa Games. It spent on grandiose projects like the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in the new national capital of Abuja and the Nigerian space program, which has now launched five satellites. During periods of low prices, Nigeria has been forced to borrow.

“Oil has also been ruinous for the environment. Although progress has been made, there’s a long history of less than best practices by international companies, like gas flaring, which contributes significantly to climate change, as well as the environmental disasters caused by bandits who steal oil from pipelines and entrepreneurs who operate illegal (and dangerous) kerosene and diesel refineries and dump their waste product into the land and waterways.”

Economic Miracle?

“OK, here’s the shocker. Despite the violence and the red tape and the greed, Nigeria’s economic success could match China’s. The country could finally live up to its huge potential. And it has the same route to success as China: the economy. That seems almost unthinkable. But it’s only because the China we know is the China of 2019. Few of us remember the sleepy panda that was China 40 years ago. We’ve now seen five East Asian economic miracles, so it’s easy to position China as part of a trend. It’s hard to imagine an African economic miracle because none of us has ever seen one.”

Transforming an economy isn’t easy, but it can be done. When Mao Zedong died in 1976, China was one of the world’s most backward and impoverished nations. Gross domestic product per capita, essentially a measure of average income, was about $200 (adjusted for inflation). Two years later, Deng Xiaoping came to power and deregulated the economy. It exploded. Average annual income is now close to $10,000; 850 million people were lifted out of poverty. The transformation was accomplished with astonishing speed. Uche Orji, a former Wall Street investment banker who’s now CEO of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, says he first went to China in 1998. When he went back five years later, it was “pleasantly unrecognizable.”

“Nigeria’s numbers today are surprisingly close to where China’s were before reform. In 1978, China’s poverty rate was 55 percent, almost identical to the most recent statistics for Nigeria. And adult literacy in China was only 65 percent, comparable to Nigeria’s 62 percent. Today, China’s poverty rate is almost zero, and literacy is at 97 percent.

“If a comparison to China seems too ambitious, how about India? Nigeria and India have more than a few similarities: Both are ex-British colonies and have an extraordinary number of ethnic groups (2,000 in India), endemic corruption, religious conflicts and a loyal and highly educated diaspora. Before 1991, India had a heavily regulated socialist economy, with extreme levels of protectionism for domestic industries and notorious levels of red tape and bureaucracy. Facing default, Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and Finance Minister Manmohan Singh began a reform program of reducing tariffs, opening the economy to competition and foreign investment, and slashing bureaucracy. GDP per capita rocketed from $368 to $2,010. Between 2014 and 2018, India grew faster than China.

As with China and India, much of the case for Nigeria’s potential comes down to one word: size. Large countries have huge advantages over small ones, both in terms of economic efficiency and in their ability to attract investment. It was the potential of China’s huge domestic market, not its usefulness as a source of cheap products, that attracted foreign investment in the 1980s. Nigeria is the “last major open market on earth,” says Randy Buday, DHL Express’ regional director for West and Central Africa.

It has around 200 million people, 10 times that of an average African nation and almost twice that of the second largest, Ethiopia. One out of every seven black people on earth is Nigerian. Nigeria’s population is already larger than Russia’s and in 30 years will pass that of the U.S. According to the U.N., by the end of the century, Nigeria will have 733 million people. It has what Folasope Aiyesimoju, CEO of the conglomerate UAC and formerly with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in London, calls “demographics to die for.” In other words, a young population. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy as well, surpassing South Africa. According to Canback Consulting, which focuses on emerging economies, it already has a small but growing middle class.

Of course, like China in 1978 and India in 1990, Nigeria has in place a set of economic policies that stifle innovation and efficiency. The government provides too much control and not enough support, such as infrastructure and basic services. One CEO says off the record, “Businesses pray to not be noticed by the government.” Another describes a “continuous parade of government types coming through my office trying to shake me down.”

Andrew S. Nevin of PwC points out that the public sector in Nigeria is tiny compared with those of most countries. True. But if Nigeria removes the barriers to growth, its economy could explode too.

* To read the conclusive part of this article, kindly click: https://www.newsweek.com/2020/01/31/nigeria-next-superpower-1481949.html

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