By Kede Aihie
The spirit of Nigeria is characterised by resilience, dynamism and entrepreneurship, these narratives have helped the nation cope in its worst economic recession in a quarter of a century.
Nigeria is a conundrum that defy economic logic, how do you explain the fact that a nation producing about 3,000 megawatts of electricity for population of 193 million (NBS est.), with serious infrastructural deficit, is the largest economy in Africa. In 2016, going by available statistics, Nigerians withdrew N5 trillion (National budget was N6 trillion in 2016) from ATM, did N800 billion transactions via PoS, transferred N38 billion electronically.
With, major challenge of power failure, Nigerians have tap into the void created by government’s dereliction of responsibility, relying on generators as alternatives. SMEs make up a large proportion of Nigeria’s trillion dollar economy; through the informal sector (informal sector is estimated to be three times the size of the formal economy). According to World Economic and Financial Survey, 2017 (IMF), the informal activity acts as a safety net, providing employment and income to a large and growing working-age population that may otherwise be unemployed in the absence of sufficient opportunities in the formal sector.
Whether it’s the hawker across cities and highways of Nigeria, market traders, workers doing 18 hour shifts, construction of roads by private individuals/community, self-funding athletes/footballers representing the nation at international competitions or months of unpaid salaries of workers, a couple things stand out, the zeal to succeed regardless of the obstacles, the hope that someday their lot will change, not waiting for government provision.
40 percent of Nigerian women are entrepreneurs and largest in the world (BBC). Two Nigerian women were recently honoured for their entrepreneurship by the World Economic forum in Durban South Africa. Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja (Fresh Direct), whose company pioneered stackable container farms, helping urban population access high-quality produce, reduce stress on land use and reduce the need to import vegetables. Temie Giwa-Tubosun, (LifeBank), deploys digital supply chain thinking to deliver blood and other high-value medical products to hospitals and health centres.
Even though infrastructure is stifling agriculture and there are challenges militating against commercial agriculture, peasant farmers across the length and breadth of Nigeria are bucking the trend in agriculture. In the absence of a structured creative industry, Nollywood demonstrates resilience and dynamism, starting from scratch, in the early 1990s; it now employs over a million people, raking in $600 million annually.
In 2016, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg on a private visit to Nigeria, a country without a structured eco tech system like Silicon Valley (California) or Bangalore (India), met with developers and partners. Whilst visiting a summer code camp at Cc-Hub in Yaba, Zuckerberg said: “the energy here is amazing and I’m excited to learn as much as I can. I got to talk to kids at a summer coding camp and entrepreneurs who come to CC-Hub to build and launch their applications.”
The entertainment industry have also gone global, it’s not uncommon to hear Nigerian artist on radio stations in Africa, Europe, U.S. and the West Indies, or their music video on main stream stations like MTV Base.
Chinua Achebe’s book, Things Fall Apart, sold over eight million copies worldwide and was translated into 50 languages, making him the most translated African writer of all time. Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka described Achebe’s work as “the first novel in English which spoke from the interior of the African character, rather than portraying the African as an exotic, as the white man would see him.” Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie’s work ‘We are all feminist’ has been used by award winning Grammy artist Beyoncé in her ‘flawless album’
With serious challenges in most sectors in Nigeria, including education, it is not uncommon for government controlled institutions to go on strikes for months. The private sector is delivering solutions with establishment of private institutions. This has enabled thousands of students get into institutions aside from government owned ones, with the advantage of completing their studies on time. Pushing up the boundaries of improving educational lot of their children, Nigerians parents spend over $185 million annually, to send their children for studies abroad.
The spirit of Nigeria was displayed by the late Dr Ameyo Adadevoh, the Nigerian physician, men and women, who risked their lives to contain the Ebola virus from becoming an epidemic.
Nigeria’s telecom sector is successfully driven by the private sector, with high level penetration; the industry is also attempting to cash into financial inclusion (mobile money) and is diversifying into new areas of financial services, banking, insurance, record labels, film production companies etc. Telecom firms have invested in infrastructure, data base and have become a critical part of the Nigerian economy.
Reducing dependence on crude oil, while genuinely encouraging diversification and creating employment opportunities, will indeed make the spirit of Nigeria a model worthy of emulation globally.
Hopefully, the spirit of Nigeria, from ordinary Nigerians will rub off the political class and translate into good governance.
By Kede Aihie