BEING CYNICAL ABOUT CEMENT, NIGERIA & THE IFC

Thursday, January 31, 2008

I believe that cynicism can be very healthy if it is balanced. By balanced, I simply mean that even cynics must be open to the possibility that their cynicism may prove unwarranted. When it comes to Nigeria, I have learned time and again, that a healthy dose of cynicism is necessary to navigate through the turbulent waters of Nigerian politics.

So, this cynicism guided my approach to discussing Yar'adua's recent lifting on the cement importation ban. I believe in thinking critically, and consequently, I couldn't just take Yardy's action at face value. I implored to do a little research and low and behold, the harder I looked, the more potentially questionable information I discovered.

IMNAKOYA'S POINT...
Nevertheless, Imnakoya (if you haven't been by his blog recently, you really must go there and watch "Ghana go hear Wien") rightly pointed out that we must not be overly cynical and he noted that the Obajana Cement project (please read initial post and comments for context) is one that will be beneficial to Nigeria in the long run. He also noted that the project was financed by the IFC and that this fact should temper our concerns about any possible improprities surrounding the origin of the project.

AN IFC INSIDER LAYS DOWN THE LAW
I called up a friend who works for the IFC and spends her days greenlighting projects such as the Obajana Cement project. She informed me that even though some of us are concerned about any possible unjust enrichment or undue influence, we should not be afraid. She, let's call her Susan, stressed that the World bank and all its affiliates are under pressure to ensure that all dealings are not just financially sound and profitable, but that they also be ethically sound. Susan also tried to reassure me that if any impropriety is revealed, the IFC will pull its funding.

MY THOUGHTS
It was good to speak to Susan and learn from someone who is an integral part of IFC funding operations. However, her conviction that the Obajana Cement project was most likely trustworthy and her unquestioning belief that any future or former signs of impropriety would bring an end to the company's funding did not completely convince me.

I believe that Banks are in the business of making money. As such, without any additional factors, withdrawing funding from a potentially profitable project that will provide jobs, good will and be helpful to all the European funders (and there are many) that put money into the Obajana Cement project, will probably not happen. Business is business. Besides, the question I ask myself is would I want people that are depending on Obajana Cement to suffer if there is a withdrawal of funding from the project because they lost their means of livelihood? I might be a cynic, but I am not evil and I understand that a legal job, any job, is better than no job at all.

So, congratulations to everyone else who is involved in the Obajana cement project. I sincerely applaud you for creating a venture that will bring jobs to Nigerians and will provide Nigeria's construction industry with affordable cement. And by the way, despite what we think about various Big Boys, Dangote is one Big Boy that is working the publicity machine to its fullest. His advisors should be commended. Dangote recently made serious donations to a few orphanages in Nigeria.

Further reading:
- Did Yar'Adua Lift The Cement Ban For The People's Benefit?

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imnakoya said...

I'm honored that my comments to the discussion are deemed worthy, and to be highlighted in this manner.

How I wish more Nigerian businesses (particularly small businesses) would have better access to funds and technical assistance. The fund is there via the SMEEIS, but getting it demands 'going through the eye of the needle'! Yet, small business are the work-horses of any economy.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

Stop trying to be modest. lol! You know that the only way we learn from each other is to treat every comment as worthy of further review and analysis. Besides, you always make insightful and educated comments.

And thanks for your 'meme'. I've been meaning to email you but life keeps getting in the way. Will do so shortly, nevertheless.

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