A NIGERIAN REVIEWS CNBC'S "DOLLARS AND DANGER"

Monday, June 15, 2009

When I first learned that CNBC's Erin Burnett visited Nigeria and would present a documentary on the country, I got worried. Far too often, Nigerians are simplified to fit certain basic stereotypes - corrupt, dirty, poor, corrupt, and the list of negative connotations could go on. Inspite of my concerns, "Dollars and Danger: Africa, the Final Investment Frontier" did not present a negative or overly-simplistic picture of Nigeria, Nigerians and the African continent.

THE SHOW'S FOCUS
I initially considered the title to be unnecessarily inflammatory - this association with danger stems from pre-colonial sentiments of what the 'Dark Continent' represents and has continued through modern media. Despite my reservations, being that I am a writer, I understood the tactic and Burnett's respectful and practical reporting made up for my concerns. The documentary focused on Africa as a potential goldmine for investors in the current economic slowdown. It pointed out that most African nations have large populations with a growing middle class yet to be exploited. It revealed that Africa is not just for safari vacations but has world class attractions and several miles of old Roman cities on the Mediterranean. The program focused on the reality that Africa remains the one continent with a large amount of natural resources instrumental for modern day existence - cobalt, oil, copper, and coltan. The show also noted that most of Africa's citizens lack certain basic necessities and as expected, discussed the battle for Africa's resources being waged by China, the United States and other large economies.

ON NIGERIA...
With regard to Nigeria, Burnett took an approach that I appreciated. She pointed out the reality that fuel scarcity plagues a top global producer of oil and other problems related to the oil and energy (electricity) sector. Yet, she focused on the entrepreneurial spirit of the Nigerian individual. As someone with great faith in Nigerians, I was pleased to listen to enterprising Nigerians and inspired by their ability to be successful despite the odds they face. For instance, Ms. Ayodeji Megbope, an entrepreneur with her own catering business, during whose interview, a generator could be heard whirring in the background. Even though she has to pay exorbitant amounts to provide the electricity necessary for a catering business, she was making a profit and is an independent businesswoman. Mrs. Adenike Ogunlesi was another inspiration, with her 'Made in Nigeria' clothing and bright, captivating advertising campaigns to market her products. Ogunlesi spoke of the realities of enterprise in a country where only 2 textile factories are operational, and certain officials deprive business people of information so that individuals can be caught breaking the law in order to benefit an officials 'pockets'.
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/55/154792022_3814ea92c8.jpg
Source: Flickr
Looking at these women, I was reminded of the millions of Nigerians, who, in the spirit of entrepreneurship run businesses big and small. Many lack the basic structural support that gives business people in other parts of the world a fair chance to succeed - like banks that make smaller loans, consistent electricity supply, regular security, for instance. Yet, these individuals somehow manage to beat the odds time and time again.

These individuals reinforces my belief that although the Nigerian government has for years failed the very people it is intended to serve, Nigerians, as a people, continue to be ingenious and thrive despite their circumstances. And they manage to do it despite the minority of Nigerians who give the nation a bad name, despite the stereotypes, the unfounded vitriol launched by some who simply seek hits on their web sites, and those who choose, for whatever reasons, to be bigots and condemn an entire nation of 140 million people.

ON BUSINESS IN NIGERIA...
Nevertheless, the program provided a practical look at Nigeria, Africa and the challenges to business. But, with the fact that Virgin Atlantic is looking to sell its stake in Virgin Nigeria, an intriguing question remains, can foreign business investors truly hack it in Nigeria given its political, economic and other related complexities? Clearly, many have, like Coca Cola are doing well. Yet, others like Siemens, Halliburton/KBR have ended up in the news for their criminal and corrupt activities in the country.

A discussion with fellow Nigerian blogger Akin recently compelled me to wonder "Does Nigeria offer a conducive business environment for international businesses?" To which Akin responded, "It takes a particular type of international business to do well." It would be interesting to see who will tackle this question of what kinds of international businesses do well in Nigeria. I, for one, would be willing to watch/read the conclusions achieved in response to this issue. One thinks that if Nigerians manage to run their businesses despite the complexities and unfortunate encumbrances, foreign businesses should be able to do so as well without falling into the corruption traps that befell the likes of Halliburton or Siemens or losing the goodwill of the community as has been the case for oil companies like Shell in the Niger Delta.

The frank portrayal of Nigeria in "Dollars and Danger: Africa, the Final Investment Frontier" spotlighted Nigeria's strength - its entrepreneurial and hardworking people - with an eye towards revealing the potential profit to be made by foreign investors. Certain questions remain, but for now, this Nigerian was happy to see Nigeria not be portrayed in a stereotypical manner.


This post continues with my observations on investing in Africa and the issues it raises for the people of the continent in A NIGERIAN REVIEWS CNBC'S "DOLLARS AND DANGER" Part 2


Related Articles
- Nigeria's Re-branding Effort
- Using Nigerians to Re-Brand Nigeria
- Re-Branding Nigeria: Success Is The Key
- Rebranding Nigeria: With Britain's Help?


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Lolia said...

I'm first on your other blog but the comment thingie isn't working :'(

I'm actually about to cryyyyyyyyyyy!

plastiQQ said...

Hmmn. A refreshing way to start my week; even though there has been no power for 6 days now.

tobenna said...

Thanks for sharing this. Off to go through the documentary.
You've been experimenting with your comments field, clearly. This has changed and your other is not working too...

Anonymous said...

where can we watch the show?

thanks

Oz said...

Interesting

AL said...

I have gone through the videos and the views are fair. The comments are consistent - fix power!

Francis Oluwaseun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Francis Oluwaseun said...

well, Erin seems to have a keen interest in africa as a journalist.It will be hard to tell what she personally holds in her heart about Africa, since we wont be able to seperate her professional life and her personall life. As a journalist she is helping in her own ways. i hope to see this particular documentary now.

Cee said...

I watched a bit on Bella Naija and I am watching the remaining clips on NigeriaVillageSquare. I think they have been very fair but to be honest what I am paying particular attention to is what the Nigerians being interviewed are saying and that's why I am impressed.

Ultimately, like Ms Okonjo Iweala said on TED, Africa is ready and open for business. I believe that with all my heart BUT...the big but, it's government is not ready. Certainly the majority of Nigeria's government is not ready bar Lagos state as far as I'm aware. The Federal government does not have the intellect (and I am not being mean) but the FGN does not have the intellect and foresight to do a thorough job and that's where the problem lies. Many individuals, both home-based and returnees have amazing vision right now but the government is ridden with saboteurs, people who would sabotage the creative process for these changes to be made. What do I mean? Take for instance the power issue- those who have a stake in the alternative power generation ind. aka generators etc will do anything to sabotage meaningful change in the power situation and we can go on and on.

So until the ruling class is changed we'll never fully realise our potential.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Cee: I want to focus on something you said, because it is of particular interest to me.

"Africa is ready and open for business. I believe that with all my heart BUT...the big but, it's government is not ready. "

Let us replace 'Africa' with Nigeria. I definitely believe that Nigerians as a people are ready for business. We have always had our side hustles, and even our side hustles have had side hustles. Those who make up the government however, are more concerned with corrupt practices to help/make business/enterprise run relatively efficiently and that is a concern for me. I will spend some more time on this issue in the concluding part of this post and hope you will join in the conversation to expand your comment.

Thanks.

Beauty said...

Officials in northern Nigeria Kano State have rehabilitated a creaking water plant in the small town of Wudil, 30 km south of Kano city in an effort to bring residents cheap, safe water, but some question if the price will stay affordable. Less than 40 percent of Kano State population of nine million had access to clean water in 2004.

Of course there are good news galore in Nigeria. Paulo Coelho's allegory, The Alchemist is a better read if anyone is interested in good omens since Nigerians are entrepreneurial and hardworking people. But is this about the people or the environment they work? In a global economy, nobody is expecting government handouts, but good government can give people the tools to make the most of their own lives.

5/5,000 strengths is Unfair! Who rules and on whose behalf as things fall apart is a question that came to mind on the video. The democracy we created have become tyrants. They are creating barriers that hinder rather than help our businesses. How do we get an educated workforce, remarkable infrastructure, a lot of government support? Living on the so called crumps and creating 2/140M potential billionaires? Ngozi famously said Africa is ready for business, but of course, she was only joking. Ask her today.

N.I.M.M.O said...

Any serious business person knows that the greater the risks, the greater the profit.

It has always been so.

The earliest Europeans who came to the west African coast knew they could die from a single bite of the mosquito or from the treacherous waters but they still came and the ones who persevered left with ships laden with handsome profit. Of course, many others died.

Today, the dangers may be a little different but the profit is still as bounteous.

Ask MTN, Zain, Glo, Huawei, Etisalat and others. Only those who venture gain.

The glass will always be either half-full or half-empty. Wisdom says that only a fool is thirsty in the midst of plenty.

Virgin Atlantic's issues are myriad and IMO have more to do with the global downturn in aviation than with any other thing. Sir Richard Branson would be the last person to complain about business in Nigeria, he's an old hand. He's been making money here since the 70s.

Africa is open for business.

Let him who dares, come.

ASIAN WORLD MUSIC! :) said...

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Denford said...

It has always puzzled me how there can be fuel queues in a country like Nigeria. Even now, after some people tried to explain, I am still in the dark.

But I know from our own experience in Zimbabwe that this is probably due to lack of political vision.

We are letting the lowest denominator run our countries and they have no powers of inspiration of vision.

All this will end, I am certain, and Africa will, within the next ten to twenty years, become a new powerful force in the world.

Let our generation take center stage and show our people that mud huts and food are not the epitome of a good life!!

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Beauty: "barriers that hinder rather than help our businesses. How do we get an educated workforce, remarkable infrastructure, a lot of government support? Living on the so called crumps and creating 2/140M potential billionaires? Ngozi famously said Africa is ready for business, but of course, she was only joking. Ask her today."

Nothing more to add. There are far too many barriers to business in Nigeria, particularly for small business owners. Large international enterprises actually have it easier I would argue. We really should ask Ngozi is she was indeed joking, loL!

@ NIMMO: Yes, let he who dares, come. But, how about those of us in the country who dare to take our business to the next level? Especially without connections? We all know that it is not easy and like Beauty said, there are serious barriers making it such that in a country as wealthy and resource heavy like Nigeria, we can only account for 2 billionaires. Yes, I know there are many more billionaires but their money is shady...

Anyway, thanks for swinging by o jare, my broda. Hope your family is well.

@ Denford: "It has always puzzled me how there can be fuel queues in a country like Nigeria. Even now, after some people tried to explain, I am still in the dark."

Don't worry my brother, we Nigerians are equally in the dark and we live there.

"
We are letting the lowest denominator run our countries and they have no powers of inspiration of vision."


Too true. That is indeed gospel. In fact, preachers should take this up in church and Imams should d the same. But, then again, they would get into trouble, so...

"Africa will, within the next ten to twenty years, become a new powerful force in the world."

Unfortunately, Denford, I don't think the continent has that much time, and I will expand on that in tomorrow's post. But, being that you live in southern Africa, I know that you are only too aware of the impact HIV/AIDS is having on the segment of Africa's population that will be needed in the years to come - the young. If a large percentage of these people are being wiped out because of disease, and a large amount of those that are left don't have the basics (good education, clean water...), in 10-20 years things will be worse because we will have a small minority (even smaller than what we have now) continuing to control resources and making money off the backs of the ever increasing poor. Think about it...

"
Let our generation take center stage and show our people that mud huts and food are not the epitome of a good life!!


My brother, do you not think our people know this already? In fact some will argue that our own generation is worse than that of our fathers and their friends. Our generation understands wealth and power much better than our elders. We have seen the mistakes they have made and many of us, believe it or not, are simply interested in getting paid. Anyway, I stand by you in the belief that we can change things for the better. Thanks so much for your intriguing comments.

Beauty said...

We made top 10 in The Africa Competitiveness Report 2009 that highlighted upgrade infrastructure, improve healthcare and educational systems, and strengthen institutions, but, have we heard this before? Nigeria was not even on the TOTPs last year and before anyone start the celebration of mediocre, "improvement on governance institutions” is one of the ways World Bank MD Ngozi puts it. This is the same woman Obasanjo wouldn't allow to, well, just get on with it.

Noises at the World Economic Forum was simply that of leadership as Kofi Annan puts it, African leaders 'must shape up' since $150bn lost to corruption per year can help Africa drive its own development. In the face of $150bn per year, does anyone still think we have a leadership challenge? Almost all on the video reports mentioned the inefficient ways we continue to do things, including the Lagos State government worker in shirt sleeves. Perhaps those white shirts and suits in stifling heat are for another time.

imnakoya said...

I share your sentiments -- the program has a feel-good aura about it. Just imagine what can be achieved more if the required infrastructure are in place ...

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