|AllAfrica News: Latest|
|All Africa, All the Time.|
The United States is preparing to launch a "major" border security program to help Nigeria and its neighbors combat the increasing number and scope of attacks by Islamic extremists, a senior U.S. official for Africa said Thursday.
Nigerian insurgents have begun attacking villages in neighboring Cameroon and have been seizing land in northeast Nigeria where they proclaimed an Islamic caliphate.
Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a meeting of U.S. and Nigerian officials in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, that "Despite our collective efforts, the situation on the ground is worsening.
"The frequency and scope of Boko Haram's terror attacks have grown more acute and constitute a serious threat to this country's overall security," she said. "This is a sober reality check for all of us. We are past time for denial and pride."
The government denied that Boko Haram this week overran Bama, the second largest city in Borno state, but Thomas-Greenfield said, "We are very troubled by the apparent capture of Bama and the prospects for an attack on and in Maiduguri."
Bama, a city of about 200,000 people is just 75 kilometers (45 miles) from Maiduguri, the Borno state capital that is the headquarters of the military campaign against Boko Haram.
A senior Borno state security officer said a bombing raid Wednesday destroyed a Boko Haram camp outside Bama. The officer said two Air Force jets spotted the insurgents, who apparently were gathering for a meeting. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give information to journalists.
The officer and a member of the Nigerian Vigilante Group of civilians fighting Boko Haram both said some of the thousands of Bama residents who fled were returning home. There was no way to independently verify the confusing and conflicting information about Bama.
A Westerner working on the Cameroon side of the border said more than 100 Nigerian soldiers fled Bama and crossed into Cameroon on Tuesday. Last week, nearly 500 Nigerian soldiers fled into Cameroon from another border town that was under attack.
The United States has flown unarmed drones to spy in parts of northeast Nigeria in a joint effort to try to save more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the extremists in April.
"The Chibok schoolgirls and others remain hostages, enduring horrible and tragic suffering," Thomas-Greenfield said.
She added that Cameroon's military is increasingly forced to fight Boko Haram within Cameroon, and that the insurgents flee back into Nigeria without fear.
The U.N. refugee agency said insurgents had begun attacking villages in northern Cameroon last week, and spokeswoman Helene Caux said Thursday that Cameroonian authorities say some 5,000 Cameroonians have fled the assaults. UNHCR says 645,000 Nigerians are displaced inside their country by the insurgency while tens of thousands have fled into Cameroon and Niger.
Nigeria's home-grown insurgency grew out of a cult that preached against endemic corruption. Now Boko Haram — the name means Western education is sinful — has declared an Islamic caliphate in seized land in the extreme east of Borno state and says it wants to create an Islamic state in all of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation of about 170 million people divided almost equally between Muslims and Christians.
Nigeria's Foreign Minister Aminu Wali on Wednesday told a regional security meeting of foreign ministers that Nigeria's government remains puzzled about funding and arms supply of Boko Haram.
"Who are the sponsors of Boko Haram terrorist campaigns? Who are those funding the insurgency? Where are the sources of the sophisticated arms and ammunition being used by the terrorists? Who are those seeking to re-define the territory of Nigeria and Africa in the 21st century?" he asked.
The Nigeria Football Federation says it has offered Stephen Keshi a new contract to stay on as coach of the national team and expects him to sign it in the next few days.
The NFF made the announcement on Tuesday without disclosing any terms relating to the contract.
In a brief comment on the contract, the NFF said its executive committee expects the new contract to be finalized by the two parties "in a matter of days."
Keshi led Nigeria to the African Cup title in 2013 and the second round of this year's World Cup in Brazil. However, his relationship with the NFF has been strained. He quit the day after Nigeria won the African Cup in South Africa last year but was convinced to rescind his resignation.
Nigeria’s education system is run by the state and since the Universal Education Act (UBA) of 2004 was introduced it has been compulsory for children to attend primary school between the ages of six and 11. Despite this legislation, some 4.7 million children are not being sent to school; 40% of this age group. The percentage who are absent in the northern region of the country is even worse, while the number of girls attending primary school in all areas of the country is worryingly low, the ratio of girls to boys being 1 to 2. In the north, where religious issues add to the problem, the ratio is as high as 1 to 3.
Over the past decade progress towards the target of 100% literacy has been stymied by the massive increase in population. Today no less than 40% of residents are aged 15 or less, which has inevitably put a massive strain on infrastructure and public services, not to mention the education system. There is no magic bullet that will overcome these issues in the short-term so the government needs to make several difficult decisions, some of which will inevitably take years to come to fruition. It will be interesting to see whether the country’s legislators are prepared to act now to ensure strong economic growth is maintained in the long-term.
One of the country’s key assets is its vibrant youthful population. If this potential is to be harnessed the amount invested in the education system must be significantly increased as a matter of urgency. Youngsters, whether just starting primary school or newly graduated, are the future of the country. Individuals in this age group are known to be impatient for change, curious, hardworking and ambitious; precisely the traits that have enabled Nigeria to overtake South Africa as the largest economy in Africa and ensure it achieves its next target of becoming a G-20 power by 2050.
A report published by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) in 2013 said: “Nigeria could be the fastest growing country in our sample due to its youthful and growing working population, but this does rely on using its oil wealth to develop a broader-based economy with better infrastructure and institutions as regards rule of law and political governance and hence support long term productivity growth – the potential is there, but it remains to be realized in practice.”
It is clear that the onus for improving education standards lies largely with the government, but private institutions, financed largely by philanthropic business leaders, also have an important role to play; for example, the African Leadership Academy. The ALA identifies and nurtures talented students who it believes will go on to become future leaders. By funding their development it aims to prevent them having to look overseas for educational and employment opportunities. To learn more about the organization follow Tunde Folawiyo news on the ALA.
Internationally, it is widely recognized that there are two key issues with the potential to derail Nigeria’s future ambitions to become the next member of the BRICS group. It has an outdated and largely derelict infrastructure and an inadequate education system. The country’s single biggest asset, apart from oil, is seen as being its youthful population.
The Nigerian Government has hired DC PR firm Levick as it attempts to counter criticism of its response to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls.
The Hill has reported that the $1.2m contract calls for Levick to "change the the international and local media narrative surrounding Nigeria’s efforts to find and safely return the girls abducted by the terrorist organization Boko Haram."
The assignment comes after the Holmes Report revealed that Nigerian ministers had met with approximately five PR firms in London in May.
The development follows the mass abduction of schoolgirls in April by the Boko Haram militant group in Chibok. Activists from the #BringBackOurGirls group have ramped up pressure on the government, amid international uproar over the girls' disappearance.
Levick's work will be part of a global effort to "mobilize international support in fighting Boko Haram as part of the greater war on terror.”
The firm is partnering with human rights attorney Jared Genser on the assignment. Genser is expected to support efforts to foster real change and advance human rights in Nigeria.
It is thought that Africa's top oil producer is concerned that domestic unrest sparked by the kidnappings may prove politically costly with elections looming.
Boko Haram's reign of terror in northeast Nigeria has included countless civilian atrocities since 2009, as part of the group's attempt to establish a mediaeval Islamic caliphate.
Nigeria's next election takes place in early 2015. Opposition party APC hired political consultancy AKPD — best known for its work with Barack Obama — earlier this year to support its campaign.
Source: The Holmes Report
Of all sub-Saharan Africa, the developing markets of Western Africa seem to be the most investable. As a whole, they have abundant natural resources and a will to develop stronger ties with Europe, Asia and the U.S. than the countries of East Africa.
Of these, Nigeria—which now boasts Africa’s largest GDP—has the potential to break away from the rest of the African continent economically. However, there are challenges facing this most populous of the African nations—168 million citizens vs. South Africa’s 51 million—which are not minute by any stretch of the imagination, and mainly have to do with the political stability of the country.
It seems that recently the only news headlines about Nigeria are about another bombing or abduction of young girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The inability of the current government to get a handle on the terrorist situation does not bode well for future development, as it could cause the increased flow of foreign capital—resulting from the recent upped allocation (11.66%) to Nigeria by the MSCI Frontier Market Index—to dry up.
Despite its terrorism issues, Nigeria has averaged 7% growth over the last 10 years, which is about 4% higher than South Africa's.
Nigeria’s economy hinges on crude-oil exports: some 70% of trade volume and 80% of the country's budget is tied to oil. Nigeria is the continent's largest oil producer Recently, Nigerian oil has been flowing into Asia in increasing amounts, with India now being its largest customer, surpassing the U.S., which once took the bulk of Nigerian oil production. India now purchases some 30% of Nigeria's daily crude production, which currently hovers around 2.5 million barrels. After India, China and Malaysia are the next largest importers of Nigerian oil. As the pace of development in the Asian countries picks up over the next few years, Nigeria can be assured of a vibrant market for its oil.
That said, one of the areas Nigeria needs to address immediately is the constant theft of oil. It is estimated that Nigeria loses approximately $35 million daily, about 25% of its total output. A recent report issued by the Energy Committee of Nigeria's National Conference called on Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, to "bring this racket to a full, final stop."
The other main challenges Nigeria faces is building refinery capacity, diversifying trade volume beyond oil and building infrastructure. Ironically, the reason Nigeria imports 70% of its fuel needs is because it lacks the refinery capacity to supply the domestic market from its own production.
The situation is being addressed by Nigerian native Aliko Dangote, Africa's richest man (24th on Forbes 2014 list of the World's Billionaires). In September, Dangote’s company, Dangote Group, announced a $3.3 billion financing deal to build the continent's largest oil refinery, and petrochemical and fertilizer plant on Nigeria's Atlantic coast. The project is estimated to cost $9 billion and is expected to be completed in 2016. It will initially have a capacity of 400,000 barrels/day, which will save the country as much as $24 billion annually in foreign exchange and halve its fuel imports.
To diversify trade volumes, the country is encouraging agricultural investments and, in 2011, launched a program to encourage more private enterprise.
With an ailing power grid and little infrastructure, the government has reached out to the World Bank, which estimates that at least $10 billion needs to be invested in infrastructure just to meet the current needs of the population. As a side note, Dangote will build its own roads, pipelines and infrastructure needed for its refinery.
In addition to dollars flowing into the country from its domestic billionaires and the World Bank, foreign direct investment in Nigeria has increased rapidly and now accounts for 29.57% of all investment in Africa.
While there aren’t many avenues for individual investors to access investment opportunities in Nigeria, it is possible to gain exposure to Nigeria. Until recently, investors would have needed a Nigerian brokerage account to access the country’s stocks, but Imara S.P. Reid has launched an investment platform for retail investors to make investments in any stock market in Africa without having to use multiple brokers. The Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share Index (NGSEINDX) seems to me more accessible.
Typically I caution against investing in indigenous companies because of transparency and liquidity as two large issues. That said, the Dangote Group (Nigerian Stock Exchange: DANGCEM), worth more than $11 billion (and comprising fully a third of Nigeria's stock exchange) is certainly a company worth watching.
When it comes to funds, the only fund with Nigeria as its sole focus is the Global X Nigeria Index ETF (NGE), which tracks The Solactive Nigeria Index. This index is designed to reflect the broad-based equity performance in Nigeria. The only other ETF options for Nigeria exposure are the Market Vectors Africa ETF (AFK), which allocates nearly a quarter of its weight to Nigeria, and the iShares MSCI Frontier 100 Index Fund (FM), which has nearly 13.8% of its weight in Nigeria.
Stephen Keshi did not spring any surprises with his selection for Brazil, with the likes of Vincent Enyeama, Joseph Yobo and Echiejile making the cut alongside 19 debutants
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has named his 23-man squad players for the Fifa World Cup in Brazil.
The reigning African champions will be making their fifth appearance at world football's major showpiece and have been drawn in the same group with Argentina, Iran and Bosnia.
Experienced names such as Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, Joseph Yobo and Elderson Echiejile who were part of the squad to South Africa 2010 made the final list and will look to make amends for their group stage exit in their last outing.
Top scorer of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations, Emmanuel Emenike, Godfrey Oboabona, John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses will be expected to make their World Cup debut when the championship kicks off.
There are three goalkeepers, eight defenders, five midfielders and seven strikers.
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, Chigozie Agbim
Defenders: Joseph Yobo, Elderson Echiejile, Juwon Oshaniwa, Godfrey Oboabona, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Kenneth Omeruo, Efe Ambrose, Kunle Odunlami
Midfielders: John Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, Ramon Azeez, Michael Uchebo, Reuben Gabriel
Strikers: Osaze Odemwingie, Ahmed Musa, Shola Ameobi, Emmanuel Emenike, Babatunde Michael, Victor Moses, Uche Nwofor
DOZENS of heavily armed terrorists rolled into the sleepy little town one night in a convoy of trucks, buses and vans. They made their way to the girls’ boarding school.
The high school girls, asleep in their dormitory, awoke to gunfire. The attackers stormed the school, set it on fire, and, residents said, then herded several hundred terrified girls into the vehicles — and drove off and vanished.
That was April 15 in northern Nigeria. The girls were kidnapped by an extremist Muslim group called Boko Haram, whose name in the Hausa language means “Western education is a sin.”
These girls, ages 15 to 18 and Christians and Muslims alike, knew the risks of seeking an education, and schools in the area had closed in March for fear of terror attacks. But this school had reopened so that the girls — the stars of their families and villages — could take their final exams. They were expected to move on to become teachers, doctors, lawyers.
Instead, they reportedly are being auctioned off for $12 each to become “wives” of militants. About 50 girls escaped, but the police say that 276 are still missing — and the Nigerian government has done next to nothing to recover the girls.
“We are now asking for world power countries to intervene,” the desperate father of a missing 18-year-old girl, Ayesha, told me by phone. He said that the parents had given up on Nigerian government officials — “they are just saying lies” — and pleaded for international pressure on Nigeria to rescue the girls.
The parents pursued the kidnappers, carrying bows and arrows to confront militants armed with AK-47s, but finally had to turn back. The father, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said that the parents are now praying to God for the United States and United Nations to help get their daughters back.
While there has been a major international search for the missing people on Malaysian flight MH370, and nonstop news coverage, there has been no meaningful search for the even greater number of missing schoolgirls.
I spoke by telephone with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is visiting Africa, and asked him whether the United States can nudge Nigerian authorities to do more to find the girls.
“We’re really pushing them ... about the situation with the girls,” Kerry said. “Oh, God! Yes, absolutely.” He described it as “not just an act of terrorism. It’s a massive human trafficking moment and grotesque.”
I asked whether the United States could use satellites or intelligence assets to try to locate the girls. “We’re engaged and cooperating,” he said, declining to discuss details. Kerry also emphasized the broader effort to disrupt Boko Haram and its financial flows, while supporting the training of Nigerian authorities to respond to terror attacks without violating human rights. “We’re upping the game with them,” he said.
In hopes of viral pressure on Nigerian authorities to try to recover the girls, campaigns have started on the White House website, on Change.org and on Facebook to demand: “Bring Back Our Girls.” All this may or may not help, but it’s worth trying.
The attack in Nigeria is part of a global backlash against girls’ education by extremists. The Pakistani Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai in the head at age 15 because she advocated for girls’ education. Extremists threw acid in the faces of girls walking to school in Afghanistan. And in Nigeria, militants destroyed 50 schools last year alone.
If the girls aren’t rescued, “no parent will allow their female child to go to school,” Hadiza Bala Usman, who has led protests in Nigeria on behalf of the missing girls, warned in a telephone interview.
Northern Nigeria is a deeply conservative area, and if the schoolgirls are recovered, it may be difficult for them to marry because of suspicions that they are no longer virgins.
While the Nigerian military has shown little interest in rescuing the girls, it has, in the last few years, presided over a brutal counterinsurgency in response to Boko Haram bombings. There is viciousness on both sides.
The best tool to fight extremism is education, especially of girls — and that means ensuring that it is safe to study. The greatest threat to militancy in the long run comes not from drones but from girls with schoolbooks.
“These abducted schoolgirls are my sisters,” Malala told me in an email from Britain, where she is recovering from the Taliban attack, “and I call on the international community and the government of Nigeria to take action and save my sisters.” She added: “It should be our duty to speak up for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria who are in a very difficult situation.”
Malala’s right. More than 200 teenage girls have just been enslaved because they had the brains and guts to seek to become teachers or doctors. They deserve a serious international effort to rescue them.
Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times since 2001, writes op-ed columns that appear twice a week. Mr. Kristof won the Pulitzer Prize two times, in 1990 and 2006. In 2012, he was a Pulitzer finalist in Commentary for his 2011 columns that often focused on the disenfranchised in many parts of the world.
Below were the statements by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan during their official meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem October 28, 2013.
(October 27, 2013 - Source: Pool/Getty Images Europe)
Isreal's Prime Minister Netanyahu:
"It's my pleasure to welcome here, in Israel, in the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, the President of Nigeria, Mr.Goodluck Jonathan.
I think that this is a meeting long overdue and much welcomed. We’ve had excellent relations between our countries. They’re improving even as we speak, over the past few years.
But this is the visit of a president of Nigeria in Israel and I’m sure it won't be the last. It's something that'll give us an opportunity to strengthen our ties even more. I look forwards to doing that in every field: in trade, in investment, in tourism, there are thousands of pilgrims from Nigeria that visit Israel, we'd welcome many more and we’d like Israelis to go to Nigeria. Many are going, as business people who are increasingly interested in the investment possibilities of Nigeria.
we're a partnership of peoples and a partnership of interests. The key interest is fighting terrorism. I know, Mr. President, that you've been plagued by this scourge. I want you to know that Israel has been on the frontlines of fighting terrorism for many years. We’ve done so successfully and we stand ready to help all responsible nations to fight terrorism. you're a responsible leader of a friendly nation, a responsible nation. We stand with you in your great effort to stamp out terrorism. I can say that the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the world is Iran. This same Iran is now on a quest to preserve its program to achieve nuclear weapons. I just heard Iranian officials that the talks, the most recent round of talks were useful and constructive. Well, I’m sure for Iran it’s useful and constructive, because they just win time in order to continue their enrichment program to create fissile material for nuclear weapons.
I think the talks will be useful and constructive when the pressure on Iran will get them to cease and desist their nuclear program, to stop enrichment, to stop their heavy water plutonium reactor, both of these are used only for nuclear weapons. They’re not needed for civilian nuclear energy. This is our goal, to see a peaceful settlement of Iran without nuclear weapons. Iran must be without nuclear weapons. This is something that we're committed to and we stand by this goal. This is important for us Mr. President. I believe it’s important for Nigeria, I believe it’s important for Africa. The countries of the Middle East. For the world. Iran with nuclear weapons will threaten all of us. Will threaten the peace of the world. So we're committed to preventing that. Equally we're committed to strengthen our relations in every field possible. I'm very happy to welcome you and your delegation here in Jerusalem. I look forwards to our conversations and I value our friendship. So welcome to Jerusalem, Mr. President."
Nigeria's President Jonathan:
(October 27, 2013 - Source: Pool/Getty Images Europe)
Thank you, your Excellency. The Prime Minister Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, let me commend you and your government for what you’ve been doing for the world generally. Specifically, I came to your beautiful city for religious reasons. Since we came in myself and my delegation, have very warm welcome from our brothers and sisters from this great country of Israel. And we're quite pleased with that. Thank you very sincerely. And just like you said, Nigeria and the State of Israel have very warm relationship, even though at the top level there’s a limited number of visits, which I believe, by coming here this time will open that door for us also to soon receive you in Nigeria.
I was in 2007, December 2007, when I was a few months old as the Vice President of my country. But since I assumed office, I've not been able to come. I said that I must try and come to the State of Israel before the next round of elections coming up in 2015. So we're here primarily for that. We feel that let us use this unique opportunity to have this little bilateral talk to further strengthen the ties between Nigeria and the State of Israel.
you've been helpful to us in quite a number of ways, we appreciate your level of technology in terms of agriculture and construction, ICT, intelligence and other areas that you’ve been quite useful to us and we believe that we need to even strengthen more.
But let me commend you and I appreciate you in one achievement. We got it this late afternoon, signing of the bilateral air service agreement. that's been on the drawing board and a number of Nigerians come to Israel. In fact last year about 30,000 came on pilgrimage. Outside that, the number of regular visitors which are also significant, because Nigeria is one country that people are very very mobile. But all along, before we come to the State of Israel, we've to pass through thirdparty countries. I passed through Egypt, I passed through London. I passed through Turkey, other places. But at least with what's happened today, our next set of bilateral talks we’ll be able to fly directly to the State of Israel. And it'll also help because we've over 50 Israeli companies and with various responsibilities in Nigeria doing very well in civil engineering, in power sector. Of course, ICT, defense and so on. And I believe these people also want to move directly from Tel Aviv to Abuja. Vice versa. So I've to commend you and we're all pleased. Nigerians are happy with you.
You mentioned the issues of security globally. It’s quite worrisome. Today it’s like the world is divided into some people who want society to live in crisis. Also those who want society to live peacefully. Nigeria belongs to these countries. I believe that the world must be a peaceful world. I'll continue to work with you, another wellmeaning nations and individuals. I’m sure that we'll live in a peaceful world.
We also believe that nuclear power now should be used for economic purposes of medicine and agriculture. Not for the purpose of destroying human life. And that's been our belief whenever we go for the programs and discussions on the nuclear that's been the position of Nigeria. So we're continuing to work with the rest of the world to see that we all live in peace.
For us and Israel, we've so many areas that we think we can work together, areas of power, areas of agriculture, water resources management, that you're experts. You’ve been able to conquer your environment and we appreciate that technology and we believe that you help us tremendously in also conquering our own environment, though slightly a different environment. But we've a number of Israelis working in Nigeria that quite conversant with our environment, quite aware what our investment opportunities. Before this time, mostly areas of our economy were controlled by the Federal Government. Issues of power were almost exclusively controlled by the Federal Government. Even the sub-national government states had no power to generate power for commercial purposes except for relative occasional project.
Not to our ports either airports or sea ports. Our road infrastructure, our railways, all this was monopolized by the Federal Government. But we're opening up all these areas for private-sector. We believe that government only creates the environment while the private-sector drives the economy. So the country has opened up for investment and we've very vibrant business men and women from the State of Israel. So I believe my coming today will further open opportunities for our business men and women to interact for the purpose of our own economic growth.
So once again, on behalf of my delegation, I thank you for this warm reception. I believe that this is the beginning of even stronger relations between Nigeria and the State of Israel. "
Source: Israel Foreign Affairs, Israel News
LATE last month, a workman on his way to my house rang to explain that he was running late because of the mayhem caused by a bomb blast in the city. Instantly, I was skeptical. There couldn’t possibly be another bomb in Abuja. Not with all the tedious checkpoints on major streets here, and the thorough checks at the entrance to public buildings.
After a series of terrorist attacks beginning in 2010, security in Nigeria’s capital city was augmented significantly. Abuja had not experienced any major bombings since 2012. The situation appeared so improved that President Goodluck Jonathan boasted in February that terrorism had been pushed to the fringes of our country. The rest of us were safe; only those in the northeast were not — yet. We sent heartfelt prayers to our compatriots in those remote regions, where the Boko Haram terrorist group has continued to carry out grisly attacks.
It turned out that the workman was not being dishonest that day. There was indeed some mayhem. Only what people had initially taken for a bomb turned out to be a mere gas explosion.
But this Monday proved that President Jonathan — and I — had become far too confident. A bomb at a bus park in nearby Nyanya killed at least 71 people and wounded many more.
To many Abuja residents, Nyanya is just one of those suburbs where their drivers, cooks and cleaners live — some of whom were boarding buses for their morning commutes when they died. It is also less than 15 minutes’ drive from the presidential villa, the World Bank, a number of government offices and embassies. For most of the morning, I could hear ambulances screaming to and from the Asokoro General Hospital, bearing casualties from the rush-hour tragedy.
Many people have responded to the bombing, and the threat of Boko Haram’s attacks moving south, by calling on President Jonathan to do more to make the country safe. In fact, I think he is probably doing his best. His best is just not good enough. And he needs help.
Last year, in a gesture of nationalism, Nigeria’s minister for information, Labaran Maku, declared that, beyond information-sharing and training, the government would not reach out for any foreign assistance against terrorism. (Though he backtracked a bit earlier this year and indicated that Nigeria would welcome cooperation from the French and French-speaking West Africa.) In 2007, Umaru Yar’Adua, then the president, denied the United States Africa Command permission to open a base in Nigeria, suggesting instead that African countries set up their own commands.
The argument has been that more foreign involvement will trigger more violence by the terrorists, but it is clear that they do not need a trigger.
After the bombing, Nigeria’s former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, called on the government to review its strategies for dealing with terrorism, and to accept foreign assistance. I think he’s right. The sad truth is that foreigners are largely refining Nigeria’s crude oil, powering many of our cellphones and running some of our best schools. They might as well step up in yet another area where locals are falling short. Just this month, a Nigerian soldier alleged in a Voice of America interview that some members of the army were assisting Boko Haram. Even if this is false, how effective can the military be when its members do not trust one another?
When it comes to dealing with Nigeria, I imagine that the rest of the world must sometimes feel like the slave boy in the Igbo proverb who was invited to join the meal at his master’s table. If he washed his hands before sitting at table, he was accused of wasting water; if he did not wash his hands, he was accused of being unhygienic. Foreigners are probably never quite sure whether assistance will be interpreted as interference.
But the attacks go on; Nigerian children are being slaughtered in their schools and parents blasted to oblivion from their places of work. More than 1,500 lives have been lost this year alone. Nigerians would welcome any help in dealing with this monster of terrorism.
Adaobi Nwaubani is the author of the novel “I Do Not Come to You by Chance.”
In the past year, I’ve visited Nigeria three times – more than I’ve travelled to any other country except the US. I mentioned this to an audience on my most recent trip, saying I wasn’t sure what it meant: Am I a leading, coincident or lagging indicator? Maybe I was just there for the power outages – they shield me from the latest news about Manchester United. (Don’t ask.)
Of course I aspire to be a leading indicator – and I’m hopeful Nigeria and much of the rest of Africa will demonstrate my farsightedness. It’s hardly a sure thing, but Nigeria really does have the potential to be a spectacular economic success.
I laid out some reasons for this hope when I nominated the country as one of the “Next 11” emerging economies – countries with lots of people and untapped economic promise, capable of following the path cut by the Bric nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China). More recently, I’ve drawn particular attention to four of the 11, the MINT countries: Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey.
This weekend Nigeria rebased its figures for gross domestic product (GDP), adding in previously uncounted industries such as telecoms and information technology. On this new basis, the country’s GDP was roughly $500 billion (R5 trillion) last year, making Nigeria’s economy the biggest in Africa.
True, even on this new measure, Nigeria accounts for only around 0.5 percent of global GDP. The whole of Africa has an annual output of only perhaps $2 trillion, comparable with India or Russia.
But the region is growing well and its potential is impressive. Nigeria’s government has set the goal of becoming one of the world’s 20 biggest economies by 2020. I think that’s too soon to be likely, but I think Nigeria could be one of the top 15 by 2050.
In this scenario, remembering that Nigeria by then will be home to roughly 20 percent of Africa’s people, the country’s growth will power the continent. By the middle of this century, Africa’s economy will be close to 10 times bigger than it is today. That kind of growth will lift a huge number of Africans out of dire poverty.
It can be done, but it shouldn’t be assumed. African policymakers should be asking whether the recent improvement in the region’s economy and the rising interest of foreign investors is thanks to them, or thanks to a decade of strong commodity prices and staggeringly supportive monetary policies in the US and other advanced economies, causing investors to search far and wide for decent returns.
The external environment has already turned less friendly. China’s growth is slowing, commodity prices have eased and the US Federal Reserve is scaling back its bond purchases. For Africa, this puts the focus back on domestic policy.
Investors, contrary to what you may have heard, distinguish between countries that rise to such challenges and those that don’t. The recent strength of financial markets in India and Indonesia reflects, in part, a recognition of those countries’ efforts to deal with worsening external imbalances and rising inflation.
After many years of strong performances, Nigeria’s stock markets have been weak lately. This may be nothing more than a correction, but the feud between the government and Lamido Sanusi, the well-regarded governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, hasn’t helped. (Sanusi was suspended after he made allegations of mismanagement and misconduct at the state-owned oil company, where billions of dollars in revenue appear to have gone missing. Just this week a court awarded him damages in a harassment suit he brought against the government.)
In the longer term, demography is likely to dominate – along with three other factors: first, the ease with which modern technologies (such as mobile telecoms) can be brought to bear; second, the willingness of ambitious young Africans to travel abroad for education in elite universities in Europe and the US, then return to seek opportunities at home; and third, the striking energy, ingenuity and creativity that so many Africans – not just the well-travelled – bring to their work.
These things, vital as they may be, need the backing of better governance. Here’s a modest suggestion for African ministers, officials and heads of business: Turn up to meetings on time. That kind of thing isn’t hard and makes a good impression.
Next, find ways to make economic policy institutions more independent, transparent and honest. This goes double for central banks. Make it a priority to promote trade with neighbouring countries and with the rest of the region, rather than letting old animosities hold this back. International trade is one of the best ways to succeed, and the continent can easily make big wins here. And finally – maybe most important of all – promote better basic education. A well-educated elite isn’t enough.
I do some work for Teach for All, a network of social enterprises that aims to widen educational opportunity. At the recent Nigerian Economic Summit, a Teach for Nigeria initiative was announced.
That was good to hear. No nation or region can achieve its potential if its children are denied a decent education. Don’t worry too much about commodity prices. They won’t decide Africa’s future.
Jim O’Neill, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.