Much has been made recently of recent high profile roll outs in Africa as new ‘Continental HQs’ and how Nigeria, the highest country by GDP on the continent by some margin has lost out. The first was the high profile loss of Twitter to Ghana, and now just announced, the loss of Amazon to South Africa.
Does this mean the slide in global thinking is running away from Nigeria and it’s apex position as the ‘obvious go-to’ is no longer assumed?
I say no, because it NEVER was, ISN’T now, and ALWAYS will be. If you wish to be confused further, please read on!
High profile actions don’t always deliver change in trends, performance improvement or positive reform.
Detective Orlando Martinez was a lead detective on the death of Michael Jackson, which became a murder investigation.
But shouldn’t a public servant act to ‘get it right’ not because of ‘pressure’ owing to the political dimension, but simply because it’s the right thing to do?
I reflect on the recent news announcements about Derek Chauvin who was convicted on all counts in the death of George Floyd. While ‘justice seen to be done’ doesn’t bring back those lost, I hope it brings some closure to the bereaved.
Right now as I write this, there are millions of people, not necessarily in US but across the world.and they are alone in their predicament, away from the public and any chance of being videoed by a smartphone. They may not be black, or male or even an adult. Some may have identity characteristics in common with George Floyd, some may not. But those millions right now are at risk of death, rape, serious injury or some other major calamity at the hands of corrupt and/or discriminatory institutional power. In this moment of helplessness, they are all George Floyd.
It is thirteen years on from my leadership of LEOF, an organisation with a contractual equality brief in the UK, and twenty past the release of the Mc Pherson Report into the death of Stephen Lawrence which advocated institutional commitment to Valuing Diversity Reforms. I still see some of the same Black and Minority Ethnic Business Leaders, the same Female Business Leaders, and the same Business Leaders with Disabilities… some have enjoyed success…many just seem older and more tired. Most voice the same problems and say change has not been enough. This is a personal disappointment for me.
‘On George Floyd day, we must root out social injustice and systemic racism around the world.’ – Audley English 21 April 2021.
That big ‘C’ word.
Pivoting to the Nigerian context, the dynamics of prejudice and disadvantage are different. Tribalism is a big player, so also is Patriarchy and Elitism.
FGN periodically releases news of large sums of money being agreed for recovery from offshore investment custodians held in accounts by people closely associated with or related to former leaders.
EFCC continues to make big inroads in recovering money from fraud.
I don’t want to cover corruption in any great detail, because though it is more overt in Nigeria, there is no state on this earth, irrespective of political model, that does not have some level of corruption.
Moreover, corruption is often discussed with a sense of hopelessness and negativity which saps peoples spirit, and the will to take positive action.
Just as cases in for example the US, often high profile actions driven by a political narrative are the right things getting done, but with the wrong motivation.
There are many things happening out of the limelight that involve day to day institutionalized corruption that can have devastating negative impact on ordinary Nigerian citizens. From the protective services to federal road safety, immigration, customs, food safety, environment and waste management inspectors, electricity provider officials, state health professionals, there is a myriad of encounters on a daily basis which either extort as an obstacle to normal civilian activity or collect payment to ignore behaviour which is dangerous or detrimental to the general good in some way.
All across this world, Public Service is intended as a Vocation, not necessarily a Career. This means it needs to attract the type of individual who will see ‘Higher Purpose’ above personal benefit. The impact of this is people who will execute their duties with uniform integrity, impartiality and commitment to a diverse public, regardless of whether they are regulating an unremarkable flow of traffic in Lagos Nigeria, or in the US, managing an investigation into the murder of Michael Jackson, or, indeed, George Floyd.
I lament as I see businesses bankrupted, livelihoods ended, children’s futures destroyed and lives lost in some cases of public engagement by public servants in Nigeria which has become a personal economy pandemic.
From a pregnant woman’s timely journey to hospital wilfully disrupted by highway officers, to leaking fuel tankers exploding in public….
… we can see that it is the mass existence of relatively low value illicit exchanges that wreak the most havoc in Nigerian lives rather than high profile mega-sum acts of fraud.
“NAN gathered that operatives of Nigeria Customs Service raided Bodija market around 1.00 a.m. on Thursday and broke into shops, warehouses and carted away bags of rice in six trailers.” And it was done outside the knowledge of Oyo/Osun Customs Area Command which noted that its officers did not do the job. Rather, Nigeria used the Federal Operation Unit (FOU) to steal rice from the Ibadan traders.’ – Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe. – A testament to citizen facing abuse of civil authority power.
When we see that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has said that it is prepared to take its renewed campaign against the use of illicit drugs to ‘nuclear families’. and announcements have been made that the MEC team in Lagos, on the back of announcements by the Minister for Agriculture, will be confiscating animals in premises deemed illegal, and auctioning them, we may anticipate other actions that becomes ‘variations on the theme’ of Prof. Ekekwe’s observations on the Ibadan traders plight.
At a time when institutional engagement in Nigeria with the general public is broken, then what is needed is a Bottom – Up approach to fixing the problem.
Until fixed, there needs to be a rigorous avoidance of intensification of such institutional engagement, neither through heightened activity in existing apparatus, the reactivation of dormant ones, nor the creation of new ones.
As I began, I said (Nigeria’s NEVER was, ISN’T now, and ALWAYS will be.
Because Amazon was never Nigeria’s to lose. Modern Trade had always struggled in Nigeria and will for some time to come. It was strongest in South Africa where for half a century Afrikaans business owners facilitated a semi-permanent global labour force with European and North American shopping habits.
Indeed it was South Africa that brought businesses such as Shoprite, GAME and Park and Shop to Nigeria.
Amazon retail is a curious flip of Homebase. Homebase has taken the standard counter-front warehouse model and created a trolley and aisle ‘browsing’ experience where shoppers can navigate their way through a physical warehouse style environment. Risen from the online bookseller business, Amazon also provides physical modern trade like environments where customers can select items from a diverse catalogue, pay at the counter, and after a brief wait, collect the purchase as it has been retrieved from the back-end warehouse by staff.
With Modern Trade in strong retreat in Nigeria, and Best Choice franchises withdrawing, the low GDP per capita is further strengthening the already overwhelmingly dominant ‘traditional market’ sector in the country.
Nigeria would not be the right choice for African Leadership for Amazon.
Because in the current asymmetrical, inconsistent and in some cases, detrimental way civil services and apparatus engage with the public there isn’t an incentive to site locally
A new ‘Social Vision’ born of political innovation is needed to bring Nigeria the type of Social Justice Audley English envisages when he reflects on George Floyd Day.
This is the third biggest challenge to Nigeria’s general welfare today, second being tribal inequality issues, and the leading challenge – adequate provision of grid power.
These are the issues that earns Nigeria an ‘Expatriate Hardship’ rating of 4 (the highest), and severely depresses the countries position in the ‘Ease to do business’ rankings.
Last week, Peter Obi, Former Governor of Anambra, and Vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 election, described Nigeria as ‘dying’ – ‘The present condition of Nigeria requires all hand to be on deck.’
Given that Twitter’s core product does not require face-to-face customer engagement with local mass markets, the challenges of a base in Nigeria significantly reduce its value proposition as an Africa hub site.
THE ALWAYS WILL BE
Nigeria already has the largest captive market in all of Africa. By the end of the century, Lagos will be the biggest ‘Mega City’ in the world.
While there is much social reform and tribal concord to be achieved, the massive captive market is something that will continue to get bigger, with Lagos reaching a projected 88m by the end of the century.
Regardless of the challenges of interfacing with civil authorities, and all the other challenges, these people still need essential products and services. Ultimately all challenges will simply become a cost of sales until resolved.
As we also read in , Oluwole Ogunlade’s Tekedia, artifice about Flutterwave, section on ‘Build Moats to create competitive advantages’, – ‘Flutterwave’s moat is its ecosystem of products and platforms. No other payment provider in Africa has this scale and moat. It’s not just a payment company: it is a payment platform powering new business models for others.’
As it seeks to build its ‘moats’ it is inevitable that even Twitter will eventually have to come back to THE BIGGEST URBAN MARKET ON EARTH
Nigeria will continue to wrestle with these challenges, both social and infrastructural.
While it does, this mega market will continue to grow unabated.
Companies will lose by failing to weather the challenges. Other companies will lose their global positioning by failing to timely anticipate and leverage the increasing impact this market will have in it.
However, those that plant their seeds without delay, grow their brand, and grow their presence, will be the ones who collect when harvest time comes!
References and Acknowledgements:
Killing Michael Jackson Produced by ZigZag Productions (2019) Dir. Sam Eastall.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8K-Gcoidj8 (documentary abstract – interviewing victims of fuel related accidents)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2qGKB4Ku94 (tanker fire on Otedola Bridge)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lq1uf6tYJtM (leaking fuel tanker on a Lagos highway)