Friday, August 10, 2012

Funding African Entrepreneurs

This was an interesting article written by Loren Treisman of the Indigo Foundation, a grant-making foundation that funds technology-driven projects that seek to bring about social change in Africa.
Do African Entrepreneurs Need Charity?

In the main, I agree with the premise of her piece, articulated around three main points:

- Information technology is key to realizing the full potential of developing economies, especially in bringing about the reforms required to spark said economies.

- The best solutions to Africa's challenges are likely to come from the communities affected by them; a completely different development paradigm to what has obtained historically.

- Investment is required to make these enterprises and start-ups self-sustaining and drive them towards their stated goals.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Micro-Generation: A Key to Africa's Future

Just over a year ago, a friend asked me to contribute a writeup to her blog on Innovation. I've reproduced it below, especially as this is a topic which is near and dear to my heart. Enjoy.

Some of the key questions facing the growing economies in Africa - especially in regards to improving infrastructure and creating new avenues for revenue generation – revolve around energy. The how, where, which, who and what of energy.

How can Africa's vast potential to generate energy be harnessed?
Where will this energy come from?
Which forms of energy will be exploited?
Who will be responsible for developing these energy sources - the government or private enterprise?
What measures will be taken to ensure the sustainability - not just the renewability - of said energy?

As is usual with questions like these, there are easy answers which require complex solutions, not to mention an acute awareness of the infrastructure and socio-political climate on the ground.

This space is not enough for these questions to be answered with the required depth and technical detail, but I'm of the opinion that infrastructure development in Africa has to go past the fossil-powered 20th century and be driven by sustainable sources of energy. One of these is microgeneration, which I rank highly due to its ability to aid in development and revenue generation.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Little Of Everything

I've been away from the blogosphere for too long and for three primary reasons. The main reason has been my recent desire to focus less on discussing situations that appear untenable for the time being (i.e. Nigeria's hopeless political situation). I'm also determined to 'do more, talk less' when it comes to development issues facing black people the world over, and have recently taken steps (graduate studies at the London School of Economics) to fine-tune my abilities to combine the technical with the economic when preaching the sustainable development gospel.

Other, more salient reasons include my upcoming wedding (who knew planning it could be as involved as it's been? Thank God for my bride) and almost as importantly, the recent completion (sans some editing) of my book, which is a story of everyday life in Nigeria circa 1990s. More information on that will be forthcoming.

I will endeavor to post more to the blog, but these will focus more on economics and development-themed issues.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Season of Change?

It's that time of the year - in temperate, northern hemisphere countries anyway - when the snow has melted and even the cool spring mornings are getting to be a thing of the past as we herald the start of the 'fun' season known as summer. In the tropics, the heavy rains and attendant clean fresh air have swept in (along with the attendant flooding if you happen to live in a place where the government is more interested in lining its pockets than shoring up drainage systems). Quite literally, change is in the air.

For students and alumni of the University of Lagos, Nigeria, this change came about in a more shocking way when they woke up on May 29th to find out that their dear alma mater had been renamed Moshood Abiola University.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Bahamas - a model for African Democracies

One of the common misconceptions about the stagnant development of African countries (and here I'm separating socio-economic and political development from raw economic growth) is that they were set up for failure by colonial powers, be it the United Kingdom, France, Spain or Portugal. The argument is that the systems, institutions and laws/policies put into place have somehow 'handicapped' African countries and prevented them from progressing in 'their own way'. We hear about the 'Nigerian' or 'Ghanaian' or 'Ugandan' way of doing something, as if those countries existed in their present forms before colonization!
Of course, these are merely excuses for poor fiscal management, ridiculously high levels of corruption and lack of infrastructure development, primarily around education, healthcare, transportation networks, security and energy (electrical power, in particular).

Recently I decided to visit the Bahamas, a trip influenced by the fact that my fiancee is from there. She had talked up the Bahamas before our visit, and I knew a lot about the history of the country, including its reputation as the 'Luxembourg' of the Caribbean (assuming the Cayman Islands is the 'Switzerland', and Turks & Caicos the 'Liechtenstein'). My historical knowledge and personal ties to the Bahamas could not prepare me for the level of development (again, not just economic!) that I witnessed. The road networks were fantastic, power was as regular as anywhere else in the developed world, the hospitals and schools looked to be top-notch; and the roads were well maintained. In its makeup, is the Bahamas really that different from any African country?

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Confounding Legacy of an African Freedom Fighter

Nelson Mandela.
Robert Mugabe.
Emeka Ojukwu.

All freedom fighters. Men who are revered by their followers. Men who at their peak were hated but importantly, respected by their enemies. Men who impacted their countries and indeed, the world. What is their legacy?

Nelson Mandela had to be hospitalized last week and was treated to a hero's welcome upon his return home. The eulogies that have poured in for him - even in life - exceed those of several statesmen who have passed on. You can imagine that his death, whenever that is, will be mourned globally. Yet this is a man who at the height of his freedom fighting was plotting to blow up installations and destroy the country's economy in a bid to end apartheid. Today, he is a statesman and global legend almost without compere.

Robert Mugabe was probably regarded as the finest freedom fighter since Che Guevara. A charismatic man who could whip up the fervor of any crowd, he went through several personal deprivations in order to ensure that Zimbabwe was free from the shackles of Ian Smith's Rhodesia and was globally regarded when he accomplished this (except in the UK, perhaps). Yet it didn't take long for him to slip down the slope of extra-judicial killings, corruption and nepotism. Today, Mugabe has lost his entire store of goodwill in the international community. His death, whenever it comes, will likely be greeted with more cheers than tears.

The legacies of these two are pretty clear-cut. The third man on my list - Emeka Ojukwu - confounds and confounds totally.

Emeka Ojukwu was buried in Nnewi, Southeast Nigeria, today. An Oxford-educated, silver-tongued orator and Army officer who led the breakaway Republic of Biafra when it seceded from Nigeria in 1967 until its collapse in 1970, Ojukwu and his legacy is a topic that has provoked many a heated discussion in Nigeria from then till now.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Unity without Understanding - A Logical Fallacy

Those who follow my writings and comments on twitter, Sahara Reporters and this blog are well aware of my mantra: "Nigeria, nay Africa, cannot progress without holding a National Conference".

Some have been upset by my insistence on this point, in particular those who envision a conference where different groups complain and drag up shameful aspects from the past that vested interests would rather see silenced.
Others who are focused on their personal "unity" and "power to the people" projects may - understandably -be concerned that the reopening of old wounds and the potential realignment of 'progressive' forces along tribal-religious fault lines may spell doom for their 'vision'.
Regardless of the reason for avoiding the debate, opponents of independent African nations holding sovereign national conferences are proving to be as blind to the real issues that plague the continent as the leaders they take joy in castigating, reprimanding and upbraiding.

I will use Nigeria - as I often do - as my case study here, but the lessons and suggestions are equally applicable to any African country that has not had a citizen body gather to answer the age-old question that has bothered many a nation - Quo Vadis (Where Do We Go)?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Of Africa and Leadership

I started this blog post with no discernible topic in mind, but with an end goal formulating somewhere in my cerebral complex. Let's take stock of some of the happenings over the last week in the political landscape of the African continent:
- The Ethiopian Prime Minister is stealing land from Ethiopian farmers (at least we could quasi-sympathize with Mugabe in Zimbabwe for taking land from white owners). This one? Not so much...

- The Nigerian President's impotency shows no signs of letting up. It's doubtful that even Cialis will be able to revive this man's flagging fortunes.

- The #OccupyNigeria movement cascaded into a series of pointed fingers, 'betrayals' by certain elements in the Save Nigeria group as well as organized labor (although we expected this, we still expressed our righteous rage). 

 - Democratic Republic of Congo's Joseph Kabila is using his security forces to tackle opposition to his self-declared 'victory' in November's elections.

What is it with Africa and her leaders?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Boko Haram - A Threat to Occupying Africa

In my post last week, I hinted at the ethno-religious faultline that threatens the total permeation of the #OccupyNigeria movement in the minds of the Nigerian polity. Some have asked me to expand on that idea, while others have forced my hand with their total avoidance of the issue. I'm interested in expantiating further in order to explain why #OccupyNigeria faces greater risks to its success than similar demonstrations in Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain; countries which have more homogenous populations. The lessons learned from #OccupyNigeria - whether it succeeds or fails - will be important for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, where tribal and religious faults and the perceptions that come with those go hand in hand with politics. Kenya, South Africa and Uganda are some countries to watch on this front.

Friday, January 6, 2012

#OccupyNigeria. Then What?

This week, Nigerians started doing something they haven't done in several years.
They started pushing back.
This push-back is primarily against a government and a political umbrella (the word "party" or "ideology" does not factor into this monolith's modus operandi) - the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) - which has dominated the political landscape of the Fourth Republic. On a lesser scale, it is also against the political leadership of Nigeria, highlighted by the financial black hole otherwise known as the National Assembly.

That it took this long to happen is not surprising. Recently, Nigerians have proven to be politically passive until government policies hit their pocketbooks. We can live with fraudulent elections, government corruption and the rape of justice; but make sure food and fuel prices stay the same! Ergo, the removal of the fuel subsidy - a move that makes perfect sense on paper but none whatsoever to a citizen living on $2 a day - was the perfect catalyst for such action.
Not since the annulment of the 1993 elections has there been such a concerted wave of uprisings and civil mass action; welcome development for a country that was beginning to look like its citizens were completely apathetic and willing to roll over for tyrants to trample on in the hopes of being able to "chop one day".

In the midst of this upheaval and social media-driven activism, there are some troubling developments as well as questions that need answering. These include the silence of the nation's religious leaders, the two-faced approach of organized labor and the geopolitical polarization/stratification of the mass action. Until these imbalances are reversed, the #OccupyNigeria movement will not gain the traction it requires to work.