Many nations colonised by the British, after becoming independent found themselves in a quandary. Stripped of the wealth of their natural resources and the dignity of self-representation, former colonies responded with varying modalities. Invariably some patterns have emerged.
Singapore, which became independent in 1965 has no natural resources and very little land but has managed to transform into a major manufacturing nation, in areas such as ship building and electronics and as a global financial centre backed by strong banking including private banking. Singapore has developed a very free trade environment where the ease of doing business is emulated by much larger economies. They have sustainably implemented very low tariffs, and few non-tariff barriers.
The genesis of their success can be traced to the government and Lee Kuan Yew funneling state funds into those areas. The other root behind their success is the 2.3 million migrants out of a total population of 5.3 million (now about 5.7 million total population) who as Diaspora brought great benefits in moving to Singapore and simultaneously reaped long term dividends. Many Diaspora reached the highest levels of government, business, academia and arts and helped fuel the economic dynamism of their country, Singapore as value-add returnees.
Now Singapore is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The high GDP per capita at about 59,400 USD (fifty nine thousand and four hundred United States dollars) simultaneously hides the inequality that exists and thankfully being tackled ferociously by their leadership. Also, a significant portion of Singapore Diaspora still feel marginally engaged, also a focus of their government.
India, another former British colony, became independent in 1947 emerged with a population awash with poverty and stripped of its representative identity. India leveraged their Diaspora expertise in management, financial, corporate, trade and banking sectors to vitalise their economy. Taking on major sectors like software development and pharmaceutical manufacturing and creating a mastery and leadership that helped transform India from a rancid third world to a global leader. India continues to improve on this, directing their Diaspora back home to engage in further revitalisation, by continually improving the operating environment for conducting business to yield what they describe as “China size” dividends without the baggage. The India Diaspora is further credited with having catalysed the demand for Indian goods and services, ranging from food to fashion to entertainment, while also attracting investments and bringing access to multinational leadership and the much needed FDI that comes from remittances of which India is at the top in repatriation of Diaspora capital to the home country of India.
Nigeria, independent since 1960 remains a paradox, an amazing nation of great potential and pockets of exuberant success. Opay raised a whopping $400m, a major milestone, not necessarily because of the $ 1/5b valuation they got, which is modest for such a big investment but for the trust bestowed on the Nigerian market they represent. All together over $1.5b has been invested by venture capitalists, private equity and other investors into startups that now have an opportunity to thrive and become the unicorns of tomorrow. What is ironic though is that Nigeria has not really figured out its Diaspora asset like Ghana and Rwanda have. There is still this barrier of engagement as Nigerians proud as peacocks straddle the native country and the rest of the world in their engagements, the government forgetting that their role of nation building, access creators and conveners for economic prosperity; require a mind reset, but instead see themselves as those to be adored, do whatever they like, largely ignoring a key base!
That brings me to the third wave! The third wave is where transformation happens because catalysts live here. Catalysts are solid factors that propel far into the horizon, any nation or person regardless of how established or sluggish. It is what propelled Singapore, India and China and is propelling Indonesia and Rwanda and Ghana. The third wave is catalysed by phenomenon that lives mostly outside the place of domicile. The phenomenon of the third wave is encapsulated in people, not theatrics. Those people are mainly outside of home base. They are the Diaspora. They bridge the gap and make the difference. They have enough of home and enough of away from home to be relevant in a much needed way. Like they have been in Singapore, India, China, and now becoming in Rwanda and Ghana. Diaspora have learned some useful habits, some ideas, they typically live in regions that have prospered and have gained and can access tools that are reasonably fail safe. They have an identity that consummates everything they are about. That identity is belonging to “Home”. They ultimately want “Home” to be the biggest beneficiary of all that they are.
The Nigerian government has largely been unable to capitalise on the Nigerian Diaspora, mostly ignoring them as a resource. So the question is why? What did India, China, and Singapore and now Rwanda and Ghana know that Nigeria does not? Or what does Nigeria see that they are perhaps blind to? The right question to ask is simple because true and tested, long standing evidence and facts exist. So without much ado, we can discard the second question because it does not make sense. This is because of all the countries named, Nigeria in all its splendor, though #14 in land mass on the African continent and still the biggest economy and largest population in Africa; is in the same tone, the most jacked up of those countries and even narrowing it to Africa, Nigeria is still one of the most jacked up African nations.
The ability for Nigeria to accelerate to where it ought to be is hampered by leadership issues, crisis of stability and security and a lack of honest will to do the right thing as a nation. Haughty leaders walk around pompously like rude birds of prey, looking down on every counterpart with an eye of superiority; many of them recounting their own accolades, making sure everyone knows that they have access to including access to every country and every finery available to the rich and famous, not for one moment considering that the resources they squander belong to a people of which many are left in abject poverty and some yet unborn already condemned to hardship, just by virtue of sharing the national identity of Nigeria. It is almost laughable to watch except it is not funny, because lives are at stake. A real case of the emperor having no clothes!
The truth is no civil servant should ever boast or be pompous because they are employed by the people and should work at the pleasure fo the people. All the money being used, spent, and appropriated is the people’s money, earned as revenue by hawking the people’s national treasure or borrowed on behalf of the people. This is a case of the representative of the people, put in place to passionately represent the interest of the people but instead, turned king, oppressing the people from which they derived their power! So in a sensible nation, the citizens would be leveraged, provided with tools and education and empowered to build the nation, the Diaspora especially is enticed to participate for the good of country with the peoples’ welfare in the fore front of everything. But not in Nigeria, why? Again this thought brings me to the tenets of the third wave.
In the third wave, nations rise up to reclaim who they are, national dignity is the currency of engagement that yields myriad of dividends in wealth, autonomy, industry, higher living standards, better national economy, jobs, happiness, greatness, security. National dignity has at its root, a regard for self – the national self, that baseline identity is placed in first place. For example, in Rwanda, in most engagements, the benefit to Rwanda and its people is the number one consideration, from those at home, to those in Diaspora, to the overwhelming beckoning and welcome to returnees to come and help build the nation, much like India and Singapore and Kenya and now Ghana and more. Yet they are not perfect, but in a much better place than Nigeria.
I saw something firsthand, something I need not describe, and concluded that what is missing in Nigeria, is not knowledge or the lack of good examples or a country too big to stir, or even an economy to complex to grasp. What is missing in Nigeria are the eyes of self-respect, that allows Nigeria self-identify all of itself, as worthy. Nigeria as a nation, discards its own, almost with a fervent unceremonious disdain and an emotionality of deceit. I have always wondered what the singular issue was. I finally recognised it! It is the key characteristic of self-loathing. Nigeria’s leadership acts like its own enemy. When Nigeria seeks great and important causes, it invariably desires to derive it from anyone other than its own people. There is a complete lack of trust in itself and people and to some extent the broader black population. It is a known fact in Nigerian commerce that if you don’t involve some white persons in any deal you bring to Nigerian government, such an engagement would be Dead On Arrival (DOA). It is a colonial mentality stronghold that still grips Nigeria. One that other African nations have broken the shackles of, but Nigeria holds on like a lifeline! A Nigerian government official in the executive branch will gladly meet with a junior ranking white person than a senior seasoned Diaspora person. It is pathetic to watch. Many white persons know this and play it up, lower-level white managers rubbing shoulders with the highest level of Nigerian government officials who simultaneously snub very high-ranking Diaspora leaders who look like them. I used to think it was ignorance on the part of the government officials, then I realised it was a tactic. They know the Nigerian Diaspora motives would be different, less self-centred and more focused on good national outcomes. The Diaspora is seeking to help not take and it would be unlikely that incompetence and sloppiness would get past them. They also know simultaneously that the white person is not interested in the country’s welfare and hence, it would be easier for the leaders to incorporate a personal agenda to profit from the transaction without a challenge.
Now that said, not every white person agrees to benefit in this way, some out of integrity walk away, but far too many understand the game and turn a blind eye. Also, not every member of Nigerian government acts like this, there are few pockets of light who really work hard to do things that are decent and proper. Also being a Nigerian Diaspora does not always translate to a desire to help and do right by Nigeria. There are corrupt and corruptible people within the Diaspora, some when given the opportunity to go “Home” and do right, have gone “Home” and done wrong!
Unfortunately, far too many in government are guilty of horrific wrong doing, far too many have no intention to do anything meaningful, those that do are sidelined and if they don’t leave, become accessories to wrong doing either by complacency or by significantly diminishing their areas of serious focus. As far as I am concerned the buck stops with the Nigerian government leaders who took the mandate of leadership, so it is them alone, I blame!
About Ngozi Bell
Inspiration, Hard Work, Innovation. These three foundational elements anchor Ngozi’s core belief that manifesting the extraordinary is always within reach. Inspired by her mother A.C.Obikwere, a scientist and author, she learned the privilege of living at the edge of important encounters and dedicating herself to robust and perpetual learning. Ngozi’s background is a combination of Physics, Engineering, Venture Capital/Private Equity, regulations, and business where she has managed over $1B in cumulative revenue. Ngozi is a speaker, storyteller, and writer on a diverse set of topics including AI, iDLT, ML, Signal Processing, iOT, women, entrepreneurship and more. She contributes regularly to VOA, has been a TEDx speaker and is published on tech and non-tech platforms. She is a champion of STEM, women, youth, art and the Africa we must engage. Ngozi is an adjunct professor of Physics and management with work
experience in Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and North America. She is a founder of a number of a number of enterprises and host of the podcast Stem, Stocks and Stews (https://anchor.fm/stemstocksstews-podcast).