Having lived in South Africa for more than ten years albeit, punctuated by my brief sojourn in Ghana from 2008-2009 my sense is that I possess a fair understanding of the Nigerian community in South Africa. Who are we? Nigerians in South Africa began arriving in small doses in the early 1990’s and the numbers grew after the fall of apartheid and the emergence of black majority rule in 1994. The experiences of the early settlers was one of nostalgia as the locals embraced them wholeheartedly and the new country opened vistas of opportunity and freedom. Ten years later a decent size Nigerian community had emerged however, the narrative had now changed to a very negative one. The average South African now saw Nigerians in terms of drugs racketeering, 419, bogus marriages, money laundering and philandering. It did not help also that some politicians and elites who visited South Africa and still continue till today to waste vast amounts of money especially towards ladies. Some of these elites simply chose to export the ladies to their stately mansions in Nigeria. All of these set of facts surely began to threaten the otherwise warm relations between Nigerians and their hosts.
The South African government was however taking notice at about this time of the opportunities Nigeria presented to its companies seeking to expand into Nigeria’s large market and thanks to MTN the narrative of Nigeria shifted to an economic success story and later with Nollywood and the success of Nigerian musicians like Asa, Tiwa Savage, Femi Kuti, Dbanj, Tuface , Flavour and others things began to brighten a little.
The new shift which these changes brought about would not have been lost on the average Nigerian in South Africa and in 2014 Nigeria’s economic advancement which now surpasses that of South Africa would have provided both great happiness and a welcome relief for many who have been battered for many years by the negative stereotypes of our people for so long. To boost our morale the Super Eagles came to win the AFCON soccer completion on South African soil in 2013.
The topic of this article is the unity of Nigerians and surely by now I am also wondering what unity? Unity on what basis? Where are Nigerians based? How do they live? What sports do they partake in and where do they meet? Who are their leaders? How do they celebrate their culture or National Day? Where do they celebrate their Christmas or Ramadan? Are they fully integrated and on what level?
Firstly, how can Nigerians be united in diaspora when they come from different tribes, landed at various times, belong to different churches, live in diverse settings and work in diverse fields and have no clear hierarchical structures. Moreso, there are just too many different organisations with multiple interests to enable centrality off intent. Then there are those who use the positions they occupy to create divisions amongst the people whom they have sworn to assist so there is a feeling of remorse and disenchantment.
The above represents the dilemma faced by those who seek unity of purpose and a compact which the Nigerian people here in South Africa can work from. There is also the issue of gender representation, the youth and the collaboration of different strata which never gains much traction. A society where the same individuals lock up the space without aiding new entrants risks lacking a clear succession plan. There are very few females in fact hardly any heading any Nigerian organization and very few youths on the executive of almost all the organisations. It is interesting that despite living in the country where Malema heads the EFF and Maimane heads the DA we see gerontocrats that are above fifty leading almost all the organisations. It is a tragedy at once that David Cameron who is 45 is a lot younger them most of the leaders of our organisations. If our women are not worthy and our youth are not worthy then who is worthy of unifying our people. We can only be unified when we are keen to promote our culture, language, tradition and way of life and the family which is the unit of the nation ought to be strong. It is when families are strong that the society becomes strong. It is similar to the Obama scenario where his grandparents instilled good values in him and he married right and the mother-in-law is close by keeping an eye on the kids. Obama’s mother and grandmother also played key roles in his upbringing. Where are our women in our society? A society that ignores a greater part of its demography will not reach its true potential. It is like going into a boxing match with one hand tied behind your back.
Let’s now turn our attention to who we ate here in SA. We are surely remote from home and we think we are all the same because we all come from the same country but what do we have in common? We say we are diaspora right? Yes we are but what does diaspora mean?
A diaspora is a scattered population with a common origin in a smaller geographic area. Diaspora can also refer to the movement of the population from its original homeland. Diaspora has come to refer particularly to historical mass dispersions of an involuntary nature, such as the expulsion of Jews from Judea, the fleeing of Greeks after the fall of Constantinople, the African Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the southern Chinese or Hindus of South Asia during the coolie trade, the deportation of Palestinians in the 20th century and the exile and deportation of Circassians.
Recently, scholars have distinguished between different kinds of diaspora, based on its causes such as imperialism, trade or labor migrations, or by the kind of social coherence within the diaspora community and its ties to the ancestral lands. Some diaspora communities maintain strong political ties with their homeland. Other qualities that may be typical of many diasporas are thoughts of return, relationships with other communities in the diaspora, and lack of full integration into the host country.
From the above it is clear that Nigerians in South Africa though from the same country still possess different upbringing, education, exposure, social leanings, religion, tribe, culture, ideals, interests and ambition. For example, there are some Nigerians who eat the local food almost always and there are those who do not at all. Also, there are some Nigerians who plan never to go back home whereas some go at the slightest opportunity and some only do the yearly pilgrimage. There are also many Nigerians who are married to South Africans or other foreigners and there are those who are married to fellow Nigerians. The cases are numerous and diverse and complex and not easy to consolidate. Some Nigerians have citizenship, some have residency, some have only temporary residence relating to employment while for some it is student based. In essence the divergence of purpose and mission further complicates the unity project. It must also be noted that our organisations are not sufficiently engaged in the unity project because most of term lack what is referred to in Nigeria as Federal Character.
The only hope for a united Nigerian diaspora in South Africa is to address some of these cleavages particularly gender imbalance, lack of youth representation, focused programmes aimed at drawing out the best and brightest, consistent and effective media awareness of the Nigerian unity project, academic research on the issue of what really binds us as a people and motivation for being part of the unity project and benefits thereof. A very good theme could be the need to change perception and get everyone to work on the project with defined roles and clear benefits. If all of these efforts are made all Nigerians will take the cue and be part of the unity that is so vitally needed.
Nigeria is a story that has not truly been told and it is an opportunity through the prism of Nigerian unity in South Africa that the story can also begin to be told. A nation divided cannot stand. A people with no leader cannot dream. The Nigerian story must be told and since the unity of Nigeria is not and cannot be discussed back home then why are we in a dilemma when we are charged with uniting our own?
When I got married my wife’s dress was made by a Nigerian and our wedding rings were made by a Nigerian and our pastor who conducted our vows was also a Nigerian and we played Nigerian music in Paarl, Western Cape and we had at least 8 people visit from Nigeria to add the Nigerian touch. This in my view is the best expression of Nigerian unity on some small scale.
The election on March 28, 2015 of General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress with more than 15 million votes in a tightly contested election heralded a new order in Nigeria’s history. General Buhari who is now referred to as President Muhammadu Buhari or ‘PMB’ for short had earlier contested the elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011 and lost. His victory is the first time an opposition candidate has won elections in Nigeria. What made the victory all the more profound was that Gen. Buhari dislodged the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan whose governemt had been accused by the opposition as soft on corruption and its failure to deal with the insurgency that had claimed more than 20,000 lives since 2009. The Jonathan governemt came under heavy criticism for failing to find more than 200 girls who were captured by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014 barely a week after Nigeria was declared Africa’s largest economy.
Buhari’s victory has been celebrated around the world moreso because almost every analyst had predicted doomsday for Nigeria ahead of the elections which were actually postponed from February 14 to March 28. The concession of defeat by President Jonathan hours before the results were announced also led to widespread commendations from around the world and many paid tribute to his sportsmanship and statesman-like attitude. It is against this background that President Buhari took office on May 29 at the Eagle Square, Abuja. The event was attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the British Foreign Minister Phil Hammond as well as Presidents Zuma, Robert Mugabe, John Mahama of Ghana and other African leaders.
President Buhari in his inaugural speech quickly tried to assure those who were very skeptical about how he emerged his party flagbearer that he belongs to everybody and belongs to nobody yet in the first signs of things to come the opposition PDP has managed to capture the seat of Deputy Senate President due to wranglings in General Buhari’s party about who should lead the legislature. Gen. Buhari promised to fight corruption and insecurity yet since he came to office no highly placed official from the former government has been prosecuted even though a handful have appeared in court. Since taking office 58 days ago President Buhari has made 5 foreign trips to Chad, Niger, South Africa, Germany and lately the US. These trips almost average one per week if his trip to the UK days before his inauguration is included. It must be said though that the size of his delegation is much smaller than his predecessor’s and he always meets the Nigerian community whenever he visits key countries. Just before leaving for the US he and his deputy took a 50 percent pay cut to show example and he sacked all his service chiefs except the Inspector General of Police. There is a downer though given that Boko Haram has killed almost 600 people since President Buhari took office. In brazen attacks across communities Boko Haram seems to have bounced back with vigour and it remains to be seen whether the new military chiefs will win the war on terror. President Buhari has also been savagely criticized for not having appointed his cabinet. There has also been criticisms levelled against him for appointing people mostly from the North of the country into key jobs. With regards to cabinet positions however the constitution is clear in that it states that there must be at least one minister from each state. Nigeria has 36 states which consists of 6 geopolitical zones and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja)namely South West, South South ,South East, North West, North Central and North East.
In a recent report it was alleged that the President nominated 36 Nigerians to join his cabinet but only 3 of them passed the corruption stress test. It is already clear from President Buhari’s statement that he wants to fight corruption. He once said’ If Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”. He also believes that the economy needs to be diversified away from oil towards agriculture and solid minerals and that one of his priorities is to reform and decentralize the corrupt national oil company known locally as the NNPC.
During his recent visit to the United States it was reported that he has asked the US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch to assist his government in tracking about $150 billion of looted Nigerian monies carted away by the officials of previous governemnts especially the immediate past government.
The challenge for President Buhari is that he came to power on the back of massive electoral promises regarding energy, jobs, tackling corruption, fixing the economy and curbing the insurgency. He really has no honeymoon period and Nigerians are already calling him President’ Go Slow” and people are not keen on his inability to ove quickly and settle down and govern especially given his trips abroad. It does not help that the Nigerian naira has been falling sharply and there is a dearth of foreign exchange which is greatly affecting traders and importers who rely heavily on imports.
The typical standard benchmark for measuring a new government is 100 days in office and as if President Buhari is mindful of the important Barometer he has already indicated he may likely appoint his team in September. His first 100 days is on September 5. On his inauguration day his wife, Aisha wore a $50,000 Cartier watch which led to a massive outcry given his tough stance on corruption. President Buhari has however released $2.1 billion dollars to assist the federating units (states) to enable them pay the salary backlog in their respective states.
Time will tell whether the CHANGE mantra upon which President Buhari and his political party the APC came to power will be delvered to Nigerians. In the meantime the President has to navigate the complexities occasioned by a dwindling economy, insecurity, political infighting, a restless populace and tackling the menace of corruption which has eaten deep into the fabric of the society and which the gap-toothed lanky general has sworn to fight and it seems he has begun on the corruption front with some gentle steps at least.
Goodluck PMB! You will need it even though your predecessor who was named Goodluck did not have much of it.
The Aid Trap
“Africa’s disease is not incurable” these were the words of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in a CNN interview in 2005 against the backdrop image of a bustling city of Lagos with molue buses when he was the President of Nigeria. Almost ten years after President Obasanjo’s comments there is now ample and clear evidence that Africa’s disease is curable. However, there still exist some African countries that have the semblance of failed states with very weak institutions. Mali, Central African Republic, Libya, Egypt and Somalia are still mired in some conflict or another and on a broader scale many African countries are still heavily dependent on foreign aid. It is a travesty that almost sixty years after the first wave of independence that saw as many as seventeen countries gain independence a vast number of countries are still dependent on aid.
In today’s Africa abundant statistical data shows a lot of economic growth across various sectors but many of these countries still rank very low on the Human Development Index. It is the Human Development Index that really portrays the true picture as to whether a country is improving in its socio-economic development. The Human Development Index is used as a measure of real economic development and it is in these areas that most African countries tend to rely heavily on aid.
For example, the Millennium Development Goals which were formed in 2000 set some targets for African countries to achieve in 2015. The fact is these goals as we move closer to 2015 are nowhere near being achieved. The Millennium Development Goals are One: Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger Goal Two: Achieving Universal Primary Education .Goal Four: Reducing Child Mortality Rates Goal Six: Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases . Goal Three: Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women. Goal Five: Improving Maternal Health .Goal Six: Environmental Sustainability and Global Partnership for Development Goal Seven: Ensuring Environmental Sustainability Goal Eight: Developing a Global Partnership for Development.
Since the 1940”s approximately $1 trillion of aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. This is nearly $1000 for every man, woman and child in the world today. Despite huge natural resources such as oil and gas, copper, platinum and diamonds most African countries are still heavily reliant on aid from western countries to fund projects in almost all sectors of their economy. This dependency or rather over-dependence on aid has created a culture or cycle of poverty and what could be regarded as a trap.
The aid trap is so glaring that some African countries actually rely on donor funding in order to carry out their national programmes and in some cases aid forms a significant portion of the said country’s GDP. It is this quagmire that this article aims to address. How do countries so heavily reliant on aid break out of the aid trap? Why would a country that is so rich in natural resources still require aid from external sources? What are the conditions attached to aid? Why is aid still being given to a country that obviously cannot pay the money back? Is there any other way to develop a county without aid? What examples if any are there to follow?
In the early 1960’s when most African countries gained independence from their colonial masters France and the United Kingdom it was felt that many of these countries would become beacons of hope as was the case in Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah. It must be noted however that many of these countries relied mostly on a single natural resource which they exported in its raw form. Rather than process their raw materials prior to export the model was simply to export and import all other products which they needed. Also, another challenge which most of these countries faced was that they did not diversify their economy across sectors. Nigeria for example abandoned its main export sector, agriculture when it discovered oil in large commercial quantities. By the mid-1960”s corruption by public officials had also set in and as a result of corruption governments began to get toppled by military officers who alleged that they had come to power in order to save their countries from corrupt leadership and attendant. The January 15, 1966 coup plotters that toppled Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria alleged that they intervened due to the corruption and electoral malpractices that permeated the country.
Aid is not on its own a bad idea, it only becomes toxic when the recipient country now relies on it exclusively for its livelihood. For example, The Marshall Plan by the US which offered aid to Europe after the Second World War in 1945 was very successful. Between 1948 and 1952 the United States transferred over $13 billion to aid in the reconstruction of post-Second World War Europe. By most historical accounts the Marshall Plan not only guaranteed economic success but many credit the programme with the re-establishment of political and social institutions crucial for Western Europe’s ongoing peace and prosperity.
The United States Marshall Plan worked for Europe but aid for Africa did not really work and the following reasons were espoused by Dambisa Moyo” in her bestselling book Dead Aid. In Dambisa”s words’ For one thing, European countries were not wholly dependent on aid. Despite the ravages of war, Western Europe’s economic recovery was already underway, and its economies had other resources to call upon. At its peak, Marshall Plan flows were only 2.5 % of GDP of the larger recipients like France and Germany.
Amazingly, by the end of the 1980”s emerging market debt was at least US $1 trillion, and the cost of servicing these obligations colossal. Indeed, the cost of servicing became so substantial that it eventually dwarfed foreign aid leading to a net revenue flow of $15 billion dollars from poor countries to rich countries. Infact, many African countries were grouped into what was referred to as HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) These countries were essentially in a very difficult situation because they had to spend a great portion of their gross domestic product on servicing debts which in turn affected their development goals.
It has also been widely argued that vast sums of aid not only fosters corruption but breeds it. There has been for some time now concerns from the donor community that development assistance earmarked for critical social and economic sectors is being used directly or indirectly to fund unproductive and corrupt expenditures (UNDP”s Human Development Report, 1994) At a hearing before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in May 2004, experts argued that the World Bank has participated (mostly passively) in the corruption of roughly $100 billion of its loan funds intended for development. It is also a strongly held view that aid supports rent-seeking. Rent seeking is described as the use of governmental authority to take and make money without trade or production of wealth. At a very basic level an example of this is where a government official with access to aid money set aside for public welfare takes the money for his own personal use.
The logic from all the foregoing especially when a closer look is made regarding aid to Africa is that it has not worked and will never work. The most effective way of developing a nation is through old-fashion hard work and transparency as well as good governance. Each country in Africa is blessed with abundant natural resources from Guinea to Congo, Botswana to Libya, and Sudan to Nigeria. The idea of running cap in hand to beg for aid flies in the face of the logic that is the vast natural resources with which many of these countries are endowed and blessed with. It is a tragedy almost to have nations who should be loaning money to others being the ones who have to be constantly bailed out.
The concept of aid was essentially to bring about stability to nations that were struggling to ensure the well-being and welfare of their citizens. It seems that some or many nations saw aid as the be all and end all and therefore chose to rely exclusively on the largesse only to become part of the dangerous cycle.
What should be advocated as we move closer to fourteen years after the millennium and a year to the Millennium Development Goals deadline is trade not aid. Regional integration between African economies will improve the economic prosperity of many African nations. For example, the New Partnership for African Development(NEPAD) WAS FORMED IN ORDER TO REPOSITION Africa’s methods of doing business with the West and other developed nations but so far the impact of NEPAD is yet to be felt on the continent. Recent reports by the World Bank shows however that many African countries especially Rwanda and Mauritius have improved the way of doing business but there is so much that needs to be done. In a continent with multi-currencies e.g Kwanza, Metical, Naira, Rand, Kwacha, Cedi, Shillings and various languages e.g English, Swahili, French, Portugese and Arabic how best can trade be improved given the complexities and the fact that there is no one size fits all solution.
The fact is that higher tariffs affect trade. Import duties on wine in Africa vary from the logical 40% in Botswana, 80% in Nigeria to the bizarre 160% in Zambia and 180% in Uganda. It is these inconsistent regulatory frameworks that affect Africa’s ability to trade with itself. Of course, one is well aware that there are many African countries that are resource poor and landlocked. The position going forward is for the poor countries to reduce the barriers to trade and also seek ways in which they can promote their respective countries as an investment destination. No country in Africa that seeks to develop can do so by relying on aid or moreso, even rich African countries who generally tend to have large populations e.g Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria cannot afford to sit on their laurels. To compete is an attribute that African countries must now imbibe. There is a great potential for African countries to trade with each other because each country has its own competitive advantage. Trade not aid is the logic of the future for Africa.
It has only been 8 weeks into 2015 and we have already witnessed a whole lot of events in South Africa that brings into sharp focus the challenges that South Africa faces. The economy is on the ropes, foreign shops are being looted with abandon, the President’s state of the nation was disrupted by the Economic Freedom fighters, power cuts or trrather load shedding has become the norm and the budget presents a very grave picture with increase in taxes, eletricity and petrol. It is quite clear that something is wrong especially when unemployemnt is still at an all-tme high. It is my hope that 2015 improves the landscape becuae there are so many problems here and now that give the impression that things are going to get worse unless something drastic is done very soon.
Today, Monday the 2nd of March I had the opportunity to sit on a panel with Nestanet Belay, Ory Okolloh, Muthoni Wanyeki, Cousin Zilala, Alioune Tine, Deprose Muchena and some other key figures within the Amnesty International family. I was very pleased to join the team in discussing conflitc in Africa, elections and human rights. It was a very fruitful engagement as I learnt first hand the critical role Amnesty International plays in monitoring human right abuses right across the globe.