India, Singapore, Indonesia, and Korea were poor countries like Nigeria some decades ago. But today they are major players in world politics, economic heavyweights, technological hubs, and advanced countries while Nigeria is still dwindling deeper into collapse amidst plenty of resources. If these were our contemporaries, how did they move above board? And most importantly, what was the role of their youths in such a rapid democratic and economic metamorphosis?
This last question is very important as it forms the focus of our discussion henceforth.
When I was younger, the riddles and jokes section of Kiddies magazine oozed out an aroma that satisfied my reading pleasure. Of all the riddles I read as a kid, one remains memorable to me. It goes thus:
I am something. I am a good servant but a dangerous master.
What am I?
Electricity – wasthe answer I got after moments of a brain-tussling exercise.
As I grow older in this information-driven age, the relevance of this riddle came to the fore when social networking platforms were used as a mobilization arena for people to protest against the removal of fuel subsidy in the ‘wee-days’ of 2012, specifically January 2-3. What used to be a platform where people share pictures, post comments about events, and connect with friends metamorphosed into a potent tool for rallying Nigerians of different religious, political, and social inclinations.
Nigerian businesswomen take part in a CIPE-sponsored mentoring program in 2011.
Nigeria will soon begin a national discussion that could redefine the foundations of the entire country. Unfortunately, as originally planned, this process would have left women largely out of the conversation.
On March 17, a National Conference including delegates from government, civil society, and the private sector will convene to consider rewriting the military-era constitution, redefining the country’s internal borders and administrative structures, strengthening institutions to combat corruption, and many other issues that may shape Nigerian society for years or decades to come.
The conference could usher in important changes for a nation plagued by corruption, religious conflict, and poverty — but the original pool of nearly 500 delegates included just 72 women from three associations. With a 75 percent majority required to take what could be fundamental decisions about the country’s future direction, women were at risk of being completely marginalized.
The demographic dividend is the accelerated economic growth that may result from a rapid decline in a country’s fertility and the subsequent change in the population age structure.
According to the latest UN population projections, Africa will have two billion people by 2040, with the share of 12-to-24-year-olds growing from 18 percent to 28 percent. The increment in size of this age cohort in Africa will be parallel to a decline in the same age group in every other region of the world. This anticipated rapid growth of the labor force possesses serious development challenges, as well as opportunities. The rising question is: how should Africa best prepare in order to benefit from the demographic change in the coming generation?
A public-private dialogue session with President Macky Sall in Senegal. CIPE partners organize such sessions in countries around the world.
In a webinar on July 11, Elias M. Dewah, former Executive Director of the Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry, and Manpower (BOCCIM), and other panelists shared prominent lessons from their experience with public-private dialogue initiatives in Africa and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. Here are some of the highlights, addressed to private sector participants in advocacy.
Be consistent and persistent in advocacy and dialogue to overcome government inertia.
Remain independent from government but work with officials in an advocacy capacity.
Be proactive and constructive. Don’t just criticize but offer alternative policy solutions.
Come to the table with well-researched evidence. Link up with independent think tanks as needed.
Be representative and inclusive of various sectors, not just a few elite businesses.
Speak with one voice at all times.
Move from issues involving transactions to systemic change.
Make use of existing legal frameworks that provide for transparency and consultation.
Find the most effective point of engagement in the legislative process – this could be in the drafting stage.
Evaluate the impact. Look beyond dialogue processes at what is actually achieved.
Yinka Osobu does not consider herself a crusader against corruption. In fact, she is a small business owner in Nigeria trying to keep costs down, manufacture quality products, and make a profit. She has been doing this for 18 years as the CEO of CMC Interiors, a furniture and fabric company based in Lagos.
However, when she was charged a different price for each container she imported, she grew frustrated. “There weren’t two containers that came in under the same regulations,” she said, noting how prices and regulations changed with no consistency or clarity. “I had reached the end of the road.”
After more than twenty years of innovative and impact-oriented programming in Nigeria, CIPE has opened the doors of its first brick-and-mortar office in Sub-Saharan Africa, located in Nigeria’s most populated city – Lagos.
“The opening of the Nigeria office is a significant benchmark for CIPE’s Africa programming on the continent,” said Abdulwahab Alkebsi, CIPE’s Regional Director for Africa and the Middle East, “It provides more on-the-ground capacity than CIPE has had before, but also solidifies our local presence, which we’ve managed for more than 20 years from Washington. This office will further our strategy of partnering locally to strengthen democratic and economic reforms.”
The CIPE Development Blog provides coverage of the Center for International Private Enterprise and its partner network at work -- highlighting successes, drawing out lessons from failure, and exploring the broader issues of political and economic development. For more information visit CIPE.org.