Archive | April 2014



Just a friendly reminder to pick up your tickets for the friendly between the Super Eagles and the USA while you still can.  Either way it should be a great match down in Jacksonville if the Super Eagles last game in the states is any indication.



HAPPY-Pharrell Williams Nigeria Style

Two Nigerians Listed in TIME 100

What an accomplishment.  Two talented, intelligent, and forceful individuals from one of the most rapidly growing countries on the planet have been including in the TIME 100 list.  Please read their profiles below, and think of how wonderful it is to see such successes.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala TIME 100
Peter Hapak for TIME

Guardian of Nigeria’s public funds

I first met economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala when she was campaigning for Nigerian debt relief. We’d been fighting our way through capitals around the world trying to get Cold War–era debts canceled for the poorest, most heavily indebted countries. During her first term as Finance Minister of Nigeria, Ngozi arrived at her desk to find a weighty $30 billion owed. With oil prices on the rise, she stopped having to plead with her creditors and bought a massive chunk of her own debt so she could cancel it herself. As if to make a point. She became a legend in that moment. Humor and joy spill out of her, which can belie the fact that she’s got one of the toughest jobs on the planet — how to ensure that the tens of billions of dollars earned each year in oil receipts go into productive usage, like agriculture, infrastructure, health and education. Ngozi has made corruption her enemy and stability her goal. She is fiercely intelligent; everyone wants her to work with them. I couldn’t be prouder to work for her.

Bono is the lead singer of U2 and a co-founder of ONE and (RED)



Aliko Dangote

Aliko Dangote TIME 100
Illustration by Michael Hoeweler for TIME

Africa’s richest man who does good in addition to doing well

A year ago, I gave a speech in London about the fight to eradicate polio. It included a section on Nigeria, one of just three countries where the virus still circulates. The organizers told me Aliko Dangote had been invited. I thought, I’d like to see him, but he’d end polio faster by staying in Nigeria and doing the work he does every day. Fortunately, Aliko thought the same thing. He skipped my speech, and the children of Nigeria are better off for it.

Aliko is Africa’s richest man, and his business activities drive economic growth across the continent. That’s impressive, but I know him best as a leader constantly in search of ways to bridge the gap between private business and public health. It’s for that reason he helped create the Nigeria Private Sector Health Alliance. And it’s for that reason he is an advocate for agricultural research and malaria control.

All of this is in addition to Aliko’s leadership on polio and other diseases. The last time I was in Nigeria, we met with dozens of people, from government leaders to front-line health workers. After I left, Aliko followed up with them to make sure they were doing the work they said they would do. This year, Nigeria is on pace for its lowest number of polio cases ever. Aliko is a big reason why.

Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation



Several years after it halted the expansion of its operation in the country, one of the world’s leading producers of consumer goods, Unilever, has renewed its investment drive in Nigeria with an expansion strategy that is billed to inject about $150 million (N24 billion) into a new plant.
Discussions on the new investment have already commenced, and the new plant is expected to come on stream before the end of the year.
Global Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Unilever, Paul Polman, who fielded questions from journalists at the sidelines of the “University for a Night 2014” which held recently in New York City, United States of America, described Nigeria as an attractive economy with a great investment potential that is irresistible.
University for a Night brought together leaders around the world, who converged on Gotham Hall, Broadway, New York City, to share ideas and inspiration on how to work together in an effort to overcome poverty and create a more sustainable and prosperous world.
The major hallmark of the night was the presentation of the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards to Polman; Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; and Governor of the State of Para, Brazil, Simao Jatene.
According to Polman, with its impressive economic growth, a huge reservoir of human and material resources, and its recent emergence as Africa’s biggest economy, any investor who is not presently in Nigeria or making an inroad would be missing a great deal.
During his maiden visit to the country as CEO in 2010, the Unilever CEO had said although “Nigeria is not an easy environment because of the various challenges with infrastructure, etc, but what we do as a business is to identify where we are and what we can do to make it better”.
Giving more insight into the planned $150 million investment for the new plant, he said discussions had progressed speedily with top Nigerian officials, including Okonjo-Iweala.
Commenting on Okonjo-Iweala, a co-honouree of the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards, Polman described the minister as highly deserving of the award, saying that she is a highly respected, passionate professional and global figure, with great leadership qualities who is desirous of impacting positively on the lives of people, especially the poor.
Having worked together with her at different global fora, Polman said he could attest to the minister’s passion to work for a better world, adding that Nigeria was fortunate to have a consummate technocrat, achiever and humanist like the minister.
In her remarks before presenting the award, the Chair of David Rockefeller Foundation, Peggy Dulany, said the choice of Okonjo-Iweala was deserving, having followed her track record and efforts to touch the lives of the poor both at the global level and presently in Nigeria where she initiated specific intervention programmes to tackle poverty and create jobs.
Dulany, who is the great, great granddaughter of the famous American billionaire philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller, said deciding on the awardees was not an easy task as those who eventually emerged were people with proven track record in tackling poverty.
The foundation supports initiatives in more than 30 countries and regions. It has staff and representatives in Africa, Europe, Middle East and Latin America.
Reacting to the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership award, Okonjo-Iweala, who said she was humbled by the conferment, noted that she was dedicating it to Nigeria, just as her co-awardee, Polman dedicated his to Unilever.
The minister noted that although Nigeria had recorded impressive economic growth, it was faced with some challenges, including a high rate of unemployment, poverty and high income disparities, which she said the President Goodluck Jonathan administration is addressing through various initiatives, including the Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN), Graduate Internship Programme (GIP), and the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme ((SURE-P), among others.
On how she felt about the award, the minister said: “Well, it means a lot to me. Of course, it is a very wonderful gesture; recognition that came as a surprise and it is good to be in a company like this. So I feel very honoured, very humbled, but I am also happy for Nigeria that we have this kind of recognition.”
Commenting on the award coming immediately after the rebased gross domestic product (GDP), which catapulted Nigeria to the top spot as Africa’s largest economy, the minister said the emergence of Nigeria as the largest economy had nothing to do with it (the award).
“They had almost six months ago actually informed me I was going to get this award. The fact that Nigeria is the largest economy is a separate issue,” she said, adding that Nigeria’s new status was not in doubt as confirmed by relevant global bodies, including the World Bank.
She also expressed joy over the new investment drive by Unilever, pointing out that this would create more jobs for the youths and stimulate growth.


There is an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit right now with a young Nigerian who has left the country.  If anyone is curious to read more about what he thinks life is like in Northern Nigeria, I highly recommend asking some questions.


Letter from Africa: Doing business in Nigeria


People reading newspapers in Nigeria - 2010

In our series of letters from African journalists, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani considers how to do business in Nigeria.

While travelling from Lagos to Abuja in 2011, a Nigerian “big man” who sat beside me on the plane discovered by glaring at my smart phone screen that I worked on Nigeria’s Next newspaper and began to complain bitterly.

He told me that a series of stories in the publication had led him to instruct “his people” to stop giving adverts to Next.

But he had first tried to negotiate with the relevant editor.

“I didn’t ask him to kill the story,” he said. “I simply asked him to ‘manage’ it.”

Perhaps less provocative headlines, he explained, or a less stinging choice of words.

Adaobi Tricia Nwabani

I have listened to foreigners and returnees express horror over some practices regarded as completely natural here”

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

However, the editor had informed him that things worked differently at Next than other Nigerian newspapers.

For example, a completely different desk from that where a story originated has the final say on headlines and kickers.

“That’s rubbish,” the big man said to me.

Patiently, I explained the advantages of that process, how it ensured best practice in journalism.

Next’s publisher, Dele Olojede, was a Pulitzer-winning journalist who, after over 20 years’ experience abroad, returned to Nigeria with the dream of revolutionising the country’s news media, where some journalists make their pens available to the highest bidder.

Some papers are known to collect payment from individuals or organisations in exchange for publishing stories.

Next promised that every editorial decision would be based solely on the judgment of the editors.

The big man shook his head in consternation.

“You’re not a Nigerian,” he declared. “You’d better follow your boss and go back to America. Next will never survive if you people continue like this.”

Next died a few months later, after three years of battling to keep its head above water.

A similar fate awaits many of the individuals and organisations currently buying into the “Nigeria Rising” narrative and rushing to invest in what is now Africa’s largest economy.

That is, if they insist on conducting business here while adhering to alien standards.

Unscrupulous minority

Again and again, I have listened to foreigners and returnees express horror over some practices regarded as completely natural here.

Indeed, many of the practices that alarm them are so natural that few home-grown Nigerians regard them as corrupt or unethical.

They have become the norm, rather than the exception performed by an unscrupulous minority.

Sooner or later comes the landmark decision: Continue doing things like you did in the UK or US or wherever and see if you can swim against the forceful tide, or start adapting your methods to a peculiar environment.

A motorcyclist on the phone in Nigeria - 2008Mobile phone companies gave many Nigerians their first experience of quality customer service

A number of multinationals in Nigeria have suffered costly reprimands from the judiciaries in their countries of origin, for engaging in practices that can be crucial to survival in the Nigerian business climate.

Could it be time for Nigeria – and other countries of Africa – to define exactly what the term “corruption” means to our people, in our own environment?

In 2001, mobile phone technology was launched in Nigeria.

“Start Quote

Even an announcement to board your flight at the airport sometimes sounded like a summons to the parade ground”

Foreign telecommunications companies landed and set up shop.

For the first time in the country’s history of barely-existing land phone services, the average Nigerian would be able to own a telephone.

He would no longer travel hours to visit a friend, only to hear that the person had left for a month-long trip just five minutes earlier.

He would not have to join an unending queue at a “business centre”, where strangers would, when it eventually got to his turn, overhear his plea to a relative in America for a contribution towards papa’s prostate gland surgery.

The mobile phone companies introduced something else that was uncommon in Nigeria: Quality customer service.

Decades of military rule had acculturated Nigerians to harsh and brash communication: Decrees and edicts.

At the time, even an announcement to board your flight at the airport sometimes sounded like a summons to the parade ground.

Through the trained personnel at their call centres, however, the telecoms companies addressed customers with more dignity and respect than most Nigerians had ever experienced from service providers.

‘Never say no’

My friend, Obioma, was part of the pioneer customer services team at one of the first mobile phone firms.

A staff member at a customer service unit of online retailer in Lagos, April 2014Customer service departments are becoming more common as Nigeria gets more online retailers

She told me that the company eventually had to go against international standards of relating with customers, and stop their staff from concluding conversations with the usual: “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

It turns out that the majority of Nigerians were not used to rejecting a blank cheque.

“Start Quote

The customers would invite their nearby family and friends to the phone, in case anyone had a problem that might need sorting out”

Whenever you asked them that question, they automatically assumed that they must request something else – almost like when diners at a buffet feel compelled to keep stuffing their bellies because the tureens are not yet empty.

And so, the conversations between customer service staff and Nigerian customers never seemed to end.

Each time staff attempted to conclude by once again asking the question, another round of requests began.

Sometimes, the customers would invite their nearby family and friends to the phone, in case anyone had a problem that might need sorting out.

This particular telecoms company, for its own good and the good of Nigerians who might be desperate for available staff to pay them some attention, then initiated a change to their procedure.

Except when dealing with “premium” customers, they began concluding queries with a simple: “Thank you for calling.”

Imagine if international customer service watchdogs disparaged this company for not maintaining the standards upheld in other environments.

Sometimes, but not always, understanding local context is vital.

Nigeria – Open For Business And Full Of Opportunities

IT’S ALMOST LIKE THIS NIGERIAN BUSINESSMAN READ THE COLLECTIVE MIND OF THIS BLOG!?!? Excellent story and a business to watch out for below:

on April 16 2014 3:33 PM

Businessmen around the world are always looking for new global markets for investments. Relatively quietly, Nigeria has become an attractive market for American businesses. In fact, it’s the largest and most important market in Africa and one of the more exciting emerging markets in which to invest.

With a population of approximately 180 million (twice as large as Ethiopia, the next largest African country) and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $509 billion (30 percent larger than South Africa’s GDP, the next largest), Nigeria is one country not to be overlooked.

A new generation of entrepreneurs and leaders in Africa and, more specifically, in Nigeria, are making Africa a place for exceptional growth. With bright minds flocking to the country, the business-friendly government is ready to take the next step as direct foreign investments grow and the Nigerian economy becomes increasingly more robust. These measures are evidenced by how Nigeria has been recognized among the “Next Eleven” economies, a designation for each of the economies that have the greatest potential for becoming one of the largest economies in the 21st century, in addition to other emerging economies, such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.

With its GDP growth forecasted to be among the highest in the world over the next five years and a debt/GDP ratio under 11 percent, which is lower than that of most developed countries, Nigeria has in fact become a land of opportunity for business. Beyond multinational corporations, entrepreneurs and medium-sized business enterprises are also investing in Nigeria. By taking advantage of available opportunities; building up a thorough understanding of the business and socio-cultural environment; and increasing their familiarity with local business rules, investors have a bright future in Nigeria.

Over the past few years, the Nigerian government has emphasized economic reform, and through privatization, global businesses have created opportunities in Nigeria as a result of the government allowing private ownership of previously government-owned operations.

By making Nigeria more business-friendly, President Goodluck Jonathan has helped make the country a preferred destination for investors to do business. As a result, opportunities are abundant. Nigeria’s future continues to be bright for Nigerians as the creation of wealth escalates to new heights, and the local economy continues to prosper as foreign investment in the country grows.

Investment opportunities in Nigeria have certainly not gone unnoticed. In an interview last year, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt spoke about Nigeria being “good risk” and GE having the ability to make $10 billion from investments in Nigeria if the country got things right. In addition, foreign brands such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Porsche, Domino’s Pizza, KFC, Intercontinental Hotels and others have all entered the market within the last three years. This is just the beginning, the calm before the tsunami of investors and businesses that will likely flock to Nigeria to participate in one of the most exciting growth stories in the world today.

Danladi Verheijen, managing director of Verod Capital, is based in Nigeria

African innovation finalists named

African innovation finalists named

Why do people assume that Africa is a backwater in terms of technological capabilities when there are over 3 million cell users in Nigeria alone?  Not to mention some of the strides in terms of mobile entertainment and online education that we’ve witnessed in the past 6 months alone.  These finalists are some of the best and brightest minds around, and worth keeping tabs on if you’re looking to REALLY invest in Africa.  Story below:


The African Innovation Foundation (AIF) has named the finalists of the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) 2014.

According to AIF, the 10 African innovators have created practical solutions to some of the continent’s most intractable problems, from a domestic waste biogas system to a wafer matrix for paediatric antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment.

Chosen from almost 700 applications from 42 countries, the finalists for the IPA 2014 represent Africans’ potential to address the challenges that are unique to the continent.

The winners of the IPA 2014 will be announced at an awards ceremony on 5 May in Abuja, Nigeria, where keynote speaker Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s minister of finance, will highlight the importance of innovation to unlock Africa’s potential for sustainable development and economic growth.

The winner will receive $100 000 for the best innovation based on marketability, originality, scalability, social impact and clear business potential. A runner up will receive $25 000 for the best commercial potential and another winner will receive $25 000 as a special prize for innovation with the highest social impact. Prior to the awards ceremony, a roundtable featuring innovation experts will take place, to address the theme “A Path to Building Industrial Nation Skillsets in Africa”.

“As global leaders gather for the 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa to discuss approaches to inclusive growth and job creation, the IPA 2014 innovators demonstrate that the best way to achieve equitable economic growth for all Africans is to invest in local innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, founder of the African Innovation Foundation and the IPA.

The AIF believes that the best solutions to the challenges Africans face on a daily basis can and will come from Africans themselves, and innovation is the key. The IPA selection committee represents private equity investors, seed funders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, innovation catalysts and development leaders who are looking for ideas that move Africa forward. The call for applications for IPA 2015 will be announced in July.

American “Quality” Press and Nigeria

Why not is the appropriate question. Largest country and economy in Africa, but where is the coverage? Story below:

by John Campbell
April 15, 2014

Crowd gather at the scene of a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Nyayan, Abuja April 14, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)
Crowd gathers at the scene of a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Nyayan, Abuja April 14, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)


On April 15, arguably the most influential of the American print press carried the story of the horrific April 14 bombings in Abuja. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Postamong others all had stories or photographs on their front pages.

Nevertheless, the biggest story in all three continued to be Ukraine. Yet, as African hands know, Nigeria’s population–at an estimated 177 million–is far larger than that of the Russian Federation. In addition to Abuja, the Nigerian press is credibly reporting that some 200 people in the far northeast were killed last week, including students on their way to take their high school exams. From what I have seen, that story has received no American coverage. Neither has the report that suspected Boko Haram members stormed a secondary school and abducted over 100 female students studying for their exams earlier this week.

It takes horrific violence in the capital city, Abuja, to generate U.S. coverage on Nigeria. In the U.S. as in southern Nigeria, the carnage receives little to no attention–no matter how great it is–so long as it is far away in the northeast. The “Giant of Africa” and until recently Washington’s most important strategic partner in Africa and a major source of imported oil and gas, Nigeria is largely ignored by the U.S. media, beyond occasionally boosterish articles on the business pages that focus on the Lagos-Ibadan corridor and the country’s oil patch.

While the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are honorable exceptions and have previously broken stories of gross human rights violations by the government security forces U.S. media inattention to Nigeria seems short-sighted and unwise.

Hello Nollywood: how Nigeria became Africa’s biggest economy overnight Nigeria’s GDP has been revised up by 89%. Here are five things this tells us about the finances of Africa’s most populous nation


Nigeria is now officially Africa’s biggest economy. Its GDP was revised up to £307bn this week, after economists re-adjusted the way they calculate the figures for more than 24 years. Most other countries go through this process (known as “rebasing”) every five years.

The new number now incorporates the revenues from Nigeria’s newest business sectors, including its booming film, music, telecoms and e-commerce industries, which had been previously been overlooked for more than two decades.

In view of this, here are five things you might not know about the newly recognised elements of Nigeria’s economy:

1. The movie industry, known as Nollywood, produces more films a year than any other country except India. In 2006, when the last comprehensive data was collected by Unesco, Bollywood released 1,091 major feature films, Nollywood 872, and their namesake, America’s Hollywood, trailed with 485. If you include the smaller, lower budget films Nigeria’s rises to more than 2,500 movies per year. Motion pictures, sound recording and music production are collectively now worth billions of pounds, and constitute 1.4% of the country’s £307bn GDP, according to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics.

Unesco has attributed much of Nollywood’s success to the fact that it relies on low-budget productions (usually under £20,000) which are released on video CDs, a cheaper alternative to DVDs, and are usually sold for about a dollar each. The 2006 study estimated that 99% of screenings were in informal settings, such as people’s homes rather than cinemas. Yet piracy is a huge problem for filmmakers, with an estimated five to 10 illegal discs circulated for every genuine one.

2. Only 20 years ago, Nigeria had one telecoms operator and around 300,000 telephone lines. The government vastly underestimated the market in 2001, saying it expected up to 10m Nigerians would be able to afford a mobile phone. Now, there are up to 120 million mobile phone subscribers in a country of around 170m people, and dozens of providers. (However, it is not uncommon for one person to have multiple phones on different networks, in an an attempt to combat notoriously bad service). According to the new data, telecommunications and information services contribute 8.69% of the country’s GDP, and with companies engaging in aggressive smart phone marketing, this is expected to grow.

Staff of Etisalat Nigeria wait for customers during the launch of mobile number portability in Lagos, Nigeria
Staff of Etisalat Nigeria wait for customers during the launch of mobile number portability in Lagos, Nigeria. Photograph: Sunday Alamba/AP

3. Nigeria’s formal services industry has grown more than 240% compared with the last figure recorded in 1990. And just as Nollywood was an almost invisible industry in terms of official data, the country’s informal services – such as those provided by barbers, cobblers, cyber cafes, and street vendors – went under the radar until teams were dispatched in 2011 to record their contributions. Those which come under the “other services” category account for 1.68% of the country’s GDP.

4. Just over two decades ago Nigeria also had only one airline. Now it has several – with Arik Air and Dana Air being two of the most well-known. However, though “air transport” now accounts for 0.6% of GDP, this particular industry has been fraught with problems, with the country seeing a series of deadly crashes raising repeated questions over safety. In October 2005, a Bellview Airlines plane nose-dived in rural Nigeria killing 177 people, and in December that year 107 people died when a Sosoliso Flight carrying schoolchildren crashed in bad weather. In January this year Dana Air resumed flights 18 months after a crash outside Lagos killed 159 people.

Air travel has proved popular despite this, with 4.7 million air passengers travelling in 2012. A 2009 study for the World bank concluded that Nigeria’s aviation authority was “struggling to enforce quality, safety and security standards”. Harold Demuren, the director general of the aviation authority, said at the time that officials were working hard to make sure regulations were being followed.

5. Though Nigeria now boasts Africa’s largest economy, the figures have also highlighted familiar problems. Oil and gas revenues are by far the government’s main source of income although the industry is also plagued byallegations of corruption. Oil and gas contributed 14% of GDP under the new data, compared with 32% under the 1990 figures.

Though the new figures show Nigeria’s economy has grown 12.7% between 2012 and 2013, more than 60% of Nigerians still live on less than one dollar a day. “Inequality has been rising,” the finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, acknowledged when the new numbers were announced. “We have to work on building a social safety net to take care of those at the bottom of the ladder.”