Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hopes for Nigeria

I have very often the occasion to meet or talk with professionals from Nigeria and I am always impressed about the coherent opinions, the knowledge and the enthusiasm when it comes to the future of the country - both political, social and economic. More than in any other African country, the young generation is ready to make themselves a future in the country.

However, for the cautious European investors, there are thousands of reasons to be very careful, at least for the moment. There are a lot of changes underway nowadays and the overall climate improved significantly since 1999, but the safety risks continue to be high, for both locals and foreigners. The transportation within the country is complicated and dangerous as the costs for building roads are high and the temptation for corrupt officials is high (see various cases in Central and Eastern Europe for understanding how tempting is this honey trap for anyone in an official position). One may not receive nowadays as many Nigerian scam letters but the banking system is still fragile and the accusations of corruption went to another new and sophisticated level

The country is very rich in raw resources - gold and coal as well as oil -, that can be purchased at a very cheap price, but without infrastructure most exchanges are diminished. There are many Western companies aiming to build port facilities and to help the local flight operators to improve the technical training of those working in the airports across the counrty (Lufthansa among others) but their activities are quite limited for the same reasons listed above. One of the most successful domain by far is represented by the telecom industry, with an impressive potential in various other industries. The energy sector is a good opportunity for European companies to invest their money and transfer their knowledge, but the further plans depend at a great extent to the political stability and the transparent governance. 

As many other African countries, Nigeria has its own potential for hope and prosperity. Compared with the former transition countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the African countries do not have the chance of getting substantial support for reaching faster the average criteria of EU and NATO membership - not a guarantee for becoming accomplished democracies anyway. It may be a potential though for becoming the owners of their own reforms and fully aware of the importance of democratic processes. It may take longer but it is possible to have a dramatic separation from the past. Being the own author of your history is not easy at all.  

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