Royal African Society: Africa in 2013

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I spent the last three days being sick, and I was grateful that this event at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African studies was going to rescue me from myself. It also is my first event of the year! yay. Fresh air does good to the bones, even better when there’s a good place to go.

The topic of day was particularly interesting to me, as a Nigerian away from Nigeria since 2009, there’s so much talk of ‘Africa Rising’ but what does it really mean and what does 2013 look like for us. There were three speakers, Razia Khan, Head of Research, Standard Chartered bank. Patrick Smith, Editor, Africa Confidential and Komla Dumor, Journalist, BBC world services. The event was chaired by Richard Dowden, Journalist and Executive Director of the Royal African Society. I heard Komla Dumor speak at TEDxEuston so I was particularly looking forward to what he had to say.

It began with all the speakers giving an overview of things that happened on the continent in 2012, and what the biggest ‘surprise was for them’ Patrick pointed to the coup in Mali and then the death of the Malawian president. Razia mentioned the growth of domestic economies and Komla said that the biggest  thing for him, especially as a BBC journalist was that the single biggest audience dedicated to listening to BBC news is in Africa. “Ignore Africa at your peril” he quipped.

They all agreed that there was a huge disparity between the unstable political(and security) landscape and then the stability in market flow to the continent. Everyone painstakingly took the time to flesh out the different unique scenarios playing out in a number of countries, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, SA, e.t.c Given the whole ‘Africa Rising’ theme playing out.

While happy about the positive stories from Western journalism, we are not to remain jaded, but look at the issues still critical for growth in our countries. Razia says lets not confuse economic growth with development. Social risks are necessary to consider for long term growth. “It’s all very well celebrating growth but we need to peel away numbers & look at what’s happening on the streets” Komla adds. Basically, what does 12% or 40% GDP growth mean to the average person on the streets? Are jobs being created? Education? Where is the manufacturing and creation sector?

Some questions were asked around, the Africa rising meme, insecurity in Northern Nigeria, sovereign wealth funds  e.t.c They were answered swiftly and after less than 2 hours, the event was over! I talked to a few people, drank some orange juice and headed home.

It was a good evening.

Main Points For me

Nigeria is one of the four economic pillars of Africa. The others; SA, Egypt and Kenya.

Domestic economies are what really drive growth, and should be bolstered by actual creation of goods. Botswana for instance is going to start exporting cut gems! not just the mined stones. At the moment less than 5% of our GDP in Nigeria is from manufacturing.

Agricultural reforms should be a game changer in Nigeria

Nigeria could overtake South Africa’s economy in a year or two! if we can deal with Boko Haram and Infrastructure issues (NEPA being the major one)

Nigeria has some of the most brilliant and brightest minds out there, we should be more involved in creation and release our selves from the oil machine.

As a UX/Design professional, how can I add positively to this story? I will be exploring this in detail and writing as I go along.


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