Investing in Nigeria (and Africa): The Security Question – An open paper for the consideration of African leaders and masses.
This piece was written and first published in 2002. 16 years later, the points shared herein are still very much applicable today. The appeal for a more secure and peaceful environment conducive for socio-economic development and investment remain very much relevant and quite on point.
helter, food, and clothing may be the basic necessities of life, but without security, none of these necessities could possibly be well enjoyed by those who have labored for them. As in the primitive days, a stronger person could snatch your food from you and leave you to die of hunger. He could strip you of your clothing or force you out of shelter and leave you to suffer the harshness of the elements or be killed by predators that roam the night. The existence of security therefore becomes important for the subsistence of man and society on earth. Any society that ignores this fact is simply setting itself up for failure or possible collapse.
There is a reason why countries thriving on tourism equally invest time, thought, and effort in maintaining and sustaining (or at least in creating the impression of) security and stability in the polity and environment. They know that without security tourists would not want to come around. Similarly, observers have noted that African countries that have seen consistent growth in foreign investment and stable economic progress over time have been the ones able to maintain stability in the polity and security of the environment over the relevant time under observation. It is no fluke and it just doesn’t happen. A secure stable environment just like a venture requires vision, ideas, planning, execution, maintenance, and sustenance.
Contrary to the notion in some quarters that Africa is generally torn with civil strife and poverty, Africa is generally and relatively peaceful with natural resources and manpower abounding. This is the honest fact, though many Africans continue to exhibit the need to depend on others. Seeking (begging) for foreign aides have not and will not solve the socioeconomic problems of the African continent. We cannot remain beggars in perpetuity, especially considering that some of the world’s most valuable raw materials come from Africa. Some African leaders today seem to have come to this realization and are therefore scouting for foreign investments. This would provide jobs, occupation, and the development of indigenous Africans as well as the African environment.
Incidentally, the efforts of these leaders to attract foreign investments have continued to fail. Different reasons may be given by different critics such as – political instability, corruption and unequal enrichment of individuals (particularly leaders), western media impression (or propaganda) of Africa as a disease and war-torn continent, and the list goes on. In all sincerity, some of these reasons could be conceded for some African countries but not all. Yet, a single factor seems to run through in many (not all) cases – the lack of adequate security. The security of life and property is a major determinant factor as to whether a foreign investor would allow his wealth, time, and effort to be invested in any African territory. Poor security means poor business, which further means little or no profit, and the inevitable option to withdraw any profit eventually made rather than reinvest it.
One could write a thousand thesis on the issue; you could read all the relevant materials on the subject; our leaders could conduct innumerable face-saving or image-building trips all over the world; we could expel all foreign reporters who dwell on negative reporting of our countries; we could fight for top ceremonial positions in international organizations like the UN and AU, but if we fail to address the security factor at home in our various countries, we will be far from succeeding in attracting and convincing the outside world to believe and engage in us as viable prospects in global economy, social evolution, and technological advancement.
Millions of Africans in the Diaspora yearn for home. Yet, apart from those who cannot travel because of immigration predicaments, many Africans would not venture an African trip today. True, there are those who have become so comfortable in the Diaspora (or believe that they will not survive a day in today’s Africa). Be that as it may, there are Africans who still want to go back or visit their country, but they would not because of poor security and the danger to their lives.
Presently, a few African countries have some sort of ongoing strife, but many are relatively calm except for occasional incidents. However, some stories about the breakdown of law and order coupled with recent experiences of some who recently took trips to certain African countries are hardly encouraging. One will not ‘wash the dirty linen’ of our African government personnel and authorities here. One will only say that some Africans in the Diaspora will not travel to their African home countries simply because they fear that they may lose their lives or their hard-won foreign currencies and even immigration papers not just to robbers, but to authorities who mount all sorts of checkpoints to extort the people rather than protect them. While it could be understandable why some Africans in Diaspora would not want to come home and invest in their countries, one must also acknowledge that if Africans shy away from investing in Africa, it would not be fair to expect foreigners to come down and invest in Africa.
The fact that there are suspicions of terrorist networks in some African countries could not be helpful. Exhibitions of blatant fanaticism, intolerance, and violence against one another only send public signals to investors to stay off. Which foreign investor would want to invest in a country or city where he knows he could be stoned to death or lynched for not believing in or practicing some religious tenets? Many African optimists have always encouraged Africans to go to (or visit) their countries to see how they could invest time, attention, and money in their countries. However, news of violence and regular inhuman treatment of others make it hard for one to convincingly make such argument any further. Regardless of how patriotic one wants to be or how much one wants to present the argument in such an African face-saving manner, three issues must be honestly and fearlessly raised and dealt with. (1) The seeming collapse of security in some areas. (2) The callous disregard for the dignity of human life and their properties. (3) The seeming lack or disregard for the rule of law which has led to people losing confidence in the police and the court system, which in some cases lead people to resort to violence as a means of settling disputes because they could no longer rely on the legal system to be fair, impartial, and thorough. The absence or breakdown of law and order in many cases inevitably arises from the lack of an effective non-violent mechanism for resolving conflicts.
In today’s world of the Internet and quick electronic communication, events in any society are critically observed worldwide, and the average investor is more likely to be discouraged when his preliminary observation or investigation turns up the fact that the concerned African society in which such investor is interested in, is in fact dominated by unpleasant issues as highlighted above. There was a casual survey of whether Africans would want to invest in their African country, and if not, why? The result? Many Africans would honestly want to go back to or visit their particular African country to live or invest, however, they are reluctant to do so for now until they are convinced of peace, security and political stability in the country – which they feel is needed to ensure protection for their investments and allow the growth and profit-making mechanism to manifest in the long run.
It is upon a solid foundation of relative peace and security of life and property that economic and political stability could be built to last. One looks forward to the day our leaders would make safety and security their utmost priority for their countries (not just around the leaders themselves). Employ more policemen, arm and train them better, but above all pay them well to attract more recruits and discourage bribery – there are many young men and women wasting away, yet willing and able to grab a police job anytime. It is said, ‘the idle mind is the devils workshop.’ When the youths have no jobs after their education, they easily accept an offer of a token fee to carry out violence and mayhem. It is baffling that our leaders have continued to ignore this obvious equation.
Be that as it may, all hands must be on deck towards overcoming the problem of insecurity within African countries. Leaders should lead while the masses whether at home or abroad must do their part. While there are signs of improvement in the state of security in some African countries, more could still be done to ensure consistency and continuity. The AU must be more consistent and proactive in its efforts and measures to bring about some sort of lasting peace and security across the continent, but the AU can only succeed as far as the leaders who make up the AU are sincere and committed about the resolve. A comfortable state of security (not necessarily a perfect state, for that may not be obtainable on earth) will encourage the millions of Africans abroad (in Diaspora) to find the confidence to come home and to invest in the economies of African countries. If we Africans could get to such level on our own, a lot of improvements will follow, and other observers will also be encouraged to deal with and invest in Africa, but we must lead the way. Accordingly, African societies and economies will become beneficiaries of the positive results such as more industries, more better paying jobs, good safer roads, necessary infrastructures that help the growth of other positive variables that drive and instill socio-economic progress and sustenance. With that, the continent that once led civilization will be on its feet, once again.
About The Author: Oliver O. Mbamara is a writer, poet, actor, filmmaker, & Attorney. For more on him please visit: www.OliverMbamara.com
© First published Friday, March 2, 2002 (updated March 17, 2018)
Credits: Pictures – BreakingTimes, xinhuanet