I was recently in Lagos, Nigeria for work. It is an economy in heavy transition. With attacks by militants on the oil wells, and a drop in the global price for oil, the revenues coming into the country have been severely curtailed. The economy is on the verge of a recession. With inflation soaring, families across the country struggle to make ends meet.
In this context it may be counter-intuitive to be optimistic. But I am. It’s a country where the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and is creating new businesses at the local, then national, then continent wide level. I met with some very smart people building machine-learning based big-data systems. I met with people who are building the new mobile money and mobile based enterprises of this century. This feels like a nation on the move.
Where it moves will say a lot about the future of Africa (one in four Africans is Nigerian). Because of its size, Nigeria is a driver for many of the macro trends across Africa – in agriculture, finance, industrial production, and human development. Nearly 80% of Government revenues, and almost all of the foreign currency earnings are from the export of oil. Recently the Government has made diversification of the economy a priority. Instead of exporting oil and importing almost everything else, there is now an emphasis on building local capacity, across all sectors.
So perhaps the silver lining in this downturn is that is has turned off the flow of oil funds, and forced a reckoning about the future of Nigeria’s economy. I trust that those building the new mobile-cloud solutions, that those building the new agricultural production (informed by big data), and those building the new independent power solutions will help make this transition a reality.
And, I think it’s vital for the planet. Breaking our dependence on oil has to start … well, everywhere.
Author: James Dailey, who works on mobile money systems globally.