I once heard a Nigerian saying proudly that the strength of Nigeria is its people. That statement stuck in my mind: in fact, its 170 million (or so) people makes Nigeria the most populous African country – but what did he mean exactly? A number of things come to mind:
- the most immediate and obvious, Nigerian’s middle class is expanding: more than seven million households will be ranked as middle-class between now and 2030, according to information by Standard Bank. In fact, more than four million have been added since 2000, and the total accounts for 11% of Nigeria’s total population
- Nigerians are very entrepreneurial – precisely because the population is so large and the environment is not favorable, they know that they need to provide for themselves. Stories of Nigerian entrepreneurs illustrate this drive (including those of indigenous entrepreneurs about which I talked last week)
- not-so-obvious to the outsider, “having people” helps you make it in Nigeria – access to social resources, including higher education, depends often on kinship networks. The Igbo people refer to this as “having people”
At the end of the day, a “wealth in people” (to use an expression by Daniel Jordan Smith, an anthropologist at Brown University) helps economic activity as “kinship continues to be the most reliable and trustworthy basis for creating and navigating patron-client networks.” That’s the particular way personal networks matter in Nigeria, though they are important not only in the rest of Africa but across the world.
Any other views on why Nigeria’s strength is its people? On why this is different from in other parts of Africa or the rest of the world?