The strength of Nigeria is its people

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 countrybut 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”
    "Having people": a key to social resources
    “Having people”: a key to social resources

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?

2 thoughts on “The strength of Nigeria is its people

  1. I don’t know in depth Nigeria differences but in general I can say that one of the main qualities of African people and specifically entrepreneurs are not those ones that define what is an entrepreneur but those necessaries to overpass all difficulties they find in the way on such environment. The situation varies from country to country but in general I would say that a lack of infrastructures is impeding to develop business properly. Even in that case, Africans are able to deal with new businesses around, that could solve some of these weaknesses. Other important requirement is about having judiciary independency, independent institutions regulated by a set of laws inside a respect for human rights and social and economic rights. Finally I would add that financing entrepreneurs in Africa is difficult. There are not strong private equity funds and governments are not qualified to manage it. With this picture I could say that African people are really very different in the way they can manage businesses comparing with other more developed regions.

    1. Thanks for these insights, Jose Pedro. One of the things that amazed me while in Nigeria was their “in-spite-off” attitude for those of you with an interest, I wrote a post on this some time ago). And they have the flexibility to adapt to an environment that may change from night to day.

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