from Africa in Transition

Guest Post: "Mad Men?": Business Looks Past Boko Haram, Focuses on Growth in South

May 2, 2012

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Heads of State and Government

Capital Flows

This is a guest post by Jim Sanders, a career, now retired, West Africa watcher for various federal agencies. The views expressed below are his personal views and do not reflect those of his former employers.

Just as Richard Drew’s photograph of a man falling from the World Trade Center on 9/11 became an iconic image of what writer Tom Junod has called the "almost vertiginous sensation of the ground giving way beneath our feet, along with just about everything else," a metaphor for American exceptionalism and entitlement falling back to earth, so, too, have Boko Haram’s seemingly unstoppable attacks appeared to have diminished Nigeria’s sense of exceptionalism and confidence. Yet multinationals, focusing on Nigeria’s large population and robust growth rate, rather than its poverty and internal stresses, see the country as an investment opportunity.

Chris Kay and Maram Mazen write in their article, "Strife-Torn Nigeria is an Investment Magnet," that multinationals such as Nestle, Standard Chartered bank, Siemens, and SABMiller, as well as some local Nigerian investors, "seem unfazed by Boko Haram’s violence." The authors quote an emerging market analyst with Global Evolution as saying, "from an economic perspective they [Boko Haram’s terror attacks] are negligible, since they are still isolated to the northern part of Nigeria." Whereas, according to the Nigeria office of investment adviser Monitor Group, "all the sectors that are growing fastest are in the south." The managing director of DaMina Advisors, specializing in frontier investments, says that "someday" the split between the north and the south in terms of development may cause trouble, but, "for now, it’s just one more business risk."

Financial Times editor Lionel Barber recently visited Nigeria and Ghana. During his trip, a Shell Oil Company official in Port Harcourt stated that "Shell is probably losing more oil now than during the Delta insurgency." After being asked if he was more optimistic about Nigeria now than four years ago, the Shell official explained that, "In terms of effort, yes. In terms of results on the ground, no. The scale of the problems--education, health, infrastructure--are overwhelming." "The elites of this country," he added, "need to think about posterity and not just sending their children to Harvard. They need to think about how they can contribute to this country. What we are doing now is a drop in the ocean."

Taking this warning further, former head of state and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change in the April 2011 elections, Muhammadu Buhari, said on April 21 that "there would be a revolution in Nigeria if the ruling People’s Democratic Party failed to address the social injustice ravaging the country."

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Heads of State and Government

Capital Flows

Up
Close