Nigeria’s Path Out of Poverty: A Capital Story
I’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about how Nigeria can come out of the current pandemic. Most of which hinge on expecting a decaying cadaver to breathe life with a jolt of electricity. My brother, the best laid plans will be nullified. Before we pay for the kind of electricity that can jolt a dead body to life, let’s first understand the swamp that is draining her life in the first place. It will reveal some insights into what sustainability post survival looks like.
In other words, there is no one idea or one epiphanitic (not a real word) solution; there is no thunder-bolt-like-precision-surgery answer to decades of decay and corruption coupled with misaligned motivation against the good of the common man. Nigeria is poor by design. The power brokers of today need today to extend as-is into tomorrow to keep feeding their insatiable well, and it’s not just the government. It’s all of us feeding a swamp that continues to drown us. We are pulling passerby’s into the swamp when it needs to be drained at it’s source first. Any solution even valid ones to the pandemic induced economic, social decline will merely serve to add water to a swamp that needs to be drained.
Nigeria needs Capital
Nigeria is a land beaming with opportunities but a word of caution; when I say opportunities, I really mean pain. There are so many painful points that you could literally pick any and find yourself lauded as a genius for taking the pain away.
“The only geniuses in Nigeria are the ones who solve the capital problem first.”
In Nigeria, pain is growing at an exponential rate converse to “first-world” countries’ ease, or convenience. While thriving countries reward convenience, Nigeria rewards pain. Consider the story of Amaka, a Nigerian based in TX.
Amaka, a brilliant TX based Medical Doctor, did her research in how DNA alteration can create better resistance to common known viruses common in poverty stricken countries along the equator (tropical climate). As a Nigerian, she took her work from the US to the slum of Ajegunle to apply her findings. After getting funds to transport her equipments to Nigeria, she landed in Ajegunle, Lagos to find that she would need to spend twice the cost of the equipment she was transporting on petrol to power the DNA altering equipment.
Her TX sponsors are a pharmaceutical company that needed to establish the validity of their research on humans first in order to proceed to the next phase of the FDA accepting their medical research as sufficiently validated. This pressure led to an approval of 5 times the amount of money she asked and thus, armed her with the funds needed to carry out the research.
Amaka was overjoyed with the news and settled on GTB as her bank of choice. 2 weeks later, the funds was cleared to be disbursed. In that 2 weeks, Amaka had to pay 3 times the local cost of hotel because the locals recognized her accent and started to harass her by forcefully asking her for money or “clothes from abroad.” Apparently, everything magically increases in price when Nigerians hear foreign accents or see uncommon physical features.
In search of safety, she found Jude, a business man who claimed to run a security lodge — a new type of business where clients get accommodation, transportation and security in one gloriously expensive package. “Safety has no price”, Amaka thought, and she proceeded to pay 50% up front to Jude. She borrowed the money temporarily from one of her secondary school boyfriends Emeka — who lives in Lagos and has established himself within the mid tier of Lagos social class — the managers of the errand boys of the elite class.
Jude heard Amaka talking to Emeka. He suspected he knew who he was and decided to attempt fulfilling the contract to prevent fracas or detection.
Amaka was whisked away in a 2001 Peugeot by an old Danfo driver very conversant with Ajegunle streets. Upon arriving at her secure location, she found chained smokers at the entrance without shirts most definitely looking hungry. They saluted her and helped her carry her luggage into a tiny studio-apartment-style hotel room with barely enough bathroom space to fit the toilet bowl. Ironically, Amaka felt safe even as the mixture of weed and cigarettes smoke made her feel nauseous. She looked like a person suffering with a 2 week old insomnia by the time the project kicked off.
Amaka’s capital finally cleared — of course only after GTB charged 1/5th for VAT, clearance fee, maintenance fee, and financial integrity fee (this is the cost of keeping the funds digitally secure). Amaka thought to herself, “I needed 2/5th of what was sent for the actual medical procedure and I thought the amount sent was too much but I must say, Look at God GO!”
After two weeks and lots of delays, Amaka got her equipment to Ajegunle and began seeing patients specific to the use case of her research. She set out to help 1000 patients but only needed 100 for her research to attain statistical validity. At patient 134, one week from when she saw her first patient, a call came in from the Onile’s club. The leader of the Ajegunle association of land owner’s had a mom with chicken pox and insisted that Amaka and her crew attend to her.
Amaka quipped, “your mom doesn’t fall into the use case of my research, I don’t have the clearance to see her.” The leader was unforgiven and began frustrating her efforts. The cost of staying in her perplexing studio was about to increase after only 3 weeks, and the bank sent a reminder to her that another 0.5/5 was due at the end of the month for maintenance fee. They were very courteous in also letting her know there will be no need for VAT or digital security fees. “As a leading back, GTB prides itself in only charging security fees once not recurring.”, the email read with such eloquence.
Amaka called her base, requested additional funds, but with deep sorrow had to agree with the bases’ disapproval and instruction to immediately return to the states. Even though she wanted to help more people, they had conclusive evidence that satisfied the intent of the research. Sad, proud, and hurt, she paid off her secondary school boyfriend, said thank you and returned to base. Upon arrival, she was greeted with newspapers celebrating the incredible achievement and success of her work! This was a breakthrough and while additional processing of the data was needed, the company was bullish on the results and informed media outlets that were very happy to begin disseminating the thesis of the research.
“In a breakthrough moment, Nigeria failed to even be conducive as a cost effective guinea pig partner.”
You see, Nigeria presented a beautiful opportunity to practice on real humans with the new medical procedure being worked on but the experience of everyone involved was soured by the hidden capital cost of helping the poor folks in Ajegunle. What was a perfect win-win became a close call. Amaka returned to find out that the company had bet all it had left on a positive research outcome and literally had no additional money to send unbeknownst to her. If she had stayed back to help more patients, she more than likely would have found herself stranded with the data that needed to be shipped back for processing.
“The next research Amaka’s company did was not going to be in Nigeria.” — Amaka’s boss, CEO DNA Test on Apes Inc.
The opportunities and market in Nigeria remain untapped because the cost of doing business in Nigeria is high but not only high, it’s elusive to predict; and any sound investor first ascertains that their will be a return on investment. In a land of hidden cost, capital doesn’t exit the freeway to furnish her opportunities because capital, itself, is on a journey to growth. This creates a flywheel that essentially serves to depress investments in opportunities so glaring.
“Each cycle widening the amount of money needed to solve even more basic problems.”
In the next episode of Nigeria’s Path Out of Poverty, I will cover her need for citizens’ corporate personal sacrifice.