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Akano - Nigeria Must Use ICT to Live Up to Her 'Mint' Classification

30 January, 2014
This Day

CEO of New Horizons, Mr. Tim Akano, spoke with technology editors on the concept of 'MINT' and the rating of Nigeria as the 'Next Eleven' nation. He is of the view that Nigeria must use technology to achieve the ideals of MINT, reports Emma Okonji. Except:

Can you tell us what the "MINT" concept is all about as it relates to Nigeria?

"MINT" is an acronym recently coined by a US based management firm called Fidelity but was popularised by Goldman Sachs and the world famous economist Jim O'Neill, who incidentally are the authors of 'BRICS' - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

In a word, MINT is used to describe the economies of four emerging markets: Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. The bottom line of the prediction and permutation is that these four countries hold the world economic ace for the future because they will experience unprecedented and phenomenal growth that will transform them to gigantic economic powerhouse.

They are expected to generate double digit growth, the kind we have been witnessing in China in the last ten years. Besides, while the MINT nations are expected to witness astronomical and geometric economic transformation, the other nations are expected to experience what is called 'arithmetical growth"' i.e. a session of incremental single-digit growth at best or flat growth at worse on account of the maturity of their economies via-à-vis their aged populations especially China, Japan and European countries.

In one word, whilst the likes of Canada and Italy will soon enter the "winter" of economic development, Nigeria is going to enter " the summer" of economic growth. MINT says there is "sunshine" on the horizons for Nigeria and Nigerians in a few years time.

Against this background, Nigeria is expected to join the G20 (Big Boys Club) shortly. This is why Nigeria has now been included among the countries categorized as 'Next Eleven' that will become international investment heaven or preferred destination in a short while. It should be noted that of all the countries grouped as "Next Eleven" Nigeria is the only one that is presently not a G20 member.

As a Nigerian, how will you access the new rating of Nigeria as a 'Next Eleven?

Mark you, we have over 200 countries in the world, therefore if Nigeria is projected to become a second eleven nation in a few years time, it is quite encouraging, judging from where we are currently at almost number forty according to the World Bank and Goldman Sachs GDP ranking in 2012.

Personally, I see it as good omen for all of us who sincerely believe in the beauty and future of this wonderful country called Nigeria. Now that the world has identified our country as the next-big-thing or miracle-in-the-waiting, I believe it is the right time for the elite to put on their thinking cap and genuinely discuss how to accelerate the achievement to meet the "MINT" classification.

The MINT prediction offers us a golden opportunity to have a mental cleaning about Nigeria and have a paradigm shift from negativism to positivism concerning the future of Nigeria. Probably out of frustration or ignorance or mischief or all of the above, I hear people say the treaty enacted by the British amalgamating both the Southern and Northern Protectorates expires in 2014 having been in place for 100 years. I also hear people quoting out of context the American intelligence report that says Nigeria may cease to exist beyond 2015. All these emphasis on negative things about Nigeria coming out mostly from the elites who suffer temporary political setback does not augur well for foreign investment. Without massive inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), MINT will become an illusion for Nigeria.

What are the positive trends the world see in Nigeria that Nigerians are yet to see about their country?

Four building blocks which the prospective international investors have identified that can make the "MINT" classification a reality for Nigeria in seven years are: One, huge, young, dynamic population. There is strength in number. We are the seventh most populous nation on the planet. This means availability of internal market that can drive consumption and growth. But this is not the only beauty of our population. After all, China and India both have bigger population than Nigeria.

The beauty of our population is that youths make up of 51 per cent of the population. This is one "joker" we can capitalise upon to become the thirteen wealthiest nations on the planet by 2050 as predicted by Goldman Sachs and World Bank. By then, only twelve countries (China, USA, India, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Mexico, Indonesia, UK, France, and Germany) will have bigger GDP than Nigeria. Nigeria is expected to be richer than Canada, Italy, and Turkey by 2050. So those Nigerians who are desperately looking for opportunity to dump the Nigerian green passport in favour of Canadian citizenship should think twice!

The second building block is what I call "geography advantage". Nigeria is well placed geographically speaking. In a short while its economy will overtake that of South Africa and thus become the largest economy in the African region. How Nigeria can utilise this strength is to plan to become the "African Economic Hub" in the next five years. This will open the entire African market for us to tap into- i.e. a one billion population African market which China, Japan and USA are dying to conquer presently.

We need to add value to our products not just selling raw materials and crude oil. We need two brand new modern Airports in Lagos and Abuja. Airport is the mirror through which international investors see and assess a nation. We cannot become a MINT nation by the current quality of our Airports; and no amount of remodeling can make those Airports attract the kind of investors that currently troop in to Dubai, Mexico, Turkey and Indonesia.

The level of economic activities among African countries presciently stands at 11 per cent. This means there is 89 per cent opportunity which Nigeria can cleverly exploit. And do not forget that Africa is now the fastest growing continent in the world. This is good news for Nigeria entrepreneurs who should be deliberately empowered by the state to go and conquer Africa, the same way US government empowered Coca -Cola 100 years ago that made it to conquer the world.

The third building block is English Language. By default English has become the "world language of commerce". When it comes to commerce, the English language will help Nigeria move faster than China, even India and some other nations.

The fourth building block is what I call "Blessings Overflow". Nigeria is naturally blessed by God with abundant arable land (no snow, no extreme heat, no hurricane, no tsunami, and no earthquake), and sundry mineral resources like gold, gas, oil, copper, salt, tin, bitumen among others. I always say that there are not more than 2 countries in the world that are more naturally endowed than Nigeria. With high-end technology we can feed the whole of Africa and Middle East with sundry food stuffs. We have all it takes to become as prosperous as America, if not more.

How can Nigeria use ICT to achieve the ' MINT' classification?

Coming to ICT, which is my 'first Love', I am of the opinion that this is even where we have the greatest competitive edge over all other MINT and "UNMINT" nations. Our youths are very aggressive, smart and hardworking. But three things must happen before they can begin to realise their full potential. One, infrastructure to train them. Internet is far too expensive in this country for them to be able to harness the power of technology. Two, the governments at different levels need to train them- massively, aggressively and strategically. Three, we need to build an African Silicon Valley. I am not interested in the small parks we have been building, because they are not what we need. Our world is "Africa" - first, then the entire universe later. Therefore if we want to achieve MINT, we should build an ICT Parks that will attract all the youths across Africa to come and use their talents in creating the next 'Microsoft, Oracle, Google, and Facebook. We have to as a nation begin to talk about 'Technology Ownership'.

We have the fastest growing telecoms industry in the world, but what percentage of the component is owned by Nigerians with regards to software and hardware. After the Snowden's revelations about NSA spying activities in the USA- every smart nation has made the issue of Technology Ownership" as a national propriety because it affects national security.

Right now from Germany to Israel, Mexico to Russia to China to Brazil among others- all of them want to own both their software and hardware. Just a few days ago China launched what is called China Operating System (COS) to power its booming smartphone business. So China is dumping Android which has become the most dominant operating system globally for smart phones. Nigeria should seriously begin to think along this line- if we are to quickly transit to a 'MINT Nation' that is safe and sustainable.

What can stop Nigeria's march towards transiting to a Mint Nation?

There are six major variables that will determine if Nigeria will transit to a MINT nation, when and how. One is education. The number one biggest stumbling block is uneducated or poorly educated youths. The whole concept of MINT and Nigeria potential miracle is based on its huge and young population. If the youths are not properly educated we cannot become a MINT nation even in the next 50 years.

Two, we need to set a new key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in the civil service. The success of any nation lies squarely on the shoulders of civil servant. There is a one-to-one relationship between the performance of a nation and the capability of its civil servants. If the people in governments across different levels are smart then we will have a smart, prosperous nation. In this regards, the quality of service delivery needs to improve significantly if we are to transit to a MINT nation.

Three, our stock exchange market is another variable the international investors are interested in. How viable, transparent, and versatile Nigerian Stock Exchange is will determine the quantum of foreign money that will flow into Nigeria.

Four is Corruption index. If corruption index is going up instead of coming down, genuine investors who believe corruption kills a nation faster than war or famine will not bring their money to Nigeria. We will be left with international wanted-rogues who are looking for a safe haven to launder their ill gotten wealth.

Finally, we need to sort out the issue of Boko Haram- if we genuinely want to build a MINT prosperous Nigeria. May be we should go and study how the United Arab Emirate (UAE) government is able to leave in peace. Christians living peacefully in a predominately Muslim dominated country. The last one is electricity. Without full 24/7 electricity supply, the ideas of MINT will remain a big mirage.

What other strategies will you recommend for the government to achieve MINT?

We need to hype Nigeria nationally and internationally. We should market our country without sounding apologetic. And we must do it deliberately, persistently and wholesale. Every successful country highlights its positive areas and downplays its shortcomings. But in Nigeria both the media and ordinary citizens need to change their attitude towards Nigeria.

Nigerians kill Nigeria everyday with their mouth in their conversation among one another and to foreigners. Until we say positive things about Nigeria every day, we will find it difficult to transit to a new MINT nation. Americans pride themselves as 'God's own country'. Chinese say every day 'beautiful China'. Indians say 'Magical India' all the time. We are a great nation of good people, and there is no reason why we should not say that 170 million times per day in our conversations within and without the shores of Nigeria.

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