AFD Radio Ep. 144 – Fr. Tony Akinwale on Nigeria’s Future

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Guest Interview by Bill: Fr. Tony Akinwale, Nigerian political philosopher and theologian of the Dominican Institute in Ibadan Nigeria. How Nigeria could become a world power very soon and what Americans should know about that country. Then: Kelley covers Guatemala’s political upheaval. Produced: September 18th, 2015.

Episode 144 (53 min):
AFD 144

Related Links

Fr. Tony Akinwale’s website
Nigeria Guardian: “The Real Name Of Corruption”, by Tony Akinwale
Nigeria Guardian: “Naming and renaming” (Public nomenclature under military rule), by Tony Akinwale
Nigeria Guardian: “A kingdom of warlords”, by Tony Akinwale
AFD by Kelley: “Guatemala has a lot to celebrate this independence day”

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August 5, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 137

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Presidential megadonors; Medicare turns 50; Nigeria asks US to close banking loopholes. People: Bill, Kelley. Produced: August 2nd, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Presidential megadonors: Like ridiculously expensive racetrack betting and equally pointless.
– Medicare just turned 50: Are Democrats pushing Big Ideas in public policy these days?
– Nigeria’s new president argues closing corruption loopholes in the West is more helpful than loans.

Episode 137 (51 min):
AFD 137

Related Links

NYT: Million-Dollar Donors in the 2016 Presidential Race
The Hill: President: ObamaCare finishes job started by Medicare, Medicaid
NASI: Medicare’s Efforts to Reduce Disparities
AFD: Buhari: Anti-corruption help better than foreign aid, for Nigeria

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Buhari: Anti-corruption help better than foreign aid, for Nigeria

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Nigeria Pulse — “Buhari: President says Nigeria doesn’t need foreign aid”:

President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the United States to help Nigeria by plugging all the loopholes that had been used by government officials to steal the country’s assets rather than help with foreign aids.

According to Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Publicity, “Buhari did not go to the US with a begging bowl. We don’t need foreign aid, he told everyone, so long as the world powers can help us plug all the loopholes that had been used to steal our assets.”

 
A novel approach, maybe; I don’t know how extensively this suggestion of substituting banking reform for development aid has been pitched before. And it’s quite correct that the West’s blind eye toward revenue embezzlement and asset theft schemes (using Western companies and finance networks) is a major scourge on African development in general:

Hundreds of Western multinational firms involved in concession trading in Africa are registered in traditional tax havens, such as the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.

Or they are associated with shell companies registered in the United Kingdom, or are directed via financial entities in Switzerland and the United States.
[…]
If the most powerful industrial countries take steps to curb tax evasion and the use of opaque holding companies by multinational resource extraction firms and by their African business partners (often in government positions) it would do much to benefit African citizens.
[…]
Court actions in France and U.S. Senate investigations have brought to light vast luxury investments held in France and the U.S. in the names of some African leaders and members of their families.

More importantly, Western governments could start to force banking institutions to implement existing “know your customer” rules. These would compel African leaders to demonstrate how they obtained their fortunes and on what basis the cash is rightly their own.

 
But I fear Buhari’s appeal is unlikely to be effective on a significant scale, given how little we’ve done against tax avoidance, accounting games, and financial network loopholes that severely hurt us too (albeit at a smaller proportion). If we won’t fix something for ourselves, the odds are sadly even lower that we will fix it anyone else — even for Africa’s largest economy.

Boko Haram brings the war to Chad

Last Monday the conflict spillover from Nigeria escalated significantly when four suicide attackers set bombs off in N’Djamena, the capital of neighboring Chad, killing at least 20 and wounding more than 100. Chad has a been a major participant — arguably the backbone — of the regional counterinsurgency against Boko Haram.

N’Djamena is, in fact, quite close to the existing warzone in northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon, but Chad’s newly large and aggressive military has previously deterred direct terrorist attacks on major targets in-country, even when it stirred hornets’ nests by getting involved beyond its borders in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations. For example, attacking Chad directly on its home turf was something not even the northern Mali insurgents attempted to do after Chad’s high-profile participation in the 2013 international military intervention in Mali, but Boko Haram doesn’t seem to have the same limits.

In the end, on the other hand, insurgents and terrorists in Mali were able to harass and attack Chadian forces enough times inside Mali itself to force their withdrawal of ground troops. So it remains to be seen whether attacking the capital, rather than Chadian forces in Nigeria, will be more effective or less. It will raise some questions about Chad’s military efficacy, I suspect, if it cannot defend the capital. If Chad continues to develop a reputation as a paper tiger — talking big in Mali and Central African Republic (or now Nigeria), but later abandoning the situation when the heat turns up — it may lose some of its U.S. and European support. That might not be the worst outcome.

Chad’s military responded to the bombing later in the week with airstrikes in Nigeria at six locations, which the Nigerian government (even under new management) insisted didn’t happen, or didn’t happen inside Nigeria’s borders. This would not be the first unilateral military action by Chad inside Nigeria against Boko Haram.

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The malnutrition paradox: Obesity and hunger crises

In China, in 2009, nearly 100 million people were obese, but around the same time (in 2008), more than 200 million were suffering from undernourishment. While the latter figure has declined since then, this data highlights a seeming paradox of modern life. Hunger and obesity can now exist in the same countries side by side – and both reach a large scale.

Today, in Nigeria, to give another example, 37% of children under 5 are stunted from undernutrition, even as 25% of women age 15-49 are overweight or obese.

In advanced economies, side-by-side obesity and undernutrition generally reflects income inequality, weak social safety nets, and poor access to high-quality nutrition instead of junk food.

In many low-income and middle-income developing nations, however, this apparent contradiction – where a country’s malnutrition challenges simultaneously include both extremes of chronic hunger and obesity – is usually experienced as part of a “nutrition transition.”

In that transition, a combination of urbanization, changes in dietary intake and a growing middle class combines to produce this phenomenon. It becomes easier for many people to obtain unhealthy foods (or suppliers find it easier to reach them), even as some areas of the country or some economic strata of the population continue struggling to access any food at all.

Eventually, this crossover phase ends, as famines become infrequent, agriculture becomes more efficient and more people cross into a stable middle class.

Op-Ed | Nigeria’s Moment

The following essay also appeared in The Globalist.

On May 29, Nigeria experienced its first peaceful transfer of power between two elected leaders from rival parties. This is cause for celebration despite Nigeria’s recent hardships.

While it might not seem like it at this moment, Nigeria could also well be on the verge of its long-awaited global economic breakout.

View of Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria, 2012. (Credit: Bryn Pinzgauer - Wikimedia)

View of Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria, 2012. (Credit: Bryn Pinzgauer – Wikimedia)

Among the world’s major economies, Nigeria is now either the 20th or 21st largest national economy in the world (depending on who’s counting).

According to an analysis by PwC released in February 2015, Nigeria is expected to climb 11 places in the rankings by the year 2050. That would mark the single greatest projected increase for any top 20 economy over that time period.

It would also put Nigeria into the top 10 economies worldwide, ahead of Germany and just behind fellow oil producer Russia.

Yes, there are still problems

It is true, of course, that security concerns and corruption could pose challenges to Nigeria’s projected growth. The past year’s government scandals and the violence of the northern insurgency were very much on the minds of voters in the recent national elections.

It is also true that among the major emerging market economies, Nigeria currently ranks as the hardest place to do business, according to the World Bank. It stands at 170th out of all 189 states ranked.

The country’s new president, former General Muhammadu Buhari, has pledged to crack down on corruption and inefficiencies as a top priority.

While, as always in Nigeria, it remains to be seen whether he puts his words into actions, Buhari has at least the advantage of having been around Nigerian power politics for a long time. He will not be cripplingly dependent on inept “advisers” as his inexperienced, neophyte predecessor was.

If the country manages to turn the corner on some of its past ghosts, then there is nothing preventing Nigeria’s dynamic rise.

Ultimately, the demographics are simply too favorable to stop Nigeria’s economic rise altogether in the coming decades.

The very good news

The country, which is sub-Saharan Africa’s 10th largest by land area, currently has 183.5 million people. While that makes Nigeria the seventh most populous nation on Earth right now, it is expected to reach the third spot – ranking behind only India and China by 2050.

Nigeria’s population is slated to increase by nearly 257 million between now and then. That market size makes it an attractive destination in itself. It is also well positioned to become Africa’s business leader, given the dynamics of its entrepreneurial class.
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April 8, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 123

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Topics: Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, Nigeria’s election outcome. People: Bill, Nate, Sasha. Produced: April 6th, 2015.

Episode 123 (42 min):
AFD 123

Discussion points:

– Why is Saudi Arabia leading a massive military intervention in Yemen?
– What is the significance of Nigeria’s peaceful democratic transfer of power between parties?

Related Links:

Al-Bab: Yemen-Saudi Arabia Relations
AFD: Nigeria: The call that changed it all

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