[Column] Banjo Dominic: Investing in today’s West Africa
Many West African countries are on the rise in globalization according to Wikipedia chart of 2015. Nigeria, until very recently overtaken by South Africa, had the largest GDP in Africa with a nominal value of $480.066 billion, making her the largest and the leading economy in Africa for a long time. West African countries are on the verge of shift towards a more integrated and interdependent economy by merging of distinctively separate national markets into a global marketplace. Take Dangote Group’s ongoing refinery construction project for example; the President of Togo has publicly pledged support to the project, demonstrating that economic integration is already taking its place in West Africa.
Just like Silicon Valley in the US, West African countries need more cluster businesses to unlock its diversities, which will serve as a comparative advantage for both investors and the West African economies as well. Most West African countries are tend to operate mono-economies, even though they have what it takes run a mixed and buoyant market. Nigeria for example currently suffers the consequences of this thanks to its overdependence on the oil and gas sector. Other lucrative possibilities had been ignored - agriculture, mining and even renewable energies with quite flexible trade policies that would have long since attracted investors and met with a supportive government.
A free market economy is practiced in most West African countries with little to no government interventions, with most of its economies being deregulated, giving room for entrepreneurs and investors to get creative in their business ideas. Take the Aviation Sector for example. Arik Airline was founded by Michael Arumemi-Ikhide. He started the company as a local airline, but as a luxurious local airline. Soon it became a favorite of customers seeking sophistication, comfort and safety and this produced a very healthy competition amongst other airlines. Arik Air was born when Nigeria’s Aviation ministry needed it the most and today the ‘local airline’ flies several international routes.
This is how innovation, creativity and competitiveness can push West Africa to the limits it needs to progress. Unlocking potentials of developing economies is not an overnight process, but the race has long begun.
Written by Banjo Alonge Dominic