Fareed Zakaria belongs to a class of public figures that needs no introduction in this increasingly smaller global village. But for those who are hiding under a rock and in caves, Fareed Zakaria is the United States television personality and newspaper columnist. Zakaria is the host of CNN worldwide programme, Fareed Zakaria GPS. Zakaria is an Indian immigrant to United States with a PH.D from Harvard University. He is astute and intelligent commentator on political economy.
Zakaria was in Nigeria on a invitation from Airte, a Nigerian based business entity to speak on the company’s so called “Night of influence”. Zakaria presentation was on Africa’s political economy with concentrated emphasis on Nigeria, the country of his host. Say anything about Fareed Zakaria but you cannot accuse him of being timid or beat around the bush, he does not hold back because he is intellectually honest and calls it the way he sees it. Zakaria does Nigeria good when he told Nigerians that time has come to embark on developing a new economy based on human capital and not on natural resources. Now he is talking about the economy of 21st century.
Zakaria without a doubt is a brilliant man and his writings are superb especially in his understanding of global political economy. But when he was accused of plagiarism, I knew that Zakaria would survive because he is real and does not suffer foolish pride. But sometimes I do pathway from his logic; for example during the United States 2012 super bowl, he mentioned most of the countries that their citizens were playing in the bowl, but for some reason he skipped Nigeria. Was it intentional or maybe I am reading too much meaning to that?
Again in one of his numerous commentaries, Zakaria was thrilled that Eurozone Central Banker Mario Draghi, who is President of Europe Central Bank was mimicking his American counterpart Ben Bernake’s monetary policy with over flowing liquidity to the credit crunch European capital market, without putting into account that such a sudden flood of liquidity may induce inflation, even double dip recession.
Well enough of the interlude, let’s return to Zakaria paper presentation in Nigeria.
In his presentation in Nigeria, Zakaria spoke with vim and intellectual clarity that he was accustomed to with these words: “There is so much human talent in Africa and in Nigeria. These talents need to be unlocked through education. It is an irony that countries experiencing high GDP growth are countries without natural resources. Look at Taiwan. What they have is typhoon… they do not have any natural resources; yet, they have managed to emerge as one of the countries with the highest GDP growth rate.”
These words are loaded because he did his home work very well on Nigeria and understood quite well that Nigeria shaky economic foundation is rooted on soft blocks of impaired vision and misappropriation of priorities. The country that was endowed with doyen human capital more than its natural resources has failed to take advantage of her human capital: invest, develop and leverage it to create wealth and uplift herself with a bigger national cake and larger GDP. Instead Nigeria has bucked down on export of crude oil and squandered its returns on depreciating materials. Zakaria reminded Nigeria what she ought to be doing, particularly in education of her masses and getting them ready and intellectually equipped to compete in the economy of 21st century.
The economy of 21st century will not be powered by natural resources rather by human capital that is sufficiently and effectively trained to create wealth and attract capital. The understanding of modern technology and its application is the bedrock of economic development in 21st century. When a nation educates her people, she has progressively lifted her people from ignorance and apathy that are antithetical to freedom and enlightenment that are needed for massive wealth creation. The investments in public and social infrastructures are major pillars of progress in the match to win the future. Construction of modern roads and bridges, provision of security infrastructure are basis for protection of life and property which in return create the conducive environment for attraction of capital and sustainable of the created wealth.
Many has called Nigeria problem an “oil curse” but Nigeria is more or less can be liken to a spoiled brat that frivolously throw away his seed money, and without planting any seed, there will be no harvest. Nigeria suppose to leverage her revenue from oil to develop her country but she chooses to party away her resources and time, due to paucity of vision, intellectual laziness and overriding corruption.
The greatest path to a country’s greatness is through education. By investing in your people, training and educating them in the jobs and technology of 21st century, a future can be won. When a country understands that creation of sustainable wealth starts by investing and developing its human resources into a marketable and superior human capital that enable creation of wealth to be leveraged and sustainable. Instead Nigeria has a distain for educating her people and making investment on her people secondary while making the exploitation of her natural resources primary. This buttressed that Nigeria has her priority upside down.
Nigerian leadership is quick to give excuse by saying that the country is a young nation and its democracy is still in the incubation, therefore Nigeria must not be compared to developed nations like USA, Japan or Germany. But take a look at South Korea, Malaysia, Tawian – these are nations that Fareed Zakaria rightly reminded Nigerians that without quantifiable natural resources these nations have become the center of action with massive wealth creation and soaring GDP. These nations without natural resources but with well developed human resources are gradually creeping into the first world with their intimidating GDPs and high export orientated economies.
What are lessons for Nigeria to learn? Nigeria must be willing to do the right thing. Build an educated work force that can compete with any part of the world. Nigeria must work on the provision of reliable energy principally electricity and petrol. With developed human resources and available natural resources, Nigeria will stand up and be counted.
Dr. Fareed Zakaria was right on the money with his counsel to Nigeria. But are they willing to listen? The continuous relying on oil export is quickly becoming outdated, and with United States about to join the league of oil exporting nations as the largest oil producer even more than Saudi Arabia, it is time for Nigeria to choose the path to a victorious future. A word is enough for a wise.
Emeka Chiakwelu, Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol. Africa Political & Economic Strategic Center (AFRIPOL) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. www.afripol.org firstname.lastname@example.org