30 December 2011

Nigeria: Africapitalism


Since he took a bow from his seat as Group Managing Director of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), Mr. Tony Elumelu has continued to appear in the media as an undying phoenix.

His postulations and interventions on public discourses remain astounding, stimulating and intriguing. Last week, while speaking at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, he asseverated a new economic viewpoint; he dubbed 'Africapitalism', ostensibly coined from the word Africa and the concept of capitalism.

The neologism, according to the chairman of Heirs Holdings, is an economic philosophy that would embody the African private sector's commitment to the economic transformation of the continent through long term investment would create economic prosperity and social wealth.

Mr. Elumelu's concerns are well-noted, but we leave the validation of his theory to scholars who would dissect its propriety and perhaps its place in the body of knowledge. We however share Elumelu's concerns about the dwindling fortunes of African entrepreneurs, especially small and medium scale ones, who ordinarily should form the bedrock of development.

In an emotional tone, he said 'nobody would develop Africa except us'. We agree and call on African leaders to embrace the virtues of being our brothers' keeper. The zero sum game in politics and exploitative tendencies in business are definitely at variance with 'Africapitalism'. Vices such as corruption, nepotism, mismanagement of resources and vindictiveness prevent the idea being propounded from working. These are some of the challenges that face young entrepreneurs when they seek loans for business start-ups.

However, more needs to be known about the components of 'Africapitalism' from the proponent and other business leaders. Is it any different from the strategic development initiative under the African Union (AU), called the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)? Or is he borrowing from the pan-Africa four calabashes where Obasanjo called for a standing conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA), which in itself was a bad imitation of the Helsinki Process put together by the European Economic Commission (ECC)? The issues dogging these initiatives are legion and we think Elumelu should know.

The questions of whether Africans have common and shared values, whether the socio-cultural milieus are similar and if the leaders are prepared for the challenges of economic transformation need be answered before we venture into 'Africapitalism'.

Elumelu has made a point of the need to harness our resources and human capital, our leaders must drive the process of ensuring collective prosperity for Africans and if capitalism is the way, why not?

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