By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú
“Twitter is now present on the continent. Thank you Ghana and Nana Akufo-Addo”. Those were the words of the co-founder and CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, in a tweet yesterday. Within two minutes, yes two minutes, the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo tweeted: “The choice of Ghana as HQ for Twitter’s Africa operations is EXCELLENT news. Gov’t and Ghanaians welcome very much this announcement and the confidence reposed in our country”.
Why Ghana? Jack Dorsey gave insightful reasons for their choice of Ghana. The statement reads: “As a champion for democracy, Ghana is a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet, of which Twitter is also an advocate. Furthermore, Ghana’s recent appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area aligns with our overarching goal to establish a presence in the region that will support our efforts to improve and tailor our service across Africa.”
It important to note that Nana Akufo-Addo sealed the deal in a virtual meeting on April 7. It takes foresight, digital literacy and continuous interest in learning to engage in such deals. Can our president understand the nuances of cutting edge technology and its import for jobs and innovation? Can the stone age polymorph, Isa Pantami pull off a deal this juicy? Will Alhaji Lai Mohammed make any sense of the future without recourse to the consequences of free speech?
Nigerian Twitterattis were downcast on seeing Ghana trending, preening, and basking in the euphoria of their win. Their win is our loss. Nigeria is the market, Ghana is the hub. Nigeria has 25 million Twitter users, while Ghana’s combined social media presence is a measly eight million. How did that uppercut feel? Michelin left for Ghana, Dunlop left for Ghana, and many others. Soon Nigeria’s monied elite will start buying up Ghana the same way they financed Dubai, instead of fixing Nigeria. Twitter will, of course, hire many Nigerians and they will have Ghana as their base.
Twitter’s advertisement for several positions requiring deep knowledge of Nigeria’s major languages is already out there. The major benefits will go to Ghana. Businesses follow reason and facts, not emotions or wishful thinking. They exist to make money, not to feed fat cats or go to risky places. Why would smart money choose Nigeria when Ghana gives incentives such as 15-year tax holidays, free land and other policy initiatives, which would help drive their businesses? Why would Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) go to Nigeria with a rank of 131 in the ease of doing business, compared to Ghana’s rank of 118?
Religious strife ✔️
Unfavorable regulatory and legal environment ✔️
Unstable Macroeconomic policies ✔️
Why would any business choose Nigeria, the home of Boko Haram, the second deadliest terror group in the world to Ghana? When Fulani herdsmen wanted to start their murderous rampage in Ghana, it took a single policy directive for them to know Ghana is a no-go area. No good company whose best assets are its employees, would want to spend an unreasonable amount of money on life insurance and armed escorts to protect those in its employ for fear of kidnapping and outright slaughter.
How about the see-saw monetary policies, high inflation and unemployment? Only last week, Governor Godwin Obaseki lamented the printing of sixty billion naira (N60 bn) for sharing by the three tiers of government to finance the budget deficit. Are the consequences of unguarded quantitative easing lost on the government? Are they unconcerned with inflation depreciation and loss in bonds caused by their “ways and means” abracadabra?
Is a place notorious for religious hypocrisy, and ethnic strife the best place for a social media behemoth? How about our an arbitrary, knee-jerk and counterproductive regulatory environment? The whole world paid attention to Nigeria’s treatment of Uber and Gokada. They could be business school case studies on how not to stifle innovation. If Twitter were to consider Nigeria, what our folks would have demanded in bribes would have killed any enthusiasm the company may have had. Nigeria’s reputation precedes it as a prodigious and prodigal consumer, instead of a shrewd and calculating producer. From a political and economic perspective, our commitment to the rule of law is a charade and the world knows it. Same for our understanding of property, intellectual and contractual rights.
Ghana is eating our lunch and we seem incapable of defending our portion. The crises facing Nigeria are extraordinary, requiring the smartest, and most patriotic minds to tackle. We missed the mark long ago and we don’t seem to realise how big a hole we have dug ourselves in. How we respond, going forward, will set the trajectory for coming decades. Nothing can save us except well meaning reforms and restructuring. No one will take a country enmeshed in selective policies like closing southern borders, while the northern ones are open seriously. Most of West African trade pass through the Seme/Odiroko border. Nigeria should reopen all its land borders.
Playing favourites with the foreign exchange rate is not only wicked, it kills competition. Let the naira have a market-driven exchange rate and ease forex restrictions on business. Subsidies for the rich and the middle class must end, to curb luxurious consumption. This can be done by the complete floating of petroleum product prices. Efforts to fix the power sector is commendable but a lot still needs to be done.
Finally, the rent mentality has to be erased from our memory by reforming the tax system. If we pay reasonable taxes, chances are, we will demand accountability and responsibility. We will be able to reject a system of collecting taxes in Lagos to fund projects in Yobe State. Let each State eat, what it kills. It will be painful at the first but the pain can be assuaged by direct cash transfers to the vulnerable and poor. By all indicators, Ghana is leading. Will Nigeria fold its arms?