Bring Back Our Girls: Brand Nigeria & Boko Haram
BY HUME JOHNSON
This week the World Economic Forum on Africa takes place in Abuja, Nigeria. This is an important moment for Nigeria. Economic stakeholders know that Nigeria has tremendous global economic value, and needs to take advantage of its current equity to attract investment and take care of its poor. Yet, these discussions are being overshadowed by the actions of the Nigerian Islamist terror group, Boko Haram, which in recent weeks – not only kidnapped some 200 schoolgirls ages 15-18, but also brought Nigeria negative international media attention and scrutiny.
The alleged failings of the Nigerian Government to locate the school girls has led to massive protests by the mothers of the kidnapped girls, Nigerian women and numerous women’s groups around the world. They accuse the Government of not doing enough to find their daughters. Under the banner #BringBackOurGirls – the hashtag for which has trended on social media such as Twitter – they are screaming for attention from the world community, and exposing the weaknesses in Nigerian security landscape. This situation has been exacerbated by the arrest of two of the protest leaders, on the instruction of Nigeria’s First Lady, Patience Jonathan.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy. Economic confidence in Nigeria has been shattered by this incident, as other actions by rebel groups including bob attacks. This gets in the way of the possibilities for economic progress for Nigeria. World economic forum on Africa is a profound opportunity for growth and investment. Like many developed countries, Nigeria has areas where there is tremendous poverty especially in the region controlled by rebel groups such as Boko Haram. Nigerian commentators agree that Government policy to develop these areas is crucial. This includes improved political leadership, a political culture focused on thinking of the quality of life of its people.
Nation brand experts suggest that each nation improve its global reputation in order to attract economic growth, investment and wealth. Nigeria itself has enormous factor endowments – oil and gas are merely two – that can create what economists create ‘global value change’. On Nigeria’s economic brand potential, one economist Papatome, remarks that ‘Business strive when institutions are strong’, suggesting that Nigerian civil society can help to build up Nigerian institutions so as to enable markets to strive so that they can help reduce poverty and create jobs.
The actions of terror groups however serve to stall long term commitment in areas and regions known to pose security concerns. Terrorism and crime makes an area less attractive to investment. The potential to improve the lives of people living in extreme poverty becomes stalled as well.
Other developing nations facing similar issues with armed groups and criminal gangs would be wise to take stock of these realities, and how they impact their country’s brand image.