This blog is the second in my series of articles regarding Africa, examining its potential to emerge as an economic powerhouse over the next decade. The first article ( Nigeria: Africa’s Hope) drew attention to the work of the economist Jim O’Neill, who pointed towards the recent resurgence of Nigeria, and the role it might play as Africa strives to join the economic premier league.
In his radio broadcast Jim was optimistic in his outlook for both Nigeria and Africa in general. However, this rosy economic forecast came with several caveats. One issue struck a particular chord. The problem according to Jim is that whilst Nigeria has some wonderfully gifted academics, managers and professionals it simply does not have enough of them. This is an issue of talent development and management.
Organisations such as GSM have a key role to play in ensuring that the bright economic picture as painted by Jim O’Neill, has a fighting chance of becoming a reality. This is true not just of Nigeria but several other African economies equally poised for growth. Let me explain.
Baba Sheba is a key member of staff here at GSM, he is well-qualified, articulate, and clearly ambitious. He cuts a confident figure in his work as a senior lecturer and programme leader at GSM. However, in his typically modest way Baba is the first to admit that this was not always the case. Baba arrived in the UK from Nigeria in 2002 as a shy and naive teenager. He recalls on the flight from Lagos being asked by the air hostess whether he preferred red or white to drink. “I hadn’t a clue what she was talking about” he admitted rather sheepishly. Baba has come a long way since that day, and at the age of twenty upon achieving his 1st class BSc Management with IT, he had clearly set himself apart from the average student. Today he has added an MSc to his original degree and he is the programme leader for the GSM Business Management & IT and Oil & Gas courses. He has also commenced studying for his PhD. At the same time he remembers where he came from and the sacrifices he has had to make. He is a man focused on the future and a great role model for African students in particular.
Natasha Ayiku has a different but equally encouraging story; she was born in Huddersfield. At the same time she is fiercely proud of her Ghanaian roots. She is a current student at GSM studying a BSc in Events Management and radiates energy and a passion for life. I was impressed to learn that she had already had the courage to start up her own consumer products business focused on the African market. It has not been easy and despite suffering setbacks with suppliers and the type of financing challenges can that beset any start-up venture, her optimism is undiminished. She describes herself as “a woman with a plan” She comes across as extremely creative… a real cauldron of ideas and ambition. For Natasha clearly nothing is impossible.
Two individuals one a member of staff and one a student, who have very different African backgrounds, and yet each have a desire to build their knowledge and use their talents. Neither knows what the long term future may bring, be it in the UK, Africa or elsewhere. Of one thing though I am certain, if the economic development of Africa relies on talent similar to that shown by Baba and Natasha, then it has a very bright future indeed.