Often, one can read any feeling into West Africa: you may choose hope or despair or indifference, depending on what one’s desires are. The newsletter format and the contents of this first edition in that format can elicit that eerie feeling in a reader, whether residing in Ouagadougou or seated in New York benumbed by international media coverage portrayal of this region. Unrests in Nigeria over the government’s New Year message of removal of subsidy on petrol, leading to gruesome shooting and killing of protesters would fall into the latter depressing category news. It is however a serious narrative about Africa’s future. Governments argue that subsidies, especially fuel subsidy, is mortgaging future development for current consumption. The people’s argument is that their lives and livelihoods are so difficult the removing subsidy might compromise their having a future. In addition to the arguments is the insecurity generated by the social conflict it generates. With millions protesting in the streets, Nigeria was described by former US ambas-sador John Campbell as being “on the brink”, a descriptor that couldn’t be a
But in that extreme stroke of paradox, our region presents brighter stories that can eloquently tell another narrative on where the region is headed. All across the West Africa, mobile phone application developers are springing up to bring about the revolutionary concepts that will change the face of com-merce and economic activities by easing up payment options for goods and services as well as easing the process of making remittances to loved ones and other poor people in the cities’ slums. Mobile apps are the engine of the ‘mobile money’ craze that most telecoms companies and banks tout as the next big thing in their operations as they transform from the core business model of providing call services to becoming the backbone of the solution to an age-old problem in which banking is considered an elite idea. Now, as near a hundred and fifty million West Africans own mobile phones, a marked change in how they embrace formal banking institutions is about to happen. This edition talks about that.
We also serve the shining story of what the sun is doing for women’s livelihoods in Mali through solar power technologies, and the reason why Ghana and Nigeria’s reactions to fuel subsidy removal were so markedly different, indicating that public trust in government will remain a critical factor in economic growth and development in the region.
In this new format for West Africa Insight, we are taking on multiple themes in every edition from now on, representing the variegation of issues and interests engaging the region at every point in time, and which bear great opportunities for our future. The newsletter’s editorial team holds the view that West Africa is going to be better served by this entertaining and rich tapestry of subjects. Of course, more than ever before, we shall be expecting feedbacks from you, our readers from every part of world where you read us: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com are our con-tacts.
–Odoh Diego Okenyodo