THE recent announcement by Jack Dorsey, the CEO of tech giant Twitter, that it will hire its first crop of staff on the African continent in Ghana has, expectedly, set the social media and concerned Nigerians abuzz and melancholic. We have lost yet another opportunity to show that our country still matters in the considerations of foreign direct investors.
The implication of Dorsey’s announcement, analysts say, is that Twitter will imminently plant its Africa headquarters in Ghana. Twitters’ decision was not a knee-jerk one. It is a product of careful consideration of factors. In 2019, Dorsey toured Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa because he was led by unfolding trends to believe that Africa “will define the future”. What Twitter is about to do is an affirmation of its belief that Ghana is among the nations that will define the future.
In taking this decision, Twitter is following a similar drift earlier taken by its peer, Facebook. In June 2015, Facebook had chosen Johannesburg, South Africa, to site its African headquarters to oversee its 120 million (then) subscribers on the continent.
The clear conclusion to be drawn from the choices made by these tech superpowers is that when it comes to decision making, high tech investors do not necessarily put population or even the size of an economy first. If they did, Nigeria would most certainly win the race as the hub of big tech in Africa. Nigeria, with about 206 million people and still retaining its first position as the largest economy in Africa, dwarfs the rest.
In terms of Facebook users on the continent, Nigeria had 31 million subscribers in 2020, compared to Ghana (7.9m); South Africa (24.6m) and Algeria (25m). Internet World Statistics reported in March 2017 that in the top ten Twitter subscriber base in Africa, Nigeria dwarfed the others with 93.5m, compared to Ghana (7.9); South Africa (28.6m) and our closest rival, Egypt (34.8m).
Twitter said its choice of Ghana was because the country supports free speech and online freedom. It also already harbours the headquarters of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, another big loss to Nigeria.
In effect, all these chances eluding our country in spite of our hype as the “giant of Africa” simply means that Nigeria’s size does not matter. What matters more is national character which is very much in deficit. Nigerian lawmakers must do away with primitive laws that abnegate the citizenry and make government to loom too large in our daily lives.
For Nigeria to recover its economic relevance in Africa, we must rediscover progressive governance. We must also ensure that basic things like power and water supply, education, health, security, infrastructure, law and order and social justice are entrenched.
We must pull back from this path of failure.