The Giant of Africa

Hello again, readers! I hope that you all enjoyed and were informed by my post back in January about Kosovo, the birthplace of one of my favorite musicians (Dua Lipa). I’m ready to put on my “Political analyst” hat again, and am excited to shift focus from Europe to Africa. Let’s go from very small (Kosovo) to pretty big—in this post, I’ll be profiling Nigeria, a country near the Sahara and is in the sphere of influence of Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger, and more. Nigeria is part of MINT—the up-and-coming version of BRICS (an acronym for Britain, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, which are all countries at roughly the same developmental stage in their economies and such). MINT stands for Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey, the next four countries that are promising. In this post, I also hope to explain why many think Nigeria is set to be Africa’s only global superpower by perhaps as early as 2050.

Nigeria, like some other modern-day African countries, was colonized by the British in the 19th century. It finally gained independence in 1960 and is now known for many landmarks. Its predominant source of income is oil. Its foremost trading partners are the US (which buys two-fifths of Nigeria’s crude oil) and the UK. You could say that Nigeria is an oil giant.

It’s also the Giant of Africa, because it has a giant population and an equally large economy. Currently, 20% of Africans are Nigerian, and Nigerians account for 3 whole percent of the world’s 7 billion people. Right now, a little less than 200 million people live in Nigeria, but give it 20 years—Nigeria is projecting to house over 400 million people; if you’re doing the math, that’s double the amount! It’s widely agreed upon that Nigeria is the richest country in Africa, but it’s still ranked as a middle income country. In 2017, it raked in almost 376 billion US dollars in revenue. Holy GDP, that’s large, you’re probably thinking. While it’s definitely one of the better-to-do countries in Africa, the average Nigerian has an annual income of maybe $2,500 US dollars, if we’re rounding up.

This brings us to a problem. A growing economy is great for a country, but a growing population is less so. India is dealing with a major issue now: how to use the world’s fastest growing economy to provide for the world’s fastest growing population (over 1.1 billion people and counting). Soon Nigeria will face the same struggle. More people can generate more revenue, but the flip side is that natural resources will be stretched thinner to provide basic human rights for all. Nigeria’s farmland is already being strained. On top of that, more people means more of everybody’s favorite issue: healthcare! The HIV epidemic is unfortunately alive and well in Nigeria, which has the second-highest number of afflicted people in the world with around 3 million. The country also has a problem with electricity, and faces a number of blackouts that would seem abnormal to people in the US. At Fashion Week in the capital, Lagos, last year, makeup artists had to do their work by the light of their phones’ flashlights after the power went out.

Nigeria’s money is also of late being diverted more to the military, all in an effort to fight afflictions like the Boko Haram. The Boko Haram is a terrorist group active in West Africa in countries such as Niger, Nigeria, and Chad. You’ve probably heard of the Chibok kidnapping, where hundreds of girls in the far northeastern corner of Nigeria were kidnapped and held prisoner in 2014. The Boko Haram were responsible for that. Now, Nigeria aims to wipe out the organization and perhaps others like it. Let’s hope that they are successful, and that the girls still being held captive will be released.

Nigeria’s efforts against corrupt politics are admirable. Its abundant natural resources—cough cough, oil—lead to low taxes, which is good, but maybe also a lack of transparency between the Senate—well, government—and people of Rome—whoops, um, Nigeria. This, as you can guess leads to corruption, which leads to less interest from foreign investors. Luckily, these anti-corruption efforts have led to more interest from many, such as American companies: General Electric (that may help with the power outages), Walmart, and Proctor and Gamble (the company that makes mouthwash and the Crest toothpaste in your bathroom). This leads to a better, more stable economy, which leads to a more stable everything, which is a wonderfully happy cycle.

The country is also definitely the leading one in its sphere of influence (sub-Saharan Africa). It was one of the founding members of the African Union, the counterpart to the more well-known EU in Europe, for starters. That’s a good sign—it means that Nigeria is open-minded and interested in preserving peace. And speaking of peace, it also funds Pax Nigeriana, a military effort that sends peacekeeping missions to other neighboring countries. So far, missions have been sent to Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire. Yay peace! And lastly but most importantly, Nigeria is ethnically diverse and culturally rich. It’s home to many indigenous peoples, such as the Igbo, Edo, and Ogoni, and is also admired for its culture. Nigerian literature, for example, includes the famous novel Things Fall Apart (does it ring a bell? Maybe from an AP English class?), which discusses colonialism in Nigeria.

The bottom line is that Nigeria = ↑ people, ↑ economy and investors, and ↑ respect from other African countries, particularly those surrounding it and on the receiving end of the peace missions. And while it has its fair share of issues, like that popular girl at school with as many friends as enemies, the country is promising, intriguing, and has a bright future. (And also . . . popularity isn’t everything, so hang in there, middle schoolers!)

Where is Dua Lipa From?

I love world history. I especially love world politics. I have loved it ever since I took a Model United Nations camp last summer, and had the opportunity to represent a country’s problems in front of a mock General Assembly. This truly gave me the chance to deeply examine where a country’s problems may stem from, be it a certain ideology, geographical issues, or the threat of an enemy. For such a complex subject, world history should frankly have a larger textbook that can contain all the different mishaps/conflicts/victories that have occurred ever since mankind realized that certain people wielding power over others was called politics.

I’d like to share with you a conflict that has occurred fairly recently. Please keep in mind that my aim is to inform, not slander. If I seem to skip over parts of history, it’s simply because I don’t know that part of the story. I will also try my best to give the most objective account of the story and do my best not to incorporate my own political biases.

Whew! Okay. Disclaimers are over. Let’s talk about Kosovo. In truth, I only first became interested in Kosovo because my favorite singer, Dua Lipa, is from there. But that’s beside the point. Kosovo has a fascinating history that I’m very excited to share with you!

Do you know where Kosovo is? You can find it on a map of Europe. But you may have to do a little searching—Europe is fairly big and Kosovo is fairly small. It’s no Vatican City or Andorra, but it could easily fit inside of, say, Austria or even Macedonia. It’s located a ways north of Greece and is surrounded by Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Montenegro.

A fairly reasonable conclusion to draw about Kosovo from this information is that it’s a country—albeit a fairly small country, but then again, aren’t most European countries? Surprise! It’s not a country. Wikipedia classifies it as a state of disputed status—a fancy term for when people can’t decide if a parcel of land is a country or not. Some countries, like the United States, argue that it is. India, among others, argues that Kosovo is not a country. Well, if it isn’t, you might be wondering, what is it then?

Close your eyes. I’m taking you back to the end of World War 1. It’s 1918 and the world is reeling in the aftermath of a brutally bloody war. Austria-Hungary has just split up, and one of the countries formed from the remnants is christened Yugoslavia. This country encompasses modern-day Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. As you can imagine, it’s a mishmash of a few different ethnicities, such as Croats (from Croatia) and Serbs (from Serbia). However, it’s important to note that Serbs weren’t the majority in Serbia but in fact the minority; most of the country was ethnic Albanian.

A country with a mishmash of different ethnicities is usually fine, but not in Yugoslavia, which eventually fractured along its ethnic lines into various countries that I’ve already mentioned before. This happened in part because of Serbia.

In the rough 1980s or 90s, a Serbian man named Slobodan Milosevic became president. For the ethnic Albanians, he was bad news. Milosevic focused on increasing Serbian nationalism and ethnic pride. Everything was fine until this nationalism turned somehow into a persecution of the majority ethnicity, the Albanians.

The Albanians pulled a Mahatma Gandhi and tried a non-violent separation, which formed the Republic of Kosova. Unfortunately, Kosova was only recognized as a country by Albania. Some of the Albanians formed the Kosovo Liberation Army, a guerrilla group whose friction with the Serbian police escalated into the Kosovo War.

The bloody war has, thankfully, since ended, but the discussion continues today. Kosovo officially stated its independence from Serbia in 2008. The argument over this statement’s legitimacy is fairly cut-and-dry: Kosovo’s and NATO’s (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies recognize Kosovo as a country, while Serbia’s allies don’t and argue it is still part of Serbia. European countries that do not recognize Kosovo include Cyprus, Romania, Spain, and Slovakia. However, Albania, Turkey, France, Denmark, and many more do. As long as a few powerful countries protest Kosovo’s independence, it can never be accepted as a Member State of the UN. But that was nearly twenty years ago; maybe a new, more peaceful generation will extend friendship on both sides.

Either way, an American map will show Kosovo as a tiny smudge on the European map. It looks so tiny that the country’s label has to be abbreviated ‘KOS’. But I think that for some Kosovars, that may be enough.