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(By Jide Alara)

Apple and Amarula have been accepted in Nigeria and they are about to dominate local markets in their categories. The World Trade Market knows Africa, most especially Nigeria, as a swamp of dollars.    Natural and human resources are in abundance yet we keep sinking.    International brands see so many dollars in our numbers and use our own resources to grow their profits. I sure can’t blame them. If our development is void of aboriginal standards, primitive social systems or contextual components for growth and principally processed by the pace of innovations from non-traditional lands, not only are we are still slaves but still being colonised.

IS colonisation a thing in our past? I remember when Zinox Technologies introduced itself to the Nigerian market in 2001, I was anxious to lay my hands on any Zinox computer I could find; eager to pounce on any Zinox computer in every library or Internet cafe. For me, something I just couldn’t tell made me warm up to it as compared to Dell, Sony or Hewlett Packard. As an out-growing teenager, I remember this clearly. Back then, the Internet was the new craze in Nigeria and my craving to explore the World Wide Web via the computer was infinite. Also, I think more inviting was the fact that whilst on a Zinox computer, I could actually get the Naira sign than typing the traditional capital ‘n’, boy, that excited me!

Knowing more about the Zinox computer, I found out it actually didn’t have its software built by Zinox, only its hardware. I wonder if that has changed now and if not, why? Anyway more puzzling for me from this story was how and why my love for the Zinox PC after a while had to disappear. My emotiveness towards the brand suddenly disappeared without prior warnings.

As God keeps revealing myself to me, I’m beginning to get answers. At such young an age, I already had euphoria witnessing indigenous innovations; ignorant then, things of such manner always excited me and as time went by extracted much loyalty towards almost any product or service off a traditional Nigerian brand. Is this emotion still eminent?   Today, I relay my thoughts to you over a Macbook computer designed by Apple Inc. At the time of my earlier reflections, Zinox Technologies and Apple were still struggling for market share in Information Technology. Today, the latter is a worldwide household name and despite Zinox Technologies arguable local success, she’s hardly patronized globally. What parameters made Apple successful locally and internationally that couldn’t work for Zinox? Are the lapses from social systems, government, or it’s just a people thing?

I never engaged an Apple product before my decision to buy one, which I’ve been using now close to the third year. I had only heard stories of it being the ‘new thing’ and more hilarious you might say, got such testimony from someone who also wasn’t an owner herself. She only witnessed its exclusivity and persuaded me into purchasing and falling into such target audience. She was right about the product’s uniqueness and effectiveness but definitely not its cost.

What makes Apple so successful today? Is it its human resource, government or consumer? What made my love for Zinox disappear? My environment, inconsistent government policies, the consumers or irrational expertise? What determines our level of patronage, partnership or participation as Nigerians to a product or service? – Its foreign nature, western standard or overall effectiveness? During these past weeks, I’ve been frequent on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and whenever I pass by a certain Amarula billboard, something distorting always comes to mind. Amarula is cream liquor indigenous to South Africa and archrival to Ireland’s Baileys. I was introduced to the depth at which South Africa takes pride in this liquor on a trip to Pretoria in 2009. On-board South African Airlines, the in-flight bar glowed with Amarula brandings – drink covers, stickers, disposable cups and different bottle sizes. Consumption of Amarula was made readily available in different sizes with the smallest as little as an index finger. You had whatever size you wanted available on the flight at a monitored rate. So much pride was taken in the liquor as (and might still be) first choice for passengers on-board South African Airlines. Upon descent, a member of the cabin crew overheard me saying it was my first trip to South Africa and while disembarking gave me cute little bottles of Amarula and said – “Welcome to South Africa”. From Otambo International Airport, I sipped smooth Amarula till I got to Pretoria.

This irrelevant observation to some never departed from me. I felt an understanding and not for once since then entertained doubts about South Africans knowing the value of an indigenous brand. What’s indigenous as a Nigerian brand today? What’s worth taking off Arik Air or Air Nigeria these days? Using comparative examples, do we not have Ogidiga, Seaman’s Schnapps and our local rich palm wine capable enough as liquor and attractive to be introduced on major airlines? If not, what’s wrong having them formally refined by beverage experts, mixed to different flavours, and standardised to create acceptability internationally? Is it really so much rocket science?

Apple and Amarula have been accepted in Nigeria and they are about to dominate local markets in their categories. The World Trade Market knows Africa, most especially Nigeria, as a swamp of dollars.    Natural and human resources are in abundance yet we keep sinking.    International brands see so many dollars in our numbers and use our own resources to grow their profits. I sure can’t blame them. If our development is void of aboriginal standards, primitive social systems or contextual components for growth and principally processed by the pace of innovations from non-traditional lands, not only are we are still slaves but still being colonised.

Beautiful Nubia, an exceptional Nigerian musician, captures the picture to my opinion on why Nigeria’s development keeps being arrested in his song Ohun oju nri – (What eyes see). I urge you to listen to the song in full length. Here is an excerpt:

“We’re trying to fix things from the top to the ground.

But the way to solve it is from the ground upwards.

Lasting change begins at the individual level.

Everyone dips in the pot but no one replenishes.

Have you forgotten the rules?

Without love there can be no truth, justice and peace.

We must turn our backs on selfishness and greed.

Go back to our culture of community – all for one and one for all.

Not just every man to his own.

We must go back to the land.

A nation that cannot feed itself will always remain subservient to others.

We’re still slaves to material wealth.

We’re still slaves to religion.

We’re still slaves to foreign ideals.

But I’ve got a song to sing”.

The line that states – ‘a nation that cannot feed itself would always be subservient to others’ has been our story for the past 50 years. Until we feed off, live on and grow from our own intellectual ingenuity we would continue to be SLAVES! In a couple of years, Apple would have its stores lit all across Nigeria and compensation would be our university graduates working as store supervisors, administrative assistants and customer care representatives. We’ll be deceived by the stories of reduction to unemployment and to the un-rewarding truth of relegation to indigenous innovation and contextual development. As South African Breweries opens its doors in Anambra State, it would flood not only our highways with billboards but also dominate our beverage market with products.

Nigerian alcohol products threatening to capture large patronage like Ogidiga and Seaman’s Schnapps would again be relegated to the backdrop as a result of our conception of westernisation being civilisation. Fairly, these local products would still have their patronage however; it would be an influencing clientele. As usual, our orientation would permit us to embrace what is foreign over that which is primitive. An astonishing fact is that Guinness makes more money in Nigeria than it makes in its home country, Ireland. However, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State claims his aim with South African Breweries is to foster industrialisation and development. A good cause, but as usual, fuelled through a non-contextual approach. The aiming for development and industrialisation is largely believed to come only through westernisation and totally void of our traditional social systems.

Nigeria’s development is at a slow pace because it is largely subject to Western development. Visit any job online website today; Apple’s vacancies litter all over. If we don’t want to build pioneering standards, some others sound and smart enough are bound to hire us help build and sustain theirs! Civilisation is never synonymous with Westernisation. Civilisation is about understanding a group, people or society and using their native identity, what totally distinguishes or sets them apart, no matter how deeply traditional, to develop, nurture and formalise their methods of interaction and well being.

Nigeria and even Africa in its natural and human resource is capable of achieving anything without external support if only it develop the true will and character. North Korea has done this over the years. How much more glaring can it be pronounced to be understood that international brands are only here for profit? Lasting development for our country can only come from inside out or from bottom-up. The opposite would steadily keep arresting our contextual development. When will we grow contextually? When will we truly set out to build and live the Nigerian dream?

• Jide Alara, an Administration Officer writes from Lagos.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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