Why Imagine Nigeria?
The year 2020 started off like any other year; optimism rife in the air as people made plans for the future. Nobody envisioned the world stopping in its tracks to face the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus continued to spread, governments and people had to contend with border closures and series of lockdowns. Life, as we knew it was never the same. From social distancing to mask wearing to the constant hand sanitising to mass testing, it was clear that governments and people were playing reactive roles to a stubborn and mutating virus.
In Nigeria, the pandemic exacerbated some of the lingering issues, including poverty and insecurity. Some of the economic gains of the previous years was wiped away as unemployment grew and many people lacked the opportunity, technology and infrastructure to transition to remote working. The children were not left out of the quagmire with many cut off from receiving an education as schools shut down. For Nigeria not to be caught unawares in the future, she had to take the first step in envisioning a new reality.
The Imagine Nigeria report was conceived as part of multi-stakeholder efforts to create a desirable future for Nigeria beyond its current realities. It is a move to paint pictures of alternative futures for Nigeria and to mobilize all stakeholders to begin the process of building the desired future now, rather than letting things fall apart. The report comes from research and high-level deliberations between key representatives of Nigeria’s public, including private and public sectors as well as civil society. Led by the Imagine Nigeria High Level Panel developed the Imagine Nigeria report and the exercise received support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the federal government.
Bernice Abeku Achi
Mika’il Haruna Daya
Tolulope Olusola Adetunji
Muhammad Mubarak Abdulkarim
Albert Alexander Kure
Four Scenarios for Nigeria
Scenarios are a creative way of shining a light on the critical factors that will drive countries in one direction or the other. They don’t make predictions, nor even explore which future is most likely, but rather help decision makers think through how to better manage uncertainty and complexity, the only constants in today’s world.
The four scenarios in this study were developed in this tradition.
They include Fire On The Mountain, One Chance, Which Way Nigeria and African Giant Awake.
The scenarios explore the future of Nigeria up to 2050 under varying conditions, with a special focus on technology and governance. What happens when the world is characterised by a technology regime that is “open” (inclusive, trusted, distributed) or “closed”
(monopolies, splinternet) in conjunction with governance that is “us” (inclusive, negotiated) or “me” (insular, atomistic)?
Fire on the mountain
This scenario explores a “me-first” governance approach in a closed technology environment. It is named after the Nigerian expression ‘Fire on the mountain, but no one is running’ which denotes an extreme emergency with no apparent attempt to prevent or contain it.
Which way, Nigeria?
In this scenario the government responds well to the challenge of technology but neglects the governance issue. “Which way?” is a commonly used rhetorical question in Nigeria. It expresses a sense of exasperation at the state of affairs bearing in mind extant dilemmas and risks for the future.
In this scenario, Nigeria chooses the easy options and is seduced and hijacked by tech giants. Therefore, the name “One Chance”, a Nigerian expression that refers to the practice of being hoodwinked or tricked. Warnings are usually given to Nigerians not to enter “One Chance” when on a journey or in a business relationship.
African Giant Awake
Nigeria is often referred to as the “Giant of Africa” owing to its size. But it has been a “sleeping giant” with latent, untapped, strengths and opportunities. African Giant Awake! is a scenario of a renewed Nigeria that gets governance and leadership right while diversifying its economy.
Five recommendations for building forward
Beyond highlighting the challenges facing the country and painting alternative futures, the Imagine Nigeria Report also recommends five pillars for a transformed Nigeria:
Build a Culture of Innovation, Catalyse the Green Economy and Lead Africa as three main policy agendas. Key to implementing the ideas identified is a need for Nigeria to build trust and dynamic government. Nigeria also needs to decide on a new way forward and renew its social compact. By means of national engagement and mapping of identities and ideas, Nigerians can build a renewed social compact that will guide priorities and reflect a common vision, defining what it means to be Nigerian and creating the necessary social cohesion based on solidarity and shared interconnectedness and in the process build a grand narrative that tells the story of who we are as a people.