I have just returned from an extraordinary week in Nigeria and have come to the following conclusions;
Firstly, from a British perspective, disregard most preconceptions.
True, infrastructure and organisation leave a great deal to be desired, but the Nigerian ability to deal with adversity puts us to shame. There are many lessons we can learn from Nigeria if we are to cope with the apparent adversity created by the Spending Review.
On many an occasion I felt truly humbled. My colleagues Baba Awopetu, Akin Sawyerr and I delivered a series of presentations to audiences in both Lagos and Abuja (the capital). Many delegates had travelled extraordinary distances and made many sacrifices, just to hear us speak. They were not passive audiences either. Some of the questions posed to me demonstrated a depth of reading and intellectual rigour that left me questioning the UK education system.
I was further impressed with their respect for education, their hunger to learn, their dynamism and entrepreneurial sprit. No one I met expected a benevolent hand from the government or otherwise to support them.
In many respects the Nigerians are already ‘leap-frogging’ the UK. Everyone I met truly believed they were marketers. They all carried two or more mobile phones and seemed to be talking, texting or emailing continuously. No second or opportunity is wasted.
The working day starts early. Every morning the clatter of drills outside my hotel window started at 6:00 am sharp. Here is a culture of self-reliance, investment in personal development, endeavour and tenacity. The very qualities Britain needs.
Of course, there are safer places to visit (anyone for armed security and barbed-wire hotel protection?), but this is a culture Britain can learn so much from, particularly if we are to bounce back from recession.
Thank you to all of you I met and worked with in Nigeria. This was both a life affirming and life-changing week.