Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dragon's Den Nigeria

Not having watched much British telly in the past few years, I didn't realise that the Dragon's Den reality tv show currently on Nigerian TV (AIT) is modelled on a British original. Neither did I realise that Levi Roots' Reggae Reggae Sauce was backed by the Dragons.

The Nigerian version is a mild diversion, except for the fact that - on the basis of only watching one episode admittedly - the entrepreneurs' ideas were uniformly unimaginative and not thought through. One guy came up with the idea of doctors available over the phone via call centre (to discuss your problems with mind you - not to visit). Another team wanted to put electricians in uniforms on 24 hour standby with some spare kit in a van. Yet another guy wanted to sell 'Pure Water' in plastic cups (rather than the plastic sachets), tripling the price in the process. All of them poorly conceived ideas. No wonder the Dragons were not interested in backing a single one of them.

Its hard not to associate the lack of creative entrepreneurship in Nigeria with the lack of connections back to a creative historical culture and to the current standards of education available to the masses of young Nigerians - and the lack of a culture of reading fiction and inspiring young minds while at school..

The philistines have taken over the asylum.


Anonymous,  3:12 pm  

Dragons Den was started in America

Anonymous,  3:31 pm  

Its hard not to associate the lack of creative entrepreneurship in Nigeria with the lack of connections back to a creative historical culture

I don't think so. You're yoking two divergent problems together.

The lack of creative entrepreneurship is due to insufficient practice. We're new to it, really. It's a post-90s phenomenon. In about ten years, whether or not we connect back to our historical culture, the creative entrepreneurship in the country will be vastly improved.

Jaycee 3:33 pm  

I dislike the fact that in Nigerian schools, there is no recollection or teachings of a historical rich culture. Children do not even know the names of leaders who have improved the Country, or maybe we just lack them.

One of my friends told me he learnt of the Biafran war when he came to the United States to further his education. Such a shame!

Yes, we really need to imbibe a reading culture to inspire young minds at school...(e.g in the U.S most high schools give assignments to all grade levels, in which a classic book must be read in the summer...) I'm a part-time tutor, so I am justified in doing such comparison between both Countries...

maitumbi,  4:02 pm  

I actually fancy the pure water idea. With some tweaking, it might just be the next money maker.

Toks- Boy 4:24 pm  

Jeremy -youare on the war path this week oh. Anyway I beg to differ on one point as I feel very strongly that Nigerians are inherently Entrepenurial as from an earlyage youare groomed to ultimately"do something for yourself".

Unfrotunately in recent times this has been hijacked to mean do as little as possible, steal as much as you can, screw your friends over, make friends in high places. With all this to cope with who has time for interesting or intellectual ideas? Or even school for that matter when there is so much more money to be made in contracts?

Sandrine 4:30 pm  

Hi Jeremy,

There is lack of creativity in the US too. Just look at the movies coming out, most of them are sequel, prequel or remakes. Even the new ones are rehash of the same old same old stories. Most directors are not daring anymore. The problem is a vicious circle I think. Our society is bombarding us via the media with already made and old concepts in such quantity that our brain is overloading and becomes unable to produce any original thought. Also in order to be creative one has to be used to sit down and think. Starting with the kids, society is making everyone needy of the next thing, not having anytime to concentrate and enjoy what we have. It is producing consumers not creators. When I was a kid, I used to daydream a lot. My kids are unable to do that. They need to be always doing something or they are bored. This is not fostering creativity. There is also a “surenchere” (sorry I don’t know the word in English) that prevents anyone to work on perfecting something to maybe make it viable on the market because one has to constantly move on. I still remember an interview of a woman who had won several gold medals in track several years ago and the journalist was asking her “So what is your next goal?” I was thinking “goodness, can’t she just enjoy her victories for five minutes!”
Take care.


Anonymous,  4:36 pm  

Toks boy, I agree. Jeremy is enjoying the line of fire.

I, like you, think we are entrepreneurial actually. I live in the UK and in comparison there certainly appears to be a higher proportion of 'business' runner in Nigeria. There's a stall at almost every house, a corn roaster at almost every junction driven by necessity. These are all businesses, if unrefined.

I think we have had a culture shift tho. Intellectual laziness is the Nigerian culture. Always looking to cut corners, winner takes all, businesses driven by need rather than passion. It the new culture.

Homeless 5:14 pm  

Looking back on independence day, we still cannot make up some sort of decent administration for our people. I don't think we should use the word creativity. It should be practicality and originality. We all lack it including my homeless self. We have a lot of political people but disgrace pursues us! Cursed giftless fools. Its time to pursue practicality and create originality.

Anonymous,  5:30 pm  

I don't think anyone can argue whether Nigerians are entrepreneural or not. We must be the most enterprising AFrican (ok, big generalisation, but I'll make it anyone, just our size alone is proof). However, what everyone seem to be missing is the creative aspect of the entrepreneur. Judging from the Dragons Den and also from the kind of business people are starting up in the country, there seems to be little creativity.

Jeremy, I actually can't stand you. you are so god damn smug and that snooty wife of yours.

Jeremy 5:36 pm  

Last anonymous: and you are a complete coward, hiding behind your snively anonymous mask..

However, I agree with you on your first point - I think people confuse entrepreneurship with the informal economy which thrives in Nigeria. However, eeking a living out of whatever kind of trading it is is hardly a marker for entrepreneur-ship.

Being a good entrepreneur requires you spotting a gap, offering something new (a product or a service). This is not something one notices as especially remarkable or prevalent in Nigeria. Whether it sounds smug or not, it comes down to a lack of imagination...

Anonymous,  6:24 pm  

Nigerians know how to survive, but are not as entrepreneurial as we ought to be. A combination of our previously rigid, but now shambolic education system and, our culture that encourages being superficial, allows for very little creativity or true innovation. This is reflected in almost all aspects of our society, nobody questions anything, most people are intellectually lazy. Listen to our politicians and civil servants. There is no depth or substance to policy making or decision making.
Business needs power and infrastructure. Is there a plan? Can someone articulate it? Who is responsible for implementation? All we get is bland meaningless statements. What we do have is a bunch of lucky individuals in business, and so long as the rent-seekers are being fed and watered, real entrepreneurs will not have a chance. Yes, the occasional one will emerge, but he/she will eventually join the "big-boys" to rip people off. All you need to do is to carefully examine the banking and insurance sector, then the stock exchange racket...are we entrepreneurs? No! We are opportunists in a country, where the rule of law no longer applies....take what you can whilst you can. If you can, leave, go elsewhere, where the rule of law applies and then you can be a true entrepreneur.

aronke,  6:37 pm  

Lack of imagination, intellectual laziness, lack of professional ethics and terribly misplaced arrogance.

How can you even think of appearing on national or international television without ensuring that your idea has been well thought out? How can you even APPLY without ensuring that you've spoken to people who can ask hard questions that will make you think, think and re-think your idea? Most of these ideas could actually be diamonds in the rough or wetin call, needing only a bit of polishing here and there.

I despair of this young generation i tell you, they are so devoid of thought, no be lie, no be curse. And the arrogance that comes with these dull minds is shocking and if it wasn't so pathetic, it would be laughable!

Anonymous,  6:44 pm  

psst! Has anyone heard about the new (and i'm sure improved) Rodeo Drive, buj style? Maybe even complete with a Nollywood sign?? And here we are talking about intellectual laziness, lack of imagination and original thought in the youth!

Cheetarah 7:17 pm  

I dont think the Nigerian one differs from the UK, the UK sees a pack of useless ideas too but they only show a fraction to enhance viewing. Creativity isnt lacking at all, its how to realize it and how to encourage the really creative ones to participate in such reality shows, not for the sake of ratings. I work with alot of people with great ideas who dont know how to present them or even put them across, thats summink to look into.

Everytime i see a bottle of reggae sauce im so proud of Levi roots coz i watched the episode,he didnt get the backing because it was a great idea, lets face it hot sauce?!! No, it was because of the passion he had for his poduct and the belief.

I dont know about the comment pertaining lack of cultural history in schools(this isnt an attack but just my observation), I grew in Nigeria and I learnt about the biafran war in government and i can write a book about it, those who did history had an earful of our culture. I also personaly know nigerians who choose to study american history. There is a magazine called the Drum old in Nigeria, u shd look for it, if your really interested in culture it always infort of you and ALWAYS taught.
I always take offence when our educational system isnt given credit to, Lets recognize the little good it provides, teaching our cultural heritage is one thing its good at especial at the primary and secondary level.

Naapali 7:22 pm  

Haba Jeremy! I would usually agree with you but I think your brush stroke is too broad on this one. A creative historical culture exists; the exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago (down the road from where I type this) is a prime example of that. The problem lies more in my learning about this vibrant creative culture at the Art Institute of Chicago, and not at Command Childrens School, Yaba. As another blogger more eloquently put it, with the loss of our histories we lost many stories and in the process the thread of creativity that should connect the past with the present. Certainly the blind didactic nonsense called education and the constrained, superstitious culture in which children are raised has further limited the imaginations of children. As this small sector of Nigerian society called blogville displays, a literary fictional tradition does exist in Nigeria. Does it need development and refinement, of course it does.

Anonymous,  7:37 pm  

Enterprising? Oh yes we are, just in an inverted, perverse way as some have pointed out. My 11 year old nephew wants to be an economist so he can "work for the World Bank and make big money from projects". I didn't know whether to laugh or cry especially with his mama puffing up with pride at her son's clever answer.

Jeremy 7:48 pm  

Reality check: history is not on the curriculum in Nigerian public schools. Nigerian kids (outside of Igboland) are growing up knowing nothing about the Civil War or about any other aspect of recent (or ancient) Nigerian history.

Check out the National Museum in Lagos if you have any optimism about cultural pride left in your system that you need to get rid of..

Cheetarah 8:10 pm  

Remind again which Nigerian public school you went to again? I went to one, Im 28, so I can proudly say it was taught. I know alot about Nigerian history both cultural and constitutionally.I went to a federal government secondary school dude..Check that!

If you speak of kids who attended international schools then thats a different story.

Oncemore this is not an attack, but i have to say it with all due respect...You cannot generalize like that.

I have moment too when i like OMG what the hell is wrong with Nigeria, like when i saw Ribadus demotion, I changed my mind about accepting to work in the public sector, its a thankless job with very little rewards or fruits as of now, but I will give credit where its due, Nigerian history is taught in the ciriculum of Nigerian public schools. BTW i did read 1984 as well as Animal in my Nigerian schs, and as one blogger pointed out the mere fact that you have such amazing bloggers who write like hemingway is proof that our reading culture is dead. Admitedly alot of them honed their skills and knowledge outside Nigeria but some live there and have never even travelled.

Nigeria is such an easy target for people isnt, I dont defend it blindly but sometimes it gets frustrating when i see things like this..there is good try and encourage it better still help it, Nigeria is as much as my home as your and your very 'literal' have you tot of using that skill?

Jeremy 8:13 pm  

Cheeterah - history was taken off the curriculum in the Federal Govt schools - not so long ago.

Cheetarah 8:19 pm  

Oh really?That i didnt know? but what what of government? You had the choice to choose btw the 2, History was more indept and Government covered the consititutional history. And there's a national musuem in jos..have u been,if its still there check it out.

Waffarian 9:27 pm  

Jeremy...shebi I told you to leave this battle for another day? abeg, I don tire self. All these yarns...I don't know if anything is in black and white here.

Yes, our school system is fucked up but that does not mean that people are still not able get at least an "education" whatever that may mean to you. I feel the discussion here is mostly about "arts" or the "humanities". I was a science student my entire secondary school life. I have no idea what art students learnt. As I have mentioned on this blog before, I went out of my way many times as a child to get books and I know many people that did the same.My younger brother had never left Warri until two years ago when I took him to Lagos, yet, he is what people would call, a "techie". He learnt everything he knows by himself and is the neighbourhood "repair guy". Anybody that has any computer problem, comes to him. His skills extends to building strange machineries...and believe me when I tell you that there is not much going on in Warri, compared to Lagos or Abuja. In fact,we have a bet going on that he may just study Japanese seeing he is so interested in the culture and society. There are no Japanese in Warri....just one Lebanese man that drives a volkswagen and has a...

sorry, for the digression.

The question is what happens to those people that walk miles just to read a classic? What happens to the young boy that spends hours on the drawing board? You know what happens? They have no outlets for their creativity...nothing to stimulate their young minds...its a fucking desert.

So the problem is not a lack of creative people, the problem is the fact that these people do not know where or how to go about making their ideas or dreams come true. Nigeria is not an encouraging place to be when your mind is full of so many things.....there is a big chance that the environment beats you down and you become...just like the rest. I bet all the lunatics in the asylum were once sane.

My brother just left Nigeria. He says he is bored.

Anonymous,  9:45 pm  

Waffarian, well said, I could not agree more.

yodude,  11:42 pm  

Ok ok... eveyone calm down..

I have to admit I stopped reading after 16 or so comments (lot of tension eh?)so maybe someone might have mentioned this point Im bout to make already. No more personal attacks on Jeremy ok?

I think Jeremy, it may simply be a case of safeguarding 'intellectual property' if I may call it that, than to say there is a lack of creativity. I dont even tell my friends my good ideas 'cos I dont want them stolen.

Theres nothing stopping these 'dragons' from taking one good idea and adopting it as their own much less any person watching. Anyone with a good idea will be guarding it very jealously. Thats how Nigeria is. You cant compare Nigeria and England. They are two totally different economic climates.

I watch the BBC one and those entrepreneurs are more likely to end up SMEs. In Nigeria, such would be big business. Thus it would make more sense go to a bank than go on tv. Think bout that.

(apologise for the length).

On another note, i think its time we stop reminding dude that hes not Nigerian. Im pretty sure he knows. Really. I do get tired of this gang mentality. I believe hes earned the right though to air his views. Abi?

anonymaus,  3:22 am  

Jeremy, you came out swinging with both fists on this one, like Mohammed Ali ready to deliver the knockout!!

@ To the anonymous at 6.24 pm, great post, good points.

@ Waffarian, I enjoy the way you relate facts of your surroundings to the topic of discussion, good stuff!!

It appears that society doesn't take creativity seriously this accompanied by harsh conditions on the ground doesn't encourage such an approach. An enabling environment, needs to be created where ideas that don't work, don't necessarily correlate to the expulsion of th person or persons who thought of such ideas.

Things do take time, but in a society where they want to reap the rewards yesterday rather than tomorrow, things in the short-term don't look good.

Innovation and originality, are key ingredients for the world of tomorrow, failure to
recognise that will leave the country in the weak and tottering state that it is in, always reliant on the outside, always the junior partner in interactions with the outside world.

nneoma 3:35 am  

@jeremy - " Nigerian kids (outside of Igboland) are growing up knowing nothing about the Civil War or about any other aspect of recent (or ancient) Nigerian history "

hmmm, you'd be surprised at how many Igbo young people I have come across in my travels to Igboland who do not know much about the war or Igboland's heros and icons - Achebe (yes, I have encountered easterners who are in their twenties and do not know of him), Okpara, musical legends such as Osadebe etc - and I am only referring to the more obvious Igbo "greats." I still find it disconcerting that many of Igbo extraction here in the States find that Adichie's Half a Yellow Sun is their only exposure to Biafran War history. I personally am not terribly familiar with the curriculum taught in many Nigerian schools, but from the little exposure i have had to eastern education you won't see that cultural renaissance fostered by our current crop of teachers (or the next generation of teachers for that matter).

as for the proposals mentioned, the doctor call center idea, though weakly thought through, is not far off from growing interest in "telemedicine" particularly when it comes to routine management of chronic disease (which is rising mercurially in Nigeria) or basic public health education and/or ante-natal practices.

Anonymous,  4:02 am  

I don know why this lack of a culture of reading fiction is going to be the downfall of Nigeria.
Wetin Jer, market fall press you? Not to worry , as my mama go say, business get season. We go pray for una make market come. Oh, you no believe in prayer? Okay, we go visualise am for you.

All of una wey de de quick to agree with Jeremy on everything, quick go buy book from Oga madam publisher make Oga see good thing write about Nigeria.

Catherine,  8:35 am  

Dear All,

I have worked as a consultant on and off to ministries of education all over Africa for the past 15 years, reviewing the curriculum, assessing teacher's traing and books used. Take it from me, it is the worse educational system I have seen on the continent. It never use to be like this, but it is getting worse by the day. 20 years ago, Nigeria's education and policy was cutting edge and progress. It use to be one of the best (apart from Zimbabwe of course)but now it is a mess.

The fact that history is not part of the curriculum is a constant source of worry for me. I keep arguing that even if history is not going to be part of the curriculum, there is a way in which it can inform other subject. I went to one federal government school recently and the teacher of English could hardly string a sentence together. One Igbo teacher I encounter was trying to teach Bifran history to his student even though it is not permitted. But the way he was teaching it made me wonder. It was just so personal and devoid any historical facts. It is not his fault, if there are no 'unbiased' books that can guide him.

Anyone who thinks Nigerian's education system has some merit is deluding themselves. There's a lot of money at your ministry of education, but they use it for meaningless stuff. The people who are in charge don't have a clue. It is a really shame and it really saddens me. If you meet the occassional Nigerian under 30 who is brilliant, widely read, it is not as result of the educational system, it is because of personal effort. A bad educational system without a good and strong media, means that the kind of questioning and curiosity you expect in a population is missing. I kept saying to the last minister of education and the new one that Nigeria will pay dearly for its lack of serious attention and focus in the education sector. This month is my last year of doing work in Nigeria. I can't wait. It has been one long of depression for me. So much promise and unrealised possibility.

btw, I just finished reading one of your author Jeremy, Teju Cole's book 'Every Day Is For The Thief'. It is a most beautiful book. Produced by a very agile and questioning mind no doubt. One line keeps turning over in my head: 'Why is history not contested here'. I recommend this book to all your blog readers. It is a book that brings together the question of history, imagination and creativity.

Sorry for going on too long this morning. Let me start my day now.


Anonymous,  10:56 am  


I tend to agree with you very often, but not this time. Be mindful of the "outsider opinion" of Nigeria and developing countries. Things are bad in Nigeria, but not as bad!!!

Don't forget that Dragon's den is an entertainment programme and crap sells... How many serious minded enterpreneurs would actually come on TV? Nigeria is not like the UK where everyone wants to be seen on TV. Even the banks are a NO NO for most enterpreneurs in Nigeria, so why is would the TV be a better choice? Please don't use a Tv program to generalise about the lack of creativity in Nigerians.

p.s: Who is this guy calling you names and having a dig at your wife? That is just wrong... which one is J's wife.

Aaron Rowe 11:30 am  

@Jeremy & @anonymous 3:12pm

Dragons' Den is a Japanese import to the UK. Not American. In fact there is no American version... yet. If there ever is one they want to call it 'Shark tank'

Kemikal Reactions 4:11 pm  

What I really worry is people like Catherine @ 8.35AM who claim to have "worked as a consultant on and off to ministries of education all over Africa for the past 15 years, reviewing the curriculum, assessing teacher's traing and books used..." and still cannot seem to grasp the basic rules of English grammar. Catherine is busy accusing English teachers in Nigeria of not being able to string a sentence together, yet her post is riddled with typos and grammatical errors!

Would one call that ironic? I guess I wouldn't know, since according to Catherine and some of the other talking heads on here, the Nigerian educational system is practically worthless. I do remember one adage I was taught in my poor, worthless Nigerian school though. Went something along the lines of those in glass houses not throwning stones. Now that's one lesson worth learning...

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