“I sense an opportunity for Nigeria…. this is where I want to be.”
Michael Porter, Civic Centre, Lagos, 23rd July 2009.
The renowned guru of competitive strategy (and Andy-Warhol-in-a-suit-alike), Professor Michael ‘five forces’ Porter, was in Lagos today to give a presentation on Public-Private Partnerships, hosted by Business Day and sponsored by MTN.
Porter has returned to Nigeria only a few weeks after his first ever visit in April. The breakfast event was the hot ticket in town today, and at US$1,000 per seat, only for the financially achieved or life’s charmers (guess which category this blogger falls into). The Vice-President was represented by Shamsuddeen Usman, the oga of the National Planning Commission. The governors of Lagos and Edo State were there in person and the governor of Rivers State was represented. The leaders of the Lagos business community were also in full force – Atedo Peterside, Pascale Dozier, Ahmed Farouk, Bismark Rewane and blah blah.
When Gov. Fashola walked up to give his opening address, he was given a warm and sustained applause. Undoubtedly, he is a popular governor. His speech made all the right noises too, with an emphasis on building an infrastructure for an emerging megacity by embracing the can-do of the private sector. The only slightly odd thing was he stated Lagos’ population as 8 million, which is hard to believe. The commonly quoted figure is either 15 or 17 million. Also a bit odd is that he didn't mention power at all when he was discussing the need for infrastructure in Lagos.
Porter’s presentation itself made a lot of sense. He stressed the need for Nigeria to move away from a resource-trap economy towards a productive economy. There was spontaneous applause after he said the opening statement quoted above. The question of how an economy determined by the resource curse is transformed into a diversified productive economy is however all about drive, determination and realistic planning. There was sheepish self-recognising laughter when Porter talked about how an 'inheritance economy' (aka one living on the endownments of natural resources) tends to fuel dividing-the-pie squabbles and corruption. Certainly however there seems to be a good deal of seriousness brought to the table by those moving things forward. Frank Aigbogun, publisher of Business Day, is to be congratulated for making today’s event happen.