By Rafiq Raji, PhD
In the week past, I was in Abuja for the annual meetings of the Cairo-based African Export-Import Bank (11-14 July.) Afreximbank was also celebrating its silver jubilee; it was established in 1993. It was a hectic four days. Even so, I still managed to do a few things outside of the meetings. To do so, I had to forego what turned out to be some good speeches or panel discussions, however. Otherwise, one would never get the time or the opportunity to do so; especially as with almost all events, the schedule is dynamic – as the presence of invited special guests are confirmed or not, for instance. Thankfully, there were more than a tad eminent personalities that graced the occasion. I wish Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo were able to attend, though. But as the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, opened the meetings, it was just as well I guess.
I was a little surprised by how relatively few participants live-tweeted the meetings. Monitoring the news and markets from my workstation in Lagos most of the time, I have found such generous tweets to be most helpful for following key international events; the IMF/World Bank meetings, for instance. Thus, I make it a point to do likewise whenever I attend one. And I did; to the extent I could. Since not everyone can attend these often exclusive events, tweets from participants tend to be much followed by those either not attending or cannot attend. I do not know if it is a deliberate refrain by Nigerian media practitioners, but there is a lot that is missed even for participants otherwise. For even if the entire event were to be filmed the entire time – as indeed this one was – and the videos readily available, it is doubtful anyone other than the video editors would have enough time to watch them all.
Ironically, people from these parts often bandy about aphorisms like “no man is an island” and so on; often to serve a selfish purpose. But the egalitarianism that is supposed to be the consequence of such a lesson is rarely put to action by most. The key question is what is the best way in media to be of service to as many people as possible in the most efficient way. Before the internet and social media, there were not that many options. Privileged journalists, analysts and the like, who hitherto were amongst the very few that could “let other people in” into these exclusive events wielded their power often to their benefit. With social media, that privilege is now available to anyone who wishes it.
Even so, I have observed a certain level of conservatism amongst some journalists from these parts. Not all of them. On the final day (14 July) of #AfreximAM18, as I sought a good position to get a good picture snap of the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, as he exited after his speech, it was the not so conservative few in the room that enabled me get a sense of what was happening inside the hall before. Why was I outside? I arrived late; deliberately. The only key event of interest to me that final day was the president’s speech. However, I thought, as is often the case in these parts, the VIP would arrive late. Mr Buhari was prompt. And in line with protocol, the doors were shut once he got inside. It was a pleasant surprise. “Nigerian time”, the deliberate tardiness of Nigerian VIPs has become such an institution that it is taken for granted. How did that come about? During the military era, and even now, secret service agents (or other security or private agents of VIPs) would survey a venue ahead of the arrival of their principals. This was done (and still is) for security reasons and social ones as well; if the event is not well-attended, the VIP might choose not to attend, for instance.
Threads for those interested
If you are interested in getting a good feel of the 4-day meetings, you could go to my Twitter handle (@DrRafiqRaji) or search these two hashtags together (“#RR #AfreximAM18”). In the thread, you will find slides from some very excellent presentations. You would certainly find the one on “Nigeria’s Trade & Investment Prospects” quite useful. Another, on the “Investment Prospects for ECOWAS under the AfCFTA”, is also quite rich. You might also want to check my live-tweets (“#RR #AdebayoAdedeji”) of the memorial symposium held in Lagos on 7 July 2018 by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in honour of their former executive secretary, Prof. Adebayo Adedeji, who died recently. If God wills, I should do a reporter’s notebook on it in due course. But now, I have articles to write. Till next time.
Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays)