Since the 1970s, the importation of second-hand clothing has been banned in Nigeria. People give different reasons for the policy. An official of Nigerian Customs told me the practice was banned because they are dirty clothes picked from the streets of Europe, something unfit for Nigerians to wear (the Ghanaian name for second-hand clothing is obroni wewu, which literally translates as “white man’s deads”); an old-time second-hand clothing trader told me that the Nigerian government wanted to punish Igbo people after the Nigerian Civil War so they banned the items in which they exclusively traded; another trader said that a Nigerian politician wanted to start a clothing factory and so decided to ban the competition; and an official at the Nigerian Ministry of Industry said that the ban was in place to protect the local textile industry.
Even before the ban, the headquarters of the second-hand clothing trade had moved to Benin (then Dahomey) and Togo. Igbo traders started importing second-hand clothing into Nigeria through Port Harcourt in the 1950s. Some of their first customers were the people of the village of Okrika – the name by which second-hand clothing has come to be known in Nigeria.
Zoë Keating performing Escape Artist. This is her website.
Today, due to the uneven application of methods and poor availability of data, any ranking of countries by GDP is misleading. The basic problem is that many countries have been using outmoded data and methods. Nigeria’s astonishing upward revision is due to the fact that, until quite recently, the authorities there were still using data and methods from 1990, and have only recently decided to update them. The new methods are capturing a whole range of fresh numbers, such as data from telecommunications (mobile phones) and the service sector. Needless to say, while we wait for the new figures, any comparison between Nigeria’s GDP and another country’s are meaningless.
In research conducted for Poor Numbers I surveyed methods and data in use in national statistical offices in Sub-Saharan Africa. For many countries no official information was obtainable. The IMF Statistics Department periodically reminds authorities to update their baseline statistics every five years (in accordance with international best practice). But within the past seven years, limited resources and data availability have meant that only seven countries (Burundi, Ghana, Malawi, Mauritius, Niger, Rwanda, and Seychelles) were able to follow suit. Of the 34 countries for which information was available, 21 reported having a base year that is within the last decade, while 13 countries have base years from the 1980s and 1990s. This means that our last reasonably accurate picture of these economies is more than a decade old. By comparison, most Western economies update their base years on an annual basis.
Yet the available figures do suggest one likely finding: Many economies in Africa today may be richer than we think. Some of them, like Nigeria, probably are. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we don’t really know for sure. The African growth and income evidence does not tell us as much as we would like to think — and for some countries it’s seriously misleading. It’s disturbing to think that, as recently as last year, we were still working under the assumption that Ghana was a poor country. Now we’ve discovered that we have to re-examine all our ideas.
For both Nigeria and Ghana, the implications are that a large amount of economic activity has gone missing since the 1990s, making it impossible to write the history of those countries based on the official statistics. Were the estimates made in the 1990s exhaustive? When did the economy grow and at what rate? What policies caused the growth?
And we have not even added the informal economic activities within and across countries. And by the way, if you see any figures for those, for obvious reasons, doubt them.
Lee Crawfurd just told me on Twitter that informal activities are captured in household consumption data. That is an excellent point, although the collection of household data – income and consumption – are problematic for different reasons. See section 29 of this UN Economic and Social Council doc on poverty and the informal sector [pdf].
Via Africa is a Country’s Top Ten African Music Videos of 2012.
A paper from the Centre for the Study of African Economies suggests that savvy Chinese companies have set up shop in Africa as a route to get their products into the US, with the added incentive of all those juicy AGOA benefits.
The logic is impeccable. Not only does an Africa platform get them duty-free access to US markets; they can also avoid punitive quotas on China’s exports, imposed under previous protectionist measures enacted by the rich world such as the Multifibre Arrangement.
And even during that whole MFA thing, Chinese companies were producing in Africa so they could export as products from African countries. Which was one of the reasons that it looked like textile industries in some African countries were doing OK. Once the MFA expired, after a few years of which China joined the WTO, there was no longer any need for them to export from Africa. I wrote about all that a couple of years ago here, touching on the AGOA bit, especially as it affected (or not) textile. An excerpt:
Before the MFA expired, the United States introduced the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), an initiative that opened up the American market to African countries. Before the expiration of the MFA, textile products were one of the fastest growing exports to the US under AGOA. However, by the time the quotas were lifted, Chinese exports [exported from China] increased rapidly and proved to be stronger competition than African companies could handle. According to a 2005 presentation made to the US-China Commission by Princeton Lyman, a former United States ambassador to Nigeria, African countries suffered from the increase in exports from the Chinese textile industry on two fronts. Cheap exports from China were undermining local textile industries. At the same time, the growth of Chinese exports to the United States was making it almost impossible for African countries to compete with China for the US market.
In 2011 total external financial commitments/investments in African Infrastructure declined to 2009 levels. Overall commitments totalled US$41.5billion – a decline of 26% compared with 2010 figures. Commitments from ICA Members declined by 56% to US$11.9billion as compared to 2010 figures.
Financial commitments by ‘other’ financiers such as Arab Funds and particularly China has witnessed a continuous increasing trend. In 2011 such ‘other’ commitments grew by 39% to US$18.1billion. and the Arab Funds have doubled their contributions, and private sector commitments have nearly recovered to pre-crisis levels.
Private finance to African infrastructure although experienced a decline as compared to 2010 figures, has remained relatively stable in porportion terms accounting for approximately 27% (US$11 billion) of total external financial commitment/investments.
My research is an account of the lives of male and female domestic workers in Lagos, Nigeria. It looks at the forms of control they experience in their daily interactions with their employers, as well as the multiple ways they respond to such control. This qualitative study involved eight months of fieldwork from November 2011 to July 2012 in Lagos, during which a total of 79 interviews were conducted.
In this research I used a snowball-sampling technique to access domestic workers.
I identified several different “snowballs” (relatives, friends, domestic workers) who were then asked to name an acquaintance who might be interested in participating in my study. Each new participant was then asked to recommend someone they knew.