Happy Nigeria: West African Nation Has Good Attitude

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


In the last 10 years, an increasing amount of attention has been paid to the concept of national happiness. The notion was first developed in the tiny Asian Kingdom of Bhutan (, whose advocacy of ‘gross national happiness’ ( as a measure of national achievement just as important as Gross National Product (GNP), has been met with equal parts ridicule, respect and research.

Recently it has moved from being the realm of philosophers, therapists and self-help gurus to a growing academic discipline.

One country to consistently clock high results in polls and studies of national happiness is the West African nation of Nigeria. Africa’s most-populous country – and one of the continent’s economic powerhouses and fast-growers – its positive outlook has left many perplexed because it is a country of extremes of poverty and wealth.

In the World Values Survey ( Nigeria came top for happiness in 2003, followed by Mexico.

Nigerians also scored highly for optimism in a Gallup International poll of economic prospects, optimism and personal well-being for 2011, which found the largest number of optimists to be in emerging market countries like China, India and Brazil. The most pessimistic country in the survey of 64,000 people in 53 countries was the United Kingdom.

Gallup’s global polling identified the qualities of a good, productive life: a highly engaging job, spending six to seven hours a day socialising, and exercising five to six days a week.

It also found another factor: the more a person rates their country as positive, the better they feel. This was an especially important factor for the poor and people in poor countries.

In a related factor, researchers of the World Values Survey found that the desire for material goods is “a happiness suppressant.”

Nigeria takes pride in its status in these surveys: airports proudly boast on signboards about the country being “The Happiest Place in the World!”.

But how does Nigeria’s optimism square with its well-documented problems, from endemic corruption and sectarian violence to civil unrest and poverty?

In the Guardian newspaper, Bim Adewunmi tried to nail it down: “Daily life is hardly one glorious Technicolor dance sequence, but I have never lived in such a happy place – and I once lived in hippyville California. I can’t give a definite answer, but I think the joy comes from seeing and living through the worst that life can offer; it is an optimism born of hope.

“There’s a spirit of entrepreneurship – people seem bewildered if you admit a lack of ambition. Nigerians want to go places and believe – rightly or wrongly – that they can. That drive and ambition fuels their optimism; they’re working towards happiness, so they’re happy.”

Nigerian writer T. C. Ubochi made an attempt in an essay to get to grips with why Nigerians are the happiest people in the world, writing:

“I’ve come to learn to basically have hope … The best thing about living in Nigeria is the abiding knowledge and expectation of a Miracle – even if it doesn’t happen in this lifetime.” 

And despite its woes, Nigeria has many things to be positive about: a fast-growing economy that saw gross domestic product rise by 7.85 percent in 2010; a big influence in Africa and its fate; and a powerful cultural reach, from musicians like Fela Kuti to writers like Chinua Achebe, Chris Abani and Wole Soyinka, to its celebrated art. And of course oil, a blessing of wealth and a curse.

While arguments abound over what constitutes true happiness, academics are honing in on which lifestyle choices best lead to happiness and which should be avoided. It is a scientific approach akin to the one taken by the medical profession on human health.

Nigeria consistently ranks top in happiness but just middle for life satisfaction. But surveys are notorious for people’s values skewing results. In Latin America, it is better to be upbeat about life. In Asian cultures, there is no shame attached to being unhappy and collective well-being is more valued.

Shinobu Kitayama at Kyoto University in Japan and Hazel Rose Markus at Stanford University, California, told the New Scientist that an individual’s level of life satisfaction depends largely on how successfully they adhere to their particular cultural “standard”. Americans tend to value personal achievement, while Japan places greater emphasis on meeting family expectations, social responsibilities, self-discipline, cooperation and friendliness.

And single-minded pursuit of personal happiness – something that tends to lead to a high score on surveys – also comes from societies with high levels of suicide.

“There are some real downsides to individualistic cultures,” Ed Diener of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told the New Scientist. “People with mental illness are in real trouble with no extended family to watch over them.”

And a good attitude just may be the thing that gives Southern economies that extra edge in the years ahead.

Published: March 2011


1) Journal of Happiness Studies: The peer-reviewed Journal of Happiness Studies is devoted to scientific understanding of subjective well-being. Website:

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


© David South Consulting 2023



“Great economic and business reporting! Very helpful for us.” Africa Renewal, Africa Section United Nations Department of Public Information

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


Mapping to Protect Kenya’s Environment: the eMazingira Solution Development Challenges:Powerful new grassroots crowd-mapping tools have sprung up in the past few years across the global South, from Brazil’s Wikicrimes ( real-time crime mapping technology to the now famous Ushahidi ( – a non-profit company making the free and open source Ushahidi software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping – from its base in Kenya. They share some common features. All draw on the widespread use of mobile phones in the global South combined with growing access to the Internet, either through 3G mobile phone services, WiFi wireless connections, Internet centres or increasingly available broadband Internet services.

Building an Interactive Radio Network for Farmers in Nigeria Development Challenges:As solar power technology has improved, new pioneers have emerged to exploit this innovation. Several decades ago, solar power was seen as too expensive for wide-scale roll out in poor countries and communities. But today, an army of solar technology pioneers has fanned out across the world to show the new wave of innovations and how they make solar power affordable.

African Manufacturing Pioneers Proving it is Possible to Thrive Development Challenges: Africa’s paradox is that it is home to the greatest share of the world’s unexploited resources, yet has some of the world’s lowest per capita incomes. History has shown that exploiting the continent’s resources alone for export markets does little to improve incomes and living conditions in Africa, which in turn does nothing to improve human development. The key to resolving this paradox is made-in-Africa jobs, in particular high-value jobs that make products.

New African Film Proving Power of Creative Economy Development Challenges:A new movie is generating excitement around life in the war-torn, chaotic and impoverished Democratic Republic of the Congo ( – the central African nation – and proving how versatile and resilient a creative economy can be in a crisis.

Ghana: Oil-rich City Sparks Entrepreneurs and Debate Development Challenges: Commodity booms can seem like the answer to a poor nation’s prayers, a way to fulfil all their development dreams and goals. The reality, however, is far more complex. More often than not, the discovery of resources sparks a mad scramble for profits and patronage, as politicians and politically connected elites carve out their slice of the new resource boom before anyone else.

Turning African Youth on to Technology Development Challenges: An African NGO believes the Internet is the single biggest key to rapid development in Africa – and it is working to connect youth, women and rural populations to the web, and in turn, switch them on to the vast resources stored across the world’s Internet sites.

Bringing the Invention and Innovation Mindset to Young Kenyans Development Challenges: A highly innovative new way to teach the basics of electronics, computing and technological innovation is being pioneered in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Driven by the desire to counter perceptions of apathy among young people, NGO Kuweni Serious is running a training course for girls aged over 8 years in some of the poorest parts of the city to turn on a new generation to the power of technology to make change.

African Youth Want to do Business in Fast-growing Economy Development Challenges: Africa’s growing economy is meeting head-on an optimistic young population keen to start businesses. At least that is what a new poll of African youth says, finding that one in five Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 without a current business wants to start one in the next 12 months.

Kenyan Safari Begins Minutes from Airport Development Challenges: Many people find the prospect of staying in airport hotels dreary at best. They tend to be located in industrial parts of cities or far from city centres. They can be surrounded by roads and highways and are built to move lots of people, not to look nice. The surrounding areas can be very common to all nations – warehouses, office parks, nondescript restaurants and hotels – and give few clues to where you are apart from the weather and the languages on the sign boards.

African Botanicals to be used to Boost Fight against Parasites Development Challenges: More than 1 billion people in the developing world currently suffer from tropical diseases, which leave a trail of disfigurement, disability and even death. Yet only 16 out of 1,393 – 0.01 percent – of new medicines marketed between 1975 and 1999 targeted tropical diseases (International Journal of Public Health).

Solar Sisters Doing it for Themselves: Tackling African Light Famine Development Challenges: A social enterprise is seeking to capture the power of the sun to bring light and economic opportunity to women in Africa. Using a direct-marketing distribution system, it sells solar lamps and lanterns to some of Africa’s remotest communities. Solar Sister (, launched in Uganda in 2010, is hoping to do for power generation what mobile phones have done for communication in Africa: make a technological leap to a model of grassroots power generation, rather than waiting for large-scale power schemes to eventually reach the poor and rural.

South Africa Innovates Healthcare with Prepay Phone Vouchers Development Challenges: Pioneers in Africa are experimenting with new ways to fund the delivery of healthcare that is affordable and sustainable and not dependent on foreign aid and donations. A South African company is prototyping the selling of pre-payment healthcare services through mobile phones with a range of vouchers that can be bought and downloaded at the tap of a keypad.

Ghana’s Funeral Economy Innovates and Exports Development Challenges: The West African nation of Ghana’s funeral economy is attracting innovation and grabbing attention outside the country. The nation’s elaborate – but expensive – funeral rituals provide craftsmen with a good income. And new products are being introduced to handle the financial consequences of this unavoidable fact of life.

Happy Nigeria: West African Nation Has Good Attitude Development Challenges: In the last 10 years, an increasing amount of attention has been paid to the concept of national happiness. The notion was first developed in the tiny Asian Kingdom of Bhutan (, whose advocacy of ‘gross national happiness’ ( as a measure of national achievement just as important as Gross National Product (GNP), has been met with equal parts ridicule, respect and research.

Africa’s Consumer Market in Spotlight for 2011 Development Challenges:While other parts of the world will spend 2011 worrying about their debt levels and how to spur economic growth, many factors are pointing to Africa potentially following a different story. A frenzy of activity has been building around Africa’s market opportunities and its growing middle class consumer population.

Ugandan Fish Sausages Transform Female Fortunes Development Challenges: What to do when your food production enterprise is just not making much money? It is a common problem in the global South, where farmers and fishers often struggle to survive and can face the threat of bankruptcy and destitution when trying to provide essential food for their communities.

African Supercomputers to Power Next Phase of Development Development Challenges: Information technology developments in Africa have long lagged behind those in other parts of the world. But the transformation being brought about by the widespread adoption and use of mobile phones – each one a mini-computer – and the expansion of undersea fibre optic cable connections to Africa are creating the conditions for an exciting new phase of computing growth on the continent.

Africa to Get Own Internet Domain Development Challenges:  Africa is in the midst of an Internet revolution that is set only to accelerate. The continent is one of the last places to experience the information technology revolution that has swept the world in the past two decades.

Profile of African Innovators Continues to Rise Development Challenges: A mix of developments is proving that African innovators no longer need to see themselves as lone operators working in isolation.

The Water-Free South African Bathing Solution Development Challenges: As the world’s population grows from its current 7 billion to a projected 9 billion in 2050 (UN), competition for access to the Earth’s resources will become fiercer. The most essential resource for life on the planet – and an increasingly precious resource – is water. Water is necessary for the very survival of humans, animals and plants, and is also used in vast quantities by industries and farms.

Mobile Phone Shopping to Create Efficient Markets across Borders Development Challenges: An anticipated game-changing revolution in African trading set for 2013 is getting one innovative business very excited.

Egyptian Youth Turns Plastic Waste into Fuel Development Challenges: The challenge of finding alternate fuel sources is capturing the imagination of innovators across the global South. As the world’s population increases – it recently reached 7 billion (UN) – and the number of people seeking a better life grows in turn, the energy demands on the planet are pushing up competition for existing conventional fuel sources.

Shopping and Flying in Africa’s Boom Towns Development Challenges: As economies across Africa grow, the continent still has a long way to go to create infrastructure to match people’s rising expectations of what a modern, prosperous life looks like.

Teenager Uses Technology to Protect Livestock from Lions Development Challenges: In Kenya, a teenage Maasai ( inventor has developed a way to chase lions away from livestock that doesn’t harm the lions. It is a common practice to kill lions when they threaten or kill livestock, and this has led to a precipitous drop in the local lion population at Nairobi National Park (, near the country’s capital, Nairobi. Lions are a significant tourist attraction for Kenya and the population decline is a threat to the future of the tourist industry.

African Innovation Eco-system Taking Shape Development Challenges: How to increase the rate of innovation in Africa? And specifically, innovation that actually improves people’s lives and reduces poverty. It is a hard  question to answer, but some are putting in place the building blocks of a 21st century innovation culture by riding the information technology revolution as it rolls across Africa.

African Fuel Pioneer Uses Crisis to Innovate Development Challenges: Crisis, as the old saying goes, is also a window of opportunity. And there is one African entrepreneur who knows this better than most. Daniel Mugenga has been on a journey of innovation that has led him to become a pioneer in the emerging new field of algae technologies. The story of how he got there is a testament to the power of using business to both solve problems and make profits.

Turning Human Waste to Fertilizer: An African Solution Development Challenges: While South Africa has been free of the racist Apartheid regime since the mid-1990s, the expected boost to living standards for the majority black population has not been as widespread and as quick as many had expected.

East Africa to get its First Dedicated Technology City Development Challenges: An ambitious scheme is underway to create a vast technology city on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya.

Mauritanian Music Shop Shares Songs and Friendship Development Challenges: Around the world, traditional music stores selling vinyl records, tapes and CDs (compact discs) are closing down. Digital downloads distributed over the Internet and mobile phones make it unnecessary to build a music collection in these hard formats.

New Journal Celebrates Vibrancy of Modern Africa Development Challenges: Africa has seen huge changes to its communications and media in the past five years. The rise and rise of mobile phones, the expansion of the Internet and the explosion in African blogging and social media, on top of flourishing print and broadcast media, all bring an increasing range of options for telling African stories and increasing dialogue.

An Innovator’s ‘Big Chicken Agenda’ for Africa Development Challenges: Increasing the quantity and quality of food in Africa will be critical to improving the continent’s human development. And a key element in giving Africa a more secure food supply will be boosting science and knowledge on the continent and making sure it is focused on Africa’s needs and situation.

Kenya Turns to Geothermal Energy for Electricity and Growth Development Challenges: In an effort to diversify its power supply and meet growing electricity demand, Kenya is looking to increase its use of geothermal energy sources ( Tapping the abundant heat and steam that lurks underground to drive electric power plants offers a sustainable and long-term source of low-cost energy.

African Afro Beats Leads New Music Wave to Europe Development Challenges: A surge in interest in African music in Britain is creating new economic opportunities for the continent’s musicians. The new sound heating up the U.K. music scene is “Afro Beats” – a high energy hybrid that mixes Western rap influences with Ghanaian and Nigerian popular music.

Venture Capital Surge in Africa to Help Businesses Development Challenges: Africa’s potential economic powerhouse lies in its small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Africa ebbs and flows based on the state of the global economy – and most of it is directed towards large enterprises and multinational companies.

Africa’s Tourism Sector Can Learn from Asian Experience Development Challenges: Africa continues to be seen as new territory for global tourism, yet it still is not even close to meeting its potential, according to a report by a South African think tank. In fact, many resorts and tourist areas are failing to fill up with visitors. This contrasts with the booming world tourism industry, which broke records in arrivals in 2011 (UNWTO).

African Farming Wisdom Now Scientifically Proven Development Challenges: Increasing the agricultural productivity of Africa is critical for the continent’s future development, and the world’s. Two-thirds of Africans derive their main income from agriculture, but the continent has the largest quantity of unproductive – or unused – potential agricultural land in the world.

Lagos Traffic Crunch Gets a New Solution Development Challenges: Around the world, traffic congestion is often accepted as the price paid for rapid development and a dynamic economy. But as anyone who lives in a large city knows, there comes a tipping point where the congestion begins to harm economic activity by wasting people’s time in lengthy and aggravating commuting, and leaving commuters frazzled and burned out by the whole experience.

New Kenyan Services to Innovate Mobile Health and Farming Development Challenges: Kenya is home to a vibrant innovation culture centred around mobile phones. While not all the services launched will be successful, the flurry of start-ups shows the country has the right combination of technical skills, bright ideas and cash to make a go of new services.

Baker Cookstoves – Designing for the African Customer Development Challenges: An innovative social enterprise is using design to create an energy-efficient cookstove for Kenya. By turning to an experienced Swedish architecture and design firm, the people behind the Baker cookstove wanted to make sure the stove’s design was as efficient as possible and relevant to the customers’ needs, while also making sure it is visually appealing and something a person would proudly want in their home.

Texting for Cheaper Marketplace Food with SokoText Development Challenges: An international group of graduate-social entrepreneurs from the London School of Economics (LSE) is pioneering a way to reduce food prices in Kenya using mobile phones.

Ethiopia and Djibouti Join Push to Tap Geothermal Sources for Green Energy Development Challenges: Ethiopia and Djibouti are the latest global South countries to make a significant commitment to developing geothermal energy – a green energy source that draws on the heat below the earth’s surface ( – to meet future development goals.

Ghana Wants to Tap Global Trendy Party Scene Development Challenges: Tourism is big business – and one of the most resilient parts of the global economy. Despite the international economic crisis that has wreaked havoc and increased unemployment and poverty in many countries since 2007, tourism is still going strong.

US $450 Million Pledged for Green Economy Investments at Kenyan Expo Development Challenges: Innovators working in the global green economy could benefit from over US $450 million in investment recently pledged at the UN’s Global South-South Development Expo held in Nairobi, Kenya.

African Fashion’s Growing Global Marketplace Profile Development Challenges: Tales of African global fashion successes have multiplied in the last few years. African fashion is seeing its profile rise as more and more shows and festivals boost awareness of the continent’s designs, designers and models. In turn, African fashion and design is being taken more seriously as an income and job generator, and as a sector able to weather the ups and downs of the global economy: people always need to wear clothes.

Pioneering African Airlines Help to Expand Routes Development Challenges: The last decade has seen a revolution in African air travel. The number of air routes has grown and this has paralleled the economic growth across the continent. As demand has been strong for Africa’s resources, it has also fueled a consumer boom that is benefiting an increasing number of people.

Solar-Powered Mobile Clinics to Boost Rural Healthcare in Africa Development Challenges: Around the world, innovative thinking is finding new ways of using solar power technology to bring electricity to underserved areas of the global South. Innovators are experimenting with new technologies, new business models and new ways to finance getting solar power into the hands of the poor.

More Futuristic African Cities in the Works Development Challenges: It has been well documented that China is undergoing the largest migration in human history from rural areas to cities. But this urbanization trend is occurring across the global South, including in Africa, as well. According to the UN, more than half the world’s population already lives in cities, and 70 per cent will live in urban areas by 2050. Most of the world’s population growth is concentrated in urban areas in the global South.

African Infrastructure Dreams Back on Agenda Development Challenges: Africa’s patchy infrastructure is not keeping pace with the continent’s economic growth. Satellite photos of Africa at night show a place where light is concentrated overwhelmingly in the South – primarily South Africa – and in the North, with a sprinkling of lights on the west and east coasts (

Burgeoning African E-commerce Industry Full of Opportunity Development Challenges: Africa has seen huge change since 2000 in the way people access information and do business electronically. The most championed accomplishment has been the widespread take-up of mobile phones. This has given birth to countless entrepreneurs and innovators who are using  phones to help people, do business and sell goods and services.

African Innovators Celebrated in Prize Development Challenges: Innovation is increasingly being recognized as the key to tackling long-standing development problems in Africa, as well as across the developing and developed world. While it is easy to draw up a list of challenges facing the global South, it takes a special person to see not problems but solutions.

New Beer Helping to Protect Elephants Development Challenges: How to match the often conflicting goals of protecting animal habitats and supporting local economies? One clever solution may draw amusement but is actually a sharp marketing strategy to get attention for a product that is helping to preserve the elephants of Thailand’s Golden Triangle (

Solar Solution to Lack of Electricity in Africa Development Challenges: Electricity is critical to improving human development and living standards. Yet, for many in the global South, electricity is either non-existent or its provision is patchy, erratic, unreliable or expensive.

US $1 Trillion Opportunity for Africa’s Agribusinesses Says Report Development Challenges: As the world’s population continues to grow – surpassing 9 billion people by 2050, the United Nations estimates – and more and more people move to urban areas, producing enough food to feed this population will be one of the biggest economic challenges and opportunities in the global South.

Kenya Reaches Mobile Phone Banking Landmark Development Challenges: Financial transactions and banking with mobile phones have been a Kenyan success story.

Online Education Could Boost African Development 
Development Challenges: Education is recognized as a major catalyst for human development. During a high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ( in 2010, UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – pointed out the necessity of making rapid gains in education if all the MDGs are to be achieved. The goals deadline is 2015 – just two years away.

African Digital Laser Breakthrough Promises Future Innovation Development Challenges:
For decades many African countries have experienced low investment in research and development (R&D) and scientific innovation. One of the few nations to benefit from a sophisticated university network and research and development sector was South Africa. It still ranks top on the continent for funding R&D and its high number of scientific journals.

Preserving Beekeeping Livelihoods in Morocco Development Challenges: The clever combining of tourism and long-standing beekeeping skills has revived a local craft and is also helping to preserve the ecology of Morocco. Beekeeping, or apiculture (, has two clear benefits. Bee products, including honey, beeswax, propolis, pollen and royal jelly can be a valuable source of income. The other benefit is the critical role bees play in the ecology by pollinating flowers and plants as they go about their daily business.

A New African Beer Helps Smallholder Farmers Development Challenges: Africa’s growth in the past decade has held steady despite the trauma of the global economic crisis and the tumult of the “Arab Spring” in several countries of North Africa. African economies are growing because of a number of resilient trends. These include growing regional trade links, greater investment in infrastructure and the remarkable rise of China to become Africa’s number one trade partner, pushing the United States to second place (Technology + Policy). This has given birth to a growing consumer marketplace and consumer class – some 300 million people earning about US $200 a month (Africa Rising).

Made-in-Africa Fashion Brand Pioneers Aim for Global Success Development Challenges: African fashion brands have not always been the first place fashionistas turned to when shopping for new clothes or shoes in developed economies. While Africa has long been a source of inspiration in contemporary and traditional fashion, the continent has had a weak reputation for manufacturing and selling mass market global fashion brands.

Kenyan Book Company Brings Online Sales to East Africa Development Challenges: The Internet has revolutionized retail sales in many developed countries – and nowhere more so than for booksellers. The ability to offer an almost unlimited supply of books through a website is revolutionizing the way people shop and giving life to books long out of print or by unknown authors.

African Innovation Helps Make Banking Transactions Safer Development Challenges: As economies grow in Africa, more and more people are conducting their financial transactions electronically. This can be either through mobile phones and digital devices, or through the hole-in-the-wall of the automatic teller machine, or ATM.

New Apps Make Driving and Travelling in Egypt Easier, Safer Development Challenges: Mobile phones are ubiquitous across the global South. They have spawned whole new business opportunities and changed the way people solve problems and find solutions.

Angolan Film Grabs Attention at Film Festival
Development Challenges: The power of the creative economy to transform lives, livelihoods – and perceptions – should never be underestimated. Creativity can transform the image of places and situations often seen in a negative light. A film from Angola is shining a light on the country’s music scene and showing the vitality of the nation in the wake of a long-running civil war.

Old Boats Become New Furniture in Senegal Development Challenges: Every country has its fair share of waste and the remnants of past economic activity. Old cars nobody wants, discarded tins of food, old plastic bags, spare copper wire, cast-off clothing – all can have a new life in the right hands.

3D Printing Gives Boy a New Arm in Sudan Development Challenges: 3D printing is rapidly going mainstream and is now starting to make a big impact in health care. One innovative solution is using the technology to manufacture artificial arms for amputees harmed by war in Africa.

African Hotel Boom Bringing in New Investment and Creating Jobs Development Challenges: Africa is experiencing a boom not seen for decades. The IMF forecasts economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa of 6 per cent in 2014, compared to global growth of 3.6 per cent.

The BRCK: Kenyan-Developed Solution to Boost Internet Access Development Challenges: Using the Internet in Africa has its challenges, as anyone who has worked there knows. Issues can include weak Wi-Fi signals, slow Internet service providers, electricity outages and power surges that can damage or destroy sensitive electronic devices.

Women Empowered by Fair Trade Manufacturer Development Challenges: There is sometimes a great deal of negativity surrounding the issue of manufacturing in Africa. Some claim the risks of doing business are too high or that the workers are not motivated enough. But one garment manufacturer is out to prove the skeptics wrong. It pays decent wages and gives its mostly female workforce a stake in the business in a bid to drive motivation and make it worthwhile to work hard.

Global South Trade Boosted with Increasing China-Africa Trade in 2013 Development Challenges: It was announced in January 2014 that China has surpassed the United States to become the world’s number one trading nation, as measured by the total value of exports and imports. This new economic behemoth also continued to grow its trade relationships with Africa.

“Pocket-Friendly” Solution to Help Farmers Go Organic Development Challenges: Interest in organic food and farming is high, and organics have become a growing global industry. The worldwide market for organic food grew by more than 25 per cent between 2008 and 2011, to US $63 billion, according to pro-organic group the Soil Association. That is an impressive accomplishment given the backdrop of the global economic crisis, and evidence that people value quality food, even in tough times.

Cheap Farming Kit Hopes to Help More Become Farmers Development Challenges: Food security is key to economic growth and human development. A secure and affordable food supply means people can meet their nutrition needs and direct their resources to improving other aspects of their lives, such as housing, clothing, health services or education.

SI business card_mini
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


© David South Consulting 2022


African Ingenuity Attracting Interest

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


The tide of science and innovation from the South is grabbing the world’s attention. While the big giants of India, China and Brazil are well-established hubs of invention, it is the once-overlooked continent of Africa that is generating current excitement. The atmosphere can be equated to the flush of innovation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as inventors tackled the budding new technologies of the combustion engine, flight, electricity and radio waves. These days, it’s the challenges of development, rapid urbanization and finding ways to ‘hack’ (, like adapting existing  technology such as mobile phones or bicycles to new purposes.

That previous period of invention had a spirit of pioneering and making-do, of dreams and adaptability triumphing over poverty, and it laid the path for many new companies to sprout up and create wealth and jobs for millions. At this August’s Maker Faire Africa gathering ( in Accra, Ghana, African pioneers in grassroots innovation offered inspiring inventions.

The rapid changes happening in African countries – especially the tilt to having a larger urban population than a rural one – means there is an urgent need to boost incomes.

Handled right, these grassroots inventors could grow to become part of the already expanding South-South trade, which grew by an average of 13 percent per year between 1995 and 2007, to make up 20 percent of world trade.

Inspired by the US magazine Make ( – a do-it-yourself technology magazine written by makers of computers, electronics and robotics – the first Maker Faire gathering was held in 2006 in the San Francisco area of the United States.

The African Maker Faire modelled itself on this approach and has tapped into Africa’s well-entrenched do-it-yourself development culture. It went looking for more inventors like those celebrated on the website AfriGadget (, with its projects that solve “everyday problems with African ingenuity.” The Faire works with the participants to share their ideas and to find ways to make money from their ideas.

The Faire in Accra ran in parallel with the International Development Design Summit (,which came to Ghana from its home at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( in the United States. Its aim was to bring technology closer to “potential end users of the projects.”

“It is part of the revolution in design that aims to create equity in the distribution of research and development resources by focusing on the needs of the world’s poor,” organizers said.

This spirit of African invention is about breaking the perception that invention is a purely Northern phenomenon that requires complex and expensive materials. African ingenuity is about taking whatever is available and tackling common problems. It is an empowering approach that celebrates local initiative and seeks to find ways to turn these inventions into sustainable incomes.

“What’s different about African mechanics and gadgets is that it’s generally made with much fewer, and more basic, materials,” said Afrigadget founder Erik Hersman. “Where you might find a story on how to make hi-tech robots at home in Make, its counterpart in Africa might be how to create a bicycle out of wood. No less ingenuity needed, but far more useful for an African’s everyday life.”

The African Maker Faire featured a wide range of solutions, from a low-power radio station to a bicycle-powered saw and a simple corn planter.

Shamsudeen Napara, from northern Ghana, brought a US $10 corn planter that looks like a pill dispenser to help speed up crop planting. He also has invented a cheap shea nut ( roaster. These inventions are cooked up in his metal fabrication shop which builds tools for agricultural use. Shea nut processing is a lucrative task for women in Northern Ghana. Napara’s roaster costs US $40 and reduces the energy and time to process the nuts. He has also made a soap cutter using piano wires and guitar screws.

Bernard Kiwia, a bicycle mechanic from Arusha, Tanzania, is a pioneer working with windmills, water pumps, mobile phone chargers and pedal-powered hacksaws – all made from old bike parts.

Hayford Bempong, David Celestin and Michael Amankwanor from Accra Polytechnic (, built a low-power radio station. Made from scrap electronic parts and an antenna from copper pipe, the radio was put straight to use to broadcast announcements at the event over a range of a few thousand metres.

Suprio Das, Killian Deku, Laura Stupin and Bernard Kiwia brought a method to produce chlorine from salt water and other common materials. It can then be used to purify water. Their method can clean vast quantities of water using no moving parts (avoiding breakdowns). It does this by dripping chlorine into the water until a level has been reached, and then the purified water is released. By using a 5 litre bag of chlorine, and a US $3 valve, 100,000 litres of water can be purified.

Electricity was also being made using low-cost batteries from aluminum cans and plastic water bottles. Applying salt water as an electrolyte (,electricity is created by the oxidation of the aluminum can – a cheaper approach and less toxic than commercial batteries.

A group called Afrobotics ( gave a presentation to encourage more African students to go into engineering, science and technology. Afrobotics is set up as a competition to “fuel engineering, science, innovation, and entrepreneurship on the African continent, utilizing robotics.” They have some excellent videos of African robots in action:

Published: October 2009


1) Fab Labs: Like the futuristic “replicator” in the TV show Star Trek, Fab Labs allow people to design and produce what they need there and then. The labs are mushrooming throughout the South as people get the innovation bug. The Fab Lab program is part of the MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) which broadly explores how the content of information relates to its physical representation. Website:

2) id21 Insights: A series of articles by the UK ’s Institute of Development Studies on how to make technology and science relevant to the needs of the poor. Website:

3) eMachineShop: This remarkable service allows budding inventors to download free design software, design their invention, and then have it made in any quantity they wish and shipped to them: Amazing! Website:

4) The red dot logo stands for belonging to the best in design and business. The red dot is an internationally recognised quality label for excellent design that is aimed at all those who would like to improve their business activities with the help of design. Website:

5) Institute for the Future: It identifies emerging trends that will transform global society and the global marketplace. It provides insight into business strategy, design process, innovation, and social dilemmas. Its website helps budding inventors to identify new areas of invention.Website:

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


© David South Consulting 2022


Africa’s Consumer Market in Spotlight for 2011

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


While other parts of the world will spend 2011 worrying about their debt levels and how to spur economic growth, many factors are pointing to Africa potentially following a different story. A frenzy of activity has been building around Africa’s market opportunities and its growing middle class consumer population. Years of steady growth rates up to 2008 and the vast, untapped opportunities on the continent have sparked interest from investors and businesses alike.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) to developing economies rose by 10 percent in 2010 due to fast economic recovery and increasing South-South flows. Africa peaked in 2008 because of the resource boom and fell by 14 percent to US $50 billion in 2010 (UNCTAD). Rising FDI from Asia and Latin America has still yet to match the decline from developed countries – still the majority of FDI to Africa.

However, foreign direct investment to Africa had risen sixfold to US $58.56 billion between 2000 and 2009 (UNCTAD). The amount going to manufacturing and services has been growing, despite the slow down in 2009 because of the global economic downturn. Africa’s 11 largest economies are now being seen as the next to match Brazil and Russia, economic stars of the last few years.

The continent as a whole forms the 10th largest economy in the world. Of Africa’s more than 1 billion people, 900 million can be classified as part of the consumer economy. Out of this group, there is a third – approximately 300 million people – who make modest sums by Western standards, about US $200 a month, but have spare cash to buy things like mobile phones, DVDs and new clothes, or pay for better schools. They are the population that is overlooked when attention is focused only on the very poor living on less than US $2 a day.

This vast group is captured in the book Africa Rising by University of Texas professor Vijay Mahajan, which details the phenomenon of Africa’s middle class consumer society. He calls this group of middle class consumers “Africa 2,” with the desperately poor called Africa 3s, and the extremely rich Africa 1s.

This new group has expanded far beyond ruling elites and government workers. Many of its members work in the private sector, as secretaries, computer entrepreneurs, merchants and others who have benefited from consistent growth rates in many African countries.

The portion of African households with discretionary spending power rose from 35 percent in 2000 to 43 percent in 2008. The challenge will be to turn this wealth to the benefit of made-in-Africa businesses and to create stable, high-quality jobs to ensure this wealth effect lasts.

The new wealth effect can give Africa the tools needed to tackle its long-standing development challenges and lift more and more people out of poverty and misery while reducing dependence on foreign aid. And this can add rocket fuel to the surge toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals deadline in 2015 (

The rapidly rising profile of Africa is reflected by the prestigious business newspaper the Wall Street Journal recently running a series titled “Africa’s Growing Consumer Class Lures Multinationals” (

Consulting firm McKinsey ( believes Africa’s billion citizens should be seen as consumers and says the continent’s growing number of middle-income consumers now outstrips India’s. It boldly claims consumer spending will reach US $1.4 trillion in Africa by 2020, up from US $860 billion in 2008. Consumer spending rose by 16 percent a year from 2005 to 2008 before the global economic crisis.

It is forecast that 220 million Africans now frozen out of this consumer wave will become consumers by 2015 if current trends continue.

The IMF believes the steady growth will continue, with 5.5 percent growth for the 47 sub-Saharan countries this year.

That’s the good news. But many African countries still rank at the bottom in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business survey ( Africa remains a logistical nightmare for companies. Poor quality roads, inadequate harbours and inefficient rail systems, all make it difficult to move goods around the continent and across borders.

This makes distribution in Africa costly. Companies also often have to import building supplies and equipment to construct factories and plants. Then there is the unreliable electricity supply. Unable to trust local power supplies, many companies use their own electricity generators.

If handled right, new brands and companies are set to join African global success stories like Mo Ibrahim (, who founded the mobile telecommunications company Celtel.

Some of the new success stories include African companies pairing up with global firms as they seek local knowledge and experience. This will be a substantial opportunity for companies wise enough to organise themselves for global competition. In 2010, Sweden’s Electrolux – one of the world’s largest makers of home appliances – bought Egypt’s Olympic Group (, a North African powerhouse for household goods.

In the Ivory Coast, Nouvelle Parfumerie Gandour ( – makers of perfume, cologne, cosmetics and talcs – is an African cross-border success story. It has factories in Ivory Coast, Senegal, Morocco and Cameroon. Thirty percent of its profits come from exports, some of which are to the United States and Europe.

Sonatrach ( in Algeria is the largest oil and gas company in Algeria and Africa. Is using its base in oil and gas exploration, production, pipeline transportation and marketing of hydrocarbons and by products, to move into other areas. It is increasing its investments in power generation, new and renewable energies, water desalination, and mining exploration and exploitation. Looking to grow its business with 30 percent coming from exports by 2015, it has spread across Africa ( Mali , Niger , Libya , Egypt ), to Spain , Italy , Portugal , United Kingdom , Peru and the United States.

Marwa ( from Casablanca, Morocco, is an African fashion success story. The brand started by Karim Tazi in 2003 began with just two stores in Casablanca and Rabat. It identified the niche of very fashionable but good quality and inexpensive clothing. It blends international trends with subtle influences from Moroccan tradition. Its prices hover between six euros for a t-shirt and 100 euros for a coat. It has successfully created a Moroccan high-street fashion look that can be exported. It has opened a branch in Zaragoza, Spain and is expanding to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Paris, France, Beirut, Lebanon and Istanbul, Turkey.

A survey by consultants AT Kearney ( found eight out of nine West African subsidiaries of global consumer goods companies discovered quicker revenue growth than their parent companies.

All this new wealth and growth provides substantial opportunities to African brands to build their businesses and markets. The big issue will be who will rise to the occasion and who will be clever enough to learn from existing African brands that are already thriving and have shown the way.

Two trends will also power this growth: urbanization and large youth populations. Africa’s youthful, urban population has already been reached by the telecoms sector through the rapid growth of mobile phones. More than 500 million subscribers have been signed up since 2000 (Informa Telecom and Media), a user base greater than the entire US population.

“By 2040, the continent will be home to one in five of the planet’s young people and will have the world’s largest working-age population,” according to Charles Roxburgh and Susan Lund, authors of a study for the McKinsey Global Institute.

“If Africa can give its young people sufficient education and skills, they could be a substantial source of consumption and production in years ahead.”

Published: January 2011


1) Afrique Avenir: Inspiring blog tracking Africa’s rising middle class and their global economic impact. Also great photo gallery The Other Africa, a photographic journey through all 54 African countries featuring the rising middle class. Website:

2) Afrocoffee: A design-savvy South African coffee shop chain that has expanded to Europe. It uses a modern African-themed design in its shops and product range. Website:

3) Africa Rising: A book by Professor Vijay Mahajan on how Africa’s consumer economy is growing and growing. Website:

4) Arise Magazine: Arise is a Nigerian style monthly started by Nigerian media mogul Nduka Obaigbena, who also publishes Nigeria’s leading newspaper, This Day. Website:

5) A video on the rising African consumer market. Website:

6) Annansi Chronicles: A blog packed with the latest news and media on African business and culture trends. Website:

7) An interactive map of Africa’s new wealth and where to find it. Website:

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


© David South Consulting 2023