African countries have been riding on a wave of high economic growth rates as more and more countries are starting to tap into their full potential. Kenya and Nigeria have grown to be economic and technological powerhouses in the continent. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg in 2016 visited the two countries in what has been interpreted as an acknowledgement of the gains they have made in their economies and the ICT sector. While it was a moment laden with symbolic meaning, it was also the spark that led to a social media explosion. Suffice to say, the explosion was good-natured comic relief for most and a time of statistical rumination for the number-crunchers. It was not as much a contest as it was an opportunity for iron to sharpen iron.
Economics and ICT
Nigeria is statistically the economic giant in Africa and 26th in the world when only the nominal Gross Domestic Product is considered. Kenya comes a distant ninth in Africa and 70th in the world. However, the CIA Factbook identifies weaknesses in the Nigerian economy as inadequate power supply, lack of infrastructure, delays in the passage of legislative reforms, an inefficient property registration, restrictive trade policies, an inconsistent regulatory environment, a slow and ineffective judicial system among other things. The country’s economy is also largely dependent on commodity prices thus the recessionary environment in 2016 caused by lower oil prices.
Kenya on the other hand has been consistently averaging a real GDP growth rate of 5% for the past eight years and the country crossed the World Bank lower middle income threshold. The economy is however, highly dependent on agriculture which accounts for a third of the GDP. This also explains why Kenya’s preliminary GHP expansion rates were recently downgraded to 4.7%. Focus Economics says, “Economic activity is expected to weaken going forward as the drought persists, stifling agricultural output, and political uncertainties weigh on private sector lending, impeding investment decisions.”
With both countries looking to move away from dependence on natural resources, comparisons have also arisen in the ICT sector. On one hand is Kenya, the Silicon in the Savannah and on the other is Nigeria, particularly Lagos. Kirsten Buch, the founder of 88Mph argued that he had chosen Lagos because “you can’t really say you’ve got African coverage, if you’re not in Nigeria...” He also argued that, “The bigger, serious investors lean more towards Nigeria. It’s mostly about market size. You can scale something here.”
Nigeria has over 93 million internet users as compared to Kenya’s 39 million users. The Nigerian number translates to only 48.8% of the population showing the great potential in the country while Kenya has 81.8% percentage population. The demographic imbalance makes Nigeria more favourable in this regard since it presents more opportunities for scaling. Comparisons such as these never have a definite winner but they succeed in showing what each country is doing right and where it falls short. Nigeria mainly has the numbers in its favour but Kenya has been surpassing expectations at every turn. My Life Elsewhere attempts to compare the two countries’ quality of life but again, the focus is not about finding winners but celebrating each country’s strengths.
And now for the memes and the tweets
After much ado about numbers, the focus shifts to the lighter tweets and memes which have done the rounds on social media. There is no absolute winner, yet again but one thing is clear: You better not mess with Kenyans or Nigerians; they will destroy you on social media.