Bye-bye Bric, hello Mint — are Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey really the new boom economies?  

Plus: Why there's so little space on your local war memorial for the names of World War II heroes

11 January 2014

New year new ideas as we woke up on Monday morning to find ourselves in Lagos with Evan Davies trying to convince us that Nigeria really is undergoing an economic earthquake. It’s part of a week-long campaign by Radio 4 to make us believe that the next economic leaders among world nations will be Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey. These new Mint countries are destined, we are told, to take over from the Bric countries, now deemed passé after just a decade in the limelight generated by the economist fashionistas. It’s stimulating stuff for this hibernating time of year. Bulletins and programmes high on optimism and imbued with the belief that in certain parts of the world at least poverty is being overtaken by progress while corruption is being suppressed by a mixture of creative enterprise and demographic reality.

Evan was joined by Nkem Ifejika from the World Service in his pop-up reports for the Today programme as they toured factories, the nascent Nollywood film industry, the markets of Lagos and the Eko Atlantic project, which is creating a huge new city out of reclaimed land from the ocean. They were looking for hard evidence that the Nigerian economy is really beginning to boom.


Evan was not his usual enthusiastic self. There were hints of doubt, of him not finding it easy to be full-hearted about his brief. This was especially evident when he talked with Jim O’Neill, the former asset manager at Goldman Sachs who takes the credit for naming the Bric countries and who now says that it’s the Mint countries we should be looking towards as the new beacons of progress. Evan remarked that on his travels he had met with both optimism and an ambivalence about these assertions of growth. He had seen too many Bentleys and bottlenecks on his way into Lagos; too many shacks and poverty-struck children. How far will this new money trickle down into the lower reaches of Nigerian society? Mr O’Neill retaliated by saying that he had spent rather longer than Evan in the country and so was better placed to judge what was happening there. ‘I saw a lot more people,’ he told us. ‘I spent eight days there.’

Eight days seems remarkably little time to gather enough data for such huge assertions — that by 2050 Nigeria will be outperforming the USA. At the moment life expectancy there is reckoned at 52 years and more than 60 per cent of the population exist on less than $1 a day. But Mr O’Neill’s enthusiasm is catching. On Monday morning he began his four-part series, Mint — The Next Economic Giants (Radio 4), with a profile of Mexico. He reckons it’s on the way up (in spite of the violence, the drug wars, the exploitation of workers) because of its youthful population, its oil reserves (deep in the Gulf of Mexico) and its geographical position, poised between North and South America. In fact, next time you buy a toilet brush, take a look at where it was made. Ten years ago it would have been China; now it’s probably Mexico.

Over on Radio 3, Pat Barker was this week’s guest on Michael Berkeley’s perennial, Private Passions, as part of the Corporation’s cross-channel commemoration of the first world war. The novelist, as Berkeley reminded us, perhaps more than any other writer in our time, has explored the full impact of the war and its terrible losses, especially with her Regeneration trilogy. As a young girl, she told us, she used to watch her grandfather every Friday night washing himself in the kitchen sink, stripped to the waist, before going out for his British Legion meeting. If she was lucky, she was allowed to poke her finger into the very long and very deep scar in his side. Later she discovered it was from a bayonet wound. Her grandfather had fought in the trenches and only survived because his officer had shot the German soldier before he tried to withdraw the bayonet. It was the twisting that caused the catastrophic injuries, explained Barker.

We are only in the first week of this four-year project to remember the events of 1914–18, but Barker has already given us perhaps the most graphic image — that bayonet wound and her little girl’s finger prodding it with fascination and revulsion. She also gave us a vivid illustration of how we have changed in the way we look back at those events. At the National Memorial Arboretum, she told us, blank spaces have been left for the names of those soldiers who will be killed in future wars. Yet take a look at any local war memorial and you will find the names of those killed in the second world war squashed into the little remaining space at the bottom. This is because no space was left for more names when the memorials were put up after 1918, because there was not supposed to be another war, ever. As Barker asserts, ‘war has once again become an accepted instrument of policy’. That’s why ‘the act of remembering is necessary’.

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  • Mo

    Nigeria is at a point of inflexion, thus it’s in the best interest of the country that the incumbent government pass on the baton to someone like Kwankwaso, whom is less controversial a figure, at the forthcoming election.

    • Marshal Johnson

      God forbid a corrupt illiterate man like Kwankwaso rules Nigeria! What happened to honest men as Buhari and Nuhu Ribadu?

      • Mo

        Kwankwaso holds a doctorate!
        The Economist wrote about his transformative impact on Kano, a notoriously difficult place to govern. He is pragmatic!
        Ribadu lacks the requisite leadership and management experience/ skill, much like the incumbent!
        According to Wikileaks, Buhari would be president now had Obasanjo not rigged the election. The ruling elite are scared of him. . .

        • franklynx

          I think he was being sarcastic.

        • Marshal Johnson

          Hehehehe…..”Doctorate” indeed!
          Two honorary degrees from a non existent “Islamic university of Ibadan” and from University of Maiduguri now qualifies Kwankwaso as “Educated”
          You know, Osama Bin Laden also had honorary doctorates from more than 6 Islamic universities around the world! I guess i should refer to him as Dr. Osama Bin Laden next time! You are probably one of those corrupt retinue of aides Kwankwaso maintains with the funds of KNSG,while the people languish in poverty.
          Kwankwaso is a roundly corrupt scumbag. The types that only succeed in queer countries as Nigeria. He cannot compete on any level with Ribadu nor even Buhari.

  • longben

    parroting the same worn-out nonsense about Nigeria doesnt make a good writer miss chilshom.your little britain is deader than a dodo

  • fitz fitzgerald

    Not North Nigeria, surely ?

  • Patria Sandy


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