Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Globalization of the elite in Nigeria

We often think of globalization affecting political, productive, and commercial elements in an economy. In Nigeria, Jon Gambrell, writing for the Associated Press, describes the globalization of consumption by the elite.

And keep in mind how small the Nigerian elite is and how different are their political values. Do these changes in economic behavior predict changes in political behavior?

As middle class grows, global brands hit Nigeria
Inside this 1950s-style American diner, waitresses softly sing along to Aretha Franklin as they sling hamburgers and whip up milkshakes. The jukebox belts out Ritchie Valens as a customer wearing a Muslim prayer cap and flowing blue robes ambles in.

Johnny Rockets' Facebook page
This isn’t the U.S., where the kitsch restaurant chain Johnny Rockets has several hundred locations, but instead Nigeria, where foreign companies have hesitated to invest because of logistical challenges, poor electricity and government corruption.

Now, however, as Nigeria’s middle class grows along with the appetite for foreign brands in Africa’s most populous nation, more foreign restaurants and lifestyle companies are entering the country…

Christopher Nahman, the managing director at the Johnny Rockets in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos [said], ‘‘Nigerians are a very aspirational society also. Even somebody who it might be really kind of a burden on them financially, they will still do it to just have that experience…

The majority of those who live in Nigeria, home to more than 160 million people, live in poverty. Just more than 60 percent of Nigerians earn the equivalent of less than $1 a day…

In retail, South African firms have flocked into Nigeria, finding places in the new malls being opened around Lagos. MassMart Holdings Ltd., of which Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, Arkansas, owns a controlling stake…

The market has drawn U.S. restaurant chains as well. KFC… Domino’s Pizza… Even ice cream seller Cold Stone Creamery…

At Johnny Rockets, which sits on Lagos’ swanky business-hub Victoria Island across the street from a major hotel frequented by foreigners and dignitaries, the restaurant has a velvet-roped waiting area in the parking lot…

That luxury does come at a steep price. A double bacon cheeseburger sells for 3,500 naira, the equivalent of about $22. A vanilla milkshake is 1,800 naira, or $11.25. Yet the service does come with a smile, a song and a bit of spectacle often missing in Nigeria, where customer service can quickly degenerate into exasperated shouts and curses at blank-eyed employees…

Despite the possible profits, challenges still remain for these companies. Stores must rely on diesel generators for electricity… Having adequate supply chains also can prove to be a challenge, as some Nigerian suppliers don’t immediately meet Western standards and backlogs at the country’s major port in Lagos can be weeks at a time. Corruption also remains rampant at government and regulatory agencies… making operating legally with proper accreditation even more difficult…

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