An Associate Professor at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, has expressed concerns over Nigeria’s growing influence on the Kenyan economy.
Professor Iraki, in an article titled, ‘Nigerians Are Not Coming, They’ve Already Arrived,’ published in The Standard, raised the alarm over the influence of Nigerian churches, movies and banks in the country.
He said the entry of Nigerian lenders into the Kenyan market was well planned.
Iraki was reacting to the recent sale of Kenya’s Transnational Bank to Access Bank of Nigeria, noting that Access was not the first Nigerian bank to get a foothold in Kenya.
“Guaranty Trust (GT) and UBA already have a presence here,” he says. The professor also said many Nigerians marrying Kenyan women was another grand strategy to get into the country’s market.
The article partly read, “Why is the buyout so significant to the banking sector and the Kenyan economy? Why didn’t we notice it? Is that the last Nigerian purchase? First, the entry of Nigerian lenders into the Kenyan market was well planned. It started by softening the Kenyan mind with Nigerian churches and Afrosinema movies. That changed the hardened image of Nigerians as corrupt and happy-go-lucky—an outdated image.
“From my interactions, Nigerians are serious and focused. That focus and single-mindedness are often mistaken for pride and arrogance. Once they set their goals on something, they usually get it. The means can be contested, excluding juju. For every Nigerian caught on the wrong side of the law, nine others are doing the right thing, not just in their country, but somewhere in the world. One of them supervised my dissertation.
“I recently met a Nigerian who was a member of parliament in South Africa. In America, they are top administrators in universities, medical doctors, engineers, financial analysts and other lucrative jobs. It has been predicted that Nigeria will soon be Africa’s superpower. And why not? The country has gone through thick and thin, from coups and anti-coups and even a civil war, like the other superpower – USA.”
“For the Nigerians, marrying our girls seems to be part of their grand strategy to get into the Kenyan market; through genes, across generations. What else will Nigerians go for after our banks? Are banks their Trojan horse into our economy? And, more curiously, why is Kenya on sale? Not that I am an economic nationalist, but what are we buying ourselves?
“Some observers argue that lack of buffer communities like Indians and whites may have worsened the ethnic contest among the big Nigerian ethnic groups, and lately minorities. I need to make a fact-finding visit to Nigeria after Covid-19.
“The other prerequisite for Nigerian superpower status includes a significant population (read market) and an educated elite that has footprints in almost all the countries in the world. Oil did not prove a reliable conveyor belt to economic growth; all eggs were put in one basket. With Covid-19, the oil curse seems real.
“The best conveyor to Nigerian superpower status is financial services. Oil needs a countervailing force. By making their banks global, Nigerians – like the British and Americans before them – will leverage onto other sectors. They can control industries, institutions, sectors – and politics indirectly. I am sure you will not see an American, Briton or Nigerian as a cashier in a bank. But who decides how the profits will be shared?
“Access Bank’s entry into the Kenyan market is more than the acquisition of a lender connected with former political power wielders. It is likely to disrupt the banking industry further. The demand for more bank capitalisation by the Central Bank of Kenya and investment in fintech were the first disruptors. We can’t discount Covid-19 for now.
“Remember Access Bank is more capitalised, to the tune of about $18 billion (Sh1.9 trillion). The bank spans three continents, 12 countries and has 36 million customers. Compare that with Kenya’s biggest bank by capitalisation or customers. How will local banks compete with such a big bank? Some could take solace in the fact that the biggest banks in Kenya are indigenous, such as KCB and Equity. Others are merging, including NIC and CBA. But we can’t rest on our laurels.”