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Curiosity: A Simple Thing That Can Change the Face of Our Economy

The recent rambling in the public space about how the CBN’s policies are stifling SMEs is a testament to how the lack of curiosity may be depriving Nigerians – and maybe the black race – of real progress.

A popular thought is, if you want to keep anything a secret from black people, put it in a book. Some have blamed the inability to query things, prevalent among black people, on impoverishment, to which I promptly disagree.

Blacks in well-off western societies also share in this mental laziness of not questioning, and settling with the status quo. It is said that when an Asian person migrates to the West, he starts a business but when an African migrates to the West, he looks for a job. The other proposition is that our genetic make-up has been the culprit; that black people naturally have a smaller frontal lobe – the part of the brain responsible for deductive reasoning – than all other races. A typical black person would likely deduce this as a racist slur from some white supremacist group somewhere between Louisiana and South Carolina in Southern United States … but there is some truth in this allusion. Between these two extremes, I find that asking questions is a skill like any other that can be developed with time and practice.

The truth is, anyone can develop a culture of asking questions simply by consciously refusing to be drowned by dogma – those general beliefs that pervade our thinking – and having the courage to confront them. At the back of my mind, our culture is the real culprit. In many ways, our culture robbed us of staying in touch with ourselves and our environment. It denounced inquisitiveness as dissent for centuries, morphing the black man to something slightly less intelligent than he was created to be. Or else, how did sangomas in Southern Africa get male adults infected with HIV to accept that sleeping with a teenage virgin girl would cure them of the disease?

Imagine that millennials like you and me were mostly brought up to “obey before complaining,” never interrupt our parents or elders, accept certain superstitions without logic, take up professions or marry people chosen for us by our parents without questioning, and generally conform to things in the grand name of tradition. Imagine that there were more cases of paedophilia and molestations in our time as children than did get reported because of the ‘shame’ it brought to the family. Or is it a wonder that one in six boys born between 1974 and 1983 had their first sexual experience with a usually older domestic female servant, popularly called, ‘house-girl’ before the age of ten? While my research points to prevalence of molestation of the boy-child for more than 40 years, it is the silent acceptance by the victims, their families and society in general that may has fed it fat.

The point here is that silence stifles questioning. I am almost certain that until I mentioned this sex abuse plague wrought by “house-girls” in the eighties and nineties – that may still be prevalent today – many of the victims who must have become men by now wouldn’t even see those incidences as the root of problems like sex addiction and poor money management that may be threatening their ability to have balanced relationships with the opposite sex. And that is the problem. You cannot question anything you have accepted.

Just so that we start to develop a culture of questioning from this point, permit me to pause and ask you a few questions: Why are you still reading this? Do you think this article will make any difference? Why is there not a high speed rail system in Lagos? Why are there potholes on the infamously tolled Lekki-Epe Expressway? Can I sue the government for not providing me with pipe borne water? Why does the CBN continue to use its policies to frustrate SMEs? These questions all have answers, and those who are curious enough will find them and maybe, make a fortune with what they find.

To answer the last question, the CBN is a part of Nigeria’s financial system with a mandate to regulate the movement of money within the economy based on current economic realities. Nigeria currently has a negative balance of trade which is harmful to economic stability on the long term, because its income from exports is lower than its outflows on imports. In other words, the country is spending more than it earns, putting pressure on the country’s savings (or external reserves).

To correct this, the CBN has sought to reduce money movements out of Nigeria while encouraging money inflow to help improve its balance of trade position. “So how is that any concern of mine?” the entrepreneur whose SME is imports-based may ask. Go with the tide and not against it. Become an exporter. Look for a market in a nearby country that will buy your locally made products and court their own dollars to our position. “How?” You might ask again. Curiosity!

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Nehikhare Omotayo Igbinijesu is an Economist, Poet, and Social Entrepreneur. 'He is the author of The Code: A Simple Story About Raising Great Women' and 'Marriage: 12 Questions You Need To Ask Before You Say, “I Do”'. He lives in Lagos with his wife, Akudo and two sons. He is Co-founder of Stuffsilos.com, a motivational resources company based in Lagos. You can email him via nehijesu [at] yahoo.co.uk

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