10 years of advancing sustainable development agenda
It was our intention to make Financial Nigeria a proudly-Nigerian publication.
This being the Welcome Address at the 10th Anniversary Colloquium of Financial Nigeria magazine, which held on September 11, 2018 at the Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Centre, Abuja, with the theme: "Nigeria's Sustainable Development Agenda."
My name is Jide Akintunde. Let me quickly mention the things I am responsible for, so that you can hold me accountable for them. I am the Managing Editor of Financial Nigeria publications, and Director, Nigeria Development and Finance Forum, the conference arm of Financial Nigeria that has put together this colloquium.
If nothing serious goes wrong with what we are here to do today, or this colloquium leaves a positive impression on you, it is because I work with a team of very dedicated colleagues and this event has been supported by very amazing people and organisations. But should something seriously go wrong, please hold me responsible.
I would like to make a few acknowledgements of people whose contributions have been very crucial for the success of Financial Nigeria and the expectations we have that this event will be positively impactful.
First and foremost, I would like to thank God for everything; and that includes the people I am about to mention. I would like to thank Dr. Femi Aribisala, the Chairman of the Advisory Board of Financial Nigeria; Felix Ejomah, my friend and colleague; Martins Hile, the Executive Editor of Financial Nigeria; Akachi Ugwu, the Chairman of the Organising Committee of this colloquium; and Smith Adamu, my able lieutenant here in Abuja.
I would like to thank our two keynote speakers of today: Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate and Mr. Arshad Rab. I would also like to extend heartfelt gratitude to our panellists and moderator, who you shall meet shortly. But before then, permit me to appreciate Dr. Amina Salihu for her unflinching support over the years.
Today is somewhat an odd date for this event. We settled for this date because of availability issue at this venue.
Right from our first planning meeting, we were very keen to have his Excellency, Ambassador Stuart Symington, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, on our panel. But today is 911. As America often does with the world, we would like to express solidarity with the American people, on this anniversary of the unfortunate 911 attacks.
911 touched me. It is my birthday. So, on this day in 2001, I was having a good time until footages of the attack started to appear live on CNN. The sheer catastrophe of that event is part of the reasons I no longer celebrate my birthday. But we are here today to celebrate the birthday of Financial Nigeria magazine.
When is the right time to start a business? Is it during an economic downturn or in a period of boom? Quite unlike rookie investors or most entrepreneurs starting their first business, professional investors are always very calculating. They analyse the macro and micro economic variables and ensure they support decent financial returns on their investment.
Financial Nigeria magazine debuted in August 2008 as a monthly development and finance journal. At that time, the contagious effects of the global financial crisis had begun to expose the mismanagement of the mono-product, oil-based Nigerian economy. The ripple effect of the spectacular oil price collapse that began a month before we launched had thrusted the banks into a credit crisis and capital inadequacy. It was certainly not the most auspicious of times to start any new business, much less a magazine.
But our passion to deliver new value in the media marketplace ensured we looked beyond the inclement business climate. I am glad we started Financial Nigeria at the time we did. Our understanding was that the agenda we wanted to address, and the values we wanted to espouse, were important and pressing.
A combination of factors has, however, continued to endanger journalism and the print media in Nigeria over the last decade. Most concerning would be the collapse of media ethics. For instance, many journalists work for their publishers but have to rely on their news sources to earn regular income.
We also have the disruption of social media. And it appears there is nothing the traditional media can do about it. In the undeclared contest for public attention, well-reasoned opinions in the newspapers and magazines are losing the competition against tweets and Facebook comments posted on the go using mobile phones. Social media is also lending credence to “fake news”. By the way, fake news might be news we don’t like, a media organisation as an entity, quite apart from the unfounded stories.
This has launched the society into the era of post-truth, where opinions gain the upper hand against knowledge; and truth – like beauty – is in the eyes of the beholder. We can see already that the real fake news and the ill-considered opinions are lethal weapons against the sustainability of society.
On this August occasion of Financial Nigeria’s 10th anniversary, we would like to enjoin the stakeholders to reject this departure as the new normal. We have to reject the new abnormalities and embrace the frameworks to restore societal value and order.
The last 10 years have been challenging. Quite apart from when Financial Nigeria has struggled to maintain business continuity, our values of independence and patriotism have been challenged. From our politically-neutral standpoint, our analyses are usually brutally honest. But political neutrality and honesty don’t always win you friends in the politically-charged government and business environment of Nigeria. But we will remain objective, honest and prioritise the collective progress of the country.
The need to support advocacy for sustainable development was the reason we started this magazine 10 years ago. I remember easily that the main feature of our debut issue was “Agenda for Sustainable Banking”. We wanted to propagate modern solutions to age-old problems.
Sustainable development is an agenda the world ought to have started to address a long time before this still-new millennium, which began with the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a global agenda. The MDGs have now given way for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
For far too long, policymakers and business leaders have focused on short-term gains, while hoping that these gains would endure over the longer-term and everybody would be safe and happy. But without deliberate thoughts to ensure the conduct of business -- including the business of government: policymaking -- was in harmony with a good future society and the environment, we have continued to experience boom and bust and the earth has become too warm for safety or comfort.
We wanted to regularly discuss this subject with policymakers and business executives. That we are still in this business after 10 years attests to the interest of our readers in preserving the ecosystem of people, business and the environment.
Financial Nigeria also regularly addresses broader issues of governance, geopolitics, economics, technology and finance to ensure our readers are roundly in touch with cutting-edge ideas across both the developing and developed world. The discussions have turned the magazine into the platform we now also avail leaders in government and business to project their institutional value through our feature interviews.
About two years into publishing the magazine, some prospective clients and well-wishers started to advise that we change the title of the magazine to something like “Financial Africa” or a geographically-neutral title. They felt the publication had a greater chance of success without the Nigeria identification, especially given its expansive editorial coverage and production quality.
But we disagreed for two reasons. It was our intention to make Financial Nigeria a proudly-Nigerian publication. This is precisely the reason we invest continuously in good contents and glossy production. We were persuaded that Nigeria deserves the best promotion. For the country to deliver its best to the citizens, we believe the corporate and individual citizens must first give our best for our country.
We were also convinced that Nigeria identification is good for business. Nigeria is the largest economy and the biggest market by population in Africa. Moreover, we were aware that the “African” periodicals, mostly published from outside the continent, were majorly kept afloat by Nigerian patronage. So, we are very grateful to our country for ensuring that we remain a viable publication.
We owe our success to our readers. They have been the steadiest of our pillars of support. We have as part of our readership individual and institutional subscribers who have renewed their subscriptions for nine years. We like to express our appreciation to them and all our subscribers.
We are also thankful for the support of our advertisers and sponsors of the Nigeria Development and Finance Forum, the organiser of this colloquium with the theme “Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Agenda” to celebrate our 10th anniversary.
We expect this event will proffer cogent ideas for policies and marketplace practices that will address the country’s priority and most impactful development needs.
When, a few months ago, Bill Gates raised the issue of policy insight for sustainable development in Nigeria, we were supposed to have a national debate on the issue. But it didn’t happen.
But here today, we will not only have this debate, we will generate insights to help develop priority goals for the sustainable development of the Nigerian people, economy and the environment.