Examining Kano’s Business Competitiveness in the Modern Age

I guess everybody is aware of Kano's centuries-old business legacy, hence it needs no further address except for historical purpose perhaps. The relevant issue nowadays is how does Kano really fit into its much touted slogan of “Center of Commerce”. As a son of the soil and like many others like me, I had believed that Kano was and would remain a business hub of international repute by providence, partly because as some legendry tales had it, some Waliyyai i.e revered saints had prayed for her, the blessings of which she would keep enjoying forever. In fact, we have been made to believe that Kano is the best in everything not only in business, as its classical slogan says “Kano tumbin giwa kodame kazo anfika”, which more or less means Kano has the best in everything. Against this background it is interesting and indeed makes sense to examine Kano’s claim in the light of modern concept and practices of business, with a view to determining the extent of her claim’s soundness.

First of all, it is noteworthy that, Kano was actually able to achieve its well-deserved fame in business over the centuries because the Kanawa i.e. Kano citizens of those days were distinguished entrepreneurs and highly skilled businessmen who apparently acquired and applied the best business patterns available at that time. Kano was one of the most important business hubs in the entire sub-saharan region and as far as North Africa. Economic prosperity, peace and stability prevailed, which attracted the influx of migrants from different parts of Africa and beyond to settle in Kano.

However, over a couple of decades, Kano has suffered serious setbacks in business and failed to maintain her momentum. I would examine Kano’s performance in the light of some of the most crucial business fields in the modern age, the result of which gives the right answer whether Kano is still really a business hub in real/modern sense or not.

Looking into Kano’s performance in manufacturing sector would deliver the first shocker to any unsuspecting inquisitor. One can hardly find any product worthwhile enough even in Nigerian standard being manufactured in Kano today. Therefore the absence of any assembling plant of any reputable brand in the state, or any other high-tech firms e.g. telecom and IT, is of course a matter of course.

Likewise Kano is not only lagging behind but unfortunately lacking in banking and financial services, which are the lifeline of modern business. There is no single substantive bank or any finance house owned by Kanawa or headquartered in Kano for that matter. Likewise there is no stock exchange center.

Nonexistent also are corporate platforms for commodities (e.g. gold and oil & gas etc) trading. Moreover, there is no regularized property business sector, which means virtual absence of corporate developers and other regular investors.

Moreover even in indiscriminate import business to which Kano has descended, there is no regularized system for re-exportation and there are hardly any distributing agencies. Furthermore there is no viable tourism sector, just there is no single world-class hotel in the state.

In terms of infrastructural development, Kano is still far behind the minimum standard. There are no modern and sufficient roads in the state. In fact I wonder if there is a single bridge in the whole of the metropolitan. Instead scarcely asphalted alleyways are considered road networks in Kano. Minimum standard of environmental sanitation is not available. Trenches dug by our ancestors in ancient times to protect Kano boundaries from external aggression, which -by virtue of city expansion- fell right inside the metropolitan, now serve as collection points of human waste and sewage, and of course diffuse all sorts of diseases. Hips of garbage and open gutters are common all over the city, while people mingle in the streets with roaming animals e.g. goats, rams and donkeys. In fact even the few standard neighborhoods created by colonials popularly known as GRAs have also deteriorated thanks to successive governments' systematic land encroachments and neglect. Poor power supply and lack of clean pipe-born water are the order of the day. Kano is currently more or less a sprawling slum unfortunately.
In view of the foregoing, Kano’s claim of being a standard business hub in the modern age of civilization is a blatant illusion in which so many people daydream. And being the largest business center in Northern Nigeria anyway is simply because “in the country of the blind, the one eyed-man is king”.

Nonetheless I believe in Kano’s potentials to not only reclaim her lost glory but to become an international business hub as well. However, achieving this requires a very intelligent and creative political leadership; a leadership that looks beyond the monthly statutory allocation from the federal government, and explores ways to attract huge foreign capitals to transform the state. Leadership in the modern age is all about progressive mindset capable of taking innovative initiatives in the right time and following them through dedicatedly.

Incidentally even the excessively oil-rich Arabian Gulf countries have gone far in their sustained efforts to finally wean themselves off oil revenues as their main source of income. They are apparently heading to a point whereby the oil revenue will represent only a fraction in their multiple income sources. After all they had already provided world-class infrastructure at the right time.
Mohammad Qaddam writes from UAE. For more of his articles visit www.qaddamsidq.blogspot.com

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