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Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u
Since the emergence of the Buhari administration, there is a feeling among Nigerians that the security situation in the country is improving. Of course much work needs to be done to bring life back to parts of the Northeastern region which has been destroyed by violent insurgency since 2009.
The global terrorism report 2015 suggested that Boko Haram is the deadliest insurgent group in the world. According to the report, deaths as a result of insurgent attacks increased by 300 percent with 7,512 fatalities, which is the highest in the world. Forty percent of these attacks are in Borno State, Northeastern Nigeria. The attacks, according to the global terrorism report, focus on markets and other public places.
Borno State, one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria in previous years, is now the shadow of its former self. Widows, orphans and children have been displaced, some living in countries neighboring Nigeria, and others dispersed in IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) camps.
What is happening in Northeastern Nigeria is unusual, and under the current state of economic turmoil in Nigeria and the rest of the world, unusual solutions need to be explored in order to support the people affected by this tragedy.
That is why I would like to suggest crowdsourcing as one of the innovative ways that would help in mobilizing resources for the reconstruction of Northeastern Nigeria. I am proposing crowdsourcing for several reasons. First is my confidence in the Nigeria Muslim Forum UK (NMFUK) to lead the way, having contributed since the beginning of the crisis in 2009. NMFUK has supported the affected communities in Northeastern Nigeria through the provision of food, clothing and healthcare, and has sponsored orphans in the region in order to give them hope to build a future that is secure and credible.
NMFUK also is a diaspora organization based in the UK where members have stable access to the latest technology, including uninterrupted electricity supply and effective internet connection which are needed to mobilise resources through crowdsourcing. Being a charity organization registered in the UK, it has a mechanism for ensuring transparency on how resources are utilized. This could help in building confidence among donors to contribute resources through crowdsourcing.
The second reason is that as an innovative means of financing, development experts have suggested crowdsourcing as a way of reconstructing fragile states in the world. The third reason is the credibility of the current leadership in Nigeria, and the desire of the international community and donor agencies to help in alleviating this humanitarian catastrophe.
But what is crowdsourcing? In simple words, crowdsourcing is the ability to raise funds or mobilise resources through the power of the crowd, using online platforms. According to a 2014 article on “The Role of Crowdsourcing for Better Governance in Fragile State Contexts,” Maja Bott, Björn-Sören Gigler, and Gregor Young suggested that the term was first coined in 2006 by Jeff Howe in the Wired Magazine, and in their words: “crowdsourcing is a collaborative exercise that enables a community to form and to produce something together.”
Crowdsourcing is driven by modern technology. Innovative firms like Amazon, Apple, Google and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube operate by empowering the crowd to sustain the business for them. Another classical example of crowdsourcing is the public encyclopedia known as Wikipedia, which relies solely on the power of the crowd to keep it in business, but above all create the largest encyclopedia in the world.
Today, crowdsourcing has become one of the largest means of raising funds and other resources for development interventions, entrepreneurship and knowledge dissemination. According to Massolution Crowdfunding Report 2015, the crowdsourcing industry has raised $34.4 billion in 2015.
To be successful in raising funds using crowdsourcing, certain factors need to be taken into consideration. Such factors have been discussed by Maja Bott, Björn-Sören Gigler, and Gregor Young in their classical work on crowdsourcing for fragile states. Such factors using Sharma’s model includes infrastructure, which refers to the technology that will be used to mobilise resources. The availability of mobile phones in developing countries according to them will make it easy to have such technological infrastructure. The next is the vision of the fundraisers, the human capital, which refers to dedicated individuals who will work on the project, as well as the trust built among those engaged in the project, together with the crowd that will be pulled to support the fundraising.
Several groups have used crowdsourcing to support people affected by natural or manmade disaster in Haiti after the earthquake, as well as in Syria, Sudan and Libya. There are several crowdsourcing platforms that are prominent like Indiegogo, Fundrazr, GoFundme, etc.
Reconstruction of Northeastern Nigeria
With the above background in mind, there is a great opportunity to mobilise resources for the reconstruction of Northeastern Nigeria using crowdsourcing. Of course NMFUK is already using aspects of crowdsourcing to fund some of its projects, but the 2016 conference in Manchester is an opportunity to consolidate on that, innovate new mechanisms and move ahead.
NMFUK should take a positive advantage of Nigerians in diaspora by establishing partnership with other diaspora organisations to create a crowdsourcing platform that will be used to support areas affected by the insurgency. This is on the short term, and for the long term work with other Nigerians to help any part of the country that is suffering from one form of fragility or the other.
Statistics about Nigerians in the diaspora and their specializations suggests that we are not fully exploiting our strength for the benefit of the country.
According to the African Diaspora Statistics Report 2013, in the United States alone there are 2 million Nigerians living in the country, out of which 20,000 are medical doctors and 10,000 are academics teaching in various higher institutions. The African Diaspora Statistics Report added that if “we were to add the number of Nigerian doctors in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, Europe, Australia and those in other African countries, the figure would be close to 30,000.” Quoting a World Bank report, the African diaspora statistics added that African countries spend an estimated $5.6 billion in employing foreign specialists, when Nigeria alone has enough skilled labour to provide this service.
This does not mean restricting this effort to Nigerians only, but the statistics above show that Nigeria has a highly professional ‘crowd’ living in diaspora. NMFUK should leverage on this by working with other diaspora organizations to support the reconstruction of Northeastern Nigeria.
For this reasons I would like to recommend the following: NMFUK should work with other Nigerian diaspora organisations, the office of the Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on Diaspora and establish Nigerian Diaspora Crowdsourcing Fund (NDIF). The fund should work to mobilise material and human resources to support the reconstruction of Northeastern and other fragile states in Nigeria. The fund should mobilise money, but most importantly the human capital available in the diaspora, particularly medical personnel, university academics and entrepreneurs to volunteer their service in developing the human capital of Northeastern Nigeria. Whatever its imperfection, Nigeria had invested in us, it is time to return the gesture.
Whatever is the underlying cause of the insurgency in Northeastern Nigeria, lack of human capital development, excessive poverty and ignorance in the proper understanding of religious texts have contributed to the escalation of the insurgency. You need human capital to develop human capital. This is where Nigerians in diaspora can make a difference.
NMFUK should seek partnership with donors like Dangote Foundation and Gates Foundation with a view to tapping into their expertise, international network and desire to invest in human capital development.
Finally, NMFUK should mobilise its members with technological skills to start working on the technological platform that could be used in the crowdsourcing campaign. I conclude with a saying of Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace and blessings of Allah): “The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind."
Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u