The Corner

Human Capital Reinvested In Africa

I’ve taken the Christian Science Monitor as my “afternoon” paper for years largely because of its unique network of foreign correspondents. A recent piece filed from Shonga, Nigeria illustrates why I keep reading. Correspondent Sarah Simpson tells the story of white Zimbabweans, chased out of their native country by Robert Mugabe’s thugs, resettling in a welcoming corner of Nigeria where their agricultural and engineering knowledge is being put to productive use. The lede conveys the gist:

Musa Mogadi says he is better off since “the whites” came. He’s got a new job, learned new farming skills, and he can chat on a mobile phone while zipping around the countryside on a motorbike.

Three years ago, Mr. Mogadi got by as a subsistence farmer. But he now earns a regular wage as a supervisor on one of this town’s new commercial farms.

He’s applied skills he learned from some of the two dozen white Zimbabwean farmers who moved to Nigeria in 2005, after being kicked off their land by President Robert Mugabe and later attracted by large parcels of land on offer under 25-year leases and commitments of support from the Nigerian government.

Production on his farm is now up.

“We are starting to use fertilizers,” says Mogadi, explaining that he was encouraged to buy fertilizer after seeing yield benefits on the commercial farm. He’s also started planting his maize in a more compact formation, like the Zimbabweans, increasing production from each field planted.

Before the Zimbabweans arrived, there was no mobile phone network in the area and so no reason to have a mobile phone. Now he and most of the other workers have snazzy cellphones, and many have bought motorbikes imported from China, often with a loan from their employer.

In the future, when the national power network reaches the Shonga farms, Mogadi is looking forward to having electricity in his home and village for the first time.

In a sidebar, Simpson provides an account of one family’s flight from Zimbabwe to Nigeria:

“My projected wealth is more here [in Nigeria], than what I left behind,” explains Irvine Reid, who moved here with his wife, Gayle, and son, Callum, though their two older daughters are in South Africa. “If everything goes to plan,” he adds.

The enthusiasm from Nigerian authorities is in sharp contrast to the government-sponsored violence that forced the farmers out of Zimbabwe. The Reid family was repeatedly visited by large mobs performing protest dances until one day they visited when Mrs. Reid was home alone.

“I was sat down and told that if we were not off the farm by the following Monday, they would come back and chop off his head,” she says, pointing to her husband. Their farm is now owned by a general in the Zimbabwean Army and commercial farming has all but ceased, say the Reids.

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