Since his graduate days at Northwestern University, HWS economics professor Alan Frishman has been expanding and deepening his knowledge of his thesis topic: “The Spatial Growth and Residential Location Patterns of Kano, Nigeria.”
During a research trip to Africa this April and May, Frishman was invited to Bayero University in Kano to give two lectures about the city and its industrial, economic and spatial growth.
In his first talk, “Industrialization in Kano: An Analysis of Its Past, Present and Future,” Frishman discussed Kano’s industrial surge in the 1960s (and subsequent downturn in the 1990s) and the findings of his research.
“In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kano was one of the top 10 industrial centers of Africa,” says Frishman. Since then, it’s been de-industrializing and performing in what Frishman calls an “epileptic” manner. “Firms that are still operating will start up for a couple months, and then stop; start up, then stop.” Frishman’s research, and his first lecture, explored this and “examined why some large and small scale industries survive and some fail.”
The talk, which was well received, was followed by an interesting, lively discussion of the state of the Kano and Nigerian economy. “This lecture was really more like a seminar,” says Frishman. “There were about 30 people – an academic crowd but with some business people, too. It was helpful to hear from the people there and learn from them.”
Frishman, who has often traveled to Nigeria to research the economy and industrialization of the country, first went to a village near Kano with the Peace Corps from 1966 to 1969 and later, in the early 1970s, returned to conduct his Ph.D. research and teach mathematics at Bayero University and the Kano State College of Advanced Studies. Since then, he has revisited Nigeria roughly every six or seven years, to investigate, reexamine and update his previous research, and in that time, has seen huge changes in Kano.
“When I was first there,” Frishman says, “Kano had about 300,000 people. Now it has 3 million. That’s an enormous increase over 35 years.”
Appropriately, the second lecture, “The Spatial Growth of Kano, Nigeria,” focused on the physical expansion of the city.
In contrast to the first talk, the second was given in a large lecture hall with an audience of at least 100 faculty members, students and guests. The lecture was followed by a question and answer session, which Frishman says “went very well. Everyone was very appreciative. It was gratifying to see so many people turn out for this.”
Although Nigeria was once a British colony and the official language is English, Hausa is commonly spoken in Northern Nigeria. Although he claimed to be a little rusty on arrival, Frishman says he “was able to slip back into the language” he learned nearly four decades ago. “The lectures were in English,” he says, “but after about 10 days I was easily carrying on conversations in Hausa. It was nice since I don’t get a chance to speak it around here.”
Frishman, who joined the faculty in 1976, received his Ph.D. and M.A. in economics as well as a certificate in African Studies, from Northwestern University. He received his B.S. in mathematics from the City College of New York. His academic and scholarly interests focus on the economic development, urbanization and industrialization of countries in Africa (primarily Nigeria), Asia and Latin America. He is a member of the American Economics Association and the African Studies Association.
His trip, which lasted from April 11 to May 11, was sponsored in part by an HWS Faculty Research Grant.