I had to conceptualize everything from scratch. I’d researched and couldn’t find anything close to what I had in mind, so it became obvious to me that this was going to have to be a first venture of its kind.
Number of years
A little over two years; from conceptualization to finished product. And, like I said, beginning everything from scratch; I had to decide on the way to present the analyses. What I knew I wanted to do was to make this economic data and information accessible to just about anybody who needs it.
That wouldn’t mean making it accessible to school students or medical doctors, because it would have to explain a lot of concepts from the very basics, but all the same, accessible to business owners, managers, and the like, who don’t necessarily need to have a grasp of macroeconomics to understand how a country functions. A lot of books I came across were not user-friendly.
I wanted it to be engaging, something any business practitioner, academic researcher, could use. I wanted it to be friendly as well as attractive; an economic manual you would open and feel pulled into its pages. It took me a while to work out these ideas and how to present them engagingly on paper.
It also occurred to me along the way that I might find it difficult to get published. I realized I had to do everything by myself and started working at it. It took longer than I’d expected, longer than I’d wished, and it caused me more sweat, more money, more of just about everything.
I self-published, and used a company in the United Kingdom who print. I’d checked them out and we came to an agreement. They printed and also handled the distribution. I handled everything else; so I had to learn those ropes as well, and I tried as much as I could to pick the brains of various people who might have interesting inputs.
Until the book came out, not even I knew what the overall effect would be. All I could talk about, before then, was my idea of the book; and all people could hear from me was about this picture; they couldn’t seen anything, not until I had completed extensive work on the manuscript and printed it out on my office printer. Until this point, nobody knew what I was writing about, it had never been done, so they couldn’t picture it.
I remember coming out of a large shopping mall and running into somebody I had met before. He used to head a World Bank institution in Africa as country representative. I told him what I was embarking on and he went, “Oh, interesting. What about your data, where are you going to get data from?” I told him about the sources I’d be researching and, very skeptically, he replied, “I wish you luck.”
The economic indicators
I knew what I wanted the book to do, and so I knew what kind of picture and story I wanted to tell through it. I had a more or less basic idea of the issues each chapter should deal with and, more or less, how many chapters there would be.
I wanted data sources that would apply to to all the countries and serve
as credible starting points, so I went to the World Bank and other multilateral financial institutions. I did encounter many problems, but I also came upon data I could use. This was the best available.
It was difficult putting all the data together and organizing it. At a point, I would just sit in front of my computer, staring at floods of numbers. After I’d come to some semblance of a decision about what to do with them, came the real work.
The data crunching and wringing of numbers through my hundreds of excel spreadsheets took ages and it was tiring, but interesting. I felt like an architect who sees a structure emerge after the soulless and endless phases of mixing concrete and gathering of other construction material.
I never wanted to write a boring business book, so I included elements of humor and irony that were appropriate to the context. So, every chapter opens with a cartoon and a humorous comment. It is not just the economics but these graphics, charts, grammar that make up the book’s appealing presentation.
That’s interesting. I’ve analyzed the forty-eight countries and compared them to their counterparts, but I didn’t want to use static indices. I’ve used moving averages, instead, dynamic indices. I devised a means I hope will become widely adopted and relevant to country economic performance whenever this is discussed, basing the rankings of the various countries according to their performance over the preceding four years, rather than in one particular end-year.