For a very long time, the Nigerian economy depended largely on its oil trade, an over-specialisation to the exclusion of all other natural resources. So, it is no surprise that the recent economic downturn birthed the ‘Made in Nigeria’ campaign, as a solution for economic restoration. At the heart of the campaign is a patriotic sentiment for Nigerians to patronise made-in-Nigeria products in order to revive the economy.
There are irrefutable obvious merits to this proposition, but my optimism was swiftly curbed when I began to consider how fundamentally deficient the country is to even embark on such a mission. Nigeria is a rich country enveloped in poverty, and unless the following deficits are addressed, the country will be following in the footsteps of the man who built his house upon the sand.
Nigeria currently has what I can only aptly refer to as a ‘decaying infrastructure’. Any country that is serious about becoming a world-class production and economic centre must firstly ensure to provide an enabling environment that will encourage its citizens and foreign investors to support and promote its objectives. Without a doubt, there are great production and manufacturing potentials across various sectors in Nigeria yet to be exploited, but without the basic infrastructures, such as good roads, constant power supply and efficient transport network needed for production companies to function efficiently and effectively, this campaign is simply farfetched.
The impact of skills deficit on any economy is critical and even more so for Nigeria at a time when it is considering diversifying the economy from oil trade. This means that a variety of skills will be required in technology, engineering, digital, manufacturing and construction. So I ask, where are the young technicians that can build computers or engineers that can construct a modern railway system? The depletion of basic-essential skills in Nigeria is not due to a lack of formal education.
Whilst we may applaud the education system for its rigorous effort in impacting theoretical knowledge, albeit outdated, the system falls far short in providing adequate practical and technical training. I make no claims to have the answers to this problem, but it is apparent that the government, businesses and educators must begin to collaborate and agree on a progressive and sustainable strategy that creates a seamless synergy between theory and practical.
Nigeria must invest in her citizens to reap the economic benefits it desires. It must restore and create more vocational pathways to work, more apprenticeships and integration between the worlds of work and education. Unless we address this issue, skills deficit will debilitate productivity and delay economic recovery, especially for a country with an overwhelming young population. Why churn out graduates that are not prepared to meet the needs of the larger economy?
I have often heard people say “We Nigerians don’t value ourselves, we believe that whatever is foreign is better”. Of course, this is a generalisation that is unapologetically true for many. There is a distinctive preference for foreign goods simply because people want to be sure that they are exchanging their monies for quality products that are fit for purpose and perhaps Instagram worthy.
Unless you’re ready to exchange your Louboutin for Aba shoes, don’t say it ain’t true! Someone said to me recently, “We like to cut corners in this country even at the expense of people’s lives”. You only have to consider the number of accidents that occur annually due to systemic failures or negligence to establish the truth of this statement. Perhaps, when government officials stop traveling abroad for minor medical procedures, and invest in “Nigerian made doctors & hospitals”, this campaign can merit a serious discussion.
The main emphasis of this campaign so far has been on local consumption; the domestic market. Imagine if China only sold its products to the Chinese people. Apart from patriotic Nigerians who might feel obliged to support the economy, and patronise Nigeria made products, who else in the world will be buying? Amidst reports that many exported Nigerian goods are often rejected abroad for not complying with basic standards, I hesitate to guarantee that locally made goods will not fall short of international expectations. After all, the country is sluggishly awakening from a bed of mediocrity. Curtailing imported goods will mean local producers having little to no competition to compel them to develop to the level of perfection where they can be substituted for foreign alternatives
Yes, Rome was not built in a day and development is not automatic. However, the government should not compel a preference for sub-standard goods or services without a comprehensive analysis of its action plans. The Senate President should not just amend the Public Procurement Act, but also create laws and implement judicious policies that will steer the economy to success. I appreciate the fact that an attempt normally improves in subsequent trials, so let us endeavour to build with the right blocks on a solid foundation for a long lasting economy.
This campaign is worthy of all consideration, but it will be a fallacy if we don’t #FixNigeria.