‘Made in Nigeria’: Towards Nigeria’s economic renaissance

Made in Nigeria”, as Professor Ojetunji Aboyade would have perceived it, is a strong and intuitive slogan with a very strong emotional and patriotic appeal. “Made in Nigeria” is a brilliant development strategy worth investing concerted energy in the policy space. It points attention to development imperatives. It is definitely the kind of creative rethinking that Nigeria requires in transforming its development framework.

But then, the question remains: Can we do with this creative initiative outside of a well-calibrated development plan and reform framework that combine policy intelligence, strategic development communication and disciplined implementation dynamics? I see strong structural weakness in existing development planning system apart from the deficit in policy intelligence.

Kenichi Ohmae, the Japanese business strategist, concludes the matter: “What we need today…is not a new theory, concept, or framework, but people who can think strategically.” A national planning system is only as good as the leadership that is willing to get through its complexity through analytics and implementation rigour. What needs to be done is simple: Nigeria needs to inflect the “Made in Nigeria” campaign with the fundamental elements of its development plans. “Made in Nigeria” needs to become the serious slogan around which Nigeria’s development is really ready to clean the economic Augean stables of the present and to bring democratic development alive for Nigerians.

Summing up therefore, it is clear to any discerning mind that Nigeria’s predicament is essentially a structural one: In sum, these challenges are entrenched in the weak productive and high consuming structure of the economy.If structural imbalance is the problem, what is the solution? There are of course several perspectives to the solution of the socioeconomic problems. One, however, stands out as the most fundamental because it goes right to the root of what every progressing nation will do to sustain its drive towards becoming increasingly developmental.

Progressive nations plan. And to fail to plan is to unwittingly plan to fail in development terms. Planning is one word that both captures Aboyade’s economic philosophy and outlines his economic reconstruction dynamics. This reform of the national planning system definitely will be a profound tribute to the memory and unqualified patriotic contribution of ProfessorAboyade’s contribution to the unfolding of an economic renaissance in Nigeria.

Reforming the national planning systems is, therefore, a first critical strategic policy move to make.This first and most fundamental step in this reform process would be to create a shift from central planning to a mix of strategic planning and scenario planning that creates critical balance between short, medium and long-term planning. Important as a support is future research and contingency planning that strengthens early warning strategic policy intelligence and response capacity.Secondly, the development planning theory underpinning national planning as framework and assumptions must be right. Otherwise, the country, technically, is not planning at all. Thirdly, the role of the state as macro-assumption must be properly defined and operationalised relative to the private sector in their shared responsibility as engines of growth of the economy.

Professor Aboyade proposed a new framework for planning that promises high impact and effect on sustainable development. In his words: “The inevitable framework for this is a new concept of planning that embraces the whole economy and is fitted to a long-term perspective of social change. This must call for a new form of planning organisation for better social communication. Planning in  … Nigeria must be a synthesis of ‘planning for policy’ and ‘planning for resources’.

Professor Aboyade’s position was that for any economic policy to have intended outcomes, three ingredients are necessary. “The first of this tripod base is minimisation of the immediate bottlenecks to expansion of output. The second is the necessity to reform strategic economic policies and make them mutually consistent for the requirement of optimum growth. The third lies in the area of social communication and the improvement of economic organisation for effective planned development. For good results, it is essential that proper measures are taken simultaneously on all these three fronts” (Aboyade 1971: 64).

Beyond the rhetoric, Nigeria’s future is hinged on how quickly and sustainably it diversifies its economic base. Economic diversification is the antidote to most of the development challenges facing Nigeria today. The weakening naira, the high and rising youth unemployment, terrorism in the North-East and disruptions of oil production in the Niger Delta are all rooted in the country’s limited economic diversification. There is, therefore, real need to look inwards to diversify both economic and fiscal base. Nigeria is superabundantly blessed with natural resources that could form the fulcrum for diversified economic activities.

Serious and ingenious thoughts and policies are needed to turn this comparative advantage into competitive advantage. All levels of government should look inward to identify these opportunities and craft strategy to exploit them. This action will ensure all governments change their behaviour of depending on monthly Federation Account allocations to survive. What are the potential alternative sources of fiscal revenues other than the Federation Account? What are the commercially exploitable activities at the federal and state levels that could be developed? Is it tourism, Nollywood and other forms of entertainment, agribusiness, or agro-processing? Whatever it is, by all means, national and sub-national governments should look inwards and focus on developing these as the way to true economic diversification, structural transformation and sustainable development.

Generally, sustained economic growth means increase in national output and national income emanating from rising aggregate demand and aggregate supply or productive capacity. This can only occur with lower interest rates that reduce the cost of borrowing and as such encourage spending and investment, increased disposable income that promotes household consumption, increased government spending, diversified and increased net exports. Others are good quality institutions, human capital development, favourable macroeconomic policy environment, and diversification of the economic base. National and sub-national governments should focus critically examining this general framework in the specific context of the realities on ground with a view to identifying the main sources and ingredients of growth that is capable of ensuring the country produce and consume what it produces in a sustainable way.

We need to deepen the buy Nigeria campaign by deploying the full compliments of strategic development communication tools and skills. The essential message is that, every foreign good we consume creates jobs for foreigners at the expense of our people and transfers wealth to the countries producing the goods. It also contributes to weakening the naira through increased demand for foreign exchange to purchase these foreign goods. The inverse holds when we buy made in Nigeria goods. To encourage increasingly diversified productive domestic economic base with the attendant job creation, wealth spread, forex inflows and strong naira, we must patronise goods and services made in Nigeria.

As the adage goes, “fingers are not equal.” This is true of the states. Some states are more advanced in socioeconomic development, in capacity, in policy, and in several other important areas. This is not a challenge but presents opportunity for peer learning for effective state level development. A starting point could be for states with less growth progress to choose a state among those that are doing better and target it as a role model. Of course, this would be comparable States with similar characteristics and ‘endowments’, maybe geography, natural resources, markets, among others. What is the state doing differently that is giving it better results?

There is equally compelling need to promote national value reorientation through effective development communication strategy. There is need to ignite and reignite a new national mental model through national values reorientation and cultural change. This is especially true with our production and consumption pattern. Today, the growing and voracious middle class which is a major opportunity is turning into a challenge given their preferences for foreign made goods at the expense of locally made products. This class of people prefers to take foreign made cereals for breakfast. They prefer to travel overseas for medical care. They prefer to send their children to foreign schools.

A great positive signal will be sent into the national mental model if government in truth and in spirit is seen as genuinely making move to restore meritocracy in development management through depoliticisation of critical national appointments. This is the way to send good signal to upcoming generations that it pays to be skillful and talented. Meritocracy in key national development engagements would promote the best brains that are capable of making a major mark on development policy like Professor Aboyade. Politicisation of such appointments will neither ensure emergence of high performers nor produce the best results.

Promoting policy intelligence through institutionalised policy platform of ‘Town and Gown’ to foster policy and research synergy is core critical strategy move to establish Nigeria’s place in the knowledge age and global competitiveness. There is the need to leverage global knowledge networks and community of practice to drive policy. Also important is the need to bring back the Aboyade’s era where strong interface between academic and policymakers was forged for effective development policymaking. Academics, think tanks and research organisations are undertaking studies that are either not policy relevant or those that are policy relevant do not get to the attention of the political class and policymakers. There is need, therefore, to strengthen and reinforce the policy-research synergy for effective development policymaking. Rather than drive policymaking through ad hoc approach, better structured and institutionalised policy setting that leverages ‘town and gown’ approach holds higher promise for development policy.

The possibility of an economic renaissance in Nigeria seems a far-fetched thought, given the present ravages inflicted by economic recession. We can point at the economic history of Singapore and the East Asian Tigers as encouragement. But in the final analysis, Nigeria must take her own steps, make her own history and transform her destiny through her own policy architecture that truly empowers.

  • Being a paper delivered by Olaopa at Professor Ojetunji Aboyade 2016 memorial lecture organised by the Development Policy Centre (DPC), Ibadan, on Friday, 9th of September, 2016.