Published On: Wed, Aug 30th, 2017

Ikpeazu, Onu, Anya, others drum support for made in Nigeria goods at Hallmark lecture

OBINNA EZUGWU|
Prominent Nigerians have emphasized the need for Nigeria to develop its export capacity, insisting it is the only way out of the current economic recession. They made this declaration at the August 2017 Edition of Business Hallmark’s Public Policy Forum (PPF), with the theme: “The Made in Nigeria Campaign and National Economic Revival”, held at the Chattered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Victoria Island Lagos. Speakers at the lecture included the guest lecturer, Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu; Chairman of the occasion, Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; Chairman, Business Hallmark Public Policy Advisory Board, Prof George Obiozor; Chairman, Overt Energy and member, Business Hallmark Policy Advisory Board, Sir Marc Wabara.

 

Nigeria spends N1.3trn on textile materials annually –Ikpeazu
In his presentation, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu regretted that Nigeria, as the second largest consumer of champagne, spends a whopping N25billion every year on its importation while the country has the capacity to produce better wine locally. He equally noted that despite the country’s enormous capacity to grow cotton locally, it spends N1.3 trillion on importation of textiles with massive implication on the economy.
“A report released by Euromonitor indicates that since 2013, Nigeria has been the 2nd highest consumer of champagne globally, second only to France where most of it is produced. We spend £50M (N25billion) annually on champagne importation.
“It will interest you to note that we consume more champagne than the USA, the United Kingdom and China. Imagine if we grew our palm wine and our local gin industries? Why are we importing bitters from Ghana? Don’t we have bitters here? Instead of chasing around our boys who make gins and tagging them illicit, shouldn’t we regularize them, encourage them and grant them appropriate licenses and permits to meet the local market? From paraga to shekpe, jiko to etetem (local gin), monkey tail to agbo, we give derogatory and condemnatory narratives to our own while promoting everything foreign. How do we expect to grow?” he queried.
The governor however, said that the made in Aba campaign he is embarking upon is yielding positive results, as according to him, manufacturers make as much as N2billion annually from the export of their products to other African countries.

 

Ikpeazu already following China model –Prof Obiozor
Nigeria’s former ambassador to the United States, Prof. George Obiozor. in his own remarks, praised the Abia governor for elevating the state into the league of successful states in Nigeria through his initiatives, stating that the governor is adopting the Chinese model which, according to him, is the way to go.
“Under the governor, Abia is now a dynamic growing economy, attracting a host of investors, offering an industrial base comparable to well established states that are exceptionally doing well such as Lagos and Ogun as well as Anambra State. He has brought scientific expertise to governance. And this has resulted in the various initiatives Abia State has taken towards the growth and development of the state’s economy.
“He is a great teacher who is emerging as a high priest of economic initiatives. He is a man who has set an example in rural development. He has learnt thoroughly how homemade industries have played beautiful roles in the development of other countries. This is how China began; by relying on its own resources, both manpower and industrial resources. In the beginning, they were derided, but later they became dominant in the international market. The Abia experiment, and governor Okezie’s initiatives has elevated Abia State into the league of successful states in Nigeria.”

 

You lose 600 percent of the value when you export in raw state – Prof Anya
One of the guests at the event and former Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), Prof Anya O. Anya, in his own contribution noted that deficiency in science and technology was the bane of Nigeria’s development. He explained that because Nigeria does not have the capacity to put its primary products into processed goods, it loses 600 percent of the value, explaining that until the problem is resolved, the country will remain in poverty.
“Any time you export anything in its raw state without processing, you are missing because that thing will come back to you marked up ten times.
“The reason is simple. Immediately you process anything, the value goes up to 700 percent. So, why lose 600 percent of what you could have gotten? And the reason why we do not process as we ought to is that there is deficiency in science and technology. Science allows you to add knowledge, and with that knowledge it becomes innovation, and with that innovation the value added increases. We have not paid enough attention to the development of science and technology. Because of that of innovation is low. Until we solve that problem, we will remain in poverty.”

 

Inability to engage millions of our population, our greatest challenge – Wabara
Sir Marc Wabara in his own contribution, painted a scary picture of Nigeria’s unemployment figures, insisting that the country’s inability to absorb its teeming youths was its greatest challenge.
“The challenge of leadership in Nigeria is more demanding. If you wish to profile these challenges primarily as security, many will agree with you. If you want to talk about challenges of national unity, many will also agree. But my humble opinion is that the biggest challenge we have is the inability to engage millions of our population, especially the younger population.
“We have our tertiary institutions graduating hundreds and thousands, but rather than them graduating into employments, unfortunately, many of them are graduating into unemployment. The information we have is that over 40 percent of our youths are unemployed, and when you consider the fact that close to 60 to 70 are underemployed, then you begin to appreciate the problem we have as a nation. That is why the made in Aba campaign which I must say, has been taken to a very high level by our governor is very important. Not only for Aba or Abia, but for the nation.”
Recession has forced us to put on our thinking caps –Onu
In his remarks, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who was represented by the Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Oshodi, Prof. (Mrs) Gloria Elemo, lamented that Nigeria had invested so much in foreign products such that it had become a part of the culture with the attendant mass unemployment which presents serious security implications.
“As a country that has invested so much in foreign products, ideas and solutions, which has become infused into our culture and values, the idea of made in Nigeria can be quite foreign and novel to us. Which should not be the case.
“The federal government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has adopted the diversification of the national economy as a major strategy to move the Nigerian economy out of recession onto the part of national prosperity. The Buhari government should be commended for the made in Nigeria goods initiative, and the push for the initiative to thrive through the executive order compelling government agencies to direct 40 percent of procurement to make in Nigeria goods and services.
“It is saying the obvious that our nation has depended so much on the petro-dollar to the neglect of other sustainable resources, and I personally have always known that the petro-dollar is not sustainable. I have been an advocate of made in Nigeria goods, right from my days as the first executive governor of Abia State.
“I believe that the surest way to achieve national prosperity is to strengthen indigenous production capacity and promote consumption of goods manufactured in locally and discourage the consumption of imported goods. We are at a point in our national economic history that we can no longer afford to import through our hard-earned foreign exchange, goods and services that we have indigenous capacity and capability to produce locally.
“It is unthinkable that we import toothpick, rice, fish, cassava starch, sugar, processed tomatoes, garments and fabrics into this country. Our insatiable appetite for foreign products at the detriment of the locally made ones remains a devastating economic drain, which has contributed immensely to the economic recession in Nigeria.
“We need to understand that some imported products are not necessarily better than what we produce locally. Without trying to discredit any nation, some nations have discriminatory product quality for exported products, especially for products exported to Africa probably because of the thinking that that the African continent might not be able to afford high grade products due to high level of poverty.”
The minister noted that the positive side of the current economic recession in the country is that it has forced Nigerians to put on their thinking caps.
“The beautiful part of the recession today is that it has gotten us to put on our thinking caps, to devise ways by which we can survive through diversification into non oil revenue sources, especially agriculture and agro processing as well as solid mineral processing. I hope we will be able to sustain the current tempo of campaign and advocacy for massive patronage and consumption of made in Nigeria goods in the spirit of national patriotism.
“Since assumption of office as the minister of science and technology, I have made commercialisation of indigenous technology a priority. It is amazing that we import technology not only to empower the large industries, but also for micro, small and medium industries. Despite the fact that we have over 200 commercializable indigenous technologies, fully developed by parastatals like the Federal Institute of Industrial Research in Oshodi, Lagos under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.
“It is very unfortunate that the unemployment rate in Nigeria is quite threatening. Jobless youths are roaming the streets with negative implications for national security. Government alone cannot solve this problem, but the best that can be done by the government is to provide the enabling environment and favourable policies for the private sector to thrive, part of which is this campaign we are here to for.”

 

Our oil, non oil revenue falling rapidly – Awolowo
Another discussant, Mr. Olusegun Awolowo, who was represented by Mr. George Oyepo, called on the country’s leadership to take more seriously, the diversification of the economy into non oil sector, noting that figures from last two years indicate that both oil and non oil revenue is falling.
“The history of where we are today is well-known. Between 2015 and 2016, we earned $39.6billion in export of crude oil. And in 2016, we earned barely $27.36billion meaning a decline of over 30 percent. For the non-oil, the story is even worse. In 2015, we earned $1.6billion only from non-oil exports. In 2016 we earned $1.2billion, showing approximately 26 percent decline. If you compare the figures, you will see that we are still completely oil dependent. But we have what it takes to produce what we eat”, he said.

 

We must achieve standardization of locally made goods – Bello
Mr Abba Bello, one of the discussants emphasised the need for standardisation of locally produced goods for better acceptability. He noted that at the moment it is easier for business men to import goods into the country than to export, and laid out plans his bank has for export promotion.
“One of the things that is very important for Nigeria to achieve is standardisation. We should be proud to wear shoes, clothes made in Nigeria. But we must ensure standardisation.
“At NEXIM Bank, our mandate is to facilitate export of Nigerian products. In the past, we have spoken of export of primary products, but that has failed to create employment. It has not been able to optimize the revenue, so for us, the made in Nigeria initiative is something we are proud to now bring under our umbrella as development finance institution.
“The engine of every economy in the world is SMEs, and we must recognize that organizing them is very important. His Excellency (Ikpeazu) noted that every week, one million pairs of shoes leave Aba to Cameroon, to Equatorial Guinea, to Ghana everywhere. But he was saying at the same time that they generate N2billion. What I would like to hear is that they generate $2billion.
“We export made in Nigeria goods across West and Central Africa, but it is still in informal ways. Now, one of the things we are trying to do beyond funding, is advocacy. Informal trading happens because there are too many obstacles to formal trading in Nigeria, these obstacles are infrastructural; both hard and soft infrastructure. You know it is easier to import in Nigeria than to export. If you are a trader and you want to export from Nigeria, it is more difficult than importing from outside Nigeria because of the obstacles. So we are doing advocacy to ensure that the Aba trader or manufacturer, rather than exporting to Cameroon and collecting naira, he should be able to export and be paid in foreign currency. That will open up a lot of things, both for the country and for the manufacturer because if he earns in dollars, he can even get foreign loans in single digit and he can compete with the Chinese who are getting government funding at 2 percent or less.”

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