In the quest to improve the material wellbeing and welfare of the citizens, various governments in Nigeria have over time embarked upon numerous developmental policies, plans, programmes and projects. Looking back, it is clear that the economy has not actually performed to its fullest potential, particularly in the face of rising population, and enormous resource endowment.
Undoubtedly, Nigeria and other African countries need investment and developmental projects from other countries. Many African countries have low levels of development and technological advancement, while countries like China, Brazil, Indonesia, India, Malaysia etc, though also referred to as developing countries, have higher levels of technology in railway, power, car plants, manufacturing, engineering, ICT, space technology and aviation.
Since independence, Nigeria has witnessed minimal industrialisation which does not reflect her level of resource endowments. Many East Asian countries that were far behind Nigeria in terms of GDP per capita in the 1970s, today have transformed their economies and are not only miles ahead of Nigeria, but are also major players on the global industrialisation chart.
History has it that Malaysia, at the early stage of its development, procured improved oil-palm and rubber seeds from Nigeria and became the world’s largest palm oil producer/exporter and a major exporter of rubber.
Indeed, Nigeria needs to embark upon some major strategic reform programs with infrastructure and technological development top on the list of sectors that need urgent attention. But how then will Nigeria develop and why should it develop?
These are questions that need urgent answers as they point the way forward for a country with large population of over 160million and abundant resources including oil and gas, bitumen, limestone, zinc, gold, uranium and others.
As a country, we have to decide what sort of economy we want to run: Do we want a trader’s economy or a production-based economy? Our thought is that a comparatively advantaged economy like Nigeria should choose the latter. Second, we need to look at specific areas of comparative advantage globally and stimulate such areas effectively in order to create wealth and value for the economy.
We have said it continually that Nigeria is well positioned to take a leading position in industrialisation and Information Technology. These fields have the potential and capability to produce more than oil and gas for Nigeria if we know what we are doing.
The Government of President Buhari should open its doors and allow countries such as the Asian Tigers and other developed economies to come in, especially during this period of economic crisis, to turnaround economy via industrialisation.
Nigeria will not be the first or last nation to do that. In fact, economic history contains stories of countries such as Japan, Germany, France that once had a closed economy but later opened their doors to foreign investors and industrialists. The US and Europe initially dominated the world but later transferred their technology to Japan, later to China. China has also transferred to less developed Asian countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam. Recently, these technologies are being transferred to African nations like Ethiopia and Kenya. This is what Nigeria must allow to happen for her to catch up with other nations.
Regrettably, Nigeria is still lagging behind in industrialisation. Except Lagos, there is no other functional Free Trade Zone. The one in Calabar is moribund. Steel and Iron mining firms such as Ajaokuta, Delta Steel, Itakpe Iron Ore, and Oshogbo Steel Rolling Mill which would have galvanised our industrial base, have been allowed to rot away despite various industrialisation plans from 1960 to date.
A major way out of this quandary is through acceleration of the economy by external sources of money (foreign investment) and technical expertise. Foreign investment would serve as means of augmenting Nigeria’s domestic resources in order to carryout effectively, her development programmes and raise the standard of living of her people.
Take for instance, China. The country has now entered a new phase of development, with more attention being paid to the quality of economic growth, and has resolved to deal with the surplus of production capacity in its economy.
Moreover, China’s aspiration in production capacity cooperation is by no means its way of transferring outdated capacity to less-developed countries, as the world’s second largest economy knows that only cost-effective equipment and technologies can succeed in overseas markets.
Nigeria still needs foreign assistance in the form of managerial, entrepreneurial and technical skills that often accompany foreign direct investments. Without foreign investments, Nigeria’s industrialisation will continue to remain a mirage because no nation does it alone.