Taking back Nigeria: One resolution that will matter
There is no doubt that 2016 was a difficult year for many Nigerians, on both personal and organisational levels. During the year, the country’s economy slipped into a recession, this together with the attendant terminations, factory closures, retrenchments, and drop in living standards occasioned by the inflation, meant that 2016 was an ‘Annus Horribilis’ for many. This 2017, however, presents an opportunity for ordinary Nigerians like us to take back our country.
I posit a simple yet powerful New Year resolution that will enable us collectively pull our country out of the current morass and set it firmly on the path of greatness that I strongly believe we can achieve. Although it has always been my modus operandi, this year I will make a more deliberate and conscious effort to patronise made-in-Nigeria products and services. I now enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians and residents of our country to also make a point of requesting and ensuring that the products and services they patronise and commission are local.
Earlier, I posited that this resolution, if adopted nationally, would rescue us from the recession and enable us regain our greatness. Some of the overarching policy objectives that can be achieved by increasing national consumption of locally made products and services include a reduction of our chronic dependence on foreign exchange, as well as a rapid and wide-ranging development of our local industries and service providers.It will also increase the appeal of our local industries to foreign investment, especially when the targeted patronage is considered alongside our considerable market size, as well as our gateway status to sub-Saharan Africa.
Medium term objectives that this initiative can help achieve include the development of local human and organisational capacity in various developmental sectors, as well as the stimulation of relevant and ‘fit for purpose’ research to address contextual issues peculiar to the Nigerian setting. In the long term, fidelity to this initiative will ensure that Nigeria leverages on its significant population and position to develop an economy that is not only self-sufficient in all critical areas, but is also dominant in regional and global politics and policy making.
From personal experience, I can attest to the quality of made-in-Nigeria products in many sectors. I bought my first house in Abuja when Obasanjo and El Rufai auctioned government houses early in the last decade. The building I bought was literally on the verge of collapse and required rebuilding from scratch. Among the materials my contractors used, were Nigerian electrical cables. These have lasted over a decade now, whereas my contemporaries have reported that the imported ones they used have all melted or malfunctioned. Another similar but even more important example relates to locally produced medicines. Anyone who has kids, knows that you do not joke with their health right? Now fathom that despite the fact that my children were all born in Europe and America, I have always preferred to administer made-in-Nigeria drugs to them. I have so much faith and trust in our drugs.
There are however some critics who will still insist on making comments about the quality of Nigerian products and services. Yes, I agree that there are a few other sectors where more could be done to bring local products and services to the highest international standards, but then, without the kind of patronage I propose, companies will be hard pressed to make the sort of investment that would result in world class quality. Besides, there are now a range of strategies that can be used to increase accountability and responsiveness, which will in turn help improve quality of local products and services.
For those in charge of growth and development strategies for their companies and organisations, I also have a piece free of advice to offer. There has not been a better time than now, to invest in local capacity, as well as build or improve relevant production infrastructure. Firstly, due to the FOREX scarcity in Nigeria, investors from outside the country have the most bang for their buck right now. However, with the recent OPEC deal and the increasing likelihood of a calm Niger Delta, the National FOREX issue may soon be resolved and this window may soon close. Secondly, policy directives from the Presidency are increasingly focused on improving patronage of goods and services produced locally. This is part of government’s overall strategy for developing local industries.
The implication is that as government programmes unfold over the next few years, the policy milieu will most likely be more favourable for organisations producing locally, compared to those that rely on importation. Thirdly, a review of the current administration’s policies will reveal that encouraging the patronage of local goods and services is one area where there is significant coherence and consonance, amongst various arms as well as levels of government. It therefore means that in terms of patronising local goods and services, legislation from the National Assembly is likely to dovetail into policies from The Executive, and vice versa. There is also emerging evidence that a number of State Governments are developing various initiatives along the lines of the resolution proposed here. These are just a few of the points that Company Executives, Board Members and Shareholders should consider, if they want to maintain or increase their market share in Nigeria.
To ensure that government is faithful to the initiative being pushed by the current administration, Directors General, Permanent Secretaries and other Chief Executives of Government MDAs must ensure that Nigerian goods and services are favoured in procurement exercises, while still conforming to relevant international laws. Nigerian companies and local contractors should also study the procurement laws and leverage on existing advantages for companies that produce locally.
On the private side, owners of businesses should endeavour to stock and recommend locally made products and services. In order to ensure that everyone one does their own bit, shop attendants and clerks should also be trained to identify the source of goods and services, as well as endeavour to offer Nigerian products as first choice to customers. Customers, clients and consumers however represent the most important part of the equation. In tandem with the resolve to buy local so as to take back your Nation, you need to specifically ask for made-in Nigeria products and services, and even when you are served, you must verify by checking the label.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that in the face of adversity, most Nigerians abdicate all responsibility and defer to government for both blame and solution. There is however incontrovertible and empirical proof that citizen-led initiatives such as the targeted patronage proposed here, can lead to an about-face in National fortunes. The entertainment industry, has witnessed a paradigm shift from being foreign-dominated just over a decade ago, to the current setting, where our tastes and proclivities in the sector are almost totally local. Today Nigerian music, film and comedy is not only hugely patronised locally, they arealso a considerable foreign exchange earner and now contribute to our Gross Domestic Product.What this means is that it is time to stop waiting for only government to rescue our economy. One simple New Year Resolution, taken in our hearts and in our homes can make our nation great again.
Dr. Adigwe is a strategist and policy engagement expert.