Superpreneurs The Master Key To Development
SOLUTIONS Macro and Micro Economic Management
One area I did pay a lot of attention last week was the role of leadership especially public sector leadership. I did say that public officials are extremely important as many of the decisions that will affect my business and the business of our millions of entrepreneurs out there are made by public sector officials on a daily basis. In today’s Nigeria nothing is more important, and dare I say risky, as the current attempt to defend the naira against market forces. This year alone our Nation has lost over $5.5 billion in external reserves due to the constant defence of the currency. If we keep at this pace we will wipe out the reserves in eighteen months, much sooner than eighteen months, if the price of crude oil continues to drop.
So there are two big decisions our Federal Government must make. And this is where I stand.
We should stop spending our reserves to defend the naira. This means that we must accept a devaluation of the naira in the short term which will be realistic and pragmatic. Once we have devalued we must follow it up with an unprecedented drive and effort into building up our ability to export more as a devalued naira will provide advantages to us if we can start exporting goods and services, beside crude oil. And if I were advising the Federal Government I will say let us export more services than goods. We haven’t shown that we can package goods with the international standards well suited for export and we are still caught in this mind-set of export being reserved for raw materials, or mineral resources. On the other hand however and in my opinion, Nigeria has pretty much developed itself into a very viable service economy. We have World Class skills in many services that can compete all across Africa and even the rest of the developing World and in some cases we can outcompete in the developed markets of Europe and the United States. Nigerian Doctors in the USA have proved this over and over again. So let us look strategically at building an export of skills and services market that will earn us foreign exchange on an unprecedented level.
We should stop this fuel subsidy regime. We need to bite the bullet before it is too late. The Federal Government just paid out over N 500 billion to subsidy claims in an economy that is in trouble. The more we finance and fund consumption the deeper the hole we dig for ourselves. I do not think anybody even the Labour unions still thinks that we can continue to finance this crazy fuel subsidy policy. In any case the benefits in new investment in refineries, as well as downstream petroleum industry consolidation will far out weight any pain the Nation may feel from the removal of petroleum subsidy. If I were to advise the Federal Government I would be holding meetings right now with the organized Labour Unions in an effort to get them to understand the inevitability of the removal of fuel subsidy.
Our Nation needs to launch an investment mobilization scheme that will be regionally based, and project driven. We need to decide what the best projects for Akwa Ibom State are and not replicate them in Rivers State. We need to know where Enugu State has the best competitive advantages and not replicate it in Anambra State. We need to know what works best for Koji State and not replicate it in Niger State. We need to get Kano and Kaduna to work together to complement each other in industry and commerce. We need to take a strategic look at Lagos and get it to supply power and its advantages to the States of Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo States.
Recently I heard that the Anambra State Government is thinking of investing in an airport. In my opinion this will be a big mistake. It is a complete waste of money if you ask me. That money will be better spent on building a rail link between the Enugu airport, the Asaba airport and the Owerri airport and linking the major cities in Anambra. Enugu State has been positioned as a higher educational hub for the eastern region. So why can’t we build on this and not reinvent the wheel in Owerri or Awka. Some of the major challenges of our students in that part of the country have is student housing. We can build World class student hostels in Enugu if we are serving the needs of the entire zone’s higher education population.
I will not bother building an expensive inland Port at Onitsha; I will rather build a rail link between Port Harcourt and an inland container terminal at Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka. We already have active industrial centres at Aba, Nnewi, and Onitsha. So we need to invest in power systems to support these centers and we as Leaders must remove any road blocks that threaten the ability to get power to these customers in good time. As for agriculture, why can’t we invest heavily in Ebonyi rice, providing the farms with mills and other modern ways of processing and distribution?
We complain heavily about the cattle from the north that eats up our farm land and crops and their handlers engage in violent confrontation with villagers and farmers. However why must we continue to raise our meat and buy meat in this primitive way. Why can’t we set up cattle ranches in Kano, Katsina, Adamawa and Nasarawa States that will supply the meat needs of the entire Nation in two to three years. Free range cattle rearing as is still practiced in Nigeria are notoriously outdated and so old school, no modern Nation depends on such a method to feed its people.
Mega investment in Cattle ranches will solve the problems we are encountering with the violence from the herdsmen’s confrontation with the villagers, it will also solve many unresolved health issues as most of our meat is butchered and sold in the most unhealthy and unsanitary conditions. Using the cattle ranch approach will also boost our leather industry which is already doing very well. It will do much much better if the collection points of the hides and skin is more centralized at cattle ranches, this will stimulate export of leather on monumental levels.
A Winning Nigeria Mind-set
To change the “This is Nigeria” mind-set we have to replace it with something new. And that something new must be a new direction to greatness, a new direction for citizens to have access to opportunities and wealth creation. Once our people can see opportunities in the new way of thinking, their thinking and the mind-set of the people will change. We have to start at the grass root and train an army of Leaders that will carry the New Nigerian mind-set across borders and across boundaries. If we are to focus on the eastern Region of Nigeria then we can do it quickly and the rest of Nigeria will follow.
“This is Nigeria” should mean innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship; this can be the challenge for the new direction for Nigeria that this Buhari Administration could champion. Getting our people to change their mind-set will mean conducting a national campaign in the same nature and excitement in which we currently conduct political campaigns, with one difference, this time will make it practical and we will involve all citizens not only those who we wish to convince to vote. This campaign can and should be a joint effort between the Private Sector and the Federal, State and Local Governments, and the clear benefits will go to the Nigerian People.
Investment Mobilization as a Solution to Capital raising and Industrial Capacity
Raising Capital can be daunting task if the odds are stacked against you. And in Nigeria the odds are surely stacked against you. As a Nation we are set up to fail. We set up to get everything wrong. Most of our public servants do not understand their roles in developing entrepreneurs; our laws can sometimes be limiting and counter-productive. And so we must celebrate the few Nigerian Entrepreneurs that have achieved wonders in the last few years by building monumental empires which can stand the test of time. We must however go further to support the funding of new projects and new entrepreneurs’ start-ups so that entrepreneurs will not be afraid to fail.
This can be done by investment pooling once again, getting interested investors together both locally and internationally and getting them to pool their investable funds in projects and Start-up businesses promoted by our brightest and our best young minds. Taking a Start-up idea from inception to implementation is not rocket science. You first need the entrepreneur who is the thinker and the driver. Then you will need competent managers, and a management team. In Most cases the entrepreneur will not be a great day to day manager of the start-up or project as he or she is better suited at driving the idea and getting investors together rather than at day to day business management. Then next we need capital to fund and support the innovative ideas, the managers and the entrepreneur. Once we have all these in place our Nation can take off.
To mobilize Investment we must work together, I believe strongly that our investment mobilization strategy must be locally based. There is too much emphasis on foreign investment, but if the truth be told the foreign investors only invest in strong local entrepreneurs and local projects that have strong local support. So the strategy being used by most of our Governments, both State and Federal, to attract investors from the Western World has been fundamentally flawed. The Strategy must change and it must be built on the back of our local entrepreneurs, in that way foreign investors are much more comfortable that our people are risking their capital in Nigeria and in the region in the projects that we are seeking foreigners to participate.
In any case, the investments mobilized from local sources tend to stay in Nigeria when the going gets tough. The Naira value may be falling, the oil price may be falling, our economic growth rates may be falling, but local investors will keep investing no matter what. This is not the case with international foreign investors. They will leave Nigeria at the first sight of trouble.
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