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Halting Nigeria’s descent into industrial backwardness – Part 5

By Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka
05 August 2022   |   2:39 am
Contrast the Nigerian story with South Korea, which began building a steel industry at about the same time as Nigeria.

Steel

Continued from yesterday

Contrast the Nigerian story with South Korea, which began building a steel industry at about the same time as Nigeria.

That country’s steel sector became a major steel exporter creating about 65, 000 jobs in the industry and now makes an estimated 60 billion dollars per annum in revenue, and with this, reaping forward and backward linkages effect to the entire economy, hence, quickening its status as a major industrial power.

The POSCO story is a sharp contrast to the Ajaokuta tragedy, unlike the monumental failure that it turned out to be, POSCO brings to life one of the world’s great industrial success stories.

While the industrial ascent of this project exemplifies the meteoric rise of South Korea’s Pohang Iron and Steel Company and the incredible impact, it has had on this small agrarian country, the Nigerian iron and steel story illustrates how to turn a blessing into a curse.

In just about twenty-five years, POSCO became the largest steel company in the world and by its success transformed South Korea into the industrial age. The location of the Nigerian project became a sad and depressing sight of a White Elephant.

How transformational leadership fostered industrial Progress
In explaining South Korea’s macroeconomic takeoff, Park Chung Hee’s leadership was one of many factors.

The development of POSCO (the Pohang Iron & Steel Company), his leadership was the pivotal variable, dwarfing all other factors, in determining the scale and speed of the effort.

The history of POSCO is synonymous with the leadership of Park, both as the soldier and the builder of modern Korea. While the people looked for a way of escape from the hunger they endured during the lean months of spring, Park envisioned the building of an industrialized nation.

At the heart of this new industrial country was the steel industry as the engine of economic growth. Steel provided inputs for the rest of the heavy and chemical industries, from machinery, automobiles, and shipbuilding to the defence industries.

“Steel is a national power,” said Park at the celebration of POSCO’s tenth anniversary. Park put the steel industry at the top of his list of strategic industries as early as 1961 when he promulgated the first of his Five-Year Economic Development Plans (FYEDPs). Steel was a measure of military might and industrial progress. 

China’s industrial revolution started in 1978 under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. He advocated a very humble, gradualist, experimental approach to its economic reforms. Central to Deng’s reform was the creation of China’s Special Economic Zones (SEZ).

Created after Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms were implemented in China in 1979, the Special Economic Zones are areas where market-driven capitalist policies are implemented to attract foreign businesses to China.

The first 4 Special Economic Zones (SEZ) were established in 1979. Shenzhen, Shantou, and Zhuhai are in Guangdong province, and Xiamen is located in Fujian province. 

Shenzhen became the model for China’s Special Economic Zones when it was transformed from 126 square miles of villages known for sales of knockoffs to a bustling business metropolis.

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina had a vision of Nigeria’s own green revolution including national wheat sufficiency. He started this programme in Nigeria and as usual in Nigeria; politicians promptly stopped it once he left his position as Minister of Agriculture. When he became the President of the AfDB this vision was implemented in Sudan and Ethiopia.

The Technology for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) has led to significant achievements in production area expansion, farm productivity and production, providing employment opportunities, and improving farmer incomes and quality of life.

The improvements were possible with strong leadership commitment and support from the Government of Sudan which established the Supreme Committee for Wheat Self-sufficiency to oversee this national agenda.

In 2014/15, the wheat production area in Sudan was 224,700 ha and at a productivity level of 2.1 tons ha-1 producing 472,000 tons, a self-sufficiency ratio of 28%.

By 2018/19, wheat was cultivated on a total area of 294,000 ha and at an average productivity level of 3.1 tonnes ha-1 producing about 900,000 tons of grain, with the self-sufficiency of 45%.

A bumper harvest and record production were achieved in the 2019/20 crop season and an area of 315,500 ha was harvested with a total wheat production of 1.15 million tonnes.

This was the highest production level ever in the history of wheat production in Sudan, with a self-sufficiency ratio of almost 50%. Ethiopia has achieved the same feat through TAAT.

In the last planting season, Ethiopia cultivated 650,000 hectares and imported zero tonnes this year. Next year that country will export a minimum of 1.5 MT of wheat to Kenya and Djibouti.

Political leadership and transformational leadership determine the progress of nations
In closing
Clearly, at this historical juncture, when Nigeria faces monumental challenges of governance and development, the country requires the kinds of leaders who are not only committed to ensuring high-performing public sector institutions and organizations but those who seek to transform society through both vision and action.

A transformational leader puts forward core values that are practiced both in private and in public; he/she celebrates the diversity of the nation and effectively communicates his ideals.

He/she thinks in strategic terms and demands commitment to excellence and innovation, sensitivity to ethical and cultural values of the society irrespective of an inevitable globalizing world in which nations must compete for investment and resources.

It is within the power of a leader to initiate and promote commitment to these strong values through the design of reward schemes and monitoring and accountability mechanisms that reduce the opportunities and incentives for rent-seeking.

A transformational leader uplifts the followers through the inspiration and passion that this leader brings to the assignment. The followers draw on the energy of the leader and work for the team to succeed. Transformational Leadership is characterized by a compelling vision, and a strong accent on a changed future by which the followers are guided in their actions and conduct; such a leadership style excites and converts potential followers.

Concluded
Professor Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, professorial fellow, United Nations University and Fellow, Nigerian Academy of Engineers are Senior Special Adviser to the President on Industrialisation and African Development Bank. He presented this paper at the 8th Edition of the Nigerian Society of Engineers’ Hr Eng Otis Oliver Tabugbo Anyaeji, FNSE FAEng KtSGG Annual Distinguished Lecture recently.

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