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Party politics aside, Nigeria must industrialize Now

By Ugo Nwagwu

The best time for Nigeria to industrialize was 35 years ago. The second best time; NOW!

Pre Independence Malaysia was rich in natural resources such as porcelain, spices (which were then traded as currency) and large deposits of Tin. As part of the British Empire, the British took over administration of the economy and also introduced Rubber and Palm Oil trees for commercial purposes and then brought in Chinese and Indian expats to work the fields and mines instead of locals. Pre 1970s Malaysia had an economy completely dependent on natural resources exported while basically everything it consumed was imported. Sound familiar?

Today, Malaysia though still state oriented, has a newly and open industrialized market economy. This is because in the 60s and 70s, the Malaysian government took painful and costly steps to industrialize their economy. The Malaysian government committed itself to a transition from being solely reliant on mining and agriculture as an economy to a multi-sector economy. Mining and agriculture dominated the economy up until the 80s and since then, it’s been the industrial sector driving growth. It took 25 years for the turn around.

If you read the papers and follow the news concerning all things about Nigeria’s economy, three things continue to drive the headlines: Oil prices, Nigeria’s insatiable appetite for FOREX (Dollar, Pounds, Euros and now potentially, Yuan) & diversifying to Agriculture.

One thing we still aren’t talking about is how to push past the politics of now, and blame shifting to chasing after real solutions that will benefit our children and their children. We are a nation of traders. We have always been a nation of traders and even if we exploit more of the agricultural sector, chances are that we will take the traders approach.

As we diversify into agriculture, the tendency will be to treat its produce as we’ve done with oil. Right now, Nigeria remains one of the largest crude production and exporting country but what plagues the average Nigeria today is the availability of refined crude. We continue to import refined crude at an amazing rate negating whatever balance of trade that could have been helped by crude export. Even if the state’s 3 refineries were working to capacity, it won’t produce enough to support a population of 180 million and growing.

Now we want to take the same mentality into agriculture by “mining” produce and then exporting the raw produce without any thought to a “National Vertical Integration” whereby we keep all our “raw produce” and process them here to first serve the immediate need of the population (limiting imports of those processed goods) and then exporting them. Simply put, if we grow tomatoes, we should be able to process every part of the tomato into everything Nigerians need from a tomato i.e. canned tomatoes, ketchup, tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomato puree all in Nigeria. This goes for every single agricultural produce we grow or plan to grow.

That’s one example but it can be applied to every sector in which raw materials are found. Palm oil is used in over 50% of everything found in a supermarket and you know which country has one of the world’s largest palm oil production potential? Nigeria! As a nation we need to invest not just in mining gold, lead, zinc or whatever metals are beneath the soil to smelting them and turning them into actual products that we can then export to other parts of Africa and the world thereby controlling all parts of its margins.

This level of industrialization would pump millions of jobs into the economy and lead to economic growth unrivaled in any part of Africa in its history.

How do we start? First we must resist the urge to turn the Naira-Yuan swap into another level of shopping binge for cheap Chinese goods but instead import heavy machines and power plants to build factories and manufacturing plants. We must continue to attract foreign investments that solely act to serve Nigeria in an industrialization master plan.

The Federal Government can pursue public private partnerships with matching investments and use the capital markets as part of their exit strategy thereby also providing a return of investments to shareholders. This is certainly more productive than subsidizing fuel consumption.

We don’t need more retail outlets and companies selling us high priced alcoholic beverages. We have enough cheap clothing and shoes coming in droves from all parts of the world.

If we do this and leave the politics and tribalism that only serves to separate us and shift our attention from the selfish ambition of today’s politician from the Local Government level to the Federal Government and all ministerial staff, then maybe in 25 years, we too would serve as an example for other countries to follow. If we get this done and done right, no one would be as concerned about the price of $1.

To borrow a phrase from one of Nigeria’s senators from Bayelsa, Senator Ben Muray Bruce, my name is Ugo Nwagwu and I just want to make common sense.

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Commodity slump pushes Africa back into IMF’s embrace – Reuters


JOHANNESBURG, April 15 (Reuters) – Falling commodity prices have pushed several African countries back into the embrace of the International Monetary Fund, which has an opportunity to push for reforms and inject transparency into opaque economies.

 Top of the list is Angola, Africa’s second biggest crude producer and third largest economy, which has not borrowed from the IMF since 2009 and just a few years ago had the Fund all but turning a blind eye to missing billions.

It is hardly alone, with depressed prices for commodities ranging from oil to copper sapping the budgets of African governments and sending them to the IMF, the “lender of last resort” which typically imposes tough conditions for assistance.

Gas-rich Mozambique and gold and oil producer Ghana, hard hit by the sour commodity cycle, both inked financial arrangements with the IMF in 2015, their first in six years, according to the Fund’s website.

Ghana’s was a three-year, $918 million assistance deal signed as its fiscal and current account deficits ballooned.

Africa’s second-largest copper producer, Zambia, started talks in March on an aid programme. Lusaka last signed a financial arrangement with the IMF in 2008.

And the region’s most industrialised economy, South Africa, which is also a major producer of platinum, gold and coal, may be forced to turn to the IMF if its credit rating gets downgraded to junk.

China this week offered Nigeria a loan of $6 billion to fund infrastructure projects but Africa’s top oil producer is still expected to also seek assistance from the IMF for the first time in almost two decades.

Continue to Reuters

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China, Nigeria can join hands in reviving world economy: Premier – Xinhua

BEIJING, April 13 (Xinhua) — China is willing to join hands with Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, to contribute to regional and world economic recovery and growth, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said here on Wednesday.

Li told visiting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari during a meeting in the Great Hall of the People that the mutual-beneficial cooperation between China and Nigeria has great potential.
China’s economy is operating in a reasonable range and positive factors are increasing, the premier said, stressing China will strive to overcome difficulties and challenges in order to maintain a medium-high rate of growth.

As for ties with Nigeria, Li said that China is ready to help promote the African country’s industrialization through enhancing production capacity cooperation, spearheaded by infrastructure projects including railway, highway, and hydropower construction.

He also called on the two sides to push forward cooperation in construction of free trade zones, agricultural technology transfer, agricultural investment, aviation, mining and finance.

China encourages capable enterprises to invest in Nigeria, the premier said, calling on Nigeria to provide good protection and support for Chinese investment.

Praising China’s achievement in development and long-term support for Nigeria, Buhari said the Nigerian government is willing to push forward cooperation with China in coastal railway, highway, hydropower construction as well agriculture, mining and manufacturing so as to promote diversification of the country’s economy.

Buhari is paying a state visit to China from Monday to Friday at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Before meeting with Li, Buhari held talks with Xi on Tuesday and met with top Chinese legislator Zhang Dejiang on Wednesday. Besides Beijing, Buhari will also visit Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Also on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a meeting with Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama in Beijing. The two ministers also attended a celebration of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Source: Xinhua