Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has not said much about the economy since his inauguration some two months ago.
The little the President has chosen to say has however been focused entirely on the oil and gas sector which made up just 15 percent of GDP according to data from the last rebasing exercise by the bureau of statistics.
While oil is a major part of the Nigerian economy it is clear that the emerging realities of Technological advances, shale, Iran and new geopolitical calculations by world powers will increasingly make oil producers irrelevant in the future.
State of the Nigerian economy
The Nigerian economy is highly unproductive.
The last major burst of productivity in the economy was the banking consolidation exercise of 2005/2006 and before that the telecommunications revolution with the licensing of mobile phone services providers MTN and Econet wireless in 2001.
Both sectors are no longer providing the boost to growth and jobs like they did in the past.
The Nigerian Financial services industry is currently experiencing structural challenges to growth, while the telecoms industry has seen growth rates fall to single digits.
Other sectors of the economy such as Agriculture, Technology, Housing, Light and Heavy manufacturing, Innovation, Pharmaceuticals, and Services are currently comatose or barely functioning in a modern productive, innovative and efficient manner.
A look at the USA
The Nigerian President just concluded a trip to the U.S.A.
It will be nice to look at the structure of the American economy.
The U.S currently produces an average of 9.6 million barrels of oil a day, about 5 times what Nigeria produces.
However its $17 trillion economy is 34 times the size of Nigeria’s economy.
While the American oil industry is important for states like Alaska, Texas and California, most of America’s economic strength lies in it’s incredibly diverse economic activity ranging from Tech firms like Intel, Google and Apple at the heart of its innovation economy, industrials like GE and United Technology, Manufacturers like General Motors, Boeing and Tesla, and drug firms like Pfizer.
The million of small and medium scale businesses, Hollywood, the housing sector and the service industry (lawyers, accountants, fast food, education… etc) forms a further backbone to the incredibly resilient economy.
This is further underpinned by a financial services industry (Wall Street) that serves as a means of raising capital for the entire economy.
Nigeria must embrace innovation
The Nigerian economy must embrace innovation or die.
There are already pockets of this present in parts of Lagos and the East (Nnewi/ Aba) but this still too little and still leaves large swathes of the country some 100 years behind the modern global economy.
Buhari’s current oil fixation or chase is really nothing more than the Federal Government getting its acts together with regards its tax and revenue intakes and leakages.
It would be similar to the Americans closing any loopholes in the IRS. Doing that alone would not grow the Nigerian economy.
What we need is a holistic vision for Nigeria.
Underpinning this should be Education with an eye to the future, a concerted effort to grow and expand Nigerian inc. (Nigerian companies), to become global players (like the Chinese, South African, Japanese and Korean firms).
Oil must be de-emphasised as the future belongs to green energy technology such as solar, wind and electric cars.
The President must commit to making Nigeria a manufacturing hub for Technology and innovation.
In this area Vietnam (an emerging economy like ours) could be the ideal model for Nigeria’s industrialisation blueprint.
Vietnam has set a goal to create an advanced tech economy that contributes 8 percent to 10 percent to gross domestic product by 2020 as companies such as Samsung Electronics Co., Nokia Oyj and LG Electronics Inc. spend billions of dollars on new factories in the nation.
In 2010 Intel opened a $1 billion chip testing and assembly facility in Vietnam, the biggest such facility for Intel anywhere in the world.
There must be continued public – private partnership to re-vitalise all economic sectors which are currently comatose (Agriculture, Technology, Housing, Light and Heavy manufacturing, Innovation, Pharmaceuticals, and Services).
Buhari must be reform minded and strike a positive chord with investors like Indian prime Minister Narendra Modi has done.
He must engage with the private sector more.
There should be less images of the president traveling with Governors as opposed to heads of Nigerian companies that actually hire the majority of Nigerian workers and know where it pinches with regards our economy and the ability to expand their businesses.
The private sector is the engine of growth (as in America) because the Government can only hire less than 5 percent of all Nigerian workers.
We must stop mouthing tired clichés (like looking for oil loot stashed abroad as Obasanjo did in 1999) and get set for the hard work ahead.