If you are an avid follower of Nigeria’s social media space, I am sure you must have come across the BuyNigeriatogrowNigeria hashtag. For my non-Nigerian readers, this trend is supposedly a means to stem the falling value of the Naira by encouraging the patronage of locally produced goods.
While it is indeed commendable to encourage Nigerians to be patriotic; I think this hashtag business grossly fails to address the underlying reasons why Nigerians apparently do not patronize locally produced goods or put in a better way why locally manufactured goods in Nigeria are not as competitive as their foreign counterparts.
If anything, I think it is a convenient, irresponsible and disingenuous means by the Senators and the APC Government to abdicate the responsibility of creating a conducive environment and the policy framework needed to support the growth of businesses; by passing the blame to Nigerians. In essence, they are saying that the Naira is falling because we hate ‘Made in Nigeria’ goods which is not only a very big lie but a simplistic solution to a rather complex problem.
Local businesses do not grow simply because the Government cajoles its citizens to patronize them but because their products are of decent quality and are sold at affordable prices. Thus the duty of Government is to create the environment that will enable manufacturers produce cost-effectively and churn out high quality products which are competitively priced.
I strongly believe that the majority hardworking Nigerians who want value for their money will gladly purchase a ‘Made in Nigeria’ product if they are convinced that the quality is good and the price is reasonable.
Why will I buy a pack of UTC sausages for 2700 naira when I can buy its imported counterpart at 550 naira and save a whooping 2150 naira?! Not even a billion BuyNigeriatogrowNigeria hashtags would motivate me to make such an irrational decision.
Why will I buy a poorly processed ‘Made in Nigeria’ bag of Rice with pebbles in it and risk hurting my teeth?
Don’t even get me started on the Nigerian airlines; if there were alternate foreign airlines that charged higher fees I would by all means patronize them, rather than subject myself to the consistently shoddy and appalling services of Aero Contractors and Arik Air.
Do not get me wrong, not all ‘Made in Nigeria’ products are of poor quality, as a matter of fact there are many Businesses in the Agricultural, Entertainment, Textiles and Leather Industries that are churning out products of superb quality. But the point of these illustrations is to show that people are motivated to purchase goods or services primarily because of their prices or quality not because of some ill-conceived notions of patriotism by Senators whom have chosen to distract Nigerians from the deeper issues.
The real issue here is that it is incredibly difficult to do business in Nigeria, in fact according to the World Bank’s “Doing Business Report 2016”; out of the 189 countries surveyed, they reached the following conclusions;
- It is easier to do business in 168 countries in the World than in Nigeria.
- It is easier to start a business in 138 countries in the World than in Nigeria
- It is easier for businesses to get electricity in 181 countries in the World than in Nigeria
- It is easier for businesses to register a property in 181 countries in the World than in Nigeria
- It is easier to build a warehouse in 174 countries in the World than in Nigeria
These statistics do not even capture how hard it is for SME’s (Small and Medium Scale Enterprises) and start-ups to access finance given the prohibitive interest rates. They do not capture the deplorable state of our roads especially its poor linkages to rural communities. They do not capture the fact that our difficult tax regime where on an average firms make 59 tax payments a year acts as a huge barrier to the growth of our formal economy. They fail to highlight the fact that our porous boarders manned by a grossly inept customs service (to put it mildly) has been a serious means of undercutting local producers as markets are constantly flooded with smuggled goods . They fail to highlight the painful fact that thousands of tomato baskets and other agricultural produce go to waste due to an absence of adequate storage, processing and marketing facilities.
I could go on and on but I am sure you get my argument already; all of these factors raise the cost of doing business in Nigeria and which is why ‘Made in Nigeria’ goods are not as competitive as their foreign counterparts.
What I therefore expect to hear from duly elected members of 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria precisely Ben Murray Bruce and Bukola Saraki are clearly articulated policy plans and actual steps they are taking in their capacities as Senators to solve these problems that impede the development of our local industries not some superficial twitter campaign that barely scratches the surface!
But no! they will rather engage in ludicrous activities, such as launching suggestion boxes than sit down to brainstorm, debate and propose a way forward.
Check out the Senators launching suggestion boxes, like how many Nigerians will actually take a walk to the senate to use them in this digital age or more importantly, how is this even an achievement worth celebrating?!
Nigerians have been so lost in the euphoria of this hashtag business that we may have overlooked the potentially sinister motives of these Senators. While receiving representatives of Innoson Motors last week, the Senate President announced that the Senate wants to amend the Procurement law to ensure Government agencies patronize only ‘Made in Nigeria’ products. While this might seem like a nice way of Government supporting businesses; I can confidently assure you that this would not only be the road down the slippery slope but may lead to the further entrenchment of Crony Capitalism which already exists. Let’s say the Government chooses to patronize only Innoson Motors, there is a high probability that Innoson may lobby to be the only supplier of a certain type of car in Nigeria and if the Government grants it; competition is stifled and innovation is instantly killed. No advanced country in the world has attained industrialization without strong competition and innovation, thus the priority of the Senate should rather be how they can support the growth of hundreds of Innosons and thus build our car manufacturing Industry.
Another scenario that may occur if they pass this law is that our darling Senators will themselves become the Manufacturers and Suppliers of these ‘Made in Nigeria’ goods to the Federal Government. I am sure I do not need to tell you how that scenario will play out.
While some people like the Senate President may argue that China protected their economy, they conveniently ignore the fact that the Chinese Government ensured that the local industries had secure property rights, rational incentives and competition. These are things that are yet to be fully developed in Nigeria. Obviously the Infant Industry and Protectionism debates are quite complex and I can’t possibly go into them here.
In conclusion really, the reasons why ‘Made in Nigeria’ goods are not competitive are complex and structural. I am confident that the Senate and APC Government are aware of this which is why I am deeply upset that they rather choose to embark on a thoughtless hashtag campaign rather than doing the challenging and complex work of solving these problems – which is why we elected them!