Will Nigeria take the leap to join the global giants in 2020? This question disturbs my spirit whenever I see our government gathering up voluminous reports and setting up eleven man committee and multiple events to herald a new vision.
It‘s never wrong to dream, set goals, generate a strategy or recreate a vision that narrates a change process. It only turns to a huge joke when you analyze how most of these grand strategies have remained dreams time and time again. For instance, Housing for All by 2000 by Shagari, Vision 2010 by Abacha, SAP by Babangida and presently the MDGs have littered our dustbin of dreams. It is clear we love the best things of the world. Our leaders appreciate them in their globetrotting. We see the Dubai airport terminal, paved roads of New York, the manufacturing districts of Germany and Seoul. Our leaders know that nothing stops them from replicating these structures here, but sadly have not been able to execute.
In order for us to become a top 20 economy by 2020, we must carefully count the costs and sacrifices needed to accomplish it.
Every country in the globalised world is looking for competitive ways to remain an export engine or an outpost of global trade. The BRICs (Brazil, India, China, Russia) are using internal fiscal and trade policies to empower their people, tapping into their demographic strength to produce competitively. The oil rich emirates (Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman) are carving a liberal niche, building the biggest structures and developing strategies to make themselves an avenue of global trade and tourism.
If we look at the top twenty economies, they have found ways to grow their economy beyond natural resources. Qatar has the biggest gas fields and wants to make itself the top choice investment destination. UAE has oil rich emirate of Abu Dhabi but it is developing “creative distractions” in Dubai and Masdar. To them, oil represents but a fraction of their potential wealth and they are doing their best to make this a reality.
The top twenty economies own the biggest industries of the world, the most advanced educational systems, the most attractive financial industry and most importantly they are able to tap into the creative energies of their people. The have diverse leadership ideologies but you see purpose in them as they guard their interests to remain competitive through job and value creation.
Nigeria according to Goldman Sachs has been identified as one of the next 11 economies with the potential to become the next BRIC. We know potential remains static until a kinetic force pushes it. The question is where is Nigeria’s kinetic force? Where are our creative distractions apart from oil? We are blessed no doubt with a thriving population, a worry presently to Germany and Japan. We own natural resources chiefly oil, China would wish it had that. We now have an amazing statistics that 70 percent of the population is under 40, the greatest of all.
To be in the top twenty, the road begins with directing the energies of the youth. No laudable vision would work if we don’t for instance, fix our educational system. We can’t become a top 20 economy by importing metric tons of rice and sugar from Thailand despite our vast agricultural potential. We can’t become a top 20 economy by importing finished oil products and managing technically inefficient refineries. We can’t become a top 20 economy by training our IT force to be operators and not inventors.
For a top twenty economy in 2020 when issues of green economy and sustainability will be the frontier, do we have strategies to plug in? Will we have a minimum of 40, 000 MW needed to power such an economy? In 2020, would we have garage to global power house tech stories like Google and Facebook? Would we have Nigerian brands that would creatively destroy traditional business models globally? How friendly will our business environment be? How competitive would our private sector be in terms of skill-sets and cost of doing business?
It goes beyond statistics of economy shown in GDP growth, we need a measure of improved livelihood in per capita income. We need indices that mark up poverty, socio economic conditions, right infrastructure, trade and fiscal policies. We need a silicon valley full of venture capitalists that support budding ideas and bring it to fruition. We need to source for our golden minds in the Diaspora and creatively engage them for transfer of knowledge and technology. We will allow slips and bankruptcy of emerging companies but in them great ones will emerge.
With petty political distractions such as zoning and cross carpeting, bureaucracy, national quota system and other multiple woes, this might just be another vision. We need to find the right leadership to bridge the gap between potential and achievement. May be we need our own Mao Zedong, Aquino, Lee Yuan Kew or Lula Da Silva…It’s high time we find and elect them.
Oluseun Onigbinde is currently a Banker with core interests in Corporate Strategy and Green Energy. He is the Director of Green Acts Group, a Think Green Initiative.