(2) Cash crops – To process goods, you need a cheap supply of cash crops like rubber, timber, livestock, cocoa, palm oil, neem, cassava, etc. Again, we have more of this than we need
(3) An abundant food supply – A hungry populace can never be productive. Nigeria is the world’s six largest agricultural producer and is the number one origin for yam, cassava, shea nuts, kolanuts, melon seed, coco yam, etc. These alone can feed Nigeria along with other crops we grow in abundance like onions, tomatoes, plantain, fruits, etc
(4) A skilled workforce – Nigeria has a 60% literacy rate and produces about 600,000 graduates annually from her 300 odd tertiary institutions. This is as good a platform as investors will get anywhere. Train all these guys up for a year and they will produce anything you want them to
(5) Adequate land – Nigeria has 923,768 square kilometres of land. This is enough to locate new plants, factories, solar farms, industrial parks, etc. To make things better, of this total, 37.33 % of this land is arable, meaning there is ample room to grow more cash and food crops if need be
(6) Access to the Atlantic Ocean – We are not landlocked and are easily accessible by sea. Nigeria has 853 km of Atlantic coastline. When we are ready to industrialise, we will build about 10 shipping ports along this coast to export all our finished goods. How can Britain with 242,495 km² of landmass have 120 commercial ports and Nigeria with 923,768 km have just four?
Now to the problems
(7) The absence of a powerful local enterprueneral class – This for me is the biggest weakness of the Nigerian economy by far. We are not productive enough because there are not enough local investors investing in production. This in turn leads to all sorts of other problems like a dependence on imports, a scramble for government positions and the ensuing corruption, poor infrastructure, cronyism in the awarding of contracts, etc. A powerful and robust private sector would eliminate most of these problems. Relying on foreign investors alone will only have limited results because they only come in to cream off high yielding sectors like petroleum, telecoms, banking, etc. It is one reason why I will continue to press for the use of religious finance in Nigeria’s economy. Our general overseers are sitting on pots of gold which simply has to be invested in production
(8) A lack of steel – No economy can even start to industrialise without steel. You need it to make machine tools, equipment, finished goods and to build any type of infrastructure. Nigeria produces no steel at the moment, compared with 34m tonnes in Brazil, 25m tonnes in Iran, 20m tonnes in Mexico, 14m tonnes in Vietnam, 8m tonnes in Egypt and 6.3m tonnes in South Africa. This just epitomises how unserious we are. Steel should be a corruption-free and crony-free zone given how vital it is to national development
(9) Inadequate electricity supply – Another serious headache that has defied solution. Nigeria only produces 7,000MW of electricity, of which she can only deliver 4,000MW. This compares with Egypt’s 70,000MW, South Africa’s 51,309MW and Algeria’s 19,000MW. As a result, industry has to rely on expensive diesel-powered generators which makes them uncompetitive
(10) No railway network – Too many journeys in Nigeria take place by road. As if that is not bad enough, we move heavy goods by lorries, which is uneconomical as the amounts moved are limited, it puts pressure on an over-burdened road network, leads to a high accident rate and is fuel guzzling. No serious business will move large quantities of industrial goods like steel, bitumen, limestone, coal, iron ore, livestock, cotton, tanned leather, etc around by road. Such products need a national railway network to be properly distributed
Can I also point out that contrary to the popular perception out there, Nigerian commerce is actually governed by the rule of law. Foreign investors can sue the government in Nigerian courts and get justice if contracts are breached.
We have good weather, a young population and are well located in the centre of Africa. Nigeria has good air links with the rest of the continent and is an English-speaking country. Maybe what we just need is a visionary benevolent dictator who will force the pace of development!