By Ayo Akinfe
(1) I have always believed that it is our innovative spirit that will get Nigeria out of the economic doldrums and give us a gross domestic product (GDP) of $2trn in the not-too-distant future. Unfortunately, this cursed liquid called crude oil is acting as a huge distraction at the moment. It is a real fly in the ointment and at some stage we need to turn the taps off to get us thinking
(2) What makes Nigerians different from every other African is our ability to “manage” things and our knack for “trying.” We are a very innovative people. You just need to see the way our mechanics will get a 30 year old gearbox to work, how we panelbeat 60 year old lorries or how we fix the compressors of 40 year old fridges to appreciate our innovative capability
(3) I once had a Guinean friend who wanted to ship a right hand car back home from the UK and was asking me for a mechanic in Lagos who could charge over the steering wheel. It was then that I got to know that all West Africans change the hand of their cars in Nigeria before driving them to their nations
(4) Our biggest problem remains our inability to tap into this spirit en masse. One of the positive impacts of China on Nigeria, however, is that it is showing us that we can push the boundaries of innovation to whatever level we want to. Today, China is growing food in factories, building glass bridges, launching artificial moons in place of streetlights and has inter-continental ballistic missiles that can probably reach Mars
(5) By 2050, Nigeria will become the world’s third largest nation after China and India, so we have to stop thinking like a developing nation and adjust our brains to think and act like citizens of an industrialised country. For starters, we carry the weight of 370m West Africans on our shoulders. Already, our border closure is crippling the economies of some of our neighbours, so we need to do something about that. My preferred solution is to merge with the Republic of Benin as a first step. We cannot keep our borders closed indefinitely as for starters, it negates the spirit of Ecowas
(6) Just to let you know how Nigeria has dropped the ball, do you know that Aliko Dangote’s tomato paste factory recently shut in Kano because it could not gather enough tomatoes. Clearly Aliko Dangote did not learn the lesson of his grandfather Alhassan Dantata who went round all of northern Nigeria collecting groundnuts. Dangote should have initiated a West African Tomato Collection Programme so that if anything, he would need to open another paste factory due to an over-abundance of tomatoes
(7) Now, the supply of farm produce is where Nigeria has a competitive edge. We are the world’s largest producer of certain tropical crops like yam, cassava, shea nuts, kolanuts, cashews, melon seeds, gourds, etc and can literally do what we want in the global market place with these crops
(8) Why for instance can we not offer designer yams in the shapes and forms people want and deliver them to anywhere in the world at a premium? If people buy bespoke wine, cars, watches, chocolate and manufactured goods, why can’t this apply to the agricultural produce we supply too?
(9) All we really need to do is work on our food preservation technology so that for instance a tuber of yam can last for a year without going off. Why can we not for instance supply a Merry Christmas sign designed of yam, deliverable to every country in the world?
(10) You know, once we have a breakthrough with one crop, the floodgates will open. I can see all the world’s major food companies coming to Nigeria to open manufacturing facilities