It’s Africa Industrialization, Stupid! By Issa Aremu

rp_Aremu-300-150x150.jpgLast Thursday, 20th November marked 2014 Africa Industrialisation Day. The United Nations General Assembly declared November 20th of every year since 1990 as a day “to stimulate the international community’s commitment to the industrialization of Africa”. The 2014 commemoration of the Africa Industrialisation Day takes place under the theme: ‘Inclusive and Sustainable industrial development; Africa Agro Industry for Food Security’. In almost all the capital cities of the Continent that signed on to this important day, it was business as usual (with mass importation of finished goods, export of raw materials, not local production) with little renewed commitment to local value addition and beneficiation. It seems only the “stupid” Africans could be preoccupied with industrialization!

The “wise” Africans are more concerned with the ever vicious scramble for nomination forms for 2015 (with respect to Nigeria)! But many thanks to the Nigeria’s trade unions notably a select group of private sector trade unions and unionists from the Textile, construction, Agricultural, Chemical and Non-Allied, Steel and Engineering, Petroleum and Natural Gas under the banner of NLC and INDUSTRIALL global union, who took to the streets of Abuja raising the banners of Industrial Development, job creation and local value addition. Ironically as the mass manifestation of the trade unionists was going on, many members of the Federal House of Representatives including all members of the House Committee on Industry,Trade and Investment were jumping the fences of the National Assembly for an emergency sitting, not on the collapse of existing industries and the attendant mass unemployment, not on increasing power outages after privatization of electricity, but on the controversial extension of emergency rule in the north East.

On the same day, President Goodluck Jonathan was reportedly in London to preside over a meeting of Nigeria’s Honorary International Investment Council (HIIC) which opens there on Friday! We must certainly think global to attract foreign investment, but the point cannot be overstated that local value adding activities must take place on the African continent not in the heartland of Europe which once “underdeveloped” Africa. On the President’s entourage were key ministers including the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga expected to lead industrialization discourse at home. There was a round table discussion in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) on Wednesday with focus on the recent privatization of PHCN and the recently launched Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) by the Federal government. The around table frowned at the conspicuous absence of key Government Ministries and Agencies that were invited to the Roundtable particularly the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.

Our Development emphasis of Africa must be on beneficiation. Africa is endowed with raw materials but not adding value to them. We export raw diamonds and gold and import wrist watches, ear rings and neck laces. We export crude oil and import petroleum products. We export cottons and import finished  fabrics including second hand clothes. My Mobile phone in boxes are daily full of non-value- adding news that as many as 30 ships carrying containers filled with goods are expected to arrive at Lagos ports!. Africa should stop being exporter of raw materials and jobs but producer of manufacturing goods and retainer of mass decent jobs. Let us produce  what we consume and consume what we produce. Nigeria commendably recently launched National Industrial Revolution Plan, NIRP focusing on 10 critical sectors that include textiles, food and beverages, chemical, automobile, petroleum sector among others. President Goodluck Jonathan should ensure the full implementation of the NIRP in partnership with all critical stakeholders including  Labour. The new automotive policy shift in the automobile industry which puts restriction on importation of different cars to the country is welcome if it adds value locally. There cannot be industrialization without electrification. The power sector reforms must urgently translate to affordable uninterrupted electricity for the industry. Africa share of world’s  GDP is scandalously still less than 1 per cent 50 years after independence. Even with rebased GDP, Nigerian manufacturing sector has failed to undergo the critical structural transformation necessary for it to play a leading role in economic growth and development. Manufacturing share of GDP has remained less than 4 per cent, contributions to foreign exchange earnings have been minimal, and the share of employment and government revenue generated have been low.. Nigeria is still having jobless growth. Growth is not driven by manufacturing. Dumping, Counterfeiting and unfair trade practices are the norms. With all the acknowledged efforts in the Agric sector, our import bill though has reduced to some N906 billion from the N2.3 trillion, is still dangerously high.

The recent announcement of austerity measure by the Finance Minister Dr. Okonjo Iweala shows Nigeria must urgently diversify. We suffer the problem of resource curse such that a drop in the crude oil price has totally altered the parameters of the annual budget. Nigeria does not néed austerity measures but accelerated implementation of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan to grow the non- oil sector. We should build on the strengths of Nigeria’s raw materials, large market and abundant  and minimize the weaknesses of policy inconsistency and weak Infrastructure to grow the non- oil sector. In this respect we must commend the investment patriotism and pan African orientation of the President/Chief Executive of Dangote Group of industries, Alhaji Aliko Dangote.. Dangote Group of industries is changing the narrative of the continent from that of ‘resource curse’ to resource beneficiation.

Aliko Dangote  is said to be the richest man in Africa. But what is even more  significant is that his wealth is based on value adding manufacturing activities ranging from production of cement, sugar and flour among others.  We also recognize and commend the efforts at the State levels particularly of States like Osun with the establishment of Omoluabi Garment factory and Kano State where Governor Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso is setting up garment factories in the 44 local government areas of the state.  The future is in local value addition not importation.

Issa Aremu mni

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