By Taiwo Odukoya
Of the greatest challenges facing leadership the world over is raising the productive capacities of their people. Organisations and nations alike are in need of free minds and steady hands that can imagine solutions and implement them, faster than problems arise.
What great nations and organisations have done over centuries is to create and recreate a set of organising principles that allow for human productivity to flourish unfettered, and for the invention of new technologies that make our lives infinitely more productive.
Think of companies like Microsoft and Google, Samsung and Apple, whose entire revenue of $234bn for 2015 is two times bigger than Nigeria’s entire 2016 budget. Then think about the value companies like these bring to their host nations in terms of revenue, employment and a whole value chain of tangible and intrinsic gains. Now imagine what Nigeria can accomplish with over a hundred million people given wings to fly.
Outside a commodity like oil which is perpetually at the mercy of the vagaries of the market, Nigeria is a less than productive country. The 2015 WEF Global Competitiveness Report ranks Nigeria 124th in the world out of 140 countries. We must turn the tide, and we must turn the tide now. How?
1. We must be deliberate about reorientation. Our seriousness to inspire and aggregate the productivity of Nigerians into a potent economic, social, cultural and geopolitical force, ought to be evident in our commitment to revamping the educational sector, where the minds of millions of youths, potential geniuses and innovators, are currently being subjected to one of the most inept and outmoded educational systems in the world. We have to re-navigate our educational policy at every level to include vocational and entrepreneurial training, and this we have to do fast. Nigeria’s unemployment rate currently stands at 10.4 percent. Our universities are churning out more graduates than we are able to absorb, not to mention how ill equipped most of these young men and women are to handle the challenges of the 21st century business and work environment. As former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard aptly put it, “Our future growth relies on competitiveness and innovation, skills and productivity… and these in turn rely on the education of our people.”
2. An enabling environment is a prerequisite, whether at federal, state level and I daresay, local government too. This would mean:
a. Removal of bureaucratic encumbrance. Those bottlenecks embedded in the constitution, which have become systemic impediments to doing business in Nigeria. In other words, the legislature must face up to the responsibility of streamlining most of the limiting laws that make doing business in Nigeria a tedious affair.
b. Making access to funding, particularly for young people a lot easier, as it is in the developed world. This is a responsibility for the public and private sectors. In June 2016, the Mark and Chan Zuckerberg Foundation made a $24million investment in Andela, a tech start up co-founded by a 24 year old Nigerian, Iyin Aboyeji, with a major hub in Lagos. It is in young Nigerians like Iyin that the future of Nigeria rests and to millions like him in every sector, in every corner of the country, from Lagos to Aba to Kano. We will lose them to terrorists and degenerates who will recruit them for sinister purposes if we do not give their creative energies a productive outlet by making access to funds as easy as possible. Organisations like the Tony Elumelu Foundation who play a critical role in making funds accessible to young entrepreneurs must be encouraged.
c. Giving infrastructure development its priority of place – power, roads, standard airports, etc, are non-negotiable factors to fostering productivity. We cannot keep throwing money into infrastructural development with nothing to show for it. No matter how golden the intentions of the current government is, it will need the support of the legislature, the judiciary and Nigerians at large to make public infrastructure formidable enough to bear the weight of the dreams of millions of Nigerians.
d. Dealing decisively with corruption. The truth is, none of these can work if corruption is allowed to run rampant as it has always been. Every attempt by past and successive governments to engender productivity has been stymied by corruption. This is why this time around we must collectively do our best to ensure an environment of transparency and accountability.
To get out of the current economic downturn and into a season of continued prosperity, to wean ourselves from the curse of the crude, it is to the irrepressible, ingenious Nigerian spirit, buried under the rubble of decades of struggles that we must turn.
NIGERIA HAS A FUTURE
Taiwo Odukoya writes in from Lagos.