Guest Column By Zayyad I. Muhammad
As we reached the New Year- 2020, let’s remind ourselves that Nigeria is a country of many opportunities. But we Nigerians rarely exploit them.
Let’s also say some truth- Our governments (FG, states and LGAs) still struggle to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurial development and creativity. The absence of such environment has led to poverty of ideas on how to take advantage of the many opportunities at our backdoor.
Notwithstanding, some Nigerians have defied this and are making fortunes from the opportunities that abound. Nonetheless, there are still many untapped prospects at our backdoor which can be money spinners.
2020 should be the year for governments at all levels to design how government can create a supportive environment for Nigerians to explore (at local levels) the various potentials for entrepreneurial development.
For instance, farmers produce thousands of tonnes of perishable crops like tomatoes, pepper, onions, lettuce, cabbage etc especially in the northern part of Nigeria. But most of these are lost due to lack of adequate storage and packaging facilities. To tackle this, the government can establish local fabrication of small scales storage facilities and packaging machines for perishable crops. There are many young Nigerians with sound technical knowhow of fabrication of simple and small scale farm machineries- what they need is proper co-ordination, tools and good workshops. Well, the good news- the N235 billion CBNintervention fund for manufacturing re-financing and restructuring facilities of banks loan is still available.
2020 is here! – let’s ponder a little! Has Nigeria not commit a huge error by neglecting technical and vocational schools?. Most graduates of technical schools can replicate many types of simple and small scale machineries imported into Nigeria today. That’s how China started. If the Nigerian government can take bold initiatives towards organized and well-tooled workshops to encourage technical knowledge development, it will be a viable way for foreign exchange, employment and industrialization.
In year 2020, let agriculture change our lives! Crocodile farming is a thriving and lucrative business, though it is capital intensive, but when fully established, it brings a lot of foreign exchange through the sale of crocodile leather, meat and other by-products. Zimbabwean farmers are making fortunes from Crocs farming. Captive breeding will be an excellent method that can be practiced anywhere in Nigeria and the method is recognized by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Despite Nigeria’s immense water resources and growing number of fish farmers, the country still imports fish. The nation’s demand for fish protein is enough to sustain huge fish farming. Government should establish both indoor and outdoor cage system fish farms and loan them to interested young Nigerians, who will pay back the loans on installment. This method will increase fish farming and will also have a multiplier effects on fabrication of small scale fish preservation and smoking equipment.
There are some cash crops on which many African countries are leveraging from growing them. Nigeria’s fertile land supports the growth of cash crops like garlic, gum arabic, onions, ginger etc, yet the country is not taking advantage of it. Ethiopia is world’s 7th garlic producer and enjoys huge foreign exchange from the crop, Sudan is world’s largest single producer of gum arabic, and Sudanese are dependent on gum Arabic for their livelihoods. Nigeria is the world’s 24th largest onion producer, only Algeria and Morocco produce more onions in Africa than Nigeria, yet Nigeria hardly makes reasonable foreign exchange from onions.
The good news- Bank of Industry (BOI) has many funding programs to support young people- eg The Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund (GEF)
2020, the year for e-waste business?
There has been talk about waste to wealth in Nigeria but not much has been done about it. Waste recycling is a huge source of income. E-waste recycling is also a new way to employ thousands of young people. Experts have said that a large number of what is labeled “e-waste” are whole electronic equipment or parts that are readily marketable for reuse or can be recycled for materials recovery. Cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, copper, iron, aluminum, etc. Nigeria is a huge market for cellphones, thus millions of tonnes of cell phones waste are generated every year. E-waste recycling will be a money spinner and a good way of tackling toxic waste in Nigeria. Cell phones e-waste recycling export to France is employing thousands of youth in the Ivory Coast. Nigeria can emulate the Ivorians.
How about services? is 2020 the year?
Tax collection at most states and local government is often very poor. Government should enact a policy which will allow young Nigerians to establish small firms for tax collection on behalf of authorities, a policy that will allow such small firm to get commission from taxes collected.
All these are just a bit of the various potentials untapped in Nigeria. It is high time all other viable avenues are explored. Let 2020 be the year.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimetat, Adamawa state