A former Director, Regional Office for Africa, UN-Habitat, Professor Oyebanji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, has urged the Federal Government to concentrate on industrial manufacturing and not agriculture to move faster towards economic growth and exit recession.
Oyelaran-Oyeyinka said this while speaking at the distinguished lecture series of Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona Professorial Chair of Governance, held at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, on Monday.
He decried failed years of unsustainable industrial manufacturing and commission of industrial errors such as embarking on complex, capital-intensive plants without commensurate human and technological capacity, planning based on assumptions, and introduction of wrong policies.
Furthermore, he identified structural weaknesses in the nation’s economy needing transformation as a declining share of agriculture in Gross Domestic Product and employment and continued rural-urban migration.
Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, who spoke on, “From Consumption to Production: A Road Map For Getting Nigeria Out of Economic Recession” regarded as worrisome, facts that showed that the nation spent huge sums of money on importation of goods that it could produce locally and had comparative advantage on.
He said it was absurd to spend millions of dollars on importation of toothpicks, fish, milk and dairy products, tomato paste, rice, wheat and fertilisers.
Though he pointed to agriculture and mining as critical sectors that would bring about the needed structural transformation of the nation’s economy, he pointed out that industrial manufacturing would make growth more rapid.
“The faster the growth rate of manufacturing output, the faster the growth rate of manufacturing labour productivity. The faster the growth rate of manufacturing output, the faster the growth rate of non-manufacturing labour productivity.
“In contrast to agriculture, industrial manufacturing pathways are a faster road to capital accumulation; this is particularly so in spatially concentrated manufacturing compared with spatially dispersed agricultural activities.
“Given the fact that productivity is higher in the case of manufacturing than agriculture, the transfer of resources into manufacturing should normally provide a basis for higher rates of productivity-induced growth structures. The nexus of the dynamics of industrial growth and urbanisation is therefore key to our understanding of economic growth and living standards in modern cities,” he said.
He lamented that unsustainable industrialisation over the years, lack of enabling environment, constant power outages and excessive taxation led to emigration of manufacturing companies and its attendant industrial decline.
According to him, unsustainable industrialisation was responsible for poverty and slums, structural unemployment across the country.
He therefore pointed out that a structural transformation of the country and focus on manufacturing would result in wealth creation, higher productivity and change in structural employment.
Noting that the services sector remained the key driver of economic development, Oyelaran-Oyeyinka noted that more had to be done towards bridging the wealth and employment challenges in the country.
He argued that the nation, for all intents and purposes, should be a producer nation and not a consumer nation.
Speaking at the occasion, Co-chairman of the African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc, Dr Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, said in order for Nigeria not to be a mere geographical expression, it needs to be restructured.
She also said she agreed totally with the keynote speaker that the country became de-industrialised because wrong people were put in positions of authority, adding that the economy would only do well if the country was restructured to reflect true federalism which the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, had been a proponent of since the 1940s.
According to her, “In order for Nigeria not to be a mere geographical expression, it needs to be restructured. We’ve heard everything today that Nigeria became de-industrialised because wrong people were put in positions of authority. People say all we need is to revamp the economy and we’ve heard today that the economy would do well from restructuring and federalism that Chief Awolowo had been a strong proponent of from the 40s and is still being proposed today.”
She said Chief Awolowo, throughout his political career till he breathed his last, was an unrepentant advocate of true federalism and that Nigerian leaders would do well if they could look critically into the matter.
She also expressed worries that the country had not been lucky to have committed leadership for some time, saying many of the leaders are only interested in serving themselves.
“I come to the conclusion that what we need in Nigeria is committed leadership. Leadership that is totally and completely committed to the best interest of the country and its people. And flowing from that commitment is investment in human capital and what is fundamental to human capital is education, and therefore, what we need is education, not just by lip-service, but in deed and in truth.
“The education should truly prepare the entire citizenry for information building for national development and prepare those who are capable for the top echelon of the academics and those who are not so endowed to be at the production lines,” she said.
She cited cases of Japan and South Korea as those countries that became developed based on their commitment to education and development.
“Japan is one of the topmost industrial economies in this world and they only started very recently, about a century ago or maybe less. What they did was to educate their people. South Korea is another example and education for them was like a military campaign, it was a coordinated affair between government and educational institutions and the industry so that they produce the number and the kind of skills that are needed from time to time,” she stated.