Experts from the academics, telecommunications and manufacturing sectors have strongly recommended that Nigeria should deliberately embark on the exploration of its potentials through the enhancement of agricultural value chain, massive investment in tourism, development of the solid minerals sector and embrace innovation and technology as its new sources of economic strength.
Presenting the lead paper on Tuesday at the WorldStage Economic Summit 2018, with the theme: “New Sources of Economic Strength to Make the future Happen,” Dr. Babatunde Wasiu Adeoye, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of Lagos, said: “The agricultural sector remains a viable option for Nigeria in which it can produce her total demand internally without necessarily importing any of her final produce.”
Represented by Onyebuchi Iwegbu at the forum which took place at the Event Centre, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Lagos, Adeoye listed some challenges that are being faced in the agriculture sector to include high cost of generating power, poor and limited storage facilities, bad road networks, Illegal food importation, inadequate market information on availability of products Land grabbing otherwise called illegal acquisition of land, inadequate skilled personnel, poor irrigation system, and high cost of acquiring processing equipment and agrochemicals, but noted that by finding a strategic way of ameliorating them might become a testimony for the country to experience the replica of what Brazil experienced in the past three years.
“In 2012, Brazil was able to significantly enhance their value chain in agricultural production and this led to the generation of 16 million new jobs and a producer of global agro processed commodities which includes sugar, ethanol and oranges,” he said.
“Their value chain developed due to the improvement in the availability of seeds, soil fertility, better use and provision of technology and finally, improvement in research and innovations in the sector.”
On tourism, Adeoye said its role in the economy cannot be undermined as it can be seen as a pulsating power house with deep and layered cultures and environment.
He said: “Tourism has the potentials of stimulating output and as such act as a strong force to stimulating and sustaining growth.”
He quoted Lonely Planet, which reported in year 2016 that the tourism industry contributed about $7.6 trillion to the world economy, accounting for about 10 per cent of the global GDP.
He said: “Nigeria tourism contributed about $1.5 billion, a hope to anchor on in terms of future output expansion sector dependants. For the sector to become a centre of attraction and growth driver, several actions must be taken by relevant stakeholders in achieving this.”
Adeoye cited the example of how United Arab Emirates used technology to transform their cities, making it a centre for world tourists, saying Nigeria already has the landscape and other climatic conditionings in making her a centre of attraction for tourist.
“However, with massive investment in technology, hotels can better market their services and tourist centres can effectively enhance their centres,” he said.
“Public private partnership cannot also be ruled out. There is a need for the public and the private to massively invest in tourism as this would allow stakeholders to participate in the development of tourism strategy, communicate, achieve their various goals and interests, and successfully implement tourism programmes, and collaborate to achieve a common goal.
“The private sector can provide the funds needed to make the industry competitive while the government would create the adequate infrastructural and regulatory environment for the industry to thrive. The government must play a key role in improving on transport services which is a very crucial factor in promoting tourism.
“Attention must be made to see how the tourism products can be effectively and efficiently marketed in the international market. Awareness of a destination is a motivation to visit the place. Marketing will create the awareness that is needed to increase massive patronage in the tourist centres.”
On solid minerals, Adeoye said Nigeria has a large deposit of them such as Iron Ore, Lignite, Gold, Granite, Silver among other, yet they only accounted for 0.0 per cent of GDP between 1960 – 1970; 0.3 per cent between 1981 and 1990; and declined to 0.1 per cent between 2001 and 2017.
“Nigeria can join the league of solid mineral resources producers and exporters if the sector can harness its potential; however several efforts made by the government to resuscitate this sub-sector have failed,” he said.
“It might be difficult to become a major producer of solid minerals looking at the world country makers; however, Nigeria can still greatly benefit from the streams of solid mineral production.”
Adeoye said: “Nigeria’s continuous dependent on oil as a major stay of the economy was like walking on a gold mine waiting to explode and attention must be placed in identifying new sources of new economic strength for her economy.
“In doing this, attention must be made to first understand structure of the economy, its strengths and peculiarities. There are new sources of economic strength for other countries which might not be obtainable for Nigeria considering its structure and the advantage it has.”
Mr Olusola Teniola, President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, who participated in the panel discussion at the summit, was the opinion that the development of the economy through the old concept of agriculture will not take the country far.
Rather, Teniola advocated for a culture of technology as demonstrated in the ICT sector and made case for the promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in the schools.
He said for the country to compete in any area, it must be up to date in innovation, technology.
Soji Adeleye, Chief Executive of Alfe City Institution, in his contribution to the debate underlined the absence of leadership in the country which had resulted to the lack of progress.
For meaningful progress to be achieved, Adeleye said the leadership has to be aware of their responsibility to the society, not to just occupy space.
Oluyinka Omojolaibi, Senior Research Economist, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, was also underlined the importance of government to formulate and implement policies that can move the economy forward.
Omojolaibi said government needed to do more in the area of the provision of infrastructure, machineries, cheap loans for the economy to be productive and competitive.
She said that would be crucial so that made in Nigeria products can be competitive in the local and international market.
Segun Adeleye, President/CEO, World Stage Limited, the organisers of the summit, observed that there was a convergence in the opinions of the experts at the forum in the area of application of technology to chat a new economic direction for the country.
“Going forward, the WorldStage Economic Summit 2018 theme was inspired to bring to the consciousness of stakeholders the need to be on the driver’s seat of the economy and transit to a future of knowledge, competitiveness and prosperity,” Adeleye said.
He added: “Our thinking is that the policy makers and the private sector should be looking at how to match the potential in the economy with new development around the world that focuses on the shape of things to come.
“At today’s summit, we want to explore how Nigeria will not be left behind in the fourth industrial revolution with focus on economic strength through the sub themes, Digital ecosystems to drive future growth; Developing the Agribusiness; The Blue Economy Option; The place of Artificial Intelligence in future growth; Blockchain Technology and the future; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education in Nigeria.
“In a global economy where tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook are richer than all African countries put together, managers of the economy cannot continue to fake ignorance of the needful, that mineral resource will no longer be a major factor in future relevance and prosperity.”
Adeleye assured that the report of the summit would be made available to the government with the hope that it will become part of the valuable ideas needed to move the Nigeria’s economy forward.