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Nigeria Must Take Economic Diversification Serious—Cole

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Federal Government has been advised to be very serious with its economic diversification strategy as it would do the nation a greater good.

Executive Director and co-founder of Sahara Group, Mr Tonye Cole, gave this charge ahead of the Africa CEO Forum, which commences on Monday, March 26, 2018, in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

Mr Cole hopes to use the occasion to draw global attention to the need for diversification and collaboration in the quest for sustaining Nigeria’s economic growth.

The Africa CEO Forum is an annual gathering of the influential African and international CEOs, bankers and investors united by the mission of shaping an effective and sustainable course for Africa’s corporate agenda. It has enlisted over 3000 participating companies since its maiden event was staged and attracts over a thousand participants over its two day run.

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The Sahara Group boss will join a panel discussion on ‘The New Nigerian Economy,’ which is expected to focus on some of the milestones achieved by the oil-rich nation as well as the recurring challenges associated with 50 years of oil wealth dependency.

The ‘New Nigerian Economy’ panel session holds on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 and will be moderated by Nicholas Norbrook-Managing Director of The Africa Report. Other speakers include Kayode Fayemi, Nigerian Minister of Mines and Steel Development and Akin Dawodu-CEO, Citi Nigeria.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Cole said, “The architecture for diversification in any sector must include a design for diversification and production in volumes that satisfy domestic and international buyer appetite. We still do not have a solid blueprint for this. What we have is a strong opportunity to repurpose and reposition Nigeria as a globally recognized economic powerhouse.”

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The Nigerian government has been very vocal about its ambitions to move away from petroleum dependency although oil still accounts for over 90% of the country’s exports. But the medium-long term outlook is promising due to the new crop of talent and capital injections in the finance, technology, agriculture and entertainment sectors.

“If we are going to sustain the momentum, the political class should end its suspicion of the private sector players and instead seek opportunities for developing shared values and interests. We need continuing collaboration between the government and business community to achieve sustained economic growth,” Mr Cole added.

He listed a number of factors which bode well for diversification not just in Nigeria but Africa at large including, economic reforms, dynamic and youthful entrepreneurial spirit and the sheer size of the population.

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“We are a nation of people blessed with creative energy and we are beginning to rank with the world’s most promising and talked about stars in the culinary, music, fashion, cinematic and literary worlds,” the businessman said.

Nigerian music and film are generally considered to be its greatest export to the rest of the continent and possibly the most inelastic in terms of consumer demand.

Concluding on a cautionary note, Mr Cole emphasised that, “A strong eco-system which enables the growth of these sectors is sorely needed. Nigeria needs to be focused on steering the economy towards much greater diversification. It will be most unfortunate if we allow our progress to be impeded by the distractions that will inevitably come with the 2019 presidential election cycle.”

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Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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