The Economics of Diversification Versus Specialisation in Nigeria
By Oremade Oyedeji
Comparative Advantage as an Alternative Strategy
A few days after I published my opinion piece, The Economics of Nigerians Destroying Nigeria, in which I referred to a well-told story of economics still being recycled, alluding to one former chief of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), who repeatedly stressed that Nigerians were eating up the country’s GDP like they consume ponmo, my good friend sent a clip from Channels TV about the Kaduna Investment Forum (KADINVEST) organised annually by “an Obasanjo Boy”, Governor Nasir El Rufai, and there was Lamido Sanusi Lamido, his childhood friend, delivering a speech as the guest speaker.
I smiled when I watched a part of the video and decided to save the rest for later and somehow, I forgot to and didn’t think about it again until after two days when I saw my friends who enquired if I watched the clip. I told them I hadn’t so the one who sent it to me narrated.
The conversation went something like this (* not real names):
Kadri*: You won’t believe this, I listened to Lamido’s speech at KADINVEST this year, and for the first time at an event like this, he didn’t mention ponmo or any Nigerian eating the GDP.
Me: Really? It is not possible, especially at a forum like KADINVEST?
Malik*: what then did he talk about to shore up state revenue, address unemployment or to revive the dead leather, cotton or groundnut industry in Kaduna and its suburbs?
Kadri: Robotics, use of smartphones and smartphone production.
Malik: What are you saying? Has Kaduna started producing smartphones, and even if we plan to start one now, when are we gaining a comparative advantage in smartphone production to attract consumers from Kaduna or Kano talk less of selling to Lagos?
My friend’s use of the word “comparative advantage” really got me intrigued and it spurred this piece because I then went to watch Sanusi’s speech at KADINVEST 2020.
In his introductory remark, he joked about how his speech has always been a marker for new troubles. Indeed! According to Sanusi, Nigeria has to take economic diversification more seriously. He said that over-reliance on oil has left the country unproductive. He referenced Malaysia to Nigeria (Typically), giving a breakdown of the economic growth of both countries within a 30-year period (using GDP index).
In his words, we were growing but we did not diversify and that explained the huge levels of poverty in the country. He said that was what exposed Nigeria to huge levels of inequality within the country and vulnerability of the economy to shocks.
When Malaysia started, according to him, they started from a GDP per capita level lower than Nigeria’s GDP per capita in 1985. It started from $310 to $4,045 while Nigeria started from $345 to $2,055.
Sanusi said “One way to look at it is to understand the difference between production and consumption,” urging the youths to explore the endless possibilities of their smartphones.
How do we understand technology or electricity? He said, “are we consumers or are we producers?” challenging the state to “Produce young men who know that they are worth more than just using their phones to import a pair of shoes.”
Sanusi also believes that the groundnut pyramids do not impress the world any more, adding that he wants Kaduna to focus on robotics instead of production of cotton, groundnut, and leather.
That, in my opinion, is very confusing; I am not sure if there will ever be any programmer that that will write an app to produce food at least not like the one which Kaduna State already has in terms of comparative advantage in trading.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, in his October 1 speech, called for a sincere process of national healing as the nation marked the 60th anniversary of its independence from Great Britain.
The President said Nigeria’s biggest asset is its human capital asset, the most important any nation requires. KADINVEST forum is a good forum to discuss real economic healing, and in my opinion, Governor El-Rufai has a better idea.
In an article, The Nigerian Context in Emerging New World Order & The Pandemic (Part II), published May 25, 2020, where I mentioned the likely benefits of COVID-19 in Northern Nigeria after many economic analysts challenged Northern states in Nigeria to take advantage of the pandemic in understanding and realigning its economy, El-Rufai simply “hit the nail on the head” then, without mincing words when he spoke then as the head of Northern States Governors’ Forum, said he was determined to end the Almajiris’ system of education in the north, amidst the spread of COVID-19 among the children.
El-Rufai said the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still pretty much on the ravage today, provided the opportunity to determine the state of Almajiri education. Almajiri is ideally a system of Islamic education practised in northern Nigeria, where young children leave their homes to live with Islamic scholars and learn about religion.
Almajiri has over the years been corrupted with thousands of such children roaming the streets of Northern Nigeria as beggars and without any form of education, contributing to the over 10 million out of school children in Northern Nigeria alone. That is 10 million human capital assets, the most important any nation requires, according to the president speech on October 1.
A focus on Human capital asset development, a 10-year strategy to integrate millions of Almajiri children on the street of Kaduna into taxpayers in the next few years will thereby be increasing state’s capacity to generate revenue from personal income tax geometrically.
Let me conclude this article by mentioning trending calls for true federalism, understandable economics and restructuring in Nigeria among many senior citizens recently.
For example, the Guardian and Thisday newspapers headline some days ago noted: We either restructure or breakup – Pastor Adeboye. Likewise, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was also accused and called Divider-in-Chief recently for the same course, to mention a few.
According to the United Nation document titled 50 years together for a sustainable future, “the necessity of specialisation according to comparative advantage for economic development should continue to be an integral part of policy advice to every state.
“The argument is that every state should develop a comparative advantage in commodities that demand skills and assets it readily has a comparative advantage in trading.”
Nigeria may yet produce the first Female Director-General (Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This may prove that Nigeria can position herself for trading with the world in goods and services she has a comparative advantage in.
The Exciting Relationship Between Women and Mobile Money in Africa
By Rashi Gupta
The success of mobile money in Africa is well known. If you’ve paid any attention to the continent’s financial and technology spaces over the past decade or so, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it accounts for around 70% of the world’s $1 trillion mobile money value.
You’d probably also be unsurprised to learn that in Kenya, the country that effectively kick-started Africa’s mobile money revolution, mobile money transactions now account for 56.8% of GDP. What you might not know is that mobile money has long played (and continues to play) an important role in empowering women across Sub-Saharan Africa.
That’s important because, despite gains in representation (in 11 African countries, women hold over a third of parliamentary seats, more than in Europe), gender inequality remains stark across Africa. While there are obviously differences from country to country, women throughout the continent fare worse than their male counterparts in a number of measures, including wages, investment, access to capital, and education.
Of course, mobile money can’t fix all of those issues on its own. That requires serious investment as well as shifts in policy and societal attitudes. But it can play a significant role in making life better for women across the continent, especially when it comes to financial inclusion.
Taking care of business
That’s not just conjecture either. Research conducted on behalf of the World Bank shows just how substantial the impact has been. It notes, for example, that mobile money has enabled Kenyan women to move away from subsistence farming and towards business and retail, helping alleviate poverty in the country.
The research further notes that, for individuals and households, mobile phones can help reduce transaction costs, lower travel costs, improve welfare by smoothing unexpected income shocks, increase security, and facilitate remittances.
Perhaps the most significant impact, however, lies in what mobile money can do for female entrepreneurs.
Using mobile money leads to a 19.8% increase in the likelihood of female-led businesses receiving investments from outside sources. Given that the average capital investment by female-owned firms is more than six times lower than the average for male-owned firms in Africa, that’s especially critical.
That same World Bank research shows that such female-owned businesses are then more likely to invest that money in fixed assets and their business’s expansion, more likely to offer credit to customers, demand credit, and have better relationships with suppliers.
A state of constant evolution
It’s also worth noting that mobile money has evolved considerably since it landed on the African continent, further enhancing its ability to empower women.
Advances in interoperability, for example, mean that it’s easier than ever for people and businesses on different mobile money systems and in different countries to send and receive money. That has massive potential benefits for female entrepreneurs as it allows them to sell their products across borders without having to rely on traditional international e-commerce infrastructure that can be costly, resource intensive, and require business owners to travel away from home on a regular basis using unsafe or unreliable modes of transportation. Unlocking new markets is vital for any business’s ability to scale and grow.
In the coming years, mobile money will continue to evolve in new and innovative ways. And if history is anything to go by, then women will embrace and benefit most from those advancements.
Breaking barriers across borders
That’s because financial inclusion is the most effective way of reducing inequalities. That’s especially true for women. And few technologies have fostered that kind of inclusion as successfully as mobile money has. It has given unbanked communities and people in remote and rural areas the kind of access to financial services that would’ve taken far longer if they’d had to rely on traditional financial institutions. The fact that it’s had such a profound and lasting impact in elevating women across the continent should, therefore, never be underestimated.
Rashi Gupta is the Group Chief Operating Officer at MFS Africa
Nigeria’s Naira Redesign; Avarice Versus Envy
By Prince Charles Dickson PhD
Two neighbours came before Jupiter and prayed to him to grant their hearts’ desires. Now the one was full of avarice, and the other ate up with envy.
So, to punish them both, Jupiter granted that each might have whatever he wished for himself, but only on condition that his neighbour had twice as much.
The Avaricious man prayed to have a room full of gold. No sooner said than done, but all his joy was turned to grief when he found that his neighbour had two rooms full of the precious metal. Then came the turn of the Envious man, who could not bear to think that his neighbour had any joy at all.
So, he prayed that he might have one of his own eyes put out, which meant his companion would become totally blind.
Vices are their own punishment.
How does the above relate to Nigeria—especially in these times? What constitutes a crisis worthy of leadership attention? At what point is enough really enough? I will write a few paragraphs’ gists with us. For better understanding, let me tutor us!
Nigeria has been facing a currency crisis for several years now. The country’s currency, the Naira, has been steadily losing value against major foreign currencies like the US dollar, Euro, and British pound. The following are some of the factors that have contributed to the currency crisis in Nigeria:
- Overdependence on oil exports: Nigeria is a major oil-producing country, and the economy heavily relies on oil exports for revenue. The fall in oil prices in recent years has led to a significant reduction in foreign exchange earnings, thereby putting pressure on the Naira.
- High inflation rate: Nigeria has been experiencing high inflation rates for several years. This has eroded the value of the Naira and made it more expensive to import goods and services.
- Weak economic fundamentals: Nigeria’s economy has been characterized by low productivity, weak infrastructure, and a poor business environment. This has led to a lack of investor confidence, which in turn has contributed to a weak Naira.
- Foreign exchange restrictions: The Nigerian government has put in place several foreign exchange restrictions in an attempt to conserve foreign exchange reserves. However, these restrictions have led to a scarcity of foreign exchange and have further weakened the Naira.
The currency crisis in Nigeria has had several negative impacts on the economy, including rising inflation, high unemployment, and low economic growth. The government has taken several measures to address the crisis, including devaluing the Naira and introducing foreign exchange policies aimed at stabilizing the currency. However, more needs to be done to address the root causes of the crisis and put the economy on a sustainable growth path.
In light of these, we decided on a Naira redesign. A currency swap naturally followed it in the Nigerian context. The fact of the matter was, there was no campaign to enlighten the masses. There was no form of advocacy; the ordinary man on the streets did not know what to expect and did not understand the entire process. Who we be sef? And after all, what do we know, it came with a cash crunch… the last time Nigerians experienced this was in the 1980s. Why the naira design, we still don’t have a grasp.
A nation with no sense of emergency; maybe that’s why we don’t have any natural disasters, albeit self-inflicted floods, that can and should be avoided. We are not bothered about the crisis, the Central Bank chief went ahead with his mandatory role of redesigning the Naira notes, he did not tell the minister for finance, the ministry was left in the loop, and those in economic and national planning were not aware. The national assembly was as usual, not beyond an assembly.
We all started the blame game, the apex bank chief feeling like James Bond and others went on the defence. We were told that it was targeted at politicians who wanted to buy votes for the upcoming (now concluded) elections. The politicians played their roles, went to court, government carry government go court. Nigeria is indeed a country. Governors threatened banks, banks punished citizens. And one ponders, if indeed we are 200 million Nigerians, why should we bear the brunt of the thievery of barely 1%? Abi Nigerians politicians pass 1 million?
We are a people that just do anyhow, go anyway and in the end, nothing happens. In the interim, banks were touched in parts of the country, no one was held liable, while other parts just moved on painfully. The old notes disappeared, and the new notes were nowhere to be found. If Venezuela was picturesque, Nigeria is the reality; Nigerians were buying naira with naira, and all the authorities did was, at the best rant and dramatize.
The central bank said they had destroyed the old notes, they said the new notes were not enough or were being printed. Who is printing, and why was the printing not done first? Why reduce the old notes and not make available the new notes? We just dey play! Banks are operating at the lowest capacity; electronic banking is, at best, working in babalawo mood. The more you look, the more your eyes hurt from seeing nothing. We are possibly impossible people. The governors had alleged that contrary to the CBN defence that they had destroyed the old notes, the notes were there, and months after, we know better, the old notes are appearing, after the dance of the naked at the nation’s apex court, the old notes stay till the end of the year.
However, the damage done to small businesses and the fact that Nigerians have painfully learned the difference between cash at hand and cash at the bank cannot be quantified. For a policy that ordinarily should have enhanced the security features of the currency and prevented counterfeiting because the new Naira notes were supposed to feature new designs, images, and colours, which are meant to reflect Nigeria’s diverse cultural heritage. Counterfeiting has been on the rise, with even the ordinary Nigerian not knowing anything about the new notes, as counterfeiters are producing fake notes every day.
Public confidence in our naira is at an all-time low. We are supposed to have witnessed a reduction in transaction costs for businesses that handle cash transactions. But it has rather tripled costs, many argue that the new notes are not more durable than the old ones.
This exercise has killed the economy; all the aims for which the two neighbours came before Jupiter and prayed to him to grant their hearts’ desires, have failed because we are a nation full of avarice, and the other eaten up with envy, nothing works according to the original plan, until some interests are being served, when will it change—only time will tell!
6 Ways Google and YouTube Can Help You Celebrate Ramadan
Ramadan is a holy month that is observed by Muslims all around the world. It is a time for reflection, prayer, and community. With the help of Google and YouTube, celebrating Ramadan has become even easier and more enjoyable.
From Lagos to Nairobi, Accra to Johannesburg, Africans can access a wealth of information and resources to make the most of this special time. Here are 6 ways that Google and YouTube can help you celebrate Ramadan in Africa:
Celebrate Ramadan’s Joy with Colors and Greetings: Simply search for “Ramadan 2023” in your language on Google, and you will have access to all the information related to this month, including prayer times, recipes, and more. You can also find articles on Ramadan etiquette, Ramadan recipes, and Ramadan greetings to help you navigate the holiday with ease. Additionally, you can access greeting cards online to share with your loved ones, and scroll through our Ramadan colouring book on Google Arts & Culture to engage your inner artist and colour beautiful artwork to share with family and friends.
Set Reminders for Prayer Times with Google Assistant: With Google Assistant, you can set reminders for prayer times throughout the day, making it easier to stay on track during Ramadan. Simply ask Google Assistant to set a reminder for the next prayer time, and you’ll receive a notification when it’s time to pray. You can customise the reminders to fit your schedule so you never miss a prayer. Plus, Google Assistant can provide inspirational quotes and spiritual guidance to help you stay focused and connected during the holy month.
Shop What You See with Google Lens: By using the camera on your phone, you can search for a delicious type of dessert you’ve tried at your friend’s house, or find your next favourite decoration item to buy during Ramadan. You can open the Google app on your phone, tap on the camera icon, and use Google Lens to snap a photo or screenshot. With Google Lens, you can easily find exact or similar results to shop from or explore for inspiration.
Watch Ramadan-related videos on YouTube: YouTube is a great resource for learning more about Ramadan. You can find videos on how to prepare traditional foods, tips for fasting, and spiritual practices related to Ramadan. There are also numerous Ramadan vlogs and Ramadan routines videos, where you can follow along with the daily activities and experiences of content creators during the holy month.
Use Google Maps to Find Local Mosques and Halal Restaurants: Google Maps is a valuable tool for finding local mosques and halal restaurants during Ramadan. You can search for mosques in your area or around you and get directions to join in community prayers. You can also search for halal restaurants near you to break your fast with delicious and authentic cuisine. Additionally, Google Maps can help you navigate through unfamiliar areas when you are travelling to different cities or countries during Ramadan. With Google Maps, you can plan your Ramadan activities and explore new places with ease. Plus, you can read reviews and ratings from other users to help you make informed decisions about where to go.
Browse Our Shopping Guide for Inspiration: To help you prepare for Ramadan, Google has created a Ramadan Shopping Guide that collects trending products helpful during the holiday. When we analysed search and shopping trends, we found common themes related to home decoration, like Ramadan lanterns, which grew 20% year over year. You can browse through the guide for inspiration and find new ideas for decorating your home, preparing for Iftar, or giving gifts to your loved ones during the holiday.
We hope this Ramadan brings you and your loved ones joy — and that these tools help you find the information you need to make the most of this special time of the year.
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