The Nigerian Academy of Engineering has urged the Federal Government to intensify efforts and develop policies geared towards industrialisation as a means of ensuring economic diversification in the country.
The engineers made the call at a webinar titled “From Consumption to Production: The Role of Special Ago-Industrial Processing Zones in Nigeria.”
The keynote speaker at the event, Senior Special Adviser to the President, African Development Bank, Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, regretted that Nigeria, which had embraced industrialisation in the wake of political independence, neglected a sector that was key to any successful economy.
Oyelaran-Oyeyinka observed that Nigeria manufactured very little of what it consumed, as most of the country’s needs were imported from other countries.
He explained that there was a need for the engineering manpower to help the country to transit from consumption to manufacturing, noting that if a society spent $100 to manufacture a product within its borders, the money used to pay for materials, labour, and other costs moved through the economy as each recipient spent it.
“The leaders and elites tend to trump all other factors. Their choices, interests and predilections have pushed this nation into the current trajectory of a negative economic development pathway. We must not be shy to speak the truth. Only the Truth will help those who hold the levers of leadership no matter how unpalatable.”
“If money is spent in another country, circulation of that money is within the exporting country. This is the reason an industrialised product-exporting/commodity-importing country is wealthy and an undeveloped product importing/commodity-exporting country is poor. Developed countries grow rich by selling capital-intensive (thus cheap) products for a high price and buying labor-intensive (thus expensive) products for a low price,” he said.
According to him, central to the nation’s economic growth crisis was the failure to achieve rapid industrialization as well as the mismanagement of investment in the acquisition of necessary capital stock such as plants and capital stock.
“The country’s investment portfolio will reveal huge amounts budgeted to purchase plants and equipment, for example, refineries, iron and steel, sugar refining, fertilizers and so on. What has also become clear is that unlike countries where rising capital stock has led to rising living standards and high productivity, Nigeria has remained a non-industrialised underdeveloped country. We consume high-value products that we do not produce. What does Nigeria export?”
In his address, the President of the academy, Professor Peter Onwualu, observed that there was a strong link between agriculture, manufacturing and industrialisation.
He noted that unless Nigeria got its agriculture development plans right, industrialisation might not happen.