While the Minister of Agriculture proposes policies to stop Nigerians who order Pizza from London, $300m worth of cashew nut waste away in Nigeria’s ports due to poor export infrastructures. Interesting enough, Nigerians are not surprised at the lip service paid to the diversification mantra. That has always been the case. For a country whose stability depends on a volatile product like oil, diversification should be more than a slogan employed during elections to sway middle class educated voters. But what do Nigerians get after promises? A government playing ostrich with a crucial policy like diversification.
Experts in the African economy, hold that diversification is the last option to get Nigeria working, and it seems they are right because the top performing economies in Africa are all diversified. The Deputy Director, African Department of the International Monetary Fund, Mr. Park Plant opined that running the economy only on oil does not work. Perhaps Mr. Plant was trying to be conservative with the truth, since oil revenue and reliance if poorly managed, always turn out bad. Check Angola with GDP growth of -0.7% and Venezuela with a full-blown economic crisis triggering a 3 million person-sized immigration crisis around the world. Does Nigeria need to reach that level before the government takes action?
Mr. Plant also stated that the economy of South Africa was more viable because it diversified and grew its manufacturing base. Fact Checking Mr. Plant, South Africa did not slide into a recession because of falling oil prices, Nigeria did. For Nigeria, it would take a bit longer to reach a certain threshold in Manufacturing, but how about agriculture?
“Agriculture is the future,” says President Muhammadu Buhari, but what is the nation doing to help the country’s already disadvantaged farmers and agro-exporters? South Africa took conscious strides towards growing its infrastructure, enough to attract automobile companies and various other manufacturers. How has Nigeria improved agro-export infrastructure like rural-urban link roads, mechanized farming, power for storage and processing, and rural-urban railway systems?
As it is in the agricultural sector, so it is in the economy at large. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has stated that Nigeria’s economy is doing poorly and at best, may witness slow growth in 2019. If this is not enough to spur the government out of its slumber, especially for a country termed the world headquarters of poverty, then nothing may.
Presently, while Nigeria struggles with a 2.5% GDP growth rate as against 2.7% in 2015, countries with a diversified economy like Kenya (5.9%), Ethiopia (8.2%) and Egypt (8.2%), all blast at full speed up the ladder of economic development. What is their secret? Perhaps they did not have oil to rely on, unlike Angola that has a large amount of oil, but still struggles with a -0.7% economic growth, all according to PWC data.
Furthermore, Nigerians were at the polls not long ago, and the thrust of their voting decision was the economy. Shouldn’t this send a message to the leaders? For the leaders of the nation, it becomes pertinent to ask, does the economy matter? Does diversification matter either? Is agriculture still the future? In answering all of these, the leaders must make an effort to put the needs of the country first, knowing fully well that the country needs stability over quick cash.
Diversification comes with stability that oil cannot give. Paying lip service to the diversification mantra while depending on oil revenue is at best, toxic to the future, stability, and sustainability of the country, as it has shown in oil-reliant economies like Venezuela and Angola. For now, $300 Million worth of cashew nut still wastes away in the ports due to ineffectual agro-export infrastructure. What diversification?