It was a major news, recently, that the Nigerian Army had placed orders for shoes made in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia State. This was a follow up to what the Nigerian Air Force did when it signed a memorandum of understanding with a local automobile company for the production of spare parts for its fleet. These are commendable gestures in line with the policy thrust of this administration to give bite to the much-vaunted backward integration effort and the need to patronise made in Nigeria goods.
A number of issues have made the implementation of that policy even more compelling. The prevailing economic recession, the shortfall in revenue accruable to the federal government as a result of a decline in oil prices, scarcity of foreign exchange in the face of excessive demands to meet a variety of needs as well as the yawning value gap between the naira and the United States dollar which has made importation a little less attractive. There is also the inevitability of diversifying the economy so as to expand the nation’s sources of income and the attendant employment generation opportunities.
The Muhammadu Buhari administration brought more urgency to this necessity to focus attention on the activities of our local manufacturers that had hitherto groaned under lack of patronage. Before now, import substitution was the in – thing as everyone developed a taste for foreign made goods. It was obvious that it was only a matter of time before that policy kissed the dust. That time may have come.
The president had consistently and persistently stressed that the country must diversify her economy to erase the over dependence and reliance on one commodity to survive. For him, this is important so that the nation can produce the food her citizens need, make her own textiles, produce most of the things the people use and create the right environment for the youth to be able to benefit and create jobs through technology.
Laudable as this policy is, and there had been even more laudable policies in the past, which derailed due to the inability of the governments and people to follow them up and also see them through. Some analysts aver that it is a child of necessity, an option that is patently inexorable and that as soon as the recession phases out, Nigerians will go back to their old ways of massaging the taste they had cultivated over time for foreign made goods.
However, circumstances had in the past made locally produced goods less attractive. Among them is the quality of the products which can be improved through research and development. Another is the pricing of the goods which in some cases compete with those that are imported. This can be explained by the cost of doing business in the country. Of course, the manufacturer is in business to create wealth and make profit. If he has to provide all the infrastructure he needs and add that to the crippling cost of funds, it comes to be expected that he has to add all that cost to the final unit price and pass it on to the consumer.
We applaud the government and its decision to encourage Nigerians to look inward for the products they need in their daily living. But in our opinion, enunciating the policy of ‘Buy Made in Nigeria’ and preaching it like gospel is not enough to make it work. It is imperative, in our view, that the government must breathe life back into the nation’s research institutes and also encourage the universities to support these local manufacturers with new ideas they need to improve the quality of their products. The government must also subsidise the production process in the country and this does not entail giving the businesses cash. If the manufacturers do not have to tie down their seed money by building their own roads, providing their own water and electricity, if these and other factors of production are available in the public mains and the funds are accessible at a tolerable interest rate, in our assessment, they are other definitions of subsidy that can rub off on the quality of products and their prices which will in turn enhance patronage. That is the way to go if the Buy Made in Nigeria policy must work.