The indestructible but falling-and-rising Made-in-Nigeria campaign is back on its feet. Buoyed by the current soul-searching recession it is gingerly swaggering with the low and mighty joining the chorus. However, it did not just rise up overnight. Sometime last year the Nigerian Airforce signed an agreement with the Nnewi based Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company to produce some components to refurbish grounded Alfa Jets. Following suit, the Nigerian Army ordered for some 50,000 pairs of military boots from Aba shoe makers. During the recent Operation Crocodile Smiles in the Niger Delta region, we all saw Navy Patrol Boats that were manufactured locally. The Senate President also indicated that the amended Public Procurement Law will persuade government MDAs to patronize locally made goods and services. A strategic move, you may say. He also launched the Made-in-Nigeria Challenge to showcase local alternatives to imported goods. A big boost, you may say. Then, inching closer to the seat of power, a state minister has proposed a "Patronize Naija Products" campaign to add steam to the Made-in-Nigeria campaign. Campaign funds, you may say. I may go on and on to chronicle the patriotic zeal and fervor over the current campaign. All of which demonstrate patriotism, albeit forced by the biting recession - a necessary evil to sustain the Made-in-Nigeria campaign.
But, alas! There is a grand plot to scuttle the Made-in-Nigeria grand move. To be sure, this campaign is not new. Different dispensations of the Nigerian government have advocated various versions of Made-in-Nigeria campaign for decades. I can remember Operation Feed the Nation (of Chief Obasanjo's first coming), Import Substitution, Technology Transfer, Proudly-Nigerian, Buy-Nigeria, Vision 20:2020, YouWin, Made-in-Nigeria, etc. but, they've all gone the way of pedestrian campaigns. Sorry, this current campaign is headed the same way! Wake up Nigeria. We must not allow this to happen. I want to let you into this plot and then advance a strategy to stop it. We must stop this grand plot before it stops this great move.
Firstly, a Made-in-Nigeria campaign cannot be the same as a political campaign. In a political campaign you organize rallies, talk shows and take out adverts on political promises to garner votes for your candidate and party, even if they are mere propaganda to convince gullible voters. But, for a Made-in-Nigeria campaign, rallies (trade shows) are not enough. Slogans, promises and propaganda will not work. The campaign must be accompanied by a series of little but concrete actions to actualize the objective which is large scale patronage of locally made goods. The corollary to this is that manufacturing capacity must increase and competitive local products made available, since Nigeria is a certified capital market.
Secondly, there can be no successful Made-in-Nigeria campaign outside of entrepreneurship development. Ultimately, it is entrepreneurs that will deliver on the expectations of the campaign. But, the current campaign is high on rhetoric and low on complementary practical actions to articulate entrepreneurship. It is like building on a weak foundation. The building will collapse sooner than later. Entrepreneurship development here emphasizes creation of core entrepreneurs and a motivational economic regime. The emphasis on "core" is because there are so many persons in the economic space parading as entrepreneurs, including retired civil servants with one-day or one-week pre-retirement "entrepreneurship" training. There are two ways to becoming a core entrepreneur - by birth and by transformation. Not everyone resorting to doing business is an entrepreneur and not every entrepreneur is a core entrepreneur. Ever wondered why in the face of daunting challenges some business people still make breakthroughs. The difference is in being a core entrepreneur. They are very few. But, if we can transform a critical mass of aspiring and existing business operators into core entrepreneurs, the objectives of the Made-in-Nigeria move will be actualized without a noisy but fleeting campaign.
Thirdly, in pursuing entrepreneurship development objectives, governments have always adopted a wrong approach. They look at the entrepreneur the same way they look at the civil servant - someone you need to provide all the comfort and directions and demand loyalty. This translates to spoon-feeding. It's appropriate to the civil servant but counterproductive to the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur is a different species of human being, unique, erratic, non-conforming, pulling surprises, not loyal to establishment and threads paths no one else wants to attempt. Nothing stops the core entrepreneur from getting to their destination. Core entrepreneurs equally pull breakthroughs in very difficult circumstances. Entrepreneurship is a commitment of the soul and not an attachment to the body. In the course of my entrepreneurship development work across the country, I've seen persons who said they did entrepreneurship training two, five or more years back and yet had not been able to kick-start their enterprise due to paucity of funds. Surely, they were no core entrepreneurs yet. Entrepreneurs don't wait indefinitely to manifest their passion, no matter the challenges.
I am also hearing the cries of participants of the Bank of Industry (BoI) Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES) scheme who are lamenting non-disbursement of loans months after completing their training. According to a Vanguard Newspaper report a participant, Samuel Temidayo lamented: "Why the waste of time, money and resources? If you had no intention of making access to financing easier and better than the conventional bottlenecks in commercial banks, why waste over N800,000 in training each YES Program participant, multiplied by the 2,500 individuals that scaled through to the final stage? We went through 3 months online training and had a remarkable exposure to the real business environment only to be thrown between the buses when we were all guided and ready to apply everything we have learnt." Other complainants had similar lamentations. Sorry, you all. You had a good training and remarkable exposure but you didn't transform to core entrepreneurs! BoI has spoon-fed you all, otherwise, you wouldn't be lamenting this way. Get transformed to a core entrepreneur now, the difference will be clear.
Fourthly, when governments budget funds for entrepreneurship development, a huge chunk of it is spent on giving staff overseas and local entrepreneurship training. Such staff may not be exposed to entrepreneurship until they retire at an age when they will be too tired to embark upon any meaningful adventure. Meanwhile, the staff already has the capacity to manage the budget. Another sizable chunk of the budget will be spent on logistics and media hype when cheaper communication methods could be adopted. Then, another disproportionately large chunk will be spent on training potential beneficiaries. At the end of all the preliminary expenses only a paltry sum will be available for real funding of enterprises.
Fifthly, whatever paltry sum that is left from the MSMEs development budget, government will place stringent disbursement conditions sighting rampant default in loan repayment by MSMEs. At the end of the day such entrepreneurship development budgets become a mirage to potential beneficiaries. But, there is no need for such stringent conditions when dealing with core entrepreneurs. Give them user-friendly loans through membership groups. They will make repayments, if not as and when due, then on demand at the appropriate time. Aggregate loss will be very low. Sixthly, there is no empathy for upcoming MSMEs some of which may have novel products to displace imported ones. They have to contend with onslaughts from overzealous government revenue agents. There are no incentives such as grants for innovation and manufacturing facilities. There are other ways the establishment works against the Made-in-Nigeria dream. But, we can unite and help the current campaign to succeed. What then can we do?
To answer the question we must realize that solution will be based on conscious efforts to achieve our objectives. As I mentioned earlier, our focus should be on having core entrepreneurs to drive Made-in-Nigeria rather than slogans and propaganda. A critical mass of core entrepreneurs, by birth and by transformation is the answer. And since we can only have a few by birth, then we need to go on massive transformation of ordinary folks into core entrepreneurs in the manufacturing enterprise. Remember how other entrepreneurs in other walks of life came about. It was not through slogans. A few examples will suffice. Before the advent of the oil and gas industry, manufacturing was in vogue in Nigeria. Our fore fathers and mothers had cottage production units. They even exported semi-finished and finished products to other countries. It didn't happen through slogans. Then the oil boom and slush funds came and the controlling military governments churned out deliberate policies that encouraged laziness, cronyism and unqualified luxurious living while discouraging hard work, productivity and merit. Today, we have powerful retail entrepreneurs (retailpreneurs) that thrive in all manner of imported goods to the delight of China. We also have a globally acknowledged entertainment industry, powered by entertainpreneurs, that thrives on heavy patronage by resting souls. Then we have the corruption industry, driven by corruptionpreneurs, which have no equals globally. Before the advent of corruptionpreneurs whoever thought that septic tanks could become international banks that hold Naira, US Dollars, Euros, etc? Whoever knew that the Naira could be harvested from farms? These feats by corruptionpreneurs were not achieved through slogans and rallies. Indeed, Nigeria always excels in whatever it has passion for. That is why we need to focus attention on core entrepreneurs for manufacturing in the current campaign on Made-in-Nigeria rather than slogans and rallies.
The citizenry through the people's representatives at the National and State Assemblies should not leave the driver's seat of the current campaign for the executive. Rather, the people should dictate the pace while the executive acts in response. The reason is that the establishment has a way of muddling up things through inconsistent policies and body language. So the policies must be in response to current demands of the Made-in-Nigeria journey. The campaign should focus on grooming core entrepreneurs instead of slogans, propaganda and affirmation of political space. Core entrepreneurs will always adjust to the demands of customers in terms of quality and quantity. Current calls and slogans to patronize Made-in-Nigeria products is not the solution to Buy-Nigeria but, core entrepreneurs who will innovate and brave the odds to make available competitive alternatives to foreign goods and services is the solution. Each Senator should sponsor the transformation of five persons to core entrepreneurs in each senatorial district. Each member of the House of Representatives should sponsor at least three persons in each federal constituency. Already, there is a local platform for the needed transformation. More will need to be created. The people through legislators and NGOs must insist that any budget made for MSMEs funding must be as soft loans and grants solely drawn by entrepreneurs with viable business plans. The budget to train civil servants on entrepreneurship to manage the MSMEs fund and other logistics must be different. We must insist on the full implementation of the current school curriculum as it relates to vocational education and training of artisans. A critical mass of artisans is indispensable towards the success of Made-in-Nigeria. Unfortunately, there are hardly qualified personnel to coach these courses in schools. So, we need to mobilize qualified volunteers outside the school system to coach these courses and to train formal trainers. The leverages to achieve the above stated actions are already on ground. We have NGOs, Co-operative Society groups, Faith Based organizations, Civil Society groups and other pressure groups that can persuade governance systems at all levels to take concrete actions to actualize the Made-in-Nigeria dream.
Written by Chidi Nwachukwu of Easia NACID
Entrepreneurship Development Strategist
Tel: +234 803 309 7838
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