By Tim Akano:
The Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement is good news for Africans, even though, Nigerians feel unhappy by the choice of Ghana as HQ and Airhub.
This is understandable, because for so long, Nigerians have come to equate size to wisdom and strength.
Size is good, but only when it is strong and can deliver.
Before I forget, I must confess , I borrowed the title of this piece from the Author of a book by that title,Mahan Khalsa.
Mahan’s conclusion on what makes some companies so successful is that the successful companies are serious and authentic. While the Unsuccessful companies live in a state of perpetual denial. Same thing can be said of nations
Mahan’s conclusion is relevant to Nigeria.
Nigeria can be likened to that ” huge BOY” from a rich home (sorry a very wealthy home), but who is too playful ( sorry again:who is unserious and very playful), with a DENTED IMAGE!
For sure, Nigeria has all it needs to be the true African leader that is created to be.
But Nigeria is not AUTHENTIC, NOT SERIOUS and it is still playing, almost 60 years after birth, despite untold natural and human resources Providence endows it with.
The new AFCFTA is like NAFTA ( North America, Mexico and Canada) or EFTA ( Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein).
WHAT THEN IS NIGERIA GOING INTO IN AFCFTA?:
1 Single Market
2 Free movement of goods and services
3 Single currency (later)
4 Absence of Import Tariffs
5 No quota on products.
Theoretically , AFCFTA will improve efficiency and innovation through competition.
Theoretically? Yes. Because countries that cannot compete will be holding on to the shorter end of the stick in a free trade regime.
When Trump checked the US stores and discovered that more than 30 per cent of the goods are made in China , he shouted and still shouting on the Chinese.
Trump again went to Michigan and to his disappointment, .most of the car manufacturing plants have closed shop and thousands of jobs erased.
Trump saw Mexico and Canada have snatched the American feeding bottles.
Again he shouted at the both the Mexican and Canadian Presidents , after 6 months of cat and mouse game, common sense prevailed a new free trade agreement signed.
Thus a country has to be competitive in price and quality and service to reap the full benefits of free trade.
Which of our Nigerian products or services are competitive presently?
Oil is a gift from God, not our making-we can’t count on oil.
I can’t think of any, honestly.
WHO GAINS , WHO LOOSES?
In Europe,(EU) the countries that gain most are the ones with competitive products and services, and they end up as the richest European countries.
While those with less competitive products are the poorest( the Greece and Bulgaria of Europe)
For instance, Germany dominates Machinery( cars, industrial machines, football etc),
Poland is 🍎 fruits ( about 90 per cent of Apple consume in Europe is from Poland),
UK is Education, Financial services and football,
Netherlands is Agriculture, Water Engineering and Private Jets (Dutch owns Bombardier and they are the world’s best in water Engineering),
Italy is Designs and Football,
Russia is AK47 and Co. like SAM300 (one in Syria), SAM400 ( one is on its way to Turkey another one to Iran, as I write) and SAM 500 (which is due for and display in 2020!)
COMPETITIVE EDGE IN AFRICA: HOW DOES IT STACK UP RIGHT NOW?
Kenya owns Agriculture: Flowers, vegetables, etc. As I write, Kenya flowers are on their way to Europe to hit the market 6am tomorrow morning.Their ICT -especially, e-payment technologies, is more respected.
Kenya also owns Tourism ➕ Air Hub.
Ivory Coast owns Coco, Cashew, coffee etc
Ethiopia owns Air hub, industrial hub etc
Burkina Faso owns Tomatoes and vegetables and beans ( most people will be shocked to learn that the bulk of vegetables we consume in Lagos is from Burkina Faso and Ghana-more than 80 percent of the ones you buy in STANDARD shops ( not road side or open market) that look so beautiful are imported.
Burkina Faso government sent their farmers on training to France to acquire modern skill in vegetables farming, some years back.
Nigeria can’t compete now in yield per acrage in any thing.
Ghana owns Coco, yam, vegetables like pepper , turmeric, kwi, Avocado etc.
Bulk of the yam Africans eat in the UK and USA is from Ghana.
Now to cap it, Ghana owns AFCFTA HQ and official Airhub ( which is natural progression, since they own the HQ- Accra is now to Africa what New York City is to America!
Maybe I am exaggerating: but the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Ghana has taken that baby step, it can only get stronger.
WHAT LESSONS FOR NIGERIA:
1 Even though, there is strength in number but it is not automatic.
The number must be qualitative for it to translate into peer respect
2 Perception is Everything:
how do we expect our African brothers to bring AFCFTA HQ to Nigeria with the MULTITUDE OF KILLINGS of innocent Nigerians going on unchecked across Nigeria?
Other leaders would have said at our back:” The Nigeria government that cannot protect it’s citizens should not be entrusted with the destiny of 1 Billion Africans”
Can you blame them?
WHERE DOES NIGERIA GO FROM HERE?
WHERE DO WE HAVE COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE?
WHAT CAN NIGERIA OWN IN AFRICA ?
1 First, we can’t compete: our current LABOUR AND OVERHEAD COSTS is unreasonably high.
There is a multitude of inefficiencies built into our system. “PR cost” to get a license or contract, when add to the bottom line, we can’t compete with Ghana, which has improved significantly in the ease of doing business and ethics.
Besides, it costs more to use Nigerians at the Senior Executive Level in organisations.
Nigerians at Senior Level would like to wear custom and designer shirts and pants and wrist watch and fly 1st Class – all at the expense of the company’s bottom line.
Ghanaian and Kenyans don’t.
They are more moderate in their life style than Nigerians.
So with regards to COST STRUCTURE IN AFRICA, NIGERIA IS AT A DISADVANTAGE.
2 With our weak and bad infrastructure, we should perish the thought of instant benefits from AfCFTA.
The transport cost of bringing water melon from my village to Lagos is far higher than bringing the same water melon from Accra villages to Lagos because of poorer road network in Nigeria
I was privileged to be one of the first 100 travellers to use the Ghana new Airport the very day it was commissioned.
I was ashamed that with over N1trillion( her figures) spent by Minister of Aviation, Mrs.Stella Odua to modernise Nigeria Airports, NIGERIA DOES NOT HAVE ANY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT as at today (19:7:2019) that worth that name.
Meanwhile the newly commissioned Singapore Airport that is rated as the World’s Best Airport (2019) cost just $1.2 Billion (all in).
Minister Stella Odua could have built 2 World Best Airports in Nigeria( Abuja and Lagos) with that N1 Trillion spent on renovation.
If Nigeria had done that 6 years ago, which Africa country would be able to complete with us as Africa’s Air hub?
3 No country in Africa will buy our fertiliser yam, fertiliser 🍅 tomatos, fertiliser, pepper from us.
We are the only gullible consumers left in the world that consume such products with reckless abandon.
Little wonder why you see Kenya vegetables in Dubai daily but you can’t see vegetables from Nigeria in UAE: they see them as slow poison.
The other day, the then Minister of Agriculture, Mr Audu Ogbeh loaded some 8 containers of yam from Middle Belt to London.
Before the yam reached UK they all perished.
They were fertiliser yam fit for consumption by the ignorant Nigerians, who believe all untimely death are the handiwork of witches and wizards.
In a word, to compete we have to step up our QUALITY GAME on all fronts.
WHAT CAN WE OWN?
Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play
1 BEAUTY : we can own BEAUTY.
NIGERIAN WOMEN ARE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL IN AFRICA, at least, in my eyes.
( check out our women from Edo, Delta, the Fulani, Yoruba, Ibo, Tiv women. ) They are paragon of beauty.
How do we leverage this to become a national asset?
The Marketing companies have to re- package our women and REPOSITION NIGERIA WOMEN AS THE NEW FACE OF AFRICA WOMAN
I once worked for a Multinational where our Marketing budget 15 years ago was in excess of N2Billion yearly.
And that particular company uses Kenya or Zimbabwe women then as the face of Africa in all our marketing communication.
The Nigeria Marketing and Communication companies should look for all the beautiful Nigerian women and re-brand them to organisations as BRAND AMBASSADORS!
2 ENTERTAINMENT: Nigeria owns Music, Movies, Comedy, Jokes etc.
We should repackage these Nigerian opportunities as Africa Music, Africa Comedy etc the way America packages everything as ” “WORLD” event,”)
We dress best in Africa.
Our fashion designers are better than the Singalese and Kenyans.
We should repackaged Nigeria fashion now as AFRICAN FASHION.
We should build AFRICAN FASHION PARK in Abuja and Lagos and Kano and PH where the likes of NIKE and ADIDAS can partner to produce the stuffs they sell in Africa at cheaper prices and same European quality.
Cambodia, a war torn South East Asian country, has successfully built a nitch for itself: NIKE produces most of its clothes it sells in Asia in Cambodia. It’s all depends on positioning.
4 FOOTBALL : We have the potential to dominate the African football.
We should remodel the MKO stadium in Abuja as MKO Africa Continental Stadium.
When Europe thinks of football let them think of Nigeria first in Africa.
ALSO , if we have the best stadium most of African sports will happen there with its concomitant revenue generation.
5 AGRICULTURE: WE SHOULD RE-POSSESS OUR POSSESSIONS.
WE used to own Coco, Rubber, Palm Oil, Cashew, etc.
If Nigeria listened to Prof Pat Utomi’s recommendation about 25 years ago that we should choose deliberately to dominate the Rubber plantation business, by now most of the vehicle tyres in Europe and Africa would carry the label: “made in Nigeria”
We have to Repossess our possession through DELIBERATE ACTIVITIES.
6 Finally, it is bad enough that we are seen by international community as a “Spoilt, Playful CHILD of Africa”.Too bad.
But then, why do we have to allow the stigma of 419 to become MAINSTREAM rather than an EXCEPTION?
I was in one Asia country in 2014 and was hosted by the Nigeria Ambassador in that country. He told me that there were 700 Nigerians in that country prisons for 419 related offences.
And 80 per cent of the Nigerians in the Prison are from 2 States in Nigeria.
Worse still, in a particular case , there were 5 brothers from the same father and mother in the prison as at that time.
Go to China similar story. Go to UK : ditto; haba ! are Prisons all over the world built for Nigerians?
Weren’t going to benefit much from the AFCFTA, if we do not seriously and consciously work on correcting our DENTED IMAGE.
Our values have been totally corrupted: too much emphasis on money money and more money without corresponding hardwork.
Some cultures are more guilty in Nigeria than others.
I learn some parents beat their children in December if such child dare goes home for Christmas without the latest Jeep his friends bring to the village for Xmas.
Such parents are the ones that produced the 5 brothers from the same sperm and womb in Asia Prisons.
Looking forward, if statusquo ante remains , Nigeria will not only remain the dustbin of Europe, America and China products ( which we are right now), but sadly enough, Nigeria will now graduate to become the dustbin of Ghana, Kenya and Cameroon products that will arrive Lagos daily cheaper and of better quality than ours when AFCFTA begins fully..