By Marie-Therese Phido
Nigeria is a great nation. Late last year, I spent some time working in one of the French speaking West African countries. The flight from the country arrives close to midnight and I live on the Lekki axis. What continually struck me each time we touched down in Lagos was the magnificence of the city. This was more so as I journeyed home from the airport through third mainland bridge, Ikoyi and Falomo bridge
The city juxtaposed with where I was coming from was incomparable. It was scenic and glorious at night. The lights, the buildings and the life, even at that time of the night was a sight to behold. We are really blessed! When compared with where I had been working described as the “Paris of West Africa”, there was no basis for comparison.
Nigeria has character and substance. The people have character and substance. The question is, do we realize it? Yes, I believe we do. So, what are we doing to continually showcase this strength, substance and character that we have as a nation?
A basic example in comparison with “the Paris of Africa”, is what I noticed they were proud to wear to work as business attire. Many of them wore smart Africa print to work and it was accepted as business attire. They were proud to display their heritage and culture which they clearly depicted in their dressing. How many business establishments in Nigeria allow you to wear Africa print to work? A few pay lip service to it on Fridays. Why can it not be every day? Why are we relegating our cultural attire to the background in preference for imported western clothes?
This is why I am asking the question; “are we serious about “made in Nigeria”? The former president of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki launched a contest to promote made in Nigeria products. The contest was for three months duration with the objective of showcasing how made in Nigeria products are processed using raw materials obtained from the country. Saraki said: “The contest would identify the good products that could be matched with investor and government agencies and such agencies will drive the products to the extent that they compete favourably with any similar product being imported”.
He also went on to say that the challenge would be wrapped up In March 2017, where finalists would be invited to a Made in Nigeria Roundtable at the Senate.
He said: “This roundtable will allow legislators, government agencies, business owners and every day Nigerian consumers to review and update the National Assembly Environment Roundtable (NASSBER), which was held in 2016 to improve the ease of doing business in the country.” I am not sure his promise and the results were actualized or I may have missed it. Again, my question is, “are we paying lip service to made in Nigeria or what is being done and planned is not being effectively disseminated? Nigerians want to see and know how we are actualizing this dream or reality of made in Nigeria.
As we all know, there is national pride that you feel when you see anything that says a product is made in your country. I have a computer bag and handbag made by a Nigerian bag designer, “Femi Handbags”. Anywhere I carry the bags to globally, because of the quality, beauty and sturdiness of the bags, people are always asking “where did you get it”? I’m usually proud to say it is made in Nigeria by a Nigerian designer.
We also know how great we feel, when we hear about how well Nigerians are excelling in other countries academically compared to other nationalities, especially in the USA and how proud it makes us feel. So, imagine how great the feeling will be when we start to take “Made in Nigeria seriously” by producing and exporting our products to other nations globally.
The above is the feel good factor. Let’s look at what economist say about its ability to propel our economy when we start to trade our goods, especially the growth impetus to small and medium enterprises, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy.
Further benefits include local job creation and the multiplier effect of creating additional jobs within each product or ecosystem; the conservation of our foreign exchange and increasing our foreign reserve; strengthening the naira against the dollar; making us financially independent; boosting our GDP, encouraging innovation and technology transfer; to name a few.
It’s clear that the made in Nigeria concept should not be allowed to fade like many initiatives fail in this country. Everybody must believe in the concept and make it work. We need to see the benefits and use it to move the nation forward.