I am quite taken aback by the linear, Naira centric thinking, patriotic blackmail attempts led by the ‘Buy Nigeria save the Naira’ crusaders and I have no love reserved for the don’t Buy Nigeria just because it’s made in Nigeria bullies.
Both are parallel extremes whose common ground is in the arrogance and ignorance of the flip side that the proponents exude. No one, No one should be compelled to relinquish their powers to make choices; to choose, to taste, quality and to bargain for the sake of Buying Nigerian. It shames me that there are people on the other side who believe that the buying Nigerian idea should be sacrificed on the ground of non-competitiveness – they are right – and shamelessly so.
The moral burden to keep Nigerians in jobs, to allow room for improvement and to take pride in certain items is worth buying Nigerian for in many areas. How much extra will it cost a Nigerian to buy Nigerian made pencils or toothpick and other disposable types? I would consider it a donation to the Nigerian cause. It is noble!
If I had to take sides, I would rather be on the Buy Nigerian side. As a person I consider myself more submissive to spiritual, moral and ethical dictates over conventional marketplace ideas. And there is fire in my camp. The pattern of arguments and appeals that characterizes the buy Nigerian campaign is the greatest threat to the effort. And it reeks of one of my most detested words ‘Patronage’.
The call to buy Nigerian simply because it is Nigerian or will save the Naira is patronizing and that sentiment can only last but a while. The bane of the Nigerian business person has always been patronage. There is a clear difference between patronage and demand. The patronage mentality has to give way for demand thinking. The latter is a factor of value while the former is sentimental. We patronize because we like the person involved, as a means to assist but we demand what others demand, we demand what gives us a true or perceived sense of value. Drop a good franchise in any world capital, it attracts because demand has pre-existed the situation of the venture in the location it exists. For most consumers; demand is hardly all about cost though it includes that, but quality and a lot of peer influence. Demand begets Demand.
The concept of buying Nigerian needs disambiguation, to me buying Nigerian encompasses three things and a fourth if I may; First Made-in-Nigeria, Made-by-Nigerians, Made-for-Nigerians, and Made-of-Nigeria.
Made in Nigeria can mean manufactured, assembled, finished or packaged in Nigeria by both foreigners and Nigerians alike. A Turkish furniture interest manufacturing or assembling knockdown furniture in Nigeria will produce a furniture piece or set that can be said to have been made in Nigeria. In the case of automobiles, Nigerians are caught in the blitz of promoting Innoson as the only Made-in-Nigeria vehicle but this is far from the truth, it’s either we accept that there isn’t any vehicle made in Nigeria or that Innoson isn’t the only car made in Nigeria, Hyundai, Nissan, Peugeot and lately Honda are reportedly assembling vehicles in Nigeria which is what the indigenous auto maker is doing. Do you remember those days Friesland Campina had the Nigeria Peak Milk and the Holland variant, which is supposedly superior? To think that the milk content from either isn’t sourced in Nigeria makes one question if we are a country that’s given to semantics. A song recorded and mastered in the UK for instance can be said to be Made or Produced in England, right? This leads us to the next
Made by Nigerians can mean a product made by a Nigerian either located locally or internationally. Nigerians live internationally and are making, producing or manufacturing products across the globe. For instance products from the Songhai Farms in Port Novo in Benin Republic can be said to be Made by a Nigerian, same goes for other products from Shoes to Food and Music. Under the music category you will find artistes like Nneka and Asa who represent Made in Nigerian music but are actually international acts signed to Global Music concerns in Europe. In this lies an opportunity but how does this save the Naira?
Made for Nigerians
There was Buzz about a Nigerian made tablet the ‘Inye’ tab, which CNN dubbed “Africa’s answer to the I-pad”. Guess what? These devices were actually produced in China. The same goes for several other products in the market currently tagged Nigerian made but are nothing but branded items manufactured in India, China and several other manufacturing hubs from across the globe. This is a challenge to policy makers to consider the Made for Nigeria concept as products like the Inye Tab has shown that products can be manufactured for Nigerian brands and be exported, from San Francisco inspired Apple devices which are produced in China to drugs produced in Mumbai, India for UK Pharmaceutical companies, both which find their way into the Nigerian market.
Made of Nigeria
Buying Nigerian could mean purchasing products that are Made of Nigeria, under this category are products that are manufactured with Nigerian input from across the globe. It could range from Nigerian leather from Kano in Louis Vuitton bags to cotton produced in Funtua being used to produce Ralph Lauren or Lacoste apparel. It could mean Ikea made furniture using Mahogany from the Oforu forests to Twinings using tea leaves from Taraba. As a sidenote I recall that the Elizabeth Arden Green Tea was made using Tea Leaves and Hibiscus flowers from Costa Rica. Nigeria has an opportunity to exploit seeing that nothing really is fully made by the country to promote through policy the idea of buying Nigerian in this form.
The Yarn forward rule of origin granted by the CAFTA-DR, “allows free access for qualifying textile and apparel products made using U.S. and/or Central America-DR yarns and fabrics (nylon, polyester, micro fiber, among others –products paying a 32% tariff when imported from Asia through the U.S.)” gives us a clearer idea of how countries can promote Buying Nigerian in a competitive free trade environment.
Should Nigeria’s government adopt initiatives like this, countries and companies that export goods to Nigeria will be compelled to use Nigerian raw materials and will be made to invest in the production of the same within the country as this market is too large to be ignored.
A lot of opportunities will be missed if the well-meaning patriotic call to ‘Buy Nigerian to save the Naira’ does stop with the promotion of the purchase of Made in Nigerian goods. The Senate President has already called for the amendment of the Procurement Act and well intentioned as it may seem gives me a lot of concern. Honestly, Nigerians can succeed without government patronage laws as Nollywood has shown us. The Minister of Trade and Investment Mr. Enelamah seems to understand this point as he made a memorable remark, which is to become the ‘Ministry of Enabling Environment’ while presenting his agenda and one hopes he fully appreciates his statement.
This ‘Buy Nigerian’ call has been critiqued as not being export minded, I agree. To save the Naira will be a function of how well Nigeria is able to manage its trade balance. I agree with the floatation of the Naira, but I will accept a delay – this is if I am assured policy makers are thinking and up to something. This can be to our advantage.
Finally, I think the campaign is too product centric and ignores our higher advantage which is the service sector. As it remains, Nigeria cannot compete favorably in manufacturing across board given interest rates, energy costs, infrastructure and technological gaps and even labour. Meanwhile, the era of crude cheap labour is past us. I see robots getting cheaper and replacing humans in manufacturing in the future. The only role for humans will be to think. So let us!