Sunday, March 6, 2016

Imperative of buying ‘Made in Nigeria’

For some time now, successive Nigerian governments have been mouthing the slogan of “Buy Made in Nigeria”. Unfortunately, it has been more of cliché or lip-service. Even government officials do not buy into this idea. Goods and services in the presidency, legislative assemblies and most of the Ministries, Department and Agencies are still exotic. The vehicles, dishes, computers, furniture, and even consultants engaged by these MDAs and presidency are mostly foreign. There is this erroneous believe that everything imported is good and more durable than locally made products. This is a fallacy!

While there are some products that cannot be sourced locally, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others that are available in our domestic markets. There is no better time to genuinely start to patronise locally manufactured products than now. With the dwindling oil prices in the international market and the scarcity of international currencies like Dollar, Pound Sterling and Euro, it has become imperative for us to look inward and try to boost our local economy by patronising goods and services available within our boarders. 

Government at all levels needs to spearhead this campaign. Our political office holders have to lead by example. It should be a policy to have a dress code for our elected and appointed government officials to only wear clothes made in Nigeria. Our local fabrics are good enough and could be designed into any style. Same for our foot wears. Menu served at government official and social events should have 80 per cent local content. Official vehicles should be those manufactured or assembled in Nigeria. Likewise office and home furniture should be sourced from our local market. Government consultants and contractors should have 70 per cent local content made up of Nigerians both within and in Diaspora. What this means in essence is that in supporting local content, Nigerians in Diaspora should be given even consideration with their Nigerian based counterparts.

Nigeria foreign policy should have local content too. When the country is making donations to support sister nations in need, the assistance should be sourced locally.  For instance, if Nigeria is helping another African country with food items, such should be purchased from local market. When we are supporting other country’s election as we recently did in Burkina Faso, Niger Republic and Benin Republic such products should be those manufactured or assembled in Nigeria. It would be recalled that just last Saturday, February 27, 2016, the Federal Government donated 15 Hilux vehicles and 100 motorcycles to the Independent National Electoral Commission of Benin Republic to enable it conduct credible presidential election, today, March 6. Earlier on September 1, 2015, the Federal Government donated 20 Hilux vans to Burkina Faso to assist the country conduct its general elections held last October.

There are several advantages to buying our locally manufactured products. First, it will reduce pressure on demands for foreign exchange. This is because the prices of these products are denominated in Naira. Two, there is a multiplier effect to buying ‘Made in Nigeria’ products. It will generate employment opportunities as the manufacturers, dealers and retailers are kept in business. Those employed in this sector will, in the process, be economically empowered to take care of their dependents. This will concomitantly reduce poverty and crime.  

The added advantage of locally made products is that they are customised for the environment. Many vehicles imported into the country are manufactured in temperate climate to suit the cold environment of where they are produced. Nigeria is in tropical region with the climate very hot. Thus, products not manufactured with this factor in mind are usually not durable. The good thing is that products manufactured in Nigeria are mostly those that will do well in tropical climate. Furthermore, genuine spare parts of products manufactured in-country are readily available at affordable prices. Compare that to spares that have to be imported using foreign currencies. It not only costs more but takes longer time before repairs are made.

The time is ripe for all and sundry to key into this policy. It has worked in the entertainment industry and can succeed in every other sector. Some twenty years ago, foreign films and music dominated Nigeria’s entertainment industry. Hollywood and Bollywood films from America and India alongside the Chinese films saturated the Nigerian market. Our television stations hardly show local films which they condemned as being sub-standard and inferior to their foreign counterparts. Today, the story has changed. Nigerian film is at present occupying a pride of place not only in the country but in the entire African continent. They are now exported and earn their producers and artistes good foreign exchange. Same with our music industry. Nigerian music not only dominates our airwaves now but the entire social circles. There are Nigerian parties where local music genres are played throughout. Nigerian music is to be found on the shelves of major marketers abroad. They equally dominate airwaves of many radio and television stations across Africa. During my recent visit to Uganda, my colleagues from over twenty African countries kept asking me about Nigerian artistes. Some sang their music, some name actors and actresses they like. They inquired about stories they have heard or read about them and whether such reports are true.

A lot need to be done to get Nigerians to buy our locally made products. Manufacturers of these products must be supported with incentives like low interest (single digit) loans, tax holiday, easy access to land, and provision of uninterrupted and affordable electricity, good road network and adequate security.  Standard Organisation of Nigeria, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control as well as other regulatory agencies need to redouble their effort to ensure that quality products are produced for the consumption of Nigerians.

Our research institutes need to be well resourced in terms of funding; personnel and equipment to enable them live to their assigned responsibilities. The research outputs have to be patented and mass produced for domestic and international consumption. Intensive awareness creation about the availability and advantages of patronising ‘Made in Nigeria’ products needs to be carried out through both orthodox and unorthodox media channels. National Orientation Agency, Ministries of Information and Communication as well as publicly owned otherwise called government owned media must take the lead on this. While government may not totally ban the importation of foreign goods to Nigeria, high taxes should be put on them to make them prohibitive.