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Economy Diversification: Nigeria Not Doing Enough – Expert

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An expert in Political Economy, Professor Pat Utomi, has stated that both past and present leaders of Nigeria have not done enough to diversify the country’s economy.
Utomi, who is also a Management expert, said despite promises by successive administrations to diversify the economy, heavy dependence on crude oil still continued.
Speaking on Monday, during the launch of the ‘Rebuild Nigeria Initiative’ in Abuja, he warned that failure to diversify could spell doom for the country.
“The word ‘diversification’, if you do a content analysis, must be the most used word in budget broadcasts in Nigeria. For more than 30 years I have heard of promises to diversify our economy away from dependence on crude oil. I mean, I have heard it so many times that it is like playing in my head.
“Unfortunately, we’ve done very little in that direction and it has assumed a new urgency because the world is going through an energy transition.
“We have forgotten that crude oil is a finite resource. In 10 to 12 years from now, as close as that is, few cars will run on petrol. We’ve to put our hydrocarbons endowment to other kinds of uses”, he said.
He also called on the Federal Government to take a cue from countries like Botswana, and other countries with better economies that have massively invested in their youths.
Utomi said the youths are major drivers of the economy of any country, lamenting that Nigeria had failed to invest in its youth.
He specifically said Botswana became the fastest growing economy in the world between 1968 and 1980 because the country invested revenue realised from diamonds in its youths.
“This year, about $4 billion of investments are expected to come to Nigeria’s tech space which is dominated by youth.
“They are the ones holding the economy right now, they’re doing it in Nollywood. They’re doing it with the music industry. Just imagine that we put a cost on them, that we treated them like the kings that they deserved, and really deserved to be treated.
“Imagine, If we had invested massively in their education and put other things in place for them, things will work well. We’ve got to stop politicians from taking advantage of this easy money that comes into the treasury.
“We should do things like Botswana did. Botswana, from 1968 to 1980, was the fastest growing economy in the world, essentially from diamond exports.
“What did Botswana do, they saved most of that money and put it in a future fund because they realised that all Botswanas born 200 years from now have as much as share of it, as they will live today. And they continue to produce. So, we’ve not done that in Nigeria. What we have are very ambitious elites that’s rushing to buy private jets”, Utomi said.
Earlier, the Chairman of Rebuild Nigeria Initiative, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, noted that Nigeria is faced with unprecedented times, and fault lines borne from ethnoreligious conflicts.
He charged well-meaning Nigerians to come together to accelerate progress towards a new Nigeria where the rights and well-being of the citizens are upheld.

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Google Targets Africa’s Retail Businesses In New Initiatives

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Google has announced new initiatives to support small retail businesses in African countries, Nigeria inclusive.
The initiative is part of a month-long commemoration of International Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Businesses Day.
This, according to reports made available to The Tide’s source, includes a one-hour virtual training event, Shopping Small Business Summit, aimed at helping SMB owners develop skills and tools to compete online.
Topics,  the report say, will include e-commerce trends and digital marketing, and are open to all who register at g.co/events/shopping mall.
Google has also partnered with an open online course provider, Coursera, to develop an online career certificate course in digital marketing and e-commerce for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and is offering 1000 scholarships to Africans who wish to attend.
The certificate course is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at preparing participants for entry-level jobs.
Google’s Country Director for West Africa, Juliet Ehimuan, said: “E-commerce presents an opportunity for small businesses in Africa to reach new customers and grow.
”Through the digital marketing and e-commerce career certificates and specialised training and 1000 scholarships, we want to assist small businesses in Africa to gain the expertise to connect online, expand their customer base and scale up.
“This month also sees the debut of Local Opportunity.  Finder is a new tool that evaluates a Google Business Profile and makes personalised recommendations for changes that a business owner may make to enhance how their business profile looks to consumers in Google Search.
“Also, the free, one-week-long Hustle Academy will this month  focus on essential skills that will help small and medium-sized retail businesses (SMBs) and  build the skills they need to grow”, she said.
Africa’s growing young population and urbanisation present huge expansion opportunities for small retail businesses.
South Africa has almost 2,000 shopping malls covering over 24 million square metres. Wholesale and retail are the third-largest contributors to Nigeria’s GDP, with more than 90 per cent of the industry made up of informal merchants, while Kenya, with an e-commerce market growth rate of 44 per cent in 2021, has seen a steady rise in the number of outlets over the last five years.
E-commerce markets in Kenya and Nigeria increased by 40 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, in 2021, while online sales in South Africa increased by 66 per cent from 2019 to 2020, reaching more than $1.8 billion.
The report said: “As more consumers on the continent continue to search for goods and services online, it is critical that small retail businesses learn how to better harness online tools for growth.
“Google’s ongoing commitment to supporting small businesses in Africa is visible through initiatives such as Google Hustle Academy, Google Business Profile, Market Finder and Market Kit.
“The programmes  commemorating International SMB Day this month reaffirm Google’s dedication to ensuring that small retail businesses on the continent acquire the necessary digital technology tools and training to thrive and be more resilient”.

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Sanwo-Olu Advocates Economic Diversification, Non-Oil Exports 

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Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has called for economic diversification in Nigeria, saying that the country should shift from overdependence on oil and gas, to agricultural produce, solid minerals, chemical products, furniture and clothing as well as tourism, among others.
He also stressed the need for Nigeria to discourage over-reliance on mono-economic revenue, which is oil and scale up its exports, noting that a situation in which oil and gas consistently account for the bulk of government revenues and foreign exchange earnings, is not an ideal one.
Sanwo-Olu, who made the call at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) RT 200 Non-oil Export Summit in Lagos, said Nigeria has so much potential to scale up its exports, shifting from over-dependence on oil and gas to agricultural produce, solid minerals, chemical products, furniture and clothing, among others.
Commending  the CBN for organising a summit to promote non-oil exports in Nigeria, he said Lagos State is delighted to host the maiden edition of the strategic meeting.
“Lagos State is home to the biggest and most important sea ports in the country. There cannot, therefore, be any conversations about growing non-oil exports in Nigeria, without bringing Lagos State and our transport and logistics infrastructure into the picture. This is why I am pleased that Lagos is hosting the maiden Summit.
“For us as a government, a lot of the work we have been doing and still doing is aimed at improving the state of transportation infrastructure, to enable imports and exports, and generally bring down the cost of doing business.
“When goods for export get stuck on the roads and can’t make it to the ports, we have a big problem on our hands.
“There is a big price that the economy pays for these dysfunctions at all levels – from the small and large businesses whose goods are being exported to the people in the business of exports, to the users of our roads who have to waste valuable time in traffic because of worsening gridlock.
“It is, therefore, our responsibility, as governments, to ensure that we make the business of exporting (and also importing) as seamless as possible. Nigeria has so much potential to scale up its exports, shifting from over-dependence on oil and gas to agricultural produce, solid minerals, chemical products, furniture, clothing, and so on”, he said.
While stressing the need for Nigeria to scale up its exports, Sanwo-Olu said, “a country in need of foreign exchange has no business downplaying the importance of exports.
“We can do a lot to strengthen the Naira and our external reserves by focusing on our non-oil exports. This diversification also gives us immunity from the severe shock of depending on a limited pool of exports.
“I commend the Central Bank for making this a priority, through the launch of the Race To US$200 Billion FX Scheme (RT200), among other laudable initiatives.
“The RT200 FX Scheme seeks to generate as much as US$200 Billion in FX earnings, specifically from non-oil sources, over the next few years.
“I am aware that, so far, the Central Bank has approved the payment of billions of Naira to more than 100 exporters who have taken advantage of the scheme and have scaled up their non-oil exports of finished and semi-finished goods in line with it.
“I have no doubt that this scheme will grow from strength to strength, and deliver to an extent beyond the expectations of the Central Bank and the Nigerian economy.
“I urge exporters to readily take advantage of it. I also urge the Central Bank to continue to fine tune and strengthen this process, while also thinking of new and innovative initiatives that will achieve similar outcomes,” he stated.

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Fuel Hike Hits Agric Value Chain

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Chief Executive, Niji Group, Kolawole Adeniji  has said diesel price increase is hitting  the agriculture sector hard, and that fuel price increase is having a negative impact on agricultural production.
Farmers’ input costs, according to him, are skyrocketing, while fertiliser, pesticides, and herbicides,  have  seen staggering increases.
Expressing concern that this would impede  farmers’ ability to produce more food, he  said the diesel price increase came on the back of a sharp increase in other input costs.
He reiterated that diesel proce hike  has increased agricultural input costs, saying farmers are paying more for fuel.
According to him, consumers would be negatively affected, with the price increases set to drive up food inflation due to the additional transport costs, as well as adding additional strain on consumer spending due to increased personal transport costs.
President, Association of Micro Entrepreneurs of Nigeria (AMEN), Prince Saviour Iche, called on the government to intervene on the diesel price hikes to save jobs.
He said if nothing was done to help the industry, Nigeria  must brace for more job losses.
He noted that  diesel  price increase is putting pressure  on the entire small and medium scale business value chain and could lead to increased job losses.
According to him, profit margins were gradually shrinking, and it would be difficult for them to continue to absorb costs in the medium term if the situation does not improve.
“A lot of entrepreneurs are on life support. Don’t be surprised if we start buying a sachet of water for N20″, he said.
A  printer, Pastor Badebo Solomon, said the situation is grievous. According to him, “ If we are buying diesel for   N800 per litre and N24,000 for 30  litres, what can we achieve running the generator  for two hours? It is taking away the profit. It is sad the government is not  doing anything about it.’’

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