As the era of the fourth industrial revolution commences, African leaders and stakeholders have expressed worry about the future of manufacturing in the continent despite the avalanche of human and natural resources available.
Indeed, they noted that the fourth industrial revolution otherwise known as Industry 4.0 is characterised by emerging technologies such as mobile connectivity, artificial intelligence, next-generation robotics, and 3D printing, supply chains, etcetera. It has victimised the manufacturing sector, thus necessitating new forms of collaboration that drive innovative value chains and business models that are condemning the traditional industrial patterns to oblivion.
The former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Benjamin William Mkapa, while delivering his keynote address at the yearly general meeting of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) recently, said Nigeria and other African countries will be making a grave mistake if they looked at the development of industries in the world and think that they ought to follow a similar path to that industrial economies have followed, and ignore areas where Africans have comparative advantage.
“As a start, it is important for Nigeria to pause for reflection and assess its own economic history and profile so as to determine its impact on its manufacturing sector growth or decline so far. Generally speaking, the future of manufacturing industry not only in Nigeria, but in Africa as a whole, is not that rosy as it is very uncertain.
“The structure of our economies portrays one undeniable fact, namely that the entry point to Africa’s industrialisation dreams is only through the primary sector using the resources that we have in abundance. We have the possibility of leap-frogging the developed world by designing industrial policies that do not replicate their mistakes but also hasten our industrialisation process.
“The only safeguard is that we should be careful and inquisitive enough to draw lessons from history and thence recalibrate our industrial development strategies basing on our domestic realities and global trends”.
He however identified four growth pillars as catalysts for accelerated growth of the manufacturing sector and they include, encourage youth and women entrepreneurship; continuous improvement of business environment; adaptation of technology; and adopting effective trade policies.
Despite security challenges in some places, he expressed optimism that Nigeria’s demographic advantages in terms of population size and political stability offers the nation a promising future only if the nation puts its act together domestically and remain on the lookout internationally.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, also announced that his administration has set up an implementation Unit for the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) to closely monitor critical initiatives, periodically evaluate implementation progress against set targets and milestones, provide early warning signals of potential risks and articulate actionable measures to be taken against any identified constraints.
Buhari explained that with the 0.55 per cent growth recorded, there is need to sustain and scale up reforms to achieve economic growth and development, stressing that in the coming months, officials of the implementation Unit will be interacting with members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) towards ensuring improved performance of the industrial sector.
The President who was represented by the Minister of State for Bugdet and National Planning, Hajiya, Zainab Hammed during the meeting said government would continue to strive towards improving the overall business environment, through deepening the effort of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), simplifying the process of confirmation of companies’ names on the website of Corporate Affairs Commission ( CAC), maintaining that the visa-on-arrival policy has equally commenced to facilitate the entry of investors into the country.
He added that his administration has also designed series of capacity development and funding initiatives to support Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
MAN President , Frank Jacobs, said the theme of the AGM tagged “Recovery and Growth of the Nigerian Economy” was necessitated by the prevailing economic exigency in the country, the need to overcome it and how to sustain a post-crisis economy.
He added that the issue of power should be given top most priority, pointing out that without adequate and stable power, economic and social development will be a mirage.
“The issue of foreign exchange for the importation of essential manufacturing inputs is equally important, but if we tenaciously drive the resource-based industrialisation programme, this can be overcome. I can safely say that no nation has recorded significant economic development with unrestrained high interest rates. The case of Nigeria will not be different.
“With the prevailing double-digit interest rates, the Nigerian economy will continue to suffer decline. Therefore we recommend, as the Association has done in the past and always, a single-digit interest rate. The aforementioned are critical issues that must be addressed if we want to be reckoned with in the comity of nations as an industrialised country,” he said.