By Jaye Gaskia
This piece is the second in the series of agenda setting articles on the issues confronting our nation, and that we shall need to address in order to achieve National Rebirth and Social Transformation; that is in order to achieve our National Liberation as a country, and our Social Emancipation as a people.
What kind of national goals and objectives should drive our policies and practices in Agriculture, in Industry and Manufacturing, and in the linkage with and integration into a functional, diversified, wealth and job creating, and inclusive economy that tackles poverty, while addressing human capital development?
Given that the challenges that confront us presently include; unequal wealth distribution, growing poverty and inequality; a monoculture economy too dangerously dependent on oil and gas and on external factors; growing unemployment; growing hunger and insecurity; declining industrial and manufacturing capacity; among others.
In this context therefore what should inform, drive, and be the orientation of our agricultural and industrial policies?
Any agricultural policy that will enable us to focus on successfully tackling the challenges above must have the following core objectives:
- It must seek to address the challenge of food security and food self sufficiency
- It must seek to address the question of appropriate business model for agricultural practice
- It must seek to address the challenge of agricultural mechanisation to help improve productivity and quality of agricultural labour.
- It must seek to address the challenge of linkage between research and practice as well as the challenge of acquisition and transfer of agricultural knowledge.
- It must seek to address the challenge simply increasing our capacity for primary produce. It must seek to address the challenge of value addition such that agriculture becomes the basis of national industrial and manufacturing revival.
And it is in this context that the agriculture policy must be linked with and integrated with the industrial and manufacturing policy.
The industrial and manufacturing policy on the other hand must respond to our needs in terms of goods and services, as a people, and as a country.
Furthermore, the industrial and manufacturing policy must seek to address our existential challenges.
So now let me illustrate; our agricultural and industrial policies working together will for instance focus on cotton growing as well as the revival of the textile industry; increased and improved production of crops like Yam, Cassava, Maize, etc; but not just for export purposes as is currently being done, but also for national industrial use.
Pharmaceutical starch for instance is a major secondary raw material for the pharmaceutical industry, but we invest foreign exchange to import this, while we invest in growing Yam and Cassava for export to earn foreign exchange.
Now the challenge with this is that the value of the primary produce is lower than that of the secondary raw material. So, we short change ourselves because we have to spend more than what we earn exporting Yam, importing Pharmaceutical starch.
It is the same scenario with crude oil and refined petroleum products; where we export crude, a primary product and earn foreign exchange; but have to pay more in foreign exchange for the refined petroleum products that we subsequently import.
Take the link between the beverage/fruits juice industry and agriculture; or that between animal husbandry and the diary and meat processing industries; or the livestock sector of agriculture and the leather and furniture industries as other examples of linkages that will need to be deliberately fostered through conscious policy and public investment.
With a policy of patronising made in Nigeria goods and services for instance; deliberate policy frameworks and public investment can ensure the inclusive growth of the national economy. One example will suffice. Let us use the auto industry. If all public vehicle purchases were to be sourced locally and from only made in Nigeria vehicles; then Nigeria owned, or Nigerian registered and traded auto companies will be the focus.
Wholistic agreements will have to be entered into with such businesses, that ensures that they also patronise local services and products along the entire production and value chain of the auto industry. We are talking of makers of components, including upholstery, which links with leather and agriculture, etc.
Also, an impactful industrial policy will also need to address the challenge of agricultural mechanisation and the introduction of technology into agricultural processes.
What is more, public investment driven production contracts will also need to ensure inclusion of MSMEs into the supply chain of the huge production contracts, in order for the economic growth to be inclusive, wealth creating, and job generating.
One final point; and this is within the context of the talk in some quarters of legalising marijuana planting and investing in growing it in commercial quantities for export to earn foreign exchange.
There are a few issues wrong with such a simplistic policy orientation. First, it simply continues to lock us into our unenviable position of being producers of primary products, whose value is less than that of the secondary and tertiary products derived from them; and whose values are furthermore determined not by us, but by so called international market forces.
If we must industrialise and diversify our economy, then we must be more resourceful and innovative. Marijuana have chemical components that are of medicinal recreational relaxation utilities.
Controlled growing of Marijuana with a view to its utility for medicinal and such controlled recreational relaxation usage can be contemplated. In which case again, the link between agriculture and industry is entrenched, in this case, with the pharmaceutical industry.
The alternative policy pathway will simply lead to the creation of a public health crisis, given the addictive and narcotic properties of Hemp. And the resources gained from export of Hemp, will not be able to compensate for the resources that will be required to tackle the public health crisis.
To conclude, policies have to be well thought out and thought through; they need to understand the interconnectedness of reality, and therefore respond to this by being integrated and mutually reinforcing.
That is the only way we can end the dysfunctionality in governance that sees policies working at cross purposes, and undermining their very intent, and thus ultimately being unable to deliver.
Gaskia is a presidential aspirant and convener of Take Back Nigeria Initiative