The Missed Chance to Save Nigeria’s Economy

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INDUSTRY ANALYSIS 

Crusoe Osagie discusses the missed opportunity to save Nigeria’s economy through industrialisation and the modest contribution Nigerian Breweries has made to the real sector still in its rudimentary stages

Nigeria continues to wallow in the ongoing economic recession with the attendant setbacks.

Massive job losses across sectors of the economy, sharp decline in government revenue, spiraling inflation making life unbearable for the poor, and an embarrassing foreign exchange regime among several other challenges all continue to plague the nation and its people.

Although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have both announced gains in Nigeria’s balance of trade with other nations, the recession still runs deep with experts predicting a tougher time in 2017.

The country’s balance of trade has remained negative as the rise in Nigeria’s exports in the third quarter of 2016 only helped to reduce the existing deficit trade balance from N484.23 billion in the preceding quarter to N104.14 billion in the third quarter.

The condition in which Nigeria and its economy are currently placed has left many ruing the lost opportunities over the years to effectively drive industrialisation.

Industrial capacity utilisation is less that 30 per cent and the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the economy is just above 6 per cent making the recent decline in hydrocarbon earnings hit the economy in the most severe form.

However, in the midst of the current fiscal and monetary challenges, the country still hosts successful companies in the manufacturing sector like Nigerian Breweries Plc, Dangote, Flour Mills of Nigeria among others, still putting millions of people to work and navigating through the biting recession.

Unfortunately, they are just too few to provide the buoyancy which the nation requires to stay conveniently afloat in this difficult time.

Analysts have looked at the accomplishments of these operators of the manufacturing sector and posited that Nigeria would certainly have had nothing to do with the ongoing hydrocarbon-driven recession if it had much more of these kinds of companies.

Nigeria Breweries for example, employs over one million people directly in the mould of engineers, scientists and varied other disciplines as well as indirectly in the mould of contractors, distributors, logistics experts, retailers among others.

With market capitalisation of over N750 billion, an investment worth billions of dollars in the country and average annual turnover of about N300 billion the brewery giant has made a notable mark in the economy.

A recent visit of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to Nigerian Breweries to mark the company’s 70 years in the country is a clear acknowledgement of the mark it has made and its relevance to the survival of the economy.

During the visit, Ambode commended the company for its commitment to the economic prosperity of the state and the nation.

The governor charged the management to remain focused on excellent business practices and outstanding corporate governance.  He congratulated the company on its 70th anniversary and emphasised that the company has been part of the development of Lagos since the creation of the state fifty years ago. “In the last fifty years, you have contributed to the growth and development of Lagos State. We are happy you have been part of the success story of this state,” he said.

Ambode highlighted the company’s contribution towards job creation through direct and indirect employment of Lagosians. He also praised the Company for being a responsible corporate citizen, adding that it has done more than any other company in terms of corporate social responsibility in the state.

The governor pledged continuous co-operation and partnership between the state and Nigerian Breweries Plc. “We are part of this partnership and we shall do all to support it”, he said, while assuring of his government’s support in creating an enabling environment for the company.

In his welcome address, the Chairman of Nigerian Breweries Plc., Chief Kola Jamodu said that Lagos State occupies a special place in the heart of the company’s commitment to “Winning with Nigeria.” This commitment, he maintained, has driven its Corporate Social Responsibility footprints over the years to make several outstanding contributions towards human and infrastructural development in the state, especially in the areas of education, health and security.

The chairman assured that the company would continue to join hands with the governor in the march to make Lagos the cynosure of all eyes.

During the visit, the Technical Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc., Mr. Henk Wymenga highlighted the company’s socio-economic impact in Lagos State to include job creation, prompt and full compliance in payment of taxes which run into several billions of Naira, local sourcing of raw materials including the company’s sorghum and cassava value chain as well as its long term sustainability agenda, “Brewing a Better World.”

A major highlight of the visit was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Lagos State Government and Nigerian Breweries Plc. on the ‘One Lagos Fiesta’. Governor Ambode signed on behalf of the state while Chief Jamodu signed on behalf of Nigerian Breweries Plc. The company also donated two security patrol vans to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund during the visit while Governor Ambode planted a commemorative tree in the premises of the company’s Lagos brewery.

Analysts agree that Nigerian Breweries Plc is a socially responsible corporate organisation with a good track record of corporate social initiatives. Over the years, the company has been very active in supporting national development aspirations in line with that vision.

For instance, the long held belief that teachers’ reward is in heaven was demystified recently when the heaven opened to drop the reward on the occasion of the grand finale of the 2016 Maltina Teacher-of-the-Year in Lagos.

The award instituted by Maltina, the non-alcoholic malt brand from the stable of Nigerian Breweries Plc, is courtesy of Nigerian Breweries-Felix Ohiwerei Education Trust Fund. It is aimed at restoring the pride of teachers and the dignity of the teaching profession.

The initiative with prizes worth N50 million annually, is to reward commitment and diligence to duty by exceptional teachers across the country.

Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries, Mr. Nicolaas Vervelde, explained that Nigerian Breweries operates with a philosophy of “Winning with Nigeria” and has championed causes that add value to the society since inception in 1946.

 “In 1994, we raised the profile of our support of the Education sector when we established the Nigerian Breweries – Felix Ohiwerei Education Trust Fund to enable us contribute to the development of the sector,” he said.

Over the years, the Fund has impacted over 20,000 students with classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and so on, in over 40 communities across Nigeria

All tiers of educational institution have benefited from the fund’s projects: primary, secondary and tertiary. All the geographical zones in the country have also benefited. So far, the fund has built approximately 162 new classrooms and renovated 20 existing school buildings at both primary and secondary school levels.

The Beyond the School Initiative is another programme of the Trust Fund worthy of note. Put together for students in public Senior Secondary Schools, it is designed to expose them to career options and factors they need to consider before making career choices.

The initiative also helps students improve their reading habit and underpin the importance of reading in career goal achievement. A total of 1,200 students in the five schools visited so far received the career talk accompanied with relevant support materials.

Youth Empowerment and Talent Development is another critical area where Nigerian Breweries has been very active, sponsoring several competitions and programmes. The investments in this regard are driven by the recognition that talented young people need platforms and opportunities to showcase their talents while being encouraged and rewarded.