By Nosa Alekhuogie
Following the plummeting oil prices and its devastating effects on Nigerian economy, experts have endorsed the federal government’s policy on economic diversification, pointing out that opportunities abound in Nigeria beyond oil.
Participants at the recent business luncheon organised by the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA) expressed this view in a statement made available to THISDAY.
The keynote speaker and director of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, Folusho Phillips, in his presentation enumerated the opportunities inherent in other sectors as well as strategies to drive the new Nigeria without oil.
He said Nigerians must accept the reality that “oil is truly gone” and focus their energies to developing vigorously comparative advantage and competences that will drive the economy and make up for years of dependence on oil.
According to him, “oil was never our main economic activity as it only represented 12% of our GDP and accounted for 72% of government revenue.”
Though he noted that oil accounted for more than 90per cent of foreign exchange earnings, the risk, he said, was always obvious as it made Nigerians the country lazy.
Pointing out the need for Nigerians to “retrace our steps in the face of this dwindling oil economy”, Phillips said: “In comparable to other nations, Nigeria depended on oil on the scale of 14% as against Kuwait’s 65%, Saudi Arabia’s 45% and Iran’s 26%, so there was no need to panic and resign our fate because the situation is not as bad as we make of it.”
He urged Nigerians to review our value proposition, imbibe a razor sharp focus and increase our competences which ultimately will translate to comparable advantage for us.
“The good news in the scenario playing out is that Nigeria has a vibrant emerging middle class, bustling population and demographic like China, long stretch of arable land for Agriculture among others. As a country we need to change our attitude, have a well-defined value proposition and alter our taste for foreign goods.
Similarly, we must invest in education, this has become necessary considering that the world is at its 4th industrial revolution while Nigeria is yet to go through the first, we must review our judiciary, police and other strategic government institutions and have an effective and efficient macro- economic environment that will enhance financial stability in the light of the fact that no investor will invest in an unpredictable environment” he said, adding that there are huge opportunities beyond oil in the country”, he said.
Furthermore, he said the federal government must think and ensure that it brings value to the global platform like Norway noted for shipping, fishing and seafaring, Canada mining, USA technology, South Africa mining and tourism, Japan efficiency and innovation and India intellectual capital.
“We must begin to ask ourselves pertinent questions: What is our value proposition? What do we bring to the table? What is our comparative advantage? What is our competitive advantage?
Now back to the home front Rivers stat, the state is imbued with thriving potentials especially in the area of water transportation. “Rivers state one of the leading states in the production of cassava, cocoyam, rice, maize, pineapples, mango, pawpaw, guava, beans, pepper and banana etc.
There are potential in fishing, oil palm and rubber production; cocoa, arvengia, citrus and coconut and concluded that Life without oil must be more sober, reflective, productive, inclusive, innovative and creative. Change in attitude, values and taste will be required and more importantly reviewing our value proposition”, he stressed.
Earlier, President, PHCCIMA, Dr. Emi Membere-Otaji noted that the Nigerian economy had been over stressed as a result of over dependence on the oil sector. He called for urgent diversification efforts to stimulate the economy, even as he expressed strong faith in the ability of the country to bounce back saying “real opportunity exist for Nigeria to inject new dynamism into its economy through a productivity- and investment-led transformation with effort in diversification of the economy to help ensure future growth, employment, and prosperity.”
Membere-Otaji noted that the country can no longer rely on oil revenue in the face of a changing global energy market. The PHCCIMA helmsman also added that faster productivity growth requires better business regulation and more openness to competition, trade, and investment, diversification to agriculture and solid minerals, improved efficiency of spending and new revenue sources, possibly including taxes, and urged government to embark on massive sensitisation and education of investors on the ease of doing business in the State.
The Deputy Governor of Rivers State governor, Dr. Mrs. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, who represented the governor assured investors of an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, pointing out that the security challenges are being tackled with the support of security agencies to ensure the protection of life and property throughout the State.
The governor lauded the leadership of PHCCIMA for providing a platform for discussion, with the theme: Business Opportunities in Nigeria, Beyond Oil and sub theme; The Ease of Doing Business in Rivers State”, pledging to collaborate with the body to ensure that the State returns to its former glory as investors’ haven.