By Olaoluwakintan Babatunde

There have been numerous calls for the diversification of the Nigerian economy particularly now, given the current climate – thanks to the scarcity of foreign exchange and the crash in oil prices.  We often hear of the times when Nigeria experienced it’s golden era and the once flourishing industries were the norm. Nigeria’s manufacturing and textiles industries were no different. Yet, for a country so blessed with numerous natural resources, it is a shame that Nigeria is yet to fulfil the potential that we have as a nation in regards to the manufacturing industry in general and more specifically the furniture manufacturing industry. The Nigerian manufacturing sector as well as the textiles sector, as a whole are areas that certainly need a greater deal of emphasis within this nation.

Essentially, the main contributors responsible for the Nigeria’s low productivity in the manufacturing sector derive from the failure to fully capitalise upon the high population that has propelled other nations such as China and India to become global leading economies.  As a result of a lack of quality education, a poor climate for investments, unfavourable legislation and poor infrastructure have all been factors affecting Nigeria’s ability to fulfil her vast potential. Within the textiles industry, the emergence of China as a producer has further compounded the failure of our indigenous sector to perform and supersede the heights it was once able achieve during the 1980s. Technology plays a significant role in a company’s ability to provide quality furniture and in many cases the equipment and machinery available in Nigeria is not of the same standard of leading furniture manufacturing companies in nations such as Germany, China and Italy. DO.II has been the exception in regards to this issue, as they offers world-class furniture at a truly global standard. This has been achieved as a result of the firm’s high skilled labour force, as well as its SON certified factory situated in Ojota.

Increasing the number of high skilled labourers has been shown to increase the productivity and resourcefulness of a nation, particularly in times of a negative economic environment. Although overall growth of a nation may be stunted, as was the case during the Economic Crisis of 2008, studies have shown that low skilled labourers are the most vulnerable, whereas high skilled workers are an essential necessity. DO.II provides a model for the furniture industry and the Nigerian economy in this respect. With over 100 trained employees on site and off site, it ensures that in comparison to other furniture providers, DO.II possesses a competitive advantage.  With the view of the manufacturing and all other sectors in Nigeria as a whole, it is imperative that there is an increase in the population of skilled workers. This will ultimately place the country in good stead in regards to the diversification and recovery of the Nigerian economy.

In cases where nations are struggling to promote their indigenous industries, it is typical for the government to implement protectionist measures, which inhibit the importation of foreign goods. This in turn enables the sector to grow within the nation without the worry of undue or unbalanced international competition. Such measures were implemented within Japan in order to safeguard their automobile industry and we can all see just how successful that has been. In the past, such measures have been put in place here in Nigeria, however, rather than strengthening the sectors it has resulted to increased rates of smuggling. Smuggling further worsens the situation, as it results in not only the undermining of the legislation implemented to improve the economy but also means that the government is not able to make any money and is unable to account for the smuggled goods. Promoting goods that are quintessentially Nigerian will only be of benefit to the country as whole. DO.II aims to provide furnishing solutions that are predominately sourced from within the country, thus combating the impact of both smuggling and foreign competition within the local furniture market.

Another prevailing issue is the access to reliable sources of power, although this is not an issue that is exclusively Nigerian, rather an issue in Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. Not only is this detrimental to the production of furniture and manufacturing but also the nation’s ability to possess a sustainable GDP. The electrification of Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole will liberate many of the constraints that we face as a nation is regards to our overall productivity.This will also help in empowering local manufacturers’ abilities to produce more high quality furniture at reduced prices. DO.II and other furniture manufacturers at the moment must rely on the electricity provided by the government as much as possible. Although these conditions are not ideal, it does not impact on DO.II’s ability to provide quality, affordable furnishing and interior design solutions.

 Despite all the issues that Nigeria faces as a country, we as a nation do not have tobe defined by our setbacks. Michael Porter (1990), asserted that a nation’s competitiveness and their productivity is dependent upon their ability to innovate. Innovation in many cases is born out of necessity and one may argue that the areas in which we lack are also an opportunity to be innovative and in turn productive. With the ever-rising fuel prices, the key to a reliable energy supply may not come in the form of a generator but possibly solar or wind energy.

Ensuring that we make processes more efficient can reduce the costs of producing goods and this may be achieved by utilising the waste from the production process to create other goods. Rather than bowing down to the pressure of constraints, situations where individuals and firms are placed in unfavourable conditions enable us to think outside of the box and innovate.

DO.II Designs, as a leading Nigerian manufacturer aims to provide 100% Nigerian manufactured furniture for both corporate and residential clients that is affordable, of a high quality and innovative. Although as a nation we struggle with a number of socioeconomic and political restraints, DO.II has shown that in the face of these issues, an unwavering desire to provide the very best furnishing solutions for clients can overcome these setbacks.