As African countries position, through deliberate creation of investor-friendly environments, to take advantage of the expected export of 85 million jobs through China by 2025, Bamidele Famoofo examines Nigeria’s preparedness

By 2025, China, the second largest economy in the world, would join the league of “high-income economies”. It is projected that China’s Gross Domestic Product would double by then, and by virtue of the exponential growth, about 85 million jobs are expected to flow out of the country to growing economies, especially in Africa, that are ready to attract them.

According to the World Bank, high-income economies are those that have a Gross National Income per capita of $12,236 or more.  Only 78 countries (including territories) are classified as “high-income economies” as of 2018.

Opportunity

Chief Executive Officer, Made in Africa Initiative, African Development Bank, Helen Hai, in her opening remarks at the maiden edition of CyFy Africa Conference held in Tangier, Morocco, said African nations must be quick to create the environment that will attract would-be investors, if they must benefit from the huge job opportunity, which China would soon create. Hai is also a Goodwill Ambassador for Industrialisation in Africa at the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. She disclosed at the conference, which focused on technology, innovation and society, that the ability of countries in Africa to create jobs for the continent’s 1.2 billion people (majority of which are youths) was the panacea for poverty on the continent.

“Job creation was the tool for poverty reduction in Asia. About 680 million people moved away from the threshold of poverty in China only in the last few years, and now is the golden opportunity for Africa to grow through innovative job creation,” Hai said.

President, Regional Council of Tanger-Tetouan, IIyas EL Omari, spoke in a similar vein.  Omari observed that CyFy Africa 2018 took place at a time when available data confirmed that technology had become a key driver for growth and job creation in Africa.

Trailblazers

While many countries in Africa are still unable to figure out the next step to take towards moving their economies forward, a few are already grabbing the opportunities available for growth by deploying cutting edge technologies driven by innovation. According to Hai, African nations, like Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Senegal, have already latched onto the opportunities available in the world markets by creating the necessary conditions for job creation. “They are already attracting the right investors and jobs are being created to reduce poverty in their countries,” the UNIDO Ambassador stated.

Hai said Ethiopia started by creating the industries that were capturing the jobs. “We started with the government of Ethiopia by creating a shoe factory and since then, about eight other industries have emerged in the country, creating jobs for the people,” she said.

In the case of Rwanda, she disclosed that the job creation revolution started a few years ago with the establishment of a garment factory whose products were now sold in the United States. “Indeed, the industrialisation movement has started in Africa. Enough jobs must be created to avoid potential global security mishaps that could arise due to joblessness on the continent. Africa must take the opportunities available in the next 10 years to create jobs and development it needs.”

Morocco is not left out in the industrialisation movement sweeping across the continent of Africa.  The Moroccan Minister of Industry, Investment, Trade and Digital Economy, Mr. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, said Morocco was positioning itself to become a regional digital hub in Africa. 

According to Elalamy, “The goals it sets for itself are essential, compulsory requirements on our journey towards development: the digital transformation of the national economy entails the digital transformation of the administration, the widespread use of IT, access for all citizens and businesses, the stronger positioning of Morocco as a regional digital hub, an improved digital ecosystem, IT infrastructures compliant with international standards, and, last but in no way least, highly qualified human resources. These are the decisive criteria, which make the Moroccan market competitive and which provide investors in the sector with an attractive business environment.”

Nigeria

Nigeria’s population reached 180 million this year, with more than half its people under 30 years of age. This puts severe strain on the country, which derives about 95 per cent of its revenue from oil. Due to epileptic power supply, ailing infrastructure, and limited access to finance for production purposes, a good number of manufacturing outfits in the country have closed down their operations, and the consequence is the growing unemployment rate.

The latest unemployment statistics made available by the National Bureau of Statistics put unemployment in the most populous nation in Africa at 16 million in third quarter of 2017, almost double the figure in the last quarter of 2015. According to NBS, 21.2 per cent of women within the labour force (aged 15-64 and willing, able, and actively seeking work) are unemployed, compared to 16.5 per cent of men within the same period. Underemployment was predominant in the rural areas, as 26.9 per cent of rural residents within the labour force were underemployed, compared to nine per cent of urban residents within the same period.

The government agency blamed the increasing unemployment and underemployment rates on Nigeria’s fragile economy, adding that growths recorded in recent times are not strong enough to provide employment in Nigeria’s domestic labour market.

Growth Plan

Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo said the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, which is the economic blueprint of the current administration, was the way to Nigeria’s economic prosperity. According to him, the ERGP, a Medium Term Plan for 2017 – 2020, was developed for the purpose of restoring economic growth, while leveraging the ingenuity and resilience of the Nigerian people – the nation’s most priceless asset.

Osinbajo stated, “It is also articulated with the understanding that the role of government in the 21st century must evolve from that of being an omnibus provider of citizens’ needs into a force for eliminating the bottlenecks that impede innovation and market based solutions. The plan also recognises the need to leverage science, technology and innovation and build a knowledge-based economy.”

The federal government has hired some consultants from Malaysia to help the Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning set up three focused labs in the country in an attempt to achieve the ERGP. To drive the ERGP, government, with the aid of Malaysian consultants hired with $1.5 million or N458 million, has set up Focus Labs in the country for its implementation.

Minister of Budget and Planning, Udoma Udoma, said the first phase of the focus labs had identified over $22.5 billion investment potentials across the country. Udoma said about $10.9 billion worth of private sector investments were categorised under the “most ready to go” group. He said, “About $4.73 billion worth of investments was identified in the agriculture and transport lab with a potential to create about 129,000 jobs. In the manufacturing and processing sector, about $9.25 billion worth of investments were identified, with about 378,000 new jobs expected to be created. Investment opportunities identified in the power and gas sectors were valued at about $8.57 billion, with the potential to create about 7,200 jobs.”

In addition, Udoma said the multi-phased ERGP focus labs had the potential to generate cumulative investments/projects and jobs valued about $39.4 billion and over 716,079 jobs by 2025.

Digital Ranking

Experts say digital penetration is critical in the efforts of African countries to generate investment and jobs. At conference in Morocco, Elalamy stressed the need for digital transformation, saying it will have positive impact on African consumers. He said relevant platforms should be established to help Africa meet the digital market demand, which is evolving exponentially in the continent.

The minister unveiled a list of the 10 most developed African countries in technology. Morocco ranks first because of its control of about 45 per cent of technological exports in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as its achievement of more than 10 per cent annual growth in the information and communication technology sectors over the last five years.

Egypt is in second place, thanks to the rapid growth of the technology sector, an average of over $3.5 billion in exports, and an annual growth rate of nine per cent. Kenya, which benefits from the Silicon Savannah initiative, is in third position. Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Madagascar, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda complete the list.

Nigeria, obviously, needs to do more to benefit from the investment and job opportunities expected from China.