Diversification Still Option For Nigeria’s Economy (2)
Nigeria must start looking inwards, investing its resources in designing and funding a green transition strategy. Faced with a pandemic that has shattered the boundaries of what is politically possible, the Buhari government has overcome initial inertia to announce a halt in oil subsidy payments, although whether it will see through that policy is yet to be seen.
If it does, how it uses the savings will be significant. The money could provide support for Nigeria’s renewable sector to counteract the price disparity with fossil fuels and encourage rapid research and development. The Nigerian Ecological Fund — which is 3% of the Federation Account — should be reformed and expanded beyond its current scope of addressing ‘serious ecological problems’ to cover climate change with a strong emphasis on mitigation and resilience. That would increase Nigeria’s climate finance and minimize reliance on multilateral climate funds.
Beyond public investments in green infrastructure, the government can also incentivize the private sector to drive a green economy. As the largest purchaser of goods and services in the country, it can leverage purchasing power to green the procurement process. With the release of about $421 million to the Ministry of Works, the 2020 budgetary allocation for road projects has been fully disbursed to the Ministry, making procurement in the construction sector ripe for green reforms. The application of sustainable building techniques and materials could reduce Nigeria’s 17 million housing deficit and create more jobs.
But the task of greening the Nigerian economy is too important to be left to the federal government alone. It also requires mainstreaming climate change and sustainable development into the operations, governance, and budgets of government ministries, departments, and private entities at the sub-national and national levels.
There has been much focus on reviving agriculture, which is laudable, but agrarian practices have radically changed from the 1970s when the sector accounted for 57% of Nigeria’s GDP and generated 64.5% of export earnings. Beset by a loss of biodiversity, drought, and desertification, extreme weather events, rise in sea levels and variable rainfall, it is no longer smart for Nigeria to invest in this area without due regard for the significant climate risks. Any effort to revive agriculture and its export potential must be green-centred and integrate regenerative and climate-smart practices.
The right policy mix combined with aggressive funding can position the country as a renewable energy leader, both on the African continent and globally. And it will reap the benefits in technology development, foreign investment, decreased emissions, poverty reduction, and energy for the 80 million people currently without access to the national grid – all of which could ripple into millions of clean energy jobs in manufacturing and installation across the country.
The road to a green future must be paved with deliberate and consistent policies. Reforms hatched because oil prices have plunged should not be ditched when there is a boom. On the brink of a second recession in four years, Nigeria has learnt that the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19 is only the latest warning that pinning economic growth on a boom-bust market and the generosity of foreign donors and creditors is a failing strategy. There is another way and there is an opportunity for Nigeria to lead.
Diversification presents the most competitive and strategic option for Nigeria in light of her development challenges and given her background. Diversification has a lot benefits for Nigeria to maximally utilize her abundant resource-base to re-build the economy and enjoy the benefits of all the linkages, synergy, economics of scale, grow national technology and foreign investment profile, build human capital, exploit new opportunities, lessen averagely operational costs, increase national competitiveness and grow the standard of living and confidence of the citizens for national renaissance.
Diversification does not occur in a vacuum. And, the need to have in place an enabling environment to make diversification possible remains necessary.
Considering Nigeria’s peculiar circumstances and the successes recorded before the advent of oil, for Nigeria to break loose from the problems inherent in a mono-economy, especially are dominated by oil, which is subject to depletion, international price shocks and unfavourable quota arrangement, there is need for diversification.