Trade as elixir for poverty

Poverty is prevalent in the world, but it is a pandemic in Nigeria. Just this month (April), the IMF/World Bank Spring meeting ended with a resolution to end extreme poverty by 2030. This to many of us is too far off. It should be sooner. Several timelines for attainment of benefits to the lower class seem to be moving. We have the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs (for 2015), the vision 2020 and now Extreme poverty eradication by 2030? Less we forget, there was a Vision 2010.

One overlooked solution to poverty is business or trade. You can call it entrepreneurship. This applies to the unemployed, under-employed or economically ambitious. I recall vividly growing up and seeing my mother (late Dr. Mrs. Jessie Ukamaka Onogwuwe Akpodiete), an American PhD holder, also engaging in international trade to supplement her income as a Lecturer at the then College of Education, Abraka. In fact, as a pre-teen I blushed when I was sent to deliver perfume & female underwear to some beautiful female students on campus. The point is that I understood the importance of trade as a necessity for economic empowerment, even for those in academia. Even my grandmother (Late Mrs. Grace Anupu Onogwuwe) used to allow me hawk okra (and other petty items) for her whenever I visited her in Obi-Iduhor because she also realized that customers patronized me because I was a cute white looking (okay “oyibo”) boy.

Giving our teeming unemployed youths, we should embrace trade as a panacea to poverty or an elixir for it. In that vein, I decided to honour an invitation to attend another trade conference and listen to the keynote address by the Minister of Industry, Trade & Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga. Specifically, I attended the 6th National Council on Industry, Trade & Investment (NCITI 06) Annual Conference, which was held at the Premier Hotel, Mokola Hill in Ibadan, Oyo State, from Monday, April 22 to Friday, April 26, 2013.

The conference was spearheaded by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment. Recently, His Excellency President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, approved the change of name of the ministry by adding “industry” to it, apparently to stress the dearth of industry in the country. The theme of the conference was “Industrialization as the Driver of Economic Development, Revenue Diversification & Wealth Creation.”

You cannot listen to the Honourable Minister without being impressed by his intellect and passion for his work. In his keynote address, Dr. Aganga stated emphatically that trade was a great tool for economic upliftment as that “money is in our DNA as Nigerians.”

The last conference was held in Minna, Niger State and this year's conference was on the heels of the recently released poverty statistics and IMF/World Bank meeting. Some of the memoranda submitted at this year's conference were very encouraging. The “Buy Made in Nigeria” campaign that was started in 2009, has been resuscitated by the present administration, who realized that it would help reduce poverty. States like Kano have already aggressively come onboard. The New media campaign is “Buy Naija, Create jobs.”

Another great development was a Nigerian Industrial revolution roadmap. We learnt that the “Ministry has developed a National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) which is a strategic holistic integrated road map that will fast track the industrialization of the economy and bring about job opportunities, wealth creation and sustainable economic development to the country.”

One of the memos presented was by UNIDO, a specialized agency of the United Nations with the mandate to promote and accelerate sustainable industrial development. “UNIDO-NIGERIA Country Programme for 2013-2016 is aimed at reducing poverty through competitive and sustainable industrialization.”

The report of the technical session and several presenters emphasized that clearly insecurity is also tied to economics. Better stated, the poor are more susceptible to exploitation by people who want to use them as terrorists or for other vices. You rarely see rich men's children involved in terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery or ballot box snatching. Election thuggery is less attractive when your belly is full and you have a reliable & dignified source of income. This is where trade comes into play. Let me echo the words of Governor Ajimobi, that we place too much emphasis on paper qualification. We should stress skills acquisition that must include rudiments of buying & selling and budgeting & bookkeeping.

The recent figures coming from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that over 42 million Nigerians are jobless, with a majority of the unemployed being graduates that have completed their National Youth Service. Some of the unemployed graduate should be encouraged to go into business, especially trade.

There is an expression that an idle mind is the devil playground. Therefore, a bored youth is an attractive tool in the hands of evildoers. A word is enough for the wise.

Dividends of democracy are more than giving handouts to the indigent villagers, but should include trickling down of benefits from an industrialized trade system.

Another adage is that “give me fish and I will eat today. Teach me to fish and I will eat fish forever.”

Prof Alex O. Atawa-Akpodiete is an author, Computer Scientist, Educator, Consultant, lawyer, Political Analyst, Public affair analyst & Social commentator. He has a Doctorate degree in Jurisprudence from the US. He has lectured Law, Ethics and Security & Intelligence Studies at the University level here in Nigeria and US. He also writes for a state daily newspaper & national monthly journal. He currently divides his time between Nigeria and USA where he runs a PR and an international capacity-building firm ATAWA GROUP. Contact him on 08138391661 or [email protected] He is also on Facebook and Twitter.

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Articles by Prof. Alex O. Atawa Akpodiete, Esq.