The new Industrial Master Plan – Thisday

By The Citizen
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What's needed is the political courage to implement the ideas

With the recent launch of the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDP) by President Goodluck Jonathan, the expectation is that our country has started the slow but steady journey to prosperity. But those who remember the fanfare with which the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS I & II) and similar fancy ideas were launched in the past can only adopt a wait-and-see attitude to what may turn out to be another empty slogans.

While NEDP has been in the frontline of discourse in the area of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) sub-sector in the past few years, the NIRP is expected to provide a road map for the industrialisation of Nigeria through the creation of an enabling environment for the unhindered growth of certain sectors of priority, namely agri-business, solid minerals and oil and gas. Both initiatives emanate from the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, as an idea to improve on the country's value chain through manufacturing and industrialisation of agricultural products.

We welcome the idea of an industrial master plan and an enterprise development programme that can transform the country. But we do so with much scepticism as we see nothing on ground to suggest the idea will work or that anything has changed from the past. However, in declaring the two initiatives as the most ambitious and comprehensive blueprint for industrial transformation, President Jonathan is not only making a pledge, he is also listing the parameters by which his administration should be assessed, especially in the core areas of job creation, skills development and foreign exchange conservation that these initiatives make their cardinal points.

The goal of ‎the NIRP, according to Jonathan, was to increase the contribution of manufacturing sector to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the present 4 per cent to 10 per cent over the next five years. What that suggest is that there is a bit of urgency, even desperation, that is required in activating national development through a strategy that will target sectors that would have the greatest short-term impact on GDP, employment and import displacement and at the same time make it comprehensive by incorporating all critical industrial sectors.

Without doubt, mass industrialisation is desirable and the needed impetus for the development of the country's MSMEs subsector and is clearly contained in this industrial master plan and enterprise development programme. On the face value therefore, it is an idea that is well conceived and timely; and this will surely excite the teeming population of unemployed youths that cannot wait to see its implementation.

However, when examined more closely, both initiatives may not be completely new as there have been similar programmes in the past which after gulping so much money failed. The federal government will do well to examine in detail why such previous attempts at industrialisation did not succeed. The political will to deal with factors that raise the cost of manufacturing which results in Nigerian goods not being competitive is essential. Equally crucial is the funding mechanism that should be timely and adequate in ensuring that the sub-sector that accounts for 96 per cent of businesses and 75 per cent of employment in the country, according to the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN), remains an essential component in the execution of this lofty dream.

Above all, the federal government will need to demonstrate that in an election season, it is determined to focus more on development than on politics even though as development initiatives, both NIRP and NEDP remain essentially a leap of faith. But the federal government's prayers on them will only and adequately be answered if no lip service is paid to their implementation and the infrastructural landscape, especially energy and transportation, are urgently transformed.