UNIDO: MOVING NIGERIA FORWARD
If there is any country that needs intervention programmes, especially from foreign agencies, that country is Nigeria. This is because the country is saddled with policy flip-flops which have not helped the country's development especially in the area of industrial development. Nigeria has found itself in this mess because our leaders do not seem to have the vision and focus to take Nigeria to the Promised Land.
But our saving grace here is that we have foreign agencies such as the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) which helps countries to develop their economies through sustainable industrialization. As an agency of the United Nations, UNIDO amply recognizes that no country in the world can move its citizens out of the pit of poverty if it does not have an industrial base.
Most often, I have always wondered how agencies like UNIDO operate and how they help nations of the world to grow until my recent encounter with Mr. Patrick Komawa, the UNIDO Representative in Nigeria. A look at industrial history, as clearly elaborated upon by Mr. Komawa, shows that UNIDO was set up to help countries like Nigeria and many other developing countries, particularly in Africa, to use their natural resources to add value to their national wealth in order to feed their people, create jobs and then manufacture goods for the overall good of the people.
To put this into practice, UNIDO has been helping Nigeria in the area of food production by setting up the necessary infrastructure to achieve the goal. For instance, without the intervention of UNIDO, Nigeria would not have had a fertilizer industry. The same is true of the seed and cotton industries. These are industries that have direct relevance to the job of small scale farmers. Through the Bank of Industry, UNIDO has helped Nigerian government to set up a fund that is now helping to finance not only the manufacturing sector, but also helping the farmers to produce more cotton that will go to these industries.
In a country like ours where government is involved in a number of policy inconsistencies that have hindered development in the land, UNIDO is working with the government and the private sector to collect the needs of Nigeria's industrial sector and how that can help the economy to grow. Together with the stakeholders, UNIDO packages these documents and makes them available to policy makers whose responsibility it is to ensure that the policies are put in place.
UNIDO is also involved in industrial upgrading programmes where it works with the industrial sector to discover areas of competitiveness. For instance, an industry located in Nigeria does not only serve Nigeria. It also serves other countries and produces commodities and products with which it will compete in the international market. UNIDO helps to make such industries competitive by ensuring that they are produced at cheaper prices so that they can compete with imported products.
In fact, Mr. Komawa as a UNIDO representative in Nigeria has recorded landmarks - which have made UNIDO a very relevant international organization in Nigeria. In fact, Komawa's impact at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan is there for all to see. As an economist working with IITA, Komawa was able to set up a rural sector enhancement programme which tried to develop a methodology and an approach whereby you can link small scale farmers to the market. It was a programme that touched all the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. Through it, small-scale farmers were able to create wealth.
Today, UNIDO has a star programme in Ebonyi State where it is training young men and women to become entrepreneurs using Information Communication Technology (ICT). Only a few weeks ago, graduates of the programme gave testimonies about how the programme has helped them to start up their own businesses and today some of them have become employers of labour, employing three to seven people to work with them. UNIDO is now planning to expand the programme so that it can operate nationwide.
To realize this objective, UNIDO is holding discussions with the Federal Ministry of Education. The ultimate aim is to scale up the programme so that it can obtain at secondary and tertiary education levels. It is also programmed to take care of those we normally refer to as school dropouts. The way it stands now, UNIDO is working in three key areas in Nigeria. Mr. Komawa outlines them as follows: Let me quote him at length for easy understanding. He says:
'First, we have what we call industry for development.
What do we mean when we talk about that? Now, we are talking about Agri Business in African Countries where seventy percent of our people are involved. Which means for every one thousand people we count; seven hundred are both related in the rural area and related in the value chain of Agri Business. This is an area that we believe that if you want to move the highest number of Nigerians out of poverty because they are in the rural areas, we needed to contribute on that, we have a major programme on that.
Secondly, poverty reduction through productive activities. This is what we call business investment and technology services. How do we have the small businesses to be able to create the necessary jobs? Note that Nigeria's youthful population is on the increase and jobs have to be created for these people. And we know that the government, the public sector alone cannot absorb the increased number of young people that graduate from universities across the country.
We know that the private sector in its current form cannot provide all the jobs needed for the teeming youth population, that's why we have a major programme within our small medium enterprises development to build the capacity of young people to help the small existing enterprises to grow so that they can absorb the growing population.
So that is the second programme we have there. And under that programme, we have an entrepreneurship programme specifically looking at women and youths.
Thirdly, we have what we call trade capacity building to help the industries in Nigeria to be able to trade internationally. How can you trade with EU and America without adding value to your products? That is what the capacity building is designed for. If these products do not reach the quality threshold requirements of the market, UNIDO has a programme which we call trade keepers in the building to be able to help our companies to be competitive, to be able to connect to the international market and their various components of that programme, so that is a pillar of UNIDO'S programme.
We know that without energy, industries will not work. We are talking about industry but energy is a core element of industrialization. Countries that have industrialized have had the opportunity to have cheap energy. Now, UNIDO has a programme that is helping not only Nigerians but countries in Africa to access what we call 'renewable energy sources' and for that programme, we have a center based in Nigeria called the small Hydro Power Programme. They sit in the WAEC building here in Abuja.
It has a director helping to identify mini hydro power projects and help either the public sector or the private sector to link up with financial institutions, to make sure that those energy sources can be turned into energy through mini hydro. Under the same programme, we have what we call bio mass, that means having energy from waste, agricultural waste. We are partnering with Ebonyi State Government to build a plant that will provide energy that will be used to power some of their rice processing plants. We have waste which is the rice husk and that rice husk will now be used to produce energy, that project is ongoing. So that is our programme in energy.'
UNIDO, according to Komawa, is also partnering with the Organised Private Sector in the effort to industrialize Nigeria. A major institution working with it in this venture is the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN). They are nine in all. There is the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, there is the Employers Association, among others. UNIDO has developed a platform for them to meet on a regular basis where issues of employers and manufacturers are discussed.
UNIDO also has a facility that it uses to send people for training in various countries. Two years ago, for instance, some members of Organised Private Sector were sent to Japan on the use of industry statistics because without statistics, without data for planning, it will be difficult to make progress. UNIDO has also undertaken production management training for some beneficiaries. It has also developed a platform for public private sector partnership on industrial trade. In fact, it is working with OPS to develop an industrial policy.
Indeed, UNIDO is involved in a number of industrial development programmes in Nigeria. There is no doubt that most Nigerians are ignorant of these laudable programmes. However, Mr. Komawa, in collaboration with relevant government agencies, appears poised to position UNIDO for better and optimal performance in Nigeria. With the necessary awareness, more Nigerians will benefit from the laudable programmes of UNIDO in the years ahead.
Opara, an Abuja-based Media Consultant