Ambitious target

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•MAN’s dream of lifting manufacturing to 15% of GDP shows a key player’s big vote in the economy

THE Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) just gave itself a target: in the next three years, to almost double the manufacturing sector’s share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), from the current 8.84 per cent to 15 per cent.  From the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) figures, manufacturing posted 8.84 per cent of GDP, in the third quarter of 2018.

Mansur Ahmed, MAN President, unfolded the new vision of his trade group, whose performance or otherwise, is indicative of how thriving or sickly the real economy is. It also gauges the availability or otherwise of blue-collar jobs, the traditional indicator of a thriving modern economy, before the epoch of services.

“We shall substantially improve the contribution of the manufacturing sector from the paltry 8.84 per cent,” he told his guests at a luncheon for the media in Lagos; “appreciably increase the capacity utilisation of member-companies by promoting policy consistency in a manner that the gains already made are not pulled back while ensuring the revival of sectors that are currently struggling.”  The MAN president gave the time frame for this new vision as the next two to three years.

The MAN’s target of 15 per cent GDP would appear nothing to crow much about, compared with other global economic giants. In China, the world’s biggest manufacturing country, manufacturing posts 40 per cent of GDP.  In the United States, it is 30 per cent; while the United Kingdom’s manufacturing sector accounts for 11 per cent of GDP, though UK ranks eighth among the world’s manufacturing giants. Though MAN’s new target could compete with South Africa’s 14 per cent (but South Africa has a larger and much more integrated, modern and advanced manufacturing base), it pales into insignificance with the neighbouring Ghana’s 28 per cent (going by a 2013 figure).

Still, for a major player like MAN to give its sector such a target, within a time-frame of three years, shows the salvation of the Nigerian economy lies in its real sector. That is a noble goal to grasp, away from seeking refuge in imports, which often results in dumping. The more Nigeria manufactures what it needs, the more jobs it would create and, other things being equal, the more real sector economic growth, development and eventual prosperity.

Still, MAN must realise the balance of infrastructure on ground may not support its new target.  It is good the MAN boss touched on liaising with government to minimise policy summersaults.  That is key. If MAN must attain its target, and go on to increase it in the near future, Nigeria must resist every pressure to sign dubious protocols, to dump manufactured goods on the country, even from sister African countries. The long-term effect of that would be to kill Nigerian manufacturing, close down factories and wipe off jobs. MAN must therefore set up a very strong, vibrant and proactive policy advocacy unit, which should also integrate the media, in its relationship with the government.

To the Federal Government, however, this new MAN resolve must be cheery indeed. The Buhari Presidency’s sing-song, at least in agriculture, is “grow what you eat and eat what you grow.”  That has given agriculture a great fillip these past four years.

Such a push could also be replicated in manufacturing. But that means the government must commit, even more strongly, to the current general upscale in infrastructure, particularly electricity, rail and roads. Aside, financial infrastructure: access to credit, at no cut-throat rate, is also critical.

These are the most basic preconditions, if the MAN target were not to be another pipe dream.

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