Every country wants to be rich, in order to provide for its citizens, and advance its place in the world. While governments come and go, and policies are made and unmade, I believe we should all remind ourselves what time and wisdom have proven are the top ingredients that enable a nation grow its wealth (which also explains why Nigeria currently is struggling with poverty). These factors are:
– military security & law and order
Do we have this? No. Crime is rampant. Boko Haram is wrecking havoc to our Northern region. Militancy in the Delta is barely contained. Agitation has renewed in the East, to add to kidnaps and all sorts of craziness. Courts are full to the brim with violent and non-violent disturbances of all kinds.
Solution: many have advocated our police force be broken up and managed if not vy the states, then the zones or regions collectively, to bring their operations, management, and work closer to the people they serve. I support this. Our military is doing its best, and winning many battles. That is encouraging, and I applaud them. I believe mineral rights should revert to the owners of the land on which it is found, but the way Nigeria is currently set up, it’s probably not going to happen. Dialogue is needed about our Biafra issues, and a collective action on that front has to be taken to bury the ghosts of the past and solidify our unity as a nation. Fear and distrust will not let that happen, but it needs to. Overall, we need to restructure our nation and make efforts to stabilize and secure our social space.
– lack of corruption in institutions
There’s no need to even talk about this, when even a day old child knows the state of our nation when it comes to corruption.
Fortunately, our new President was elected on the mandate of stamping this scourge out. The simply path is to make fair laws and be swift and just to enforce them, but its easier said than done. Let us watch and see.
– low amounts of red-tape and bureaucracy around taxes, regulation or employment.
We are mired in red tape in Nigeria. Businesses are taxed too much. It takes connections, not merit to get an interview, let alone a job. It takes too long, with too much talk, effort, cajoling, back scratching, roadblocking, lobbying, buck-passing, ladder climbing, round tripping, officiating, bribing, and nepotism to get the simplest thing done. It’s like swimming in a pool full of honey, there’s no way we’re going anywhere unless we tackle the demon of bureaucracy where people are more interested in showing their power and maintaining a hierarchy than getting things done.
– a technically well-educated, mobile, flexible labour-force
Nigeria’s education is somewhere on the edge of death. our graduates don’t have enough skills, we barely have enough artisans or laborers to maintain a standard construction sector, our vocational skills aren’t there, few of the technical knowledge needed to build and run a working country and economy are anywhere to be found in our borders. No need to speak too much about this, we know the state of our education better than I can say it. Things need to be done, and fast.
– high-grade infrastructure and good telecommunications
Telecommunications has been one area where we have a decent situation going on, but even here, there is no need to rest on our laurels, because we don’t have much of them to rest on. Service is still spotty, investments in network needs to be made, broadband, fiber optic and last mile internet infrastructure are sorely needed.
But then our infrastructure situation is a real cause for headache. Our rail tracks are partially useless (because they use narrow instead of standard guage), and our railroad corporation is completely so. Our airports are terrible, we need more seaports to unburden Lagos, our roads don’t exist, we don’t have electricity worth mentioning, although that has started to improve marginally. We need to attract private capital in the space, which means we have to open up our parastatals, revoke the Nigerian rail corporations monopoly, liberalize our mining sectors, redesign the rules that govern our capital markets and financial sector, and more.
– fair, transparent and competitive markets
Everywhere you turn in Nigeria, there is a cabal colluding to cheat the market in every imaginable good or service. Enough said.
– reliably enforceable contracts
This is an area where we’re kind of average at. If you can commit the resources, you can get enforcement for your contracts in Nigeria. If you’re a layman, and you don’t have gobs of cash, you’re not likely to. That means only the very rich can really do business long term in Nigeria, which isn’t exactly a recipe for growth and upward mobility, is it?
– low corporation tax (between 10 and 15%)
What’s our tax rate again?
In summary, there are principles any country has to pay attention to, in order to grow economically. They’ve been summarized by thinkers since Socrates, Adam Smith down to Ngozi Iweala and El Rufai. They’re not really rocket science, although in many ways they can be harder than that. After all, there is nothing ambiguous about shooting a very big rocket to a moon, it’s physics, lots of math, and billions of dollars. Human beings are always harder to deal with.
But that is what society is for, what leaders do and what a nation is set up to achieve: to transform a mass of people into a complex civilization capable of taking care of its own. Even animals evolve social groups for the same reason. If ants can build complex colonies and run it efficiently, why in the world can’t we?