Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, has said that one of the biggest impediments to Nigeria’s development is the parlous state of its infrastructure sector.
Although the former envoy noted that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has launched a new Infrastructure Master Plan (IMP), Gambari, however, said it was not yet clear how the plan would be implemented or financed.
In a paper titled “Reflections on Sino-African Development Co-operation: Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects,” delivered at the Yale Centre, Beijing recently, he said limited power generation and weak distribution, alongside severe lack of transportation, raise the cost of business, which he said, is one important area in which China and Nigeria can partner together in a win-win enterprise in the years ahead.
Gambari, who acknowledged the fact that Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and the biggest economy, with a population of 180 million and a GDP of $413.7 billion; well endowed with vast hydrocarbon resources in addition to strategic minerals and precious stones, said it is unfortunate that the country is also very poor with over 40 per cent of the population in abject poverty.
According to him: “Nigeria’s mineral endowments provide the potentials for a wide range of industries from steel to petrochemicals, glass, ceramics and other manufacturing sectors and related services. In spite of these potentials, the country’s industrial development remains rather weak. Seventy per cent of Nigeria’s population is engaged in agriculture and retail trading, with manufacturing sector occupying only 10 per cent of the adult working population.
“To further buttress the weakness of the manufacturing sector, a comparative overview of manufacturing value added as a percentage of GDP in a few selected emerging markets, puts the country at an unimpressive four per cent, in comparison to 19 per cent for South Africa, 17.7 per cent for Mexico and eight per cent for Ghana.”
The former foreign affairs minister further scored the country’s industrial base low, saying: “The country’s industrial base also remains relatively under-developed. The sector is yet to take advantage of the available resources and the relative abundance of cheap labour due to high production cost, low levels of productivity that translate into low value added and low capacity utilisation. The poor business climate and low level of infrastructure also discourage foreign direct investment in the manufacturing sector.”
He lamented that in the last few years, several foreign-owned manufacturing firms have relocated to Nigeria’s neighbouring ECOWAS countries, scared away by a harsh business environment, insecurity and epileptic power supply.
Gambari, who frowned at the Nigerian business environment, which he said does not support wealth creation while the mindset of the ruling elite seems more oriented to consumption rather than productivity and genuine development, however, urged the current administration to tap into the nation’s human capital, which has been identified as the most important asset of the country.