Nigeria is not just the most populous African country, it is about the country with the most natural resources save Congo DR and may be South Africa. We also have a vast assemblage of some of the world’s best brains as citizens. We have produced some of Africa’s corrupt leaders but no man has led Nigeria for ten years in a row and we have leaders who have also shown that corruption is not a Nigerian culture. We have a people that when they really want something out of their government, they get it. We have all the trappings of greatness, yet when we take slow steps forward, we always almost automatically take fast leaps backward.
I have since sat down for days to actually reflect on why we are still here despite unprecedented oil windfalls and opportunities for development. The obvious answers were bad governance and corruption but I found an answer that could easily be the very essence of our growth and developmental challenges. This problem is the reason why the 20|2020 Vision as sonorous and beautiful as it sounds and looks will not – cannot – be realised. It matters not who the President is, as long as this challenge remains, that vision for national development will remain a shame
Simply put, the Vision 20|2020 seeks to place Nigeria amongst the top 20 Economies of the World by the year 2020. Given our human and material resources, that ought to be a given but given the problem I will not yet name, it would indeed as it already is, be a herculean task to achieve that vision.
I’ll take you through some major world rankings of countries and help you form an idea of where we are as a nation. Of course these rankings are nowhere as real as the nail biting poverty we see daily even in our posh housing projects.
They only offer an opportunity for us to see where we are compared to where we desire to be in 2020. It has to be said that for Nigeria to attain her 2020 vision, it must rise through all these rankings and some other ones I won’t be referring to here.
The United Nation’s 2010 Human Development Report shows Nigeria ranked as the world’s 28th poorest country. This means that Nigerians are poor people irrespective of what our oil earnings say. This ranking is about the Gross Domestic Product. If this does not change, our vision of top 20 would become a reality that’d only stand with the worst nightmares. This will not change until we diversify the economy and get people engaged with the production of goods and services. People must be productive and earn income even as the country earns taxes from their efforts and from exports.
One other reality that places our 202020 vision on the same plate as wishful thoughts is the Economic Freedom Index. No country prospers without investment from abroad. Investors will not invest in an economy rated as “MOSTLY UNFREE” in the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom. The likes of Botswana and Cape Verde will continue to get preferences from foreign investors as long as the Nigerian government continues to stifle free market tendencies. The reality of being ranked at 111 in a ranking of 179 countries is that realistically speaking we will be the 111th preferred country of investment if investors care about the freedom of taking decisions that’d help their investment without looking behind to see if government’s hammer will be dropped on their activities at the whim of influential oligarchs and their likes.
Even if you spend 22 hours every day advertising the economic prospects of your country on Aljazeera and CNN all year, investors want to know how free and secure their investments will be if they come to your country. Actions like the flouting of court orders by the helmsmen of law and order in our country will only discourage prospective investors. Granted, we will always attract foreign direct investment to our extractive industries especially the petroleum sector, but how many Nigerians are employed by this industry?
We need foreign investors to look beyond this primary market to the production of finished goods and services. These are what make the difference in the end when GDPs are computed.
As long as the ease of doing business is as protracted as the camel seeking to go through the eye of the needle, we will only continue to bleat noises if we call for investors to put their money on other sectors of the economy apart from the obvious ones. Nigeria is ranked 137 of 183 countries on the global Ease of Doing Business scale. Down from our 121 and 125 rankings in 2009 and 2010 respectfully, these are telltale signs our economy is on the brink. Whether it goes beyond the brink or not depends largely on how fast we move away from the foot of rankings as these.
These are not just numbers, they are report cards of performances of governments the world over. These are the numbers that investors analyze on their computer screens before making economic decisions. Ours is an economy that will guarantee huge returns on investment and investors know this, but the first hurdle of getting started in our economy and being certain of our laws protecting their investments must be taken down faster than it took the President to remove the President of the Court of Appeal.
Vision 20/2020 is a realistic dream but as long as we keep going about achieving it by doing things that actually see us peering off the path of achieving it, we will only keep down the ladder of underdevelopment. The unseen solution to getting us on the path of that vision is allowing the Economy to breathe off the choking tendencies of the Federal Government. Government should mind governance.
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