As Nigeria continues to battle with the continued spread of the coronavirus disease, there are clear opportunities that can be seized to move the country towards producing locally the items it would normally import.
The call to look inwards was made by the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, during a paper presentation on turning tragedy into opportunity.
Emefiele is confident that the country can turn the crisis that the coronavirus pandemic has created into opportunities that will birth a new Nigeria.
According to the former managing director of Zenith Bank, with countries having moved away from multilateralism and responded by fighting for themselves with several measures to protect their own people and economies, regardless of the spillover effect on the rest of the world, “it is time we looked inwards, produce more till we are self-sufficient and export more when the windows open.
Countries like the United States, Germany, France and India have announced export ban on some medical essentials, including facemasks, hand gloves, protective suits, ventilators, oxygen therapy apparatus, several drugs.
Vietnam, the world’s third-largest exporter of rice, has suspended giving export licence till domestic inventories are reviewed to ensure food security. Russia, the world’s largest wheat exporter, has also activated a 10-day ban on the export of buckwheat and rice due to concerns over panic purchases in supermarkets.
According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, about 37 countries have enacted various forms of food export restrictions in response to COVID-19, including countries where the average production exceeds local needs.
“Although these developments are troubling, they present a clear opportunity to re-echo a persistent message the CBN has been sending for a long time, and at this time, even more urgently so: we must look inwards as a nation and guarantee food security, high quality and affordable healthcare and cutting edge education for our people.
“For a country of over 200m people, projected to be about 450m in a few decades, we can no longer ignore repeated warnings about the dangers that lie ahead if we do not begin to depend largely on what we produce locally because the security and well-being of our nation are contingent on building a well-diversified and inclusive productive economy,” he said.
The apex bank’s governor said the need to look drive the bank’s protectionist policy informed the restriction of access to foreign exchange by importers of many items which could be produced locally.
The CBN, according to Emefiele, will continue to come up with measures to support the federal government’s immediate fight against COVID-19, and to build a more resilient and self-reliant economy, while also ensuring that the country transforms into a modern and sophisticated economy.
To actualise this, the bank has committed to building high-quality infrastructure base to boost industrial activity; provide support for smallholder and large-scale agriculture production; create an ecosystem of factories, storages and logistics company involved in moving raw materials and finished goods to where they are most needed; and create a robust educational system which enables critical thinking through fiscal priorities.
Also, the bank supports the government through developing a healthcare system accessible to Nigerians of all classes; facilitate access to cheap and long-term credit for small and medium-scale enterprises and large corporates; develop and strengthen pro-poor policies that will bring financial services and security to the poor and vulnerable; and speed up the development of venture capitalists for nurturing new ideas and engendering Nigerian businesses for global competition.
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