Lecturer of Economics, University of Lagos, Dr. Babatope Ogunniyi, in this interview with EHIME ALEX, speaks on approach to the fourth industrial revolution to boost Nigeria’s economy
Nigeria is in a recession. What are the lessons to be learnt?
Theoretically, recession is a persistent fall in output over a period of six months. It is a recurring decimal in Nigeria since the present government took over the reins. The first recession was in 2016, and in less than four years, we’re back to it. It implies that our so-called recovery was fragile. The handlers of the economy are not transparent enough. Should we blame the past or present government? Our economy failed to diversify despite the daily message of diversification being preached. It means that no lesson is learnt; our dependency on oil will continue to fail us.
Do you believe that the recession won’t last beyond the first quarter of 2021?
That the recession will be short-lived is mere contemplation; there are no indicators to support such a claim. A developing economy, such as ours, can’t predict correctly; the claim is based on assumptions. Our economic performance is exogenously determined. Our main product (cruel oil) is regulated by world powers, in terms of price and quantity. Hence, to say that this recession will be short-lived is just a political statement to restore the confidence of Nigerians in the government. There is high rate of unemployment and inflation. The inflation doesn’t benefit our economy because our manufacturing sector is underdeveloped.
Provided the price of crude oil improves, and the Coronavirus Disease is curtailed, we may expect the recession to ease off gradually, maybe by the end of the second or third quarter of 2021. Currently, another lockdown is here, does the economy grow in this circumstance? I will say no!
When you say the fourth industrial revolution is still a mirage as far as Nigeria’s situation is concerned, what exactly do you mean?
The fourth industrial revolution remains a mirage because Nigeria has not addressed the concern for the present revolution. The fourth industrial revolution is mainly driven by four specific technological developments; these include high-speed internet; Artificial Intelligence and automation, the use of big data analytics, and in particular cloud technology. While some countries are in the fifth industry, Nigeria is dilly-dallying on what to do. Some of the appreciable successes recorded are the borrowed ones; not with our genuine participation.
The major element required is yet to be achieved; with electricity supply, Nigeria has a long way to go! AI is almost absolutely absent! Manpower development is still crawling!
Now that Nigeria is nowhere in the fourth industrial revolution, in which sector should it begin and what should be done?
Essentially, in all sectors of the economy, in trade, in transportation, and in other market segments which have the tendency to benefit, and make new rewarding jobs available. Job creation is sine qua non to industrial revolution. Agriculture is not left out, so also in medicine and other disciplines.
COVID-19 has its negative impact. However, what should be done to move the economy forward?
COVID-19 is still with us with its negative effect. It has affected everything. Many lives were lost and are still being lost. Jobs were lost and some about to be lost. Poverty has peaked. Production has declined considerably. Governance has been truncated by incessant lockdowns and restrictions. Markets were disrupted; hence economic activities suffered. What else? Food production and supply chains were cut. World market fell beyond any economic imagination or forecast. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries was traumatised.
Moving forward will require a purposeful measure in governance, complete overhaul of the economy in science, medicine and technology, less reliance on imported goods, critical evaluation of standards and total blockage of loopholes that warranted roaring corruption.
What economic policies are needed for the industrial revolution?
Economic policies are courses of action intended to influence or control the behaviour of the economy. They include decisions made about government spending and taxation (fiscal policy), about the redistribution of income from rich to poor, labour market policies, regulation of monopoly and money supply.
Industrial policies play crucial roles for macroeconomic development. A synergy between economic policy and industrial revolution must be tailored properly. The wholesome approach on the part of a nation to move her economy forward should be more intentional than theoretic.
How can tertiary institutions provide research work to aid the economy towards the fourth industrial revolution?
Education changes a society; the more educated a society the more enlightened and the willingness to accept change by its citizenry. Higher education is instrumental in fostering growth, reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity. A highly-skilled workforce, especially with a solid post-secondary education, is a prerequisite for innovation and growth: more educated people are more employable, earn higher wages, and cope with economic shocks better.
All over the world, tertiary institutions are set up mainly to develop ideas for the society to grow. Adequate funding for research is non-negotiable and results are got from this labour of research. In Nigeria, government, at all levels, does not encourage meaningful research. Imagine a country where the Academic Staff Union of Universities, as a pressure group, remains the only voice pressurising the government to rise up to the task of providing the needed funding, so that these institutions would not die! Industry 4.0 is very workable, if the town and gown are ready to collaborate. Apart from funding, the government must provide basic amenities – regular supply of electricity, safe environment (security) for all and sundry, among others.
Essentially, altering higher education is more necessary than ever before. Although some challenges lay ahead, which have to be considered to ensure effective and immediate transformation. With the reduced public financial support for higher education, polytechnics and universities need to think strategically regarding methods to utilise their experience in credentials, trust and identity to offer new services. Moreover, higher education leadership needs to be less risk-averse, especially in this world of disruptive change. It is no longer an option to keep doing things the old way; innovation and accepting change are now prerequisite for survival.
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.