Not a few Nigerian consumers have the erroneous impression that goods produced in foreign lands and services rendered overseas are better than their local counterparts. In the same vein, not few of them understand that as petty as such behaviour is, the level of patronage of goods and services produced locally determines the country’s economic growth.
Due to the surge in imported goods that got exacerbated in the early 1970s, ostensibly as a result of the oil boom and sudden high competitive consumer markets in Nigeria, consumers have been exposed to foreign alternatives to domestic products. However, many of the local industries work hard to survive in today’s turbulent Nigerian market.
Against this backdrop, there is need to patronise made-in-Nigeria goods, as it is one way to economic growth. The economy of any nation grows rapidly when locally-made goods are promoted through patronage, first by its people, and then through export. It is, however, disappointing that Nigerian consumers have been vicariously growing other countries’ economies through over-dependence on imported goods, especially those that have local substitutes.
Need to go local
No doubt, Nigeria can easily experience a breakthrough in the quest for local content development and a strong economy, if Nigerians revved up their patronage of local products.
In a bid to grow the nation’s economy through locally-made products and locally-rendered services, the Federal Government had, in the past, taken vital decisions. For instance, it had given preference to Nigerian professionals in the execution of all government projects. Giving credence to the move was the issuance of Executive Order 5, which made it mandatory for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies to patronise made-in-Nigeria products without conceding standards. President Muhammadu Buhari signed the ‘Presidential Executive Order 5 for planning and execution of projects, promotion of Nigerian contents in contracts and science, engineering and technology’ in 2018.
At this juncture, it is expedient to say that it is against the foregoing that one of the most innovative ideas the current administration supported is the “#BuyNaijatoGrowtheNaira” initiative. Senator Ben Murray-Bruce invented the hashtag in 2016 to trigger national interest in local products. That the government has subscribed to the campaign cannot be faulted.
Expectedly, few years into the campaign, a public opinion poll released by NOIPolls, an online research platform providing strategic recommendations for decision-making, revealed that 97 per cent of Nigerians had expressed willingness to buy locally made products to strengthen the country’s economy. Also, the poll indicated that about 98 per cent of Nigerians were willing to support a “BuyNaija” campaign to encourage patronage of local products.
The poll, which sought the opinion of Nigerians regarding their attitude and preference for local products, also showed that almost six in 10 Nigerians (59 per cent) said they bought locally-made products very often; followed by 37 per cent who bought often. The list of products that they bought includes food (58 per cent), clothing (50 per cent), footwear (34 per cent), soap and detergent (12 per cent). On the contrary, four per cent of respondents stated that they did not buy locally-made products because they were mostly sub-standard.
Comparing local and foreign products in terms of quality, more than half of the respondents (54 per cent) were of the opinion that locally-made products were of good quality, while 21 per cent ranked the products poorly, and 25 per cent were indifferent.
Contrary to the report, there are evidences across markets in the country that Nigerian consumers majorly prefer foreign-made goods to locally made goods. The question at this juncture is, why the preference for foreign goods and services to the detriment of indigenous goods?
However, in the series of parley with a spectrum of the consumer population in Lagos, Financial Street gathered that Nigerians have plethora of reasons for patronising foreign products, despite calls by the government at various levels and some concerned individuals on Nigerians to buy products made in Nigeria, to make the naira stronger.
For Mr Innocent Eluemibe, one of the major reasons most consumers in Nigeria prefer foreign goods is economic in nature. He said, “The economic factors lean towards consumers’ predilection on quality, price and product availability. They have the notion that money spent for a product should re-invigorate a high sense of value for the product, as they strongly believe that the quality of local products are lower than those imported.”
Corroborating him, Harry Ajuebon said, “There is equally psychological dimension to it. A number of psychological forces operate in the consumer to influence his perception towards local and foreign products. The reason cannot be far-fetched, as there are consumers who, in the search for distinctiveness, exclusiveness and egotism, seek out those products which can confer these qualities.”
According to him, for a long time, consumers do not solely follow economic reasons in their decisions, but psychological does that, as can be seen from the perspective of identities, culture, values, worldviews and group memberships. In this sense, he asserted, consumer behaviour is sometimes against economic reason.
The above view may be in concert with French philosopher, Pierre Bourdieu, who offered the term “social capital” to make sense of human behaviour, which is not only about material capital but a social background of what we do and how we do. Therefore, consumer behaviour is also a subject of economic, cultural and social capital.
Few years ago, Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, in a keynote address at a Public Policy Lecture series of Business Hallmark Newspapers in Lagos, opined that theories that reinforce consumers’ predilection towards foreign-made goods were encapsulated in the overall theories of Consumer Complex Syndrome.
According to him, the theory of Superiority suggests that the consumers see non-local brands as a determinant of quality and brand desirability. He highlighted the belief that “if a white man did it, then it is good.” The theory reportedly holds sway in most developing economies, he added.
He also noted The Theory of Ethnocentrism, which unearthed a psychological notion of pride in consumers, and consequently makes them prefer products and brands from their own country. The construct has been identified as one of the significant factors that engendered China’s economic rise, he pointed out.
There is also the Theory of Animosity. Under the theory, in situations where no domestic substitutes exist to permit ethnocentrism, Watson and Wright (2000) discovered that consumers resort to foreign products from countries to which they have a cultural affinity. On the other hand, animosity (historical, political, cultural and other factors) against a country negates this preference.
In the same vein is the Theory of Transition, under which non-utilitarian product attributes, such as status display, are more prevalent in developing countries where interpersonal relationships are of prime importance. This is because of the economic transition, income disparity and high status mobility, which find expression in the tendency to claim differential status through the exotic foreign brands one consumes (Batra et al, 2000). He said the construct applies to Nigeria where some people take pride in exotic brands and make it a yardstick for status definition.
Also in the series is the Theory of Missing Link – Consumption Complex. In this theory, according to Ikpeazu, review of existing literature has little explanation for a situation where consumers have no objectively verifiable and consistent rationale for preferring foreign brands (irrespective of origin).
He then said that the Consumption Complex syndrome was brought forth at the lecture to explain why consumers prefer foreign-made rather than locally-produced goods. He explained that “Consumption Complex appears to be an ideology formed by the combination of superiority theory and transition theory.” Consumers who display this syndrome usually imagine that foreign brands are more qualitative and more durable and that they often tend to brandish foreign products to show eminence or feel important. He, however, described the belief as a myth, with no objectivity.
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