• Friday, July 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Unlocking potentials for industrial revolution

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Steel, electricity, rail transport, plastics and fertilisers were the linchpin inventions of the second Industrial Revolution (1870 to 1914). During this period, science was applied to solve economic problems. The marriage between science and technology led to major and minor inventions.

Transportation benefitted from major inventions that made travelling by rail, an invention of the first Industrial Revolution, faster and safer. The rapid expansion of electricity and telephone networks had an immense impact on the second Industrial Revolution.

Though basic networks like pipelines for the distribution of gas, water and sewage were already in place in the cities, an electricity network had a great socio-economic impact. It electrified entrepreneurs’ ideas and powered the production of goods in factories that provided employment for many.

We are currently witnessing the ascent of start-ups in Nigeria: iROKO, Afrinolly, Konga, Jumia, gidimo etc. As more Nigerians get online, via their mobile phones, they will be scouring for local content. From platinum to tantalum, cobalt to coal, oil to ore, there are a lot of non-renewable resources underneath Nigeria that are used to make laptops, mobile phones, cars and airplanes.

In spite of being the largest economy in Africa courtesy of the recent GDP rebasing, electricity, rail transport and fertilisers that are tried, tested and trusted inventions of the Technical Revolution are yet to be harnessed to fix Nigeria’s economic problems.

Competitive commercial agriculture is gradually taking off, thanks to rapid economic growth and strong demand prospects, favourable domestic policy environments, improved business climate and increased incentives to invest in agriculture and new technologies.

A cursory survey of development experience in some countries shows government’s resolve to drive industrialisation for decades. Mauritius, a tiny island country, has made admirable progress in intra-industry structural change and achieved improvement in domestic socio-economic status and international position. The vision for agriculture-led industrialisation in Malaysia was consistently and rigorously applied by successive governments for three decades. With science and technology, and sound management, today the Malays produce more than 30 products from oil palm and tree, and are exporting a refined version of palm oil as bio-fuel.

Other countries have also been trailblazers in building on what they have and moving up the value chain – the difference between simple, low-value textiles and Egyptian organic cotton fibre is another example.

There is no single key to unlocking the potential. What Nigeria urgently requires are policies and institutions to foster rapid and sustainable business development across key priority sectors. This means targeted policies and strategies applied consistently to promote enterprise revolution that accelerates sustainable growth while simultaneously alleviating poverty, creating jobs and improve living standards.

There is the need to continuously strive to make qualitative education accessible to all; one that should emphasise skill formation and entrepreneurship development. To make this approach a reality, we need to invest more in infrastructure, energy, natural resource revenues in enhancing competitiveness and diversifying the economy.

We must create functional synergies between research and industry and challenge our scientists and universities to prove themselves as their counterparts in Brazil, China and India have done over the past four decades. We must be committed to providing similar research facilities and working environment as done in those countries.