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Innovating Nigerian markets: Fighting poverty – ARETE Book Club

Innovating Nigerian markets: Fighting poverty – ARETE Book Club

ARETE Book Club, an Abuja-based literary community of over 180 career and business professionals in Africa, in its recent book review on “Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty,” written by Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ejomo, and Karen Dillon, challenged Nigeria’s government to focus on creating market-driven innovations in the “non-consumption economy” to tackle poverty.

The monthly book review, which had Dr. Osasuyi Dirisu, the Executive Director of the Policy Innovation Centre (PIC), as the lead discussant, highlighted challenges to market innovations, especially in Africa and Nigeria. It identified lack of political will, corruption, inefficiency, poor infrastructure, weak institutions, a hostile business environment, and skills gaps as major challenges to creating disruptive market innovations.

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Lessons were highlighted from the United States of America, which was bedridden in public service corruption, a low infant mortality rate and life expectancy, and low income and savings in the 1850s. The Asian Tigers, particularly South Korea in the 1950s, had a high poverty rate, corruption, an inefficient economy, and weak institutions. The USA and South Korea were able to overcome their challenges through purposeful leadership that focused on the informal sector and the non-consumption economy to drive growth.

Innovations from Kodak, Ford, Singers, and others created a culture of innovation in the USA. Sony, KIA, and Samsung, which originally started off as electric blanket, bicycle, and dry fish companies, led the growth and expansion of the Asian Tigers and turned poverty into prosperity.

Nigeria must take a clue from the United States of America and the Asian Tigers to create market innovations driven by nano, micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). While poverty remains an issue in Nigeria, especially in households in rural communities, the solution lies in building prosperity through market-creating innovations.

The Mo Ibrahim Celtel story of introducing telecommunications in Africa against the odds remains a motivation for young innovators. The mere fact that opportunities are not seen does not imply they don’t exist. Opportunities in Nigeria’s informal sector must be identified and explored. This non-consumption sector is the engine for economic transformation and sustained prosperity.

Nigeria must create a sustainable market for businesses before solving the problem of attracting resources and increasing production for economic growth. The government must support entrepreneurship in sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, and services that offer opportunities for employment rather than less-employment-generating sectors like oil and gas. Combating corruption is crucial, but the market can grow as no nation is completely free from the cancer of corruption. Building infrastructure is not enough for economic growth; a vibrant market economy will sustain the infrastructure and drive real and impactful growth. Nigeria must strive for innovation as a culture and value system.

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The World Intellectual Property Organisation’s (WIPO’s) Global Innovation Index (GII) recent report shows that Nigeria is not on the list of Africa’s Top 10 innovative economies. Nigeria is also not on the Global Top 100 list. Market-driven innovation is the new strategy for prosperity. Nigeria must improve its Business Ready (formerly considered ease of doing business) ranking to create a market that will drive and sustain growth, achieve inclusive prosperity, and lift many Nigerians out of extreme poverty.

 

Alikor Victor, Development Economist and Founder, ARETE Book Club