Adesina calls for accelerated adoption of digitalization, technology to grow manufacturing

Akinwunmi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), has called for the accelerated adoption of digitalization and advanced technology in Nigeria’s manufacturing sector in order to drive development and attract investments into the sector .

Speaking at an high level lecture on industrialization organized by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) themed ‘Overcoming the binding constraints to competitive manufacturing for Intra-African Trade’ in Abuja, he said the slow structural transformation of African economies is primarily driven by low level of industrial manufacturing and other challenges.

“The future of manufacturing will be digital and it is here already, Nigeria must therefore enhance its readiness to transition to digitized and smart manufacturing and develop a plan and capacity to compete in the smart industries that will become the main drivers of global economies,” he said.

He also said that Nigeria must prepare to utilize automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data computing, 3-D printing and additive manufacturing under the fourth industrial revolution

Adesina noted that rising use of robotics in global manufacturing will pose a challenge for Nigeria’s drive to attract investments as developed countries leverage the declining cost of cognitive robots to reshoring previously out-sourced manufacturing capacities back to their home countries

“As capital costs continue to fall faster than labor costs, developed countries are shifting towards reliance on industrial robots for manufacturing, competition will become tougher in global value chains with robotics, as they could wipe out low labor cost advantage of Africa,” he added

In addition to this, he said as Nigeria participates in trade platforms, it will face stiffer competition on the establishment of industrial manufacturing platforms as competitors move from labor intensive industries to more knowledge intensive industries.

Read also: How MSMEs in Nigeria can accelerate growth optimizing digitalization, technology

Adesina mentioned that as part of the digitalization development drive, the use of Internet of Things (IoT) will raise productivity of labor in manufacturing, deploy smart machines, manufacturing platforms and systems, connecting machines and people, and using machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve speed and efficiencies of complex manufacturing processes.

He called on the federal and state governments to increase investments in Nigeria’s digital infrastructure and urged MAN to establish Industrial Digital Skills Academies which will help reskill and retool workers for digitalization.

Speaking on the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Adesina said The source of Nigeria’s greater wealth will come from having strong manufacturing capacity for competitiveness in regional trade and integration into global value chains.

“However this will require the prompt address of infrastructural and logistics bottlenecks that hamper industrial capacity and competitiveness, establishing and enforcing quality, grades and standards of products, assuring access of industries to land, providing investment relations management to attract investors and trade facilitation,” he said.

Adesina who was once Nigeria’s minister of agriculture, said although the country has had policies and programs for industrialization and expanding industrial manufacturing over the years, such as the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS) in the 1990s and the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) in 2015, there is a huge gap between policy ideas and implementation which needs to be bridged.

“Greater efforts will be needed in Nigeria to ensure stability of the policy environment and avoid policy reversals to assure investors, With the right policies, investment frameworks, infrastructure, logistics and financing framework, and powered by a highly trained, dynamic and youthful workforce, Nigeria must fully unleash the power of manufacturing,” he said.

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