Lack of economic diversification stifling Nigeria’s industrial growth – Oyeyinka

Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, the senior special adviser on industrialisation to the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has blamed Nigeria’s failure to diversify its economy for poor industrial growth.

Speaking at the 8th edition of the Nigerian Society of Engineers’ Annual Distinguished Lecture, Oyeyinka said the country required leaders who are not only committed to ensuring high-performing public sector institutions and organisations but also seek to transform society through both vision and action.

Speaking on the topic, ‘Nigeria’s Development Reversal: Halting Descent into Industrial Backwardness,’ Oyeyinka said the country’s poverty can be attributed to weak industrial growth and de-industrialisation.

‘‘The central reason behind the wide and terrifyingly widening wealth gap between developed and developing countries is the gap in knowledge, especially scientific and technological knowledge. If natural resources alone were the basis of wealth, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and Nigeria among others will not be too far down the prosperity ladder yet they are among the poorest on earth,” he said.

According to him, rich nations have a long history of learning and acquisition of knowledge, which they use to master nature and transform natural resources into high-value goods.

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He explained that Nigeria had practically destroyed all the institutions necessary for it to acquire scientific and technological knowledge over the last 50 to 60 years.

He said the primary, secondary, universities, and Research and Development institutes are all in decay.

‘‘It is exacting a high price now, over this generation. It is bound to exact extremely high price over in coming generations. Only a political and transformational leadership style would lead to national progress,” he said.

Oyeyinka further said that it is within the power of the leader to initiate and promote commitment to strong values through the design of reward schemes, monitoring, and accountability mechanisms that reduce the opportunities and incentives for rent-seeking.

He, however, said that Nigeria needs a transformational leader, who puts forward core values that are practiced both in private and in public and celebrate the diversity of the nation, and effectively communicates ideas.

He said that such a leader thinks in strategic terms and demands commitment to excellence and innovation, and sensitivity to ethical and cultural values of the society irrespective of the globalising world in which nations must compete for investment and resources.

Citing an example of opportunities missed by Nigeria, Oyeyinka, who is also a professorial fellow of the United Nations University, said that Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB president, had a vision of Nigeria’s own green revolution including national wheat sufficiency.

According to him, Adeshina started the programme in Nigeria but politicians stopped it when he left his position as the Minister of Agriculture and became the President of the AfDB, the vision was implemented in Sudan and Ethiopia.

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