A few years ago, Andrew Nevin of Price Water House Cooper published an article stating that Nigeria would eventually overtake China as the fastest growing economy and the largest one in the world due to reasons such as the country’slarge population and the abundance of emerging entrepreneurs amongst other reasons.Now we are beginning to see signs of his prediction through the demand and rapid rise of Nigerian products in the global market made possible by the Standards Organization of Nigeria(SON) insistence on strict its compliance schemes and the MINFOW agenda.
MINFOW is the acronym for “Made- in -Nigeria -For-The-World”. It basically refers to strong belief in the effectiveness of the Made-In-Nigerian- Goods and services at a global level. It is designed to build confidence in Nigerian products by telling the world that Nigerian products can be superior and compete with their types in any part of the world.
Currently, Nigerian banks dominate Ghana and other African financial services sectors and our telecommunication presence in Africa is also quite remarkable but can we presently compete globally with the Swiss in the global banking market and dominate the telecommunication European scene.
I believe the answer is no, yet in my own opinion I am convinced this is also very possible if we do the right things which is the other aspect of the MINFOW agenda that discloses how Nigerian brands can only compete globally when they avoid technical barriers to trade at the global market.
Let me give you a real life example of how these technical barriers to trade hinders the ambition of global trade including the prospect of earning foreign exchange and partaking in the global wealth.
I was having a discussion with a family friend who told me a story of how his father lost N2 million in the 80’s when attempting to export tantalum (a Nigerian mineral produce) to Germany. When his tantalum arrived at Germany it was rejected because it did not meet the German standards and as a result he lost money and his investment in the business. His tantalum was also stuck in Germany because he could not afford to bring it back. Now the technical pitfall in this story was the unavailability of an accredited lab his father needed in testing and verifying the standards of tantalum he was exporting to Germany.
The moral of the story in short is that in order to compete with the best your standard or the standard of whatever you do must be high including the very likes of Nigerian products and services.
For example, only the very best Nigerian football players will eventually play for the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal. A case study is Mikel Obi who was considered one of the best if not the best at the Pepsi football academy before he eventually joined Chelsea football club.
These are the characteristics of MINFOW hard work, competence, vision and a desire to be number 1 and these characteristics were of course transcended from the inventor of the concept to his invention.
The Director General of SON, Dr Joseph Odumodu has shown his desire to transform industries over the years long before his appointment. After ensuring the pharmaceutical industry had a global orientation as a result of his achievements in May & Baker, he accepted the challenge of working in SON with the initial task of curbing the level of substandard goods in the country.
A reliable source disclosed how SON through his leadership eventually reduced the level of fake and substandard products to 45 per cent which was at an alarming 85 per cent initially. This was then followed by the implementation of the quality infrastructure helpers such as the accredited labs which ensures Nigerian goods can be tested once and accepted anywhere in the world and could have helped the tantalum exporter.
Facts at my disposal also reveal how the agency has released various enumerations of standards which discuss the technical know-how of standards of various products so that proper feasibility studies can be carried out by exporters before exporting. Presently they are two food technology test accredited laboratories in biology and chemistry and I hear the agency is set to add 10 more labs in different product areas with the intention of ensuring manufacturers and exporters avoid these technical barriers to trade as well as saving monies spent on foreign labs.
Then there is also news of the National Metrology Institute which ensures that there is accurate measurement in all commercial transactions thereby ensuring Nigerian consumers get fairness, value and safety when completed.
According to a source other areas the agency has been effective at is the free certification of SME’s, the continuous organization of training programmes, the collaboration with other standard bodies, the continuous pursuance of a national quality policy document which will also dictate standards, the retooling of the new certification scheme logos to checkmate substandard goodsand collaboration with other regulatory agencies such as the Nigerian Customs Service, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Police Force.
I even hear the SON factory inspectors have been exposed to world class training to guide local manufacturers through facilitative regulation in order to tailor the production of their goods to global best practices and also conduct stakeholder’s forums to update manufacturers, exporters and SMEs on the ever changing global market trends.
All of these activities are geared towards ensuring the MINFOW agenda is a continuous success in the Nigerian society and I believe our Nigerian manufacturers, exporters, SME’s, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the industry should seize this opportunity to partake in the global market populated by seven billion people worldwide.
Presently Nigerian cables, iron rods, blocks and cement are in heavy demand in so many African countries because of its high standards and quality. Still Nigeria can boast of positive exports in the areas of sports, banking and financial services, telecommunication and our entertainment industry.
The likes of Glo, Zenith bank and Nollywood shows that the MINFOW agenda can be a success but still Nigeria shouldn’t settle for second fiddle because the Americans, Chinese and the others are not resting on their laurels. Hence we shouldn’t stop there and we must aim to be the most sought after in the world and the top 3 exporters of all our natural resources.
We must also learn to diversify especially in areas we have comparative economical advantage. For example Nigeria is in the top 15 countries that produce timber but they are not in the top 15 countries that export sawn wood. However, USA, Canada and Russia, the top 6 of countries producing timber are also the top 3 exporters of sawn wood in 2014. This shows our lack of competiveness in the industry.
The MINFOW brand should also be extended to our schools, hospitals, and other service industries. How many African students rush in to school in Nigerian universities? Yet so many African students enroll in Ghanaian universities because they believe in the standards of their teachers, facilities and education as a whole. This also reminds me of a story of how Europeans came to Nigeria to study in the 60’s and 70’s because of the good standards of Nigerian universities at the time.
Still the situation can still be reversed if we start improving the standards of our social institution through internationally recognized certifications such as ISO certificationsin the area of quality management. Then we can even go further and acquire other important certifications in the areas of anti-bribery management systems, risk management and social responsibility as well as the establishment of internationally recognized accredited agencies so that the execution and performance of one’s duties would not be disputed nor contested anywhere in the world.
For instance I read an article recently about an oil rigging training programme in Nigeria which cost about 600,000 Naira in Nigeria. The organizers claim that the candidates who enroll will be internationally certified to drill anywhere coupled with the added incentive of earning foreign salary.
Imagine the difference we can make if we can train ourselves in various service areas and product categories with the objective of being the best. If we get our acts rights collectively, then Isee no reason why Nigerian products and services cannot dominate the global market just as how AndewNevin of Price Water House Cooperpredicted.
After all, globalization and technology has ensured that the 7 billion consumers in the worldare accessible to everyone. Now manufacturers need to adopt a global perspective by ensuring the competitiveness and quality of their products in global arena in a way that increases the demand of the Nigerian brand and the eventual revenue generated from exports.
SON must also deepen the availability of quality infrastructures so that Nigerian manufactures, exporters, SME’s and entrepreneurs will have a chance to compete globally with the other global players in the trade sector. In the same vein SON must continue to collaborate with other relevant government agencies in developing our industries and educating stakeholders in the trade sectors of these technical pitfalls to global trade.
The government too is not left out of the equation. The government must also provide an enabling environment and a favorable working climate that attracts both local and foreign investors in order to develop the vast human and material resources and convert them to billion Naira and Dollar industries.
We must collectively ensure that Nigerian products and services compete globally and when this happens we will wonder why we ever devoted so much time in the oil and gas sector when Nigerian should be with the company of quality nations and where the Nigerian brand is peddled as the next big bang or the next best thing.
Nnamdi Madueke , a business development analyst wrote from Lagos