Nigeria: Wise men in the East

on March 14, 2018

President Muhammadu Buhari could not have been more explicit. Speaking to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria during the body’s annual general meeting in Abuja back in September 2016, he said: “This administration is convinced that the key to our quest for economic diversification and therefore survival lies in agriculture and manufacturing.” With falling oil revenue and the desperate need to boost exports to bring in foreign exchange, factory owners dared to believe that their needs were going to be taken seriously.

And why not? Because before oil became king, Nigerian industrial revolutionaries did exactly that. The technocratic government of Michael Okpara, premier of the eastern region between 1959 and 1966, for example, set about making the region a hub of agricultural and industrial revolution.

Nigeria will not simply be able to flick a switch to industrialize. It will need to rediscover the powerful manufacturing bases of its past to muster some of the expertise, and lean on existing infrastructure. There are flickers of this happening in Kaduna State. And in the east, there is a formidable hub in the making.

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