India lessons for Tinubu

Last September, President Bola Tinubu visited India. Upon arriving in New Delhi, the President met with Mr. Gopichand Hinduja, the Chairman and CEO of the Hinduja Group of Companies, a conglomerate with total portfolio exceeding $100 billion. He met with other Indian investors who showed excitement at the prospect on investing or enlarging their investments in Nigeria.

Investment pledges came to nearly $14 billion during the Nigeria-India Presidential Roundtable and Conference in New Delhi, after Tinubu had told them, “we are ready to give you the best returns on investment possible, there’s nowhere else like our country. Nigeria offers the best returns for investment today, so invest now.”

Among the many new investment pledges, Indorama Petrochemical Limited committed a new investment of $8 billion in the expansion of its fertilizer production and petrochemical facility in Eleme, Rivers State.

There was also Jindal Steel and Power Limited, one of India’s largest private steel producers. It is committing $3 billion in Nigeria, following discussions with President Tinubu on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in New Delhi.

Not to be left out, the Founding President of SkipperSeil Limited, Mr. Jitender Sachdeva, announced that, following President Bola Tinubu’s personal intervention, he is investing $1.6 billion in the establishment of 20 100MW power generation plants across some states in Northern Nigeria. This will add up to 2,000MW of new power within the next four years.

Obviously, President Tinubu had his mission in India well defined. He had barely settled down for the G-20 Summit when he started series of multi-lateral business engagements. From steel and fertilizer, the President moved to defence infrastructure. India is an emerging power in the building of defence infrastructure. Pronto, Tinubu approved finalization on a new $1 billion agreement to bring the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) to 40 percent self-sufficiency in local manufacturing and production of defence equipment in-country by 2027. Through the President, Nigeria got a strategic partnership with the managing arm of the Military-Industrial Complex of the Indian government.

During the visit, Nigeria had a handshake with yet another Indian conglomerate, Bharti Enterprises, a highly respected first-generation corporation in India. Bharti’s multi-dimensional interests extend from telecom, space communications, digital solutions, insurance, processed foods to real estate and hospitality. It pledged to invest an additional $700 million in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Minister of Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, who was in the company of Tinubu at the summit, and his counterpart from India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for collaboration in the field of Sharing Successful Digital Solutions, to be implemented at total population scale for digital transformation.

Nigeria also signed an MoU with Central Square Foundation for co-operation in the field of Sharing Successful Ecosystems, which involves interventions in the sphere of education technology. This is also to be implemented at population scale for digital economic transformation.

Overall, President Tinubu’s India visit was a resounding success in terms of prospects. But this opens further inquisition into the India-Nigeria relations. Note that all that Tinubu went to do in India was to woo investors to come to Nigeria’s active over 200 million people market. Nigeria wants India to come and invest in Nigeria. Tinubu did not table any request for Indians to allow or give incentives to Nigerian companies or investors to come to India and invest. It has always been the case for Nigerian leaders. And the reason is not far-fetched. Nigerians have no investment or technology to take overseas as investment. And we are quick to forget that at Independence in 1960 and a few decades after, Nigeria was a production/assembly hub in Africa. Nigeria had better GDP per capita than most Asian countries. But once crude oil money started rolling in, successive Nigerian leaders abandoned local production of everything and anything. Now, the country is stuck in the mud. Shackled economically because of imbalance of trade; because of lack of export which translates to poor forex receipt and low, indeed very low, value of the naira.

No nation survives on wholescale import without corresponding, if not higher export. India, Singapore, Malaysia, even China, among others were once at the point where import hugely outweighed export. But all of them, without exception, at one point had a leader who said no to wanton importation and unhinged squandering of their foreign reserves to service imports. They developed their respective templates to encourage local production of goods and services. Not only did they produce locally, there was also local patronage of those goods and services driven by open patronage from governments at all levels. The Asian companies Nigerian governments have been chasing and wooing these past decades to come and invest in Nigeria were once start-ups, small but ambitious firms which churned out goods and services that were not grandiosely sophisticated and could not be said to be globally competitive. But their home governments and people believed in them and patronised them. It’s called Product Nationalism. These days, smart nations of the world buy and use products made in-country. That way, they enhance the value of their local currency while keeping and sustaining the growth of the local producers.

Something happened in India as recent as last year. The government of India imposed restrictions on import of laptops, tablets, all-in-one personal computers and ultra-small computers and servers with immediate effect. This is in the spirit of product nationalism whereby countries deliberately promote patronage of home-made products and services to boost local productivity, create more jobs, encourage proficiency, and discourage capital flight.

Nigeria needs to adopt this policy of placing restriction on importation of computers and allied products. Alternatively, the government can make it mandatory that all foreign computer manufacturers set up local production facilities in Nigeria in partnership with indigenous computer companies. To further encourage such partnership, these manufacturers should be given pioneer status incentives of a minimum of five to seven years.

President Tinubu should also mandate all government ICT operations to run on the technical strength of locally-assembled computers. Now is the best time for the Federal Government to adopt Buy-Nigeria policy in ICT and other sectors as a way of discouraging capital flight and encouraging local productivity.

The new India policy is exactly what the Tinubu government should adopt. Nigeria has a couple of indigenous computer hardware assembling companies with some of them having technically proven products in terms of standards. Available data lists local computer and allied products makers to include RLG, Beta, Data House Technologies, Zinox, Acti-Tech Limited, among others. Nigeria also has local software firms that are globally competitive.

Statistics from the International Trade Centre showed that $1.09 billion was spent on software acquisition and importation of computer services into Nigeria in five years from 2016 to 2020.

As President Tinubu woos foreign investors, he should also think of what investments Nigerians can take overseas just so they, too, can repatriate forex back home to further protect the naira. The best way to achieve this is to encourage local production by patronising local producers. Tinubu should make a mark by being intentional about this: let implementation of Buy-Nigeria policy begin at all levels of government and the people will follow.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button