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Leadership essential to achieve economic diversification in Nigeria

Dr Mansur (holding microphone) seated with Former Ghanaian president HE John Mahama (to his immediate right), Margaret Olele (American Business Consult) to his left

Dr Mansur Muhtar, Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank, has said that Nigeria is still a key player in the global oil and gas industry and will be for decades in the future.

Sharing statistics from the Economic Intelligence Unit database (2019) while giving a presentation at the 7th Anniversary Lecture of Realnews, Muhtar said Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa and is ranked 12th in the world. The country, he added, has the largest natural gas reserves on the continent and the second largest amount of proven crude oil reserves.

But these impressive statistics notwithstanding, the former Nigerian Minister of Finance said Nigeria needs to diversify its revenue source to be able to cater to its current population, estimated at 196m, and its projected population by 2030 (263m) and 2050 (401m).   

“Nigeria is endowed with considerable expanse of arable land and diverse climate and topography,” he argued. The country, he added, “has vast potentials in the solid minerals sector, including coal, iron ore, tin, uranium, phosphates and limestone, amongst many others.” 

Former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi (c) with publisher Realnews, Maureen Chigbo (l) at the magazine’s anniversary lecture

The country’s geographic location in West Africa is also a key asset. “It facilitates increasing trade relations with neighbouring countries as well as easy access to European, Northern and South African markets.

With all these going for it, how does Nigeria then capitalise on these many advantages? To achieve the much called for economic diversification, Nigeria needs to do the following: guaranty security of people and businesses, while ensuring that the law is followed to the letter, and by so doing curtailing corruption in governance and public institutions.

“Infrastructure deficit, particularly in the energy sector, is a major constraint to growth,” Muhtar pointed out. “It hampers productivity, raises the cost of doing business and undermines competitiveness and trade.”

The government, he added, will need to urgently focus on improving the energy, transportation and ICT infrastructure, while also boosting agricultural production.

According to Muhtar, “Agriculture is a major source of income and employment and crucial to poverty reduction. At the moment, on 60% of Nigeria’s arable land is under cultivation and yields per hectare is lower than that of other developing countries.”

While stressing that industrialisation is key to the diversification agenda, he proposed an all-out approach to sourcing funding — domestically and internationally — for all the needed infrastructure expansion. 

Cross section of guests at the Realnews anniversary lecture

None of these will happen without strong and effective leadership, he said. 

“Focused, credible, trustworthy and effective leadership is key to achieving economic development,” Muhtar said, rounding up. “And leadership is not a one-person endeavour. A strong team that share common ideals is needed, a critical mass of credible leaders, in the cabinet and in advisory capacities. Tough decisions must be made to put an end to business as usual.”

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