Few days ago, the president was reported to have said that once the low index infrastructure challenge is solved, Nigerians will go about their livelihood with little concern for whoever is up. The president is right. In fact, that’s the truest statement of the century as the existence of adequate infrastructure can also be linked to boosting business growth.
However, there is a problem. Nigerians have been aware of this reality for long. And, this is exactly what the masses have been pleading with the government for whenever they go out to observe their civic responsibility through the ballot. While they are aware (just as president Buhari is), elected leaders (since the institutionalization of democracy in 1999) have always played lip service and moved on.
Hence, it is not enough for any political leader to remind its citizens of what they know as action should do the talking.
The current state of affairs of infrastructure is not encouraging. A couple of months ago, when Africa’s richest man entered into the construction of his refinery in Lagos, we saw the ugly side and the extent infrastructures have deteriorated to in Nigeria.
Dangote lamented at his discovery of the fact that the existing sea port in Lagos doesn’t have the carrying capacity to facilitate the movement of heavy facilities and equipment that would be needed for the running of the proposed refinery.
What Dangote never knew from the start was that in the process of building an oil refinery, he would have to first build a private port. Although, a heavy investor like Dangote has no choice. He will not give up on a multibillion dollar project on account of poor infrastructure. In fact, he must have walked similar path in the past with his many cement plants across Nigeria and Africa.
Well, while a Dangote might absorb this economic shock, the situation is not the same for light investors or SME owners. This is one way brilliant business opportunities have been lost to ill-fated state of infrastructure. This goes on to explain why only the class of Dangote might succeed doing business in a Nigerian space.
As progressives, the question begging for an answer is: For how long will this continue? It is, therefore, important that things are understood in perspectives as this is essentially the reason Nigerians should not celebrate just yet on the recent World’s bank ranking indicating Nigeria as one of the countries recording progress on ease of doing business.
Why the Nigerian case is complicated is because it is defaulting on 2 grounds. Both the hard infrastructures which are the physical components needed to run businesses and the soft infrastructure which serves to maintain the hard infrastructures are in deplorable conditions.
We should be worried that Nigeria, 60 years after independence, is still struggling in areas of transport and power. Everyone should be concerned as the same is true for education and health. With poor road networks and old means of transportation that is begging for an upgrade, dearth in transportation has caused direct negative impact on business operations. And most times, it tells on the cost of final products and services.
What is common is seeing companies building manufacturing plants in different states. For some it is expansion, but for many, it is their response to poor road networks and transport infrastructures. When cities and states are well connected and easily accessible, more funds can be saved to meet other needs.
What about telecommunications?
The thriving telcos are all private companies. In an era where the next big thing is web-centred, how well is Nigeria playing the game? Contrary to the praise and global adulation, Nigeria has been reduced to mere spectators in the matter of ICT as a nation.
Citizens who are piloting ideas and making wave in the sector are recording success on personal respects. While the world is fast becoming a haven of digital nomads, Nigeria seems a century behind, maintaining a low profile as analogue clans.
Like in the U.S., a better ICT means a better life for all and a drastic drop in the high traffic as is currently being witnessed in cities across Nigeria. This is the case because quality ICT facility increases the promotion of remote working where staff of an organisation can work and deliver independently from their locale.
Aside this, cost of web-related services will drop to affordable rates in the face of cross-competitions.
Energy sources and power supply
What we have today cannot pass as adequate power provision as far as a country of 200 million people is concern. Until we invest like we ought to, ensure funds are not misappropriated in the process, and deliver in this regards; the situation might not be anything better. Nigeria has been too faithful to hydro-power generation.
Reading the body language of Nigeria and measuring the expertise deplored by the ministry in charge, it appears Nigeria is not ready to explore alternatives despite its richness of resources to multiply its current threshold.
Businesses are left to provide power for their use through power generators and inverters. While inverters can be very expensive to procure; generators smoke up fuel and call for regular maintenance to stay in good conditions as a standby facility.
Considering these deficits, Nigeria cannot be proud or share in the success of businesses scaling up as they have to battle with unfavourable economic conditions imposed by the government. In context, Nigeria is not business ready. And, there is a pile of deficit to clear in order to ease means of doing business for both its citizens and states.
Most business owners will agree that high-speed internet, local roads and bridges, and cell networks are very important to the success of their companies. And, when these needs are not available, they tell on revenue of a business and that of the country.
Hence, the president was right when he tweeted, “I (Buhari) firmly believe that if we (the government) get infrastructure right in Nigeria, our roads, rail, ports; Nigerians will mind their businesses,” and that “many people will not even care who is in government.”
He was also right to have noted in his tweet that “a country like ours, full of entrepreneurial energy and potential, will prosper.” But beyond mere assertions and beliefs, action, they say, is louder than words. It’s year 5 of 8, how far so far?
By Ridwan Adelaja…
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