BEYOND OIL: A NEW VISTA FOR DIVERSIFYING THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY

Hauwa Noroh Ali, Abuja

Volatile crude oil prices and the strident measures by global economies to limit the impact of fossil fuels has made it mandatory for oil producing countries to invest in alternative sources of revenue, to sustain their economies in the years to come.

Like many oil producing states, Nigeria has begun to implement policies and programmes, with the aim of diversifying the country’s economy.

In this regard, attention is now being focussed on areas with huge potentials for revenue generation, including agriculture, solid minerals, ICT, culture and tourism, among others.

The new investment drive are reflected in the sectoral allocations contained in the country’s budget for year 2016, already signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the course of the next few months, the investments in these sectors are expected to begin to translate into concrete, visible projects and programmes that will accrue huge revenues to Nigeria.

For a fact, from its independence in 1960 when agriculture and mining were the main economic activities, to the early 1970’s before the oil boom, Nigeria’s economy has witnessed several ups and downs.

The harnessing of oil in the early 70’s in reality, stunted the country’s economic growth rate, as the nation abandoned earlier diversified economic activities in favour of the new found crude oil. Resources generated therefrom were not judiciously invested to develop and grow other sectors with comparative economic advantage.

Agriculture, the main revenue earner before the discovery of crude oil was relegated, in spite of various programmes initiated by successive administrations to employ it as a supplementary source of revenue.

Projects like the ‘green revolution’, ‘back to farm’, ‘operation feed the nation’ and the more recent ‘agriculture transformation agenda’, all failed to achieve the desired impact.

While major oil exporting countries in the Middle East like Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all have something to show for the abundance of black gold in their territories, oil producing African countries have been trailing in infrastructure development, after nearly 60 years of oil exploration.

While Angola and Libya, two other major oil exporting nations in Africa, have achieved some significant progress in terms of infrastructure, per capita income and GDP, Nigeria-the leading exporter of crude oil on the continent, still has a long way to go.

Indices such as these have helped to propel the argument for diversification of the Nigerian economy. Leveraging on this and current realities, the administration of President Buhari says it will provide a new vista for expanding the country’s sources of revenue.

As part of the economic diversification project, Nigeria is targeting all other sectors, to build a diverse industrial base, exploit alternative clean and green energy resources, reduce the impact of greenhouse gases and increase the value of its natural resources.

The country also aims to protect its economy from price fluctuations of crude oil and expand its exploitation and uses of ICT for sustainable development and growth. As one of the emerging global economic hubs, Nigeria must exploit this opportunity to transform beyond oil.

Indeed, the onus now rests on government to not only fulfil the aspirations of Nigerians but also ensure that the country takes its rightful place among stable, productive and progressive nations of the world.

 

H.S