National Competitive Council and the quest to improve Nigeria’s global competitiveness ranking

Chika Mordi defends the establishment of the NCCN.

Despite the economy consistently growing at about seven per cent annually in the last couple of years, Nigeria is still an investor’s nightmare. The country dropped nine places from 138 to 147 out of 189 countries surveyed in the Ease of Doing Business Index recently released by the World Bank.

It makes sense for investors to overlook Nigeria for other countries, such as Ghana (ranked 67), that promise better access to electricity, superior tax regime, and improved protection for investors.

Again, the common complaint from critics of the country’s economic growth is that it hasn’t translated to improved standard of living, job creation and overall welfare of the citizens. For this reason some critics have used terms like mirage economy and voodoo economy to describe Nigeria’s economic growth.

In his reaction, the Chief Executive of the National Competitive Council of Nigeria (NCCN), Chika Mordi, said Nigeria’s economic growth doesn’t seem to have the expected impact because it is not yet inclusive as oil continues to play a disproportional role in the economy.

“When we hear that Nigeria is growing by 6-7 per cent a year like we have done in the last two years it is not inclusive. We are not seeing it impact heavily on employment. People are saying where is this growth? Yes the growth we are having is not just enough,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.

“When oil is booming, the oil industry in total employs a couple of hundred thousand people. If you bring that sort of growth by way of things like tourism, by way of things like services or some sort of agric-based export you create employment for millions of people so that the growth becomes inclusive.”

In order to improve Nigeria’s competitiveness, encourage local investment, endear foreign investors and ultimately create a holistic economic growth, the Ministry of Trade and Investment in conjunction with stakeholders such as the Tony Elumelu Foundation with support from the World Economic Forum established the NCCN in February.

The core goal of the NCCN is to improve the competitive ranking of Nigeria by 75 positions in the next four years. In order to achieve this, Mr. Mordi said Nigeria has to move, as a matter of urgency, from what he called an “inherited prosperity” to a “created prosperity.”

“There is a misconception that Nigerian is a very wealthy country; that we have enough oil and minerals that if we manage it better and are more equitable to how we distribute income that everybody is going to be wealthy.

“That is a big fallacy. It is untrue.

“Yes we have a large amount of oil deposit and we are one of the ten largest oil exporters. However, our population is so large that the oil is not enough to grow Nigeria. We need to have a hundred and fifty times more oil to be where Kuwait is. We need to have 200 times more oil to be where Qatar is. So you would agree with me that oil is not enough,” Mr. Mordi said.

He said for Nigeria to reduce poverty and grow, the country needs to go beyond oil and natural resources and build what ‘created prosperity.’

“Oil and things like that are the inherited prosperity. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and countries like that whether they have a well-managed economy, whether they have a democratic system or the economic system is irrelevant. There is enough oil to make everyone wealthy.

“But In our case we need to look at countries like Ireland, Singapore and even Mexico; these are countries where they went beyond the natural resources because they have not much and they have to get the private sector to lead growth; get the market to lead growth. That’s what they call created prosperity. All of this background is to make it very clear that there is an imperative for Nigeria to go beyond what natural resources we have and create an environment where business can drive growth and reduce poverty hence the need for competitiveness,” he said.

Citing the examples of Korea and Rwanda, Mr. Mordi explained that competitiveness is a sure bet to an all round development.

“Korea in the 1960s was not different from any country in South Asia if not Africa. Again they had a conscious effort at competitiveness. They had a national council that was driven by the government and I don’t need to explain to you where Korea is today. They’ve leapfrogged from being an efficiency economy. They are now what we call an innovative economy. So Samsung can compete with Apple. In fact Korea beat the U.S. to build a nuclear reactor in Qatar,” he said.

“Rwanda in many ways was worst than Nigeria a couple of decades ago. No rail resources, Landlocked, incredible genocide conflict and the economy was in doldrums and they set up a national competitiveness council, they looked around and said what do we have they have? They have some tourism potential but they can’t even compete with South Africa and Kenya. They built all the infrastructures to aid tourism, they attracted foreign investment, attracted human capital that is skilled and today Rwanda economy has been growing solidly year in year out very near double digits without any known resources like oil and diamond. So the bottom line is if you have a focused competitiveness council and there is support for it at the top and it engages properly with the relevant stakeholder it can bring around the created prosperity and inclusive growth,” he added.

For Nigeria to become an investors’ choice, Mr. Mordi suggested a complete restructuring of the country’s education policy. He also suggested that more attention should be paid to agric-business because of its capacity to be a mass employer of labour.

“People should be taught skills that are relevant. Not just going to school to study academic studies and then graduate and there is not much to do with it,” he said.

“People are demanding certain skill set. Education should be aligned with what businesses are demanding. Academics should research what is useful for businesses in Nigeria and things of that nature as it happens in countries that have clear competitiveness programme. I would dedicate more money in a policy that funds things that are related to agriculture and in area that Nigeria can be bigger in and can even absolve people who are relevant in that field.”

He also emphasized the need to eliminate or minimize business impediments like bureaucracy, corruption, inimical and conflicting policies, and opacity in processes that businesses confront in their regular operations.

Laudable as the NCCN initiative appears, analysts have argued that Nigeria has a reputation for being a graveyard of brilliant policies. They wondered if this would not go the way of other dazzling policies that have eventually failed at the implementation stage.

Mr. Mordi said while he understands the cynicism of Nigerians, the nature of the composition of the NCCN and the brains behind it make him confident that this initiative will be a successful.

“I would be surprised if Nigerians are not cynical about this. Frequently there is new department, new committee; but when it comes to action, the actions have not matched the talk.

“There are two reasons why I believe we would succeed. The first is the nature of this initiative. The NCCN is not a government department; it’s not an adjunct of a government ministry, and at the same time it’s not a completely private sector effort. It’s a hybrid. It’s a public-private project.

“The second reason why I’m confident is the calibre of people behind the council. The council is chaired by the Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, we have the Minster of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson, on the government side, and on private side we have proven businessmen, Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu, and many people like that and we also have foreigners who are experts in the competiveness space like Professor Michael Porter who basically invented this whole competiveness business, people like Juan Pardinas of Mexico and Baroness Lynda Chalker, the U.K. Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”


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