26 June 2011

Nigeria: Solution to Unemployment, Poverty And Infrastructural Problems


F. E. Ogbimi, writing from Technology Planning and Development Unit, Obafemi Awolow University, Ile-Ife is of the opinion that high-intensity learning is a sine qua non for rapid industrialization of Nigeria...

Millions of suffering Nigerians voted for you believing that you will not fail them; you will bring the desired changes. You must not fail! You must initiate an innovation for the transformation of Nigeria and satisfying the yearnings of the many millions of Nigerians looking up to you. Innovation is exceptional performance; it comes from combining simple known facts in a manner that has not been done before to bring about a development that has a very wide implication or applications. My article is a contribution towards initiating the innovation that Nigeria needs most today.

The injunction, think before you act, warns us that we cannot solve a problem we do not understand. This implies that we cannot manage the economy well if we do not understand how it works. The most serious problem confronting Nigeria is the unproductive nature of the economy. Nigeria has an artisan/craft-agricultural economy which produces only agricultural goods. The Nigerian economy is a pre-industrialised one. All pre-industrialised economies are characterized by low productivity and poverty. All industrialised economies, on the other hand, are characterized by high productivity and high standard of living. A pre-industrialised economy is indeed a one-sector one, the built-up infrastructure and the UN standard approach to identifying the sectors of an economy notwithstanding. The industrialised economy is a multi-sector one.

There is no short route to progress. The European and Asians toiled for 2000 (two thousand) years and longer to transform their economies from agricultural ones into industrialised ones. It is therefore foolish for anyone to believe that an economy can be transformed overnight through foreign investments including foreign direct investments (FDIs) and mass importation. A wise nation takes the lessons of history seriously. The Americans tried mass-importation from Europe and later realized that it was a futile effort (Moore, 1801).

Industrialisation transforms an economy from an undesirable low competence status (characterized by primitive agricultural activities, mass unemployment , poverty, high crime wave, etc.) into a high competence status(characterized by many manufacturing activities, low unemployment, affluence, low crime wave, etc.). Mere capital investments, including FDIs do not promote sustainable economic growth and industrialization (SEGI). This is because, competence is not a commodity that can be purchased instantaneously when a critical shortage is real; competence being the sum of knowledge, experience and the ability to learn is uniquely related to persons (Brautaset, 1990).

Industrialisation is a learning and capability-building process. Every man and every woman are born as crying babies. The healthy baby soon begins to babble, that is, learns how to talk, acquires the capabilities to talk and then talks. Every other capability including those for producing the modern goods Nigerians and other Africans import is acquired through learning. In all learning processes, the rate of progress depends very strongly on the rate of learning. High-intensity learning leads to rapid progress and vice versa. Western and Eastern nations learnt very slowly and suffered for 2000 year and longer before transforming their economies into modern ones. Theirs were societies without governments and development was private sector-led. No individual or nation is born with advanced production skills. All types of societies (communist/socialists, capitalist, military, feudal, etc.) must learn and acquire the needed capabilities for solving the problems confronting them, if they are to be free of want. Daniel Lee (1852), wrote that progress implies an advancement from things known to things unknown - an addition to the aggregate wisdom of the world. Hence except a society makes systematic efforts towards increasing knowledge, progress is impracticable. Schumpeter (1934), wrote that development is internal to a nation. A backward nation waiting and begging foreigners to come and invest in it so that it can achieve SEGI is only wasting time and other resources and revelling in the bliss of ignorance.

Following a long-term learning and accumulation of critical quantities of knowledge, skills and competences (KSCs), an economy achieves a technological maturity or technological puberty. True economic diversification follows. True diversification is the economic status at which many sectors of an economy become developed and efficient. Diversification is not about investing in oil and non-oil sectors in an artisan-agricultural economy. Diversification is one of the fruits or aftermath of industrial maturity or technological puberty. The development of adequate and reliable infrastructure is also a fruit of industrialization. An artisan economy like Nigeria's cannot and will not build adequate and reliable infrastructure. Thus, the level of industrialization of any nation determines the quality and reliability of its infrastructure. Nigeria must stop wasting huge amounts of resources in the futile attempt to generating electric power through the importation of turbines and transformers.

Britain experienced mass unemployment for centuries. However, when the nation achieved Industrial maturity, there were not enough adult males and females to fill the job openings that were available. Industrialists had to resort to employing children to work for many hours. This is the basis of the scandalous child labour associated with the early phase of the European industrialization (Dent, 1975). Again, the level of industrialization of a nation determines the type of unemployment it experiences. So, it is industrialisation Nigeria needs to promote to address mass unemployment, poverty, high crime wave and infrastructural problems. Putting this figuratively, we say, whereas industrialization is the disease, mass unemployment and high crime wave, poverty and poor infrastructure are the symptoms of the disease.

To promote rapid industrialization, we need to correspondingly promote high-intensity learning and speedy accumulation of KSCs. Education and training are the instruments for promoting high-intensity learning. Anyone who either acquires theoretical knowledge from educational institution, alone, or acquires a small quantity of practical skills from artisan workshop or technical/vocational institutions, alone, is a mediocre. The versatile individual is one who acquires both theoretical and practical skills in great depth and breath. To facilitate a rapid industrialization in Nigeria, Nigeria must do the following: 1) Promote high-intensity education at all levels. 2) Give training outside educational campuses equal emphasis as education. All graduates of tertiary education should be trained to acquire complementary practical skills in artisans/craftsmen workshops, factory floor work settings, offices and all other places where skill-acquisition opportunities abound. All university science and engineering graduates should be trained for 4-5 years to know how the things Nigeria imports work and how they are made. The graduates of this training, the industrialization vanguards, should be challenged to build and maintain our infrastructure. 3) Nigeria should adopt full employment policy; let everyone be involved in learning or applying his or her knowledge and skills in production. All youths not in schools now ride Chinese motor cycles or wander aimlessly in towns and cities. Unemployment is a national waste (Ogbimi, 2006). The apprenticeship system is dead in Nigeria. All those in training must be paid adequate stipend to lead a normal life and to maintain high interest and discipline in the training programmes. Reduce the number and value of contracts awarded by government drastically to promote direct labour and to fund the proposed learning activities.

The training programme is to link the educational sector with the rest of the economy more directly. More importantly, the training programmes are to channel the theoretical knowledge generated in educational institutions into the rest of the economy for production purposes. The three steps listed above would initiate the desired innovation. The impact of the innovation would be evident immediately. The Nigerian economy would approach industrialisation when 20 million university science and engineering graduates complete 4-5 years training for the acquisition of complementary practical skills in the rest of the economy. Mass unemployment, poverty and high crime wave would correspondingly vanish and the quality of our infrastructure would improve accordingly.

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