The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) – in my view – has been of immense good to the Nigerian economy. I should probably list out some of what we have benefited from the existence of at least one solid economic thinktank that gained national prominence and has shown staying power:
- Relative policy stability which may have been absent if we had no such thinktank.
- Relative adoption of tested economic policies which government operatives may have picked up from attending the summits or through policy papers.
- Refinement of government policies which may have fared worse at implementation stage had there not been policy thinktanks.
- Representation on a global front. The presence of a NESG means that a non-governmental economic front exists which basically represents Nigeria and that has its benefits. This has helped to project Nigeria globally on several occasions.
- The networking advantage – A platform for the interaction of serious professionals from inter and intra the public and private sector is always an advantage and with sometimes immense advantages. Many deals have been struck and consummated at many NESG meets.
- Appointment of NESG alumni to key economic positions in Nigeria’s Federal and State Governments, leading to gradual improvements in the policy space. The situation could have been worse if abandoned to hardboiled civil servants.
The NESG scores herself high marks but acknowledges that the largest room in the world is the room for improvement. A process of self-introspection had since been instituted, culminating in periodic assessment of the impact that the forum has had on policy in Nigeria over time.
A catalogue of past summits shows the following themes:
1993 – Nigeria’s New Frontiers and the National Philosophy for the Modern Nigerian Economy
1996 – Unlocking Nigeria’s Economic Potential
1997 – Implementation of Vision 2010
1998 – The Challenge of Implementing Vision 2010
1999 – Rebuilding the Nigerian Economy and Enhancing Productivity
2000 – Breakthrough Economic Growth: An Action Plan
2001 – Nigeria’s Economic Priorities: How do we deliver?
2002 – Nigeria: Putting the Economy First
2003 – Nigeria: Partnering for Growth and Transformation
2004 – Partnering to Improve the Economic Environment
2005 – Building Momentum for Economic Transformation and Growth
2006 – Sustaining Reforms and Unlocking Nigeria’s Potential
2007 – Positioning for the top-20 league: Creating Favourable Business Climate
2008 – The race to 2020: The Realities, The Possibilities
2009 – Scorecard of Nigeria’s Economic Progress: Bridging the Implementation Gap
2010 – Nigeria at 50: The Challenge of Visionary Leadership and Good Governance
2011 – Attracting Foreign Direct Investment through Global Partnerships
2012 – Deregulation, Cost of Governance and Nigeria’s Economic Prospects
2013 – Growing Agriculture as a Business to Diversify Nigeria’s Economy
2014 – Transforming Education through Partnerships for Global Competitiveness
2015 – Tough Choices: Achieving Competitiveness, Inclusive Growth and Sustainability
2016 – Made in Nigeria
2017 – Opportunities, Productivity and Employment – Actualising the Economic Recovery Growth Plan
2018 – Poverty to Prosperity: Making Governance and Institutions Work
2019 – Nigeria 2050: Shifting Gears
A qualitative review of the themes above shows that NESG has transited and grown over the years, from considerations of general economic principles and broad concepts, to pushing for specific progressive agenda in latter years and now, has assumed a futuristic stance. The forum has also sometimes set agenda based on global events but at other times, looked inwards and draw reference from specific local events
NESG lists among its achievements, its impact on the development of Nigeria’s Vision 2010 and 2020, Central Bank of Nigeria’s autonomy, entrenchment of policy analysis, the formation of NEEDS and SEEDS in the years 2006/7 under the Obasanjo government, the acceleration of reforms in the telecoms sector leading to the birth of GSM companies and the transformation of telephony in Nigeria, sweeping banking reforms leading to the creation of the Assets Management Company (AMCON), power sector reforms, rail sector reforms, and the evolution of a National Infrastructure Master Plan – policies which emanated from the uptake by government of some of its resolutions, communications and communiques. The collaboration between public and private sector in agenda-setting which is built into its modus operandi must have been very helpful.
Other achievements according to the NESG include the delivery of a long term economic agenda culminating in the year 2020 document, development of investment promotion strategies, an agricultural transformation master plan, capital market, education, and sugar development master plans, a petroleum industry bill (PIB), power sector reform roadmaps, and road infrastructure, rail sector and tourism master plans. The NESG also provided a powerful platform for the clamor for deregulation policies towards eliminating fuel subsidies, better contracting and value-for-money in government procurements, and the drive towards employment creation and entrepreneurship for Nigerian youths. In recent years, some of the agenda for the NESG has been focused towards reducing cost of governance, developing leadership, diversifying the economy, achieving global competitiveness, and the building of global partnerships. The forum claims to have been very instrumental to the marginal achievements that Nigeria has been able to attain with her monetary and fiscal policies.
It couldn’t have been easy work to build coalitions year in year out, develop relationships and nurture networks, set agenda and granulate same into sub-themes, coordinate breakout sessions and plenaries, identify eggheads and industry captains who ensure the development of summit decisions into actionable agenda for government, and so on. NESG has therefore dominated an important policy space in Nigeria, and from the themes it has developed over the years, it is evident that the institution itself is evolving and getting better, learning from past missteps and wrong assumptions, fitting its aims better with the core challenges of Nigeria, all the while ensuring that Nigeria and its people remain at the core of its existence. The NESG has created a very important anchor for the Nigerian socio-economy, as the largest yearly gathering for the brainstorming of the best intellectuals in Nigeria, as well as the country’s top businessmen. Perhaps the best way to challenge the NESG is to set a global agenda for the organization – because if the WEF, driven by Schwab and greatly criticized for its unitary system of decision-making can achieve it, one wonders why not the NESG with a much more solid corporate governance, proven over 26 years. Nigeria does have a plethora of challenges, social, political and economic. Some may even argue that the best laid plans of the past 26 years have amounted to little on ground. But a second, deeper look may prove otherwise. It is time for the NESG to consider how to leverage its influence in the sub-region, Africa, and the world.
One day, in the near future, the NESG may just anchor the very developmental thrust of this country and project her importance in the comity of nations. No other Nigerian body comes close for now, but competition may even bring out the best in everyone. Nigeria direly needs a push, and an implementation of policies proposed by our best brains, year in year out. NESG is certainly a value-adding concept that needs all of our support.