There were speculations surrounding the Nigerian government’s intention to follow up the protectionist policy imposed upon agricultural importation back in 2019 with another one upon textiles and co. products. The speculations, whether bearing any resourceful cogency or otherwise, had rattled questions regarding the impact the policy could have on one of the biggest retailing economies in the country, and by far the largest textiles marketplace in Africa – Kano State – which would be the most affected when the policy comes into being.
Kano is a retailing rendezvous that heavily relies on importation of textiles to employ its frightening population, attract a lucrative foreign and domestic investment and keep the economy rolling by keeping the banking and transportation departments busy.
And though from a locally-deduced data, it was agreed that the Nigerian textiles industry hasn’t grown the capacity to adequately supply the gargantuan demand of the marketplace of Kano (In 2009, a daily transactions record reached N9bn) – therefore a protectionist policy would only cut off the employment generation and cripple other economic opportunities provided by the retailing might, which’ll definitely dwarf the Kano State economy in no time.
With the protectionist policy on textiles industry now out of question, a native trading viewpoint will agree that a rail-line connection with neighbouring sub-Saharan countries will help in retaining Kano State’s retailing goodwill and consolidate both the macro and microeconomic benefits that are holding the Kano State economy together.
The rail-line was commissioned by the federal government in January 2021.
Common knowledge is that every single shipment coming to Nigeria is stationed at Lagos. But so uncommon is the knowledge that if a Lagosian wants to buy as little as a roll of foreign fabric that’s shipped from China or India, he’ll have to travel all the way from Lagos to Kano to purchase it. For that’s where the owners of the fabric, who were initially Kano inhabitants, would agree to unpack their shipment. And the same would have to be done by a Ghanaian who could’ve stayed in a much closer Lagos to buy or a trader from Benin Republic.
Market is where the buyer goes. And that’s what the Kano market forces exploited to execute such visionary decision that ensures they bring the unloading, the unpacking and the retailing jobs to Kano.
The marketplace goodwill effect
The growing might of Kano economy as a textile’s marketplace reaches the level where an importer from Niger Republic would rather redirect his shipment to Kano than home to his own country. The reason is that when some of those traders tried taking the shipments to their home countries and towns, the buyers would refuse to buy against the suspicion of price exploitation and the mischief of counterfeit, and so they have to come to Kano. So, whether by choice or force, Kano remains the chosen marketplace. By the virtue of fame, reputation and goodwill, Kano remains incredibly attractive to potential investors and importers, from wherever in the sub-Saharan.
Therefore, it’s in the information of Kano retailers that if protectionist policy gets imposed to ban importation of textiles to protect the local industries, before the Nigerian textiles industry reaches maturity, Kano will lose its retailing goodwill. The foreigners who are established in Kano because their own countrymen wouldn’t buy from them until they come to Kano will finally have the chance to redirect their focus home since importation wouldn’t be banned there. That way, a formerly-stubborn Maradi trader from Niger would have no choice but to buy from his own Niger importer who knows the way to China and India. The unpacking and unloading and all the jobs generated in the process would now fly back to Niger; both to showcase absence of dominant marketplace and to establish easier retailing route to their home economies. The same thing would be done by the established Ghanaians, Cameroonians and Chadians.
Along the line, Kano would be isolated and crushed into bankruptcy with its frightening population unemployed. The retailing goodwill will be gone to the neighbouring and offshore economies. The state and local governments would lose internal revenues. And that’ll cut off the economic breath of local artisans who make a living in tailoring, driving, unloading and unpacking.
Maradi to Kano Rail-line
From the angle of macroeconomics, there is a very strong international trade between northern Nigeria and the Maradi-Matameye-Damagaran-Doso-Niamey axis. Maradi and Damagaran are unquestionable consumers of Kano-retailed textiles. And Niamey is a new environment through which northerners, especially the people from Kano, import education and export skilled labour in university lecturers and professors.
A rail-line from Kano to Maradi means traders from Katsina who come to Kano and those who go to Katsina from Kano, will have an easy route. Likewise, the traders from Katsina to Maradi and from Maradi to Katsina. The project will also kick-start a further linking of Maradi with other native states in Niger Republic. And the underlying ends of the effort remains the creation of easy accessibility to market, which resides in northern Nigeria. More investors from Niger who have given in to the retailing goodwill of Kano will flow to drop off their shipments and buy more land to expand the textiles marketplace. And that’ll mean further employment and inflation of goodwill. While the livestock importers, food and consumables exporters from northern Nigeria will have an easy route to fly their trade in Niger.
The Maradi to Kano rail-line has the potential to be the single most important win-win project since the textiles big boys agreed to unpack only in the Kantin Kwari plaza. And an average inhabitant of Kano metropolis has that decision to thank for a significant aspect of his standard of living. In another very important note, a decision of similar magnitude should be considered on other rail-lines linking the northern axis with Chad and Cameroon. That way, the consolidation of our marketplace goodwill will take effect, and that’ll turnout the biggest asset the northern Nigeria owns, especially Kano. And in the event that the local textiles industries reach maturity, warranting a protectionist policy, the incentive will only rise by providing accommodation to both market and industry, courtesy of goodwill that’s cemented by easy transport. Thanks to a rail-line. So, it’s all smiles looking ahead to the future.
MA Iliasu is an economic and public affairs analyst who writes from Kano. He can be reached through his email: Muhada102@gmail.com.