Nigeria’s per capital income, one of the key economic indices, was at par with China’s 40 years ago, according to Prof Oyebanji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, a Senior Special Adviser on industrialization to the President of African Development Bank, Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina.
Prof Oyelaran-Oyeyinka disclosed this while speaking on Nigeria’s economic challenges on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Thursday.
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He, however, lamented that as of 2019, China was making close to four times the income of Nigeria.
The expert expressed disappointment that Nigeria had abandoned all that was giving it an edge in the international market.
He said a nation grows when it invests in the industrial sector, saying the target had to be the long term.
Oyelaran-Oyeyinka said, “Forty years ago, we were six times per income as China, same thing close to that of South Korea. In 1967, South Korea overtook Nigeria. We were actually like 50 years behind South Korea. What we export today is what Malaysia was exporting about 30 years ago.
“Why is that? It is because they invested in those things that matter. The real source of economic prosperity is those things that you process, that you manufacture and then you sell to people and in the process of doing that, you learn, you accumulate technological capabilities.”
The professor said Nigeria had however done exactly the opposite. “Look at the labs in the University of Ife in the late 70s and 80s. Within the federal structure, the kind of scientific labs that we had, all are gone.”
According to him, former President Goodluck Jonathan commissioned a study on abandoned projects in Nigeria and it was realised that over 1,000 projects were abandoned as of then.
“The Ajaokuta steel was cited among them. The original cost of that project was $50 million and by the time we finished, it was $5 billion and it never operates.
“When you look at the nature of that type of industry, for every one person you employ in a steel plant, you employ 15 people downstream. Close to a million people would have been employed downstream,” Prof Oyelaran-Oyeyinka said.
He said the role of government is to be the enabler and the insurer of innovative activities.
“By the way, we started this a long time ago. There was a time when we had Dunlop, Michelin; there was a time we had PAN, when we had Volkswagen; there was a time when we had Okitipupa Oil Palm. There was a time when we had sawmills and sophisticated companies.
“What happened is what we called de-industrialization. It’s not that we never did it, we just never sustained it,” he said.