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Nigeria’s March Toward 20-20:20: The Korean Lesson

There are, however, a lot of lessons to be learnt from South Korea, another developing nation that is currently the 12th biggest economy of the…

There are, however, a lot of lessons to be learnt from South Korea, another developing nation that is currently the 12th biggest economy of the world,

in spite of lack of resources, save for its manpower, a technological know-how and a one-track mind to be among the top 10 economies by the same target year 2020.

 By year 2020, South Korea also plans to be the sixth exporter of manufactured goods from its eighth position in 2004 and the fourth leading industry exporter from its fifth position in 2004, also by 2020, said Dr Song Byoung-Jun, a Senior Research Fellow at Korea’s Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade.

 As at 2008, South Korea’s population of 48.5 million was the twenty-fifth biggest in the world, the country ranked twelfth among importing nations, eleventh among exporting nations, had the thirteenth biggest Gross Domestic Product and the fifth largest foreign reserve in the world.

 The topmost source of Korea’s achievement and transformation is visionary leadership, its technocrats claim.

 South Korea did not achieve its transformation overnight as its leaders, particularly since the early 1970s, channeled a development path, which entailed rapid growth and pushing Koreans toward international competition.

 For the development of every integral part of the country, the Korean government gave each of its 34,656 villages between 300 and 350 bags of cement in 1970 for community and self-help projects. They were meant to improve the living standard of the people.

 These, the villagers used to change the roofs of their buildings, expand village roads and built public conveniences and laundry streams.

 Out of the villages, 16,000 or 48 per cent performed brilliantly and received additional 500 bags of cement and some iron rods each for further development.

 Those that did not do so well were not abandoned, but got lesser attention. Provision of electricity was also linked to the successful application of the initial input to encourage competition between the villages.

 At corporate level, the Korean government encouraged technological innovation and financed the export of made-in-Korea goods, before handing over the entire process to the private sector.

 Today, Korea is the fifth largest exporter of vehicles after Japan, United States, China and Germany.

 Initially, the Korean government encouraged a shrewd businessman, Chung Ju-Yung — the founder of Hyundai motors — to build the Korean car for export.

 Today, Hyundai Motors produces 5,600 vehicles daily and exports 4,000 of them in 97 ships built by it, to Nigeria and other consumer nations.

 In 1972, Chung, built the Hyundai Heavy Industries to produce ships and other heavy industrial products on a small quiet fishing village in Korea, from where Nigeria bought its LNG vessels.

 South Korea’s President, Park Chung-Hee, once traveled to Pittsburgh in the United States in the 1970s and found the relevance of steel to his country’s economic development.

 Upon his return home, he encouraged the establishment of the Pohang Steel Corporation, which today is the world’s fourth biggest steel complex and exports 30 per cent of its annual 33 million tones of steel and allied products to 60 countries of the world.

 As of today, 80 per cent of Korea’s export is in the heavy and chemicals realm as a result of its focus on iron and steel, electronics, petrochemicals, automobile, shipbuilding and sundry machinery.

 In 1969, America’s Richard Nixon said: “defence of each Asian nation lay in the individual nation itself’’ and Korea took a queue from this.

 Nigeria can do likewise as the doctrine is still relevant.

 Comparatively, while oil-rich Nigeria has four comatose refineries with combined capacity to process 445,000 barrels of crude oil per day, but imports petroleum products, Korea, that has no oil, imports crude and refines more than two million barrels a day for domestic consumption and export.

 Nigeria is targeting 10,000 megawatts of electricity generation; South Korea has already surpassed this.

Korea’s highways are well paved and the country has 835.5 kilometers of subway rail line, 1,126.7 kilometers of electrified railways and other high-speed railways.

 It has 11 multi-purpose dams with capacity for 9.9 billion cubic meters of water, 20 nuclear reactors for electricity supply and eight others in the pipeline.

In the area of agricultural production, Nigeria still encourages its businessmen to import food, whereas Korea is self-reliant in rice and other staples.

 While Nigeria’s landmass of 924,768 square kilometers is mostly arable and almost 10 times South Korea’s land spread of 99,646 square kilometers, the same ratio cannot be said of its economic development.

 Nigeria’s population of 140 million people is also almost thrice that of South Korea’s 48.5 million people, but the latter is already impacting on the economies of many other countries as it currently runs 137 projects in 35 countries of the world.

 There is serious need for enhanced partnership between the two countries, says Dr. Ryu Ji-Chul, a Senior Fellow at Korea Energy Economics Institute.

 The cooperation strategy, he says, should have comprehensive approaches, combining energy with high-value-added industry, infrastructure and development projects, and enhancing partnership between government and business sectors, to improve trade and investment environment.

 “The cooperation can provide a win-win opportunity for Nigeria and Korea,’’ Ryu adds. He says while Nigeria has large reserves of oil and gas, Korea needs overseas oil and gas for its development.

 He reasons also that while Nigeria needs to improve social and economic infrastructures like power plants, telecommunications, roads, railways and pipelines, Korea is looking for ways of expanding its refining capacity from the 2.7 million barrels a day.

With Nigeria’s steady march to 2020, lots of lessons are there in South Korea, not only for government, but for Nigerians who equally need to wake up and support government’s programmes at taking the country to its El Dorado in the shortest possible time. (NANFEATURES)