The crash is happening when those clamouring for diversification of the economy from dependence on crude oil to other money spinning sectors are intensifying their campaign.
Economists have argued the world over that the strength of an economy depends on how much is sold to earn foreign reserve rather than how much of her foreign reserve is spent. It is based on this simple economic premise that the federal government established relevant institutions to drive export, especially non-oil.
Government’s lip service to diversification of the economy has confined the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to the background over the years. The oil windfalls witnessed at various times ensured that we could but did not position the export market as the growth opportunity of choice for private sector earnings and sustainable economic development.
Chief Executive of the NEPC, Segun Awolowo, said: “Non-oil exports are our next line of defence. We must generate sustainable revenue, we must diversify our economy, we must think locally and act globally.”
But we cannot go from zero to 100 by mere government statement. We must begin to see deliberate attempt to foster and promote SME exports, development of priority export products, identify and develop sustainable funding sources amongst other measures.
Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of eight agricultural export commodities including cassava, yams, shea nuts and sorghum and also a dominant global producer of 15 other products – cocoa, palm produce, potatoes, maize, cashew nuts, gum arabic and kola nuts.
In what Mr Awolowo described as a shocker, cashew nuts alone generated N24 billion ($150m) in 2013, that is about 3.5-10 percent of agricultural export.
Processing 50 percent of Nigerian crop will create 8,500 new jobs and a multiplier effect of N2 billion. Nigeria is the 7th largest cashew producer, he said.
He added: “An increase of 20% of the current 120,000 being produced will lead to 344,000 jobs and $75,875,000 additional income for the country and $2bn annual earnings within the next five years.
The National President of Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists, Mr Chuku Wachuku, in his reaction to the fall in oil price described it as a blessing to the country.
Wachuku said: “Government cannot create employment, it must necessarily depend on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and industries. Am glad with what is happening, we now need to do a rethink on how to grow our economy; if we grow the SMEs, they will trigger a demand that would in turn trigger a supply and that is how the economy will grow. The current arrangement where state governments come shamelessly to the federation account every month is not sustainable. They have to think of what to do because there are too many people who must necessarily have to be paid their salaries.”