At a recent meeting between CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Somachi Chris-Asoluka, the Ambassador of Sweden, and the Swedish State Secretary at the Ministry of International Development Corporation & Foreign trade, they discussed the historic ties between Nigeria and Sweden (Sweden’s second largest trading partner in Africa), the long term local presence of Swedish companies in Nigeria (such as Ericsson), and what must be done to create economic hope for millions of young Nigerians.
The burning question was: “What sectors had the most potential for creating mass opportunity for millions of energetic, hardworking, young Nigerian men and women?”
For Somachi, the answer came readily, explaining in detail why she considered the following three sectors as priority: Power, Manufacturing, and the Creative industries:
Power. Smachi says: “Nine out of every 10 SMEs die in their first year in Africa. The Tony Elumelu Foundation beneficiaries tell us that on average they spend 80% of their revenue on power – constantly buying diesel, fuel, generators, inverters etc. If we fix this sector, we will not only empower our SMEs to thrive, we will power our economies out of poverty. The last time there was a blackout in Sweden was in 1967! This is what I want for us here.
“My second sector of priority is manufacturing. No economy has leapfrogged into prosperity by bypassing an industrialized base. We must unlock our productive capacity to refine and add value locally. We must begin to produce at scale, employ at scale. But first cost of business must plateau. More certainty, and fewer shocks. It must make economic sense for investors to build factories locally instead of moving production overseas. A reformed power sector is one step, but we must also ease trade. We must declog our ports. It should not cost an arm and a leg to move goods to and fro. Simplify the bureaucratic process and paperwork. An enabling policy and regulatory environment combined with a network of reliable infrastructure will support our manufacturing aspirations.
“My third priority sector is the creative industry. And on this one I’d like to spend some time. Last week, I was on the phone with one of my best friends and I heard his 3 year old son in the background speaking with an American accent. My friend explained that it was from all the cartoons on tv. His son was already influenced by American soft power at barely 3. One of my fav little cousins insists we go to a South Korean restaurant every time I offer her lunch. She’s a fan of K-pop, has learnt the language and consumes everything Korean – music, fashion, food. She plans to go to uni there and maybe even settle there. Countries understand that to be a world power, you must invest in soft power. If you shape global trends, interest, conversations and culture, capturing their trade, capital and investment becomes easier. We keep saying Afrobeats to the world, but have we critically assessed how to structure this great export to wield its full force. There’s never been a better time for Africa as far as pop culture is concerned. But we must seize our moment before it’s no more