The UN and AU commemorate African Industrialisation week from 18th Nov. to 22nd Nov. The key objectives of this event filled week are to mobilize both African and leaders from the rest of the world, including international development organizations to advocate for the accelerated and sustainable, as well as, inclusive industrialization of Africa.

The road to a prosperous Africa, no doubt, is through sustainable industrialisation, promotion of intra Africa trade and strenghtening regional value chain. Regrettably, these have not received adequate attention. The Intra-African trade, according to UNCTAD, was only about 2% during the period 2015–2017.

The recent land border closure by the nigerian government has further questioned the applicability of africa free trade agreement and realisation of African single market, the expected largest free trade zone. This protectionist response has equally attracted various reactions and divergent views.

The move, according to the Nigerian government is to mitigate the influx of smuggled goods especially rice and tomatoes. Some of these products were imported from Asia through neighbouring countries, with final destination to Nigeria. Meanwhile, Nigerian government has claimed to have generated about N115b in revenue September, since implementation of this policy.

However interesting and profitable it may sound, this selective and short term approach does not adequately address major issues confronting Nigerian business space and continued avoidance of Nigerian ports. Subsequent long term economic repercussions and retaliation are inevitable.

One fact is clear. With regional economic integration comes internal competition among member states to attract foreign direct investment and location of businesses. Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million, cannot afford to be left out. The rapid relocation of businesses to neighbouring countries and boycott of Nigerian ports are all relevant issues that should bother us all. It will, therefore, be more productive to pursue long lasting solutions rather than turning a blind eye to the deeper challenges or blaming other countries for our economic woes.

For instance, Nigerian Custom Service should seek innovative solutions to various challenges it is is fraught with. The outdated infrastructure, delay in clearance of goods (sometimes strike action), bad transportation network and gridlock, high custom duty, military extortions and corrupt practices are all issues that should worry us. They hamper ease of doing business and are disincentives for importers.

Secondly, Nigerian government should endeavour to strengthen the capability of local manufacturers, to meet local demand of their products. It should also provide relevant incentives and subsidies in other to sell their products at competitive prices. These include access to loan, tax waiver, training programs to build indigenous capabilities, creating enabling business environment, promoting regional value chain and industrial ecosystem, as well as strengthening cross border partnerships, etc. These will prepare them for intra African trade and promote export oriented manufacturing.

On the basis of comparative approach, there is equally need to enact laws, at ECOWAS level, to tackle incessant smuggling and sharp practices. It’s an economic sabotage to import a finished product, only to change the package and transport to another member states with no extra value added.

Hence, as the world tilts towards fourth industrial revolution, it’s important to reposition Nigeria and indeed Africa’s manufacturing sector to tap into technological advancements and leapfrog opportunities. At Zugotech Lab Ltd, we are currently championing the call for sustainable Industrialisation. The relocation of our manufacturing operations to Nigeria is a testament of our commitment to tap into local talents. Through our UNIpartner program, we aim to train natural science undergraduates various relevant skills, including development and optimization of rapid diagnostic kits (lateral flow technology) using cutting edge technology, antigen-antibody design. Along with our global technology partners, we aim to localise an industrial ecosystem, build sustainable partnership and create jobs.

Bede is CEO, Zugotech Labs Ltd, an in vitro diagnostics manufacturer and supplier of medical devices.