Unfolding opportunities in spite of the challenging times
OTUNBA|March. 15, 2019
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I am optimistic about a looming boom in Nigeria’s economy and this time, it will be sustainable. This is not based on hard facts and figures but on common sense and from field information.
Facts and the clouds
As an avid follower of the Bible, one of the greatest teachings on entrepreneurship that I appreciate; especially in hard times, is the counsel that “If you look at the clouds, you would not sow”. In this case, the clouds represent hard facts about situations and pervading opinions and the ensuing atmosphere.
Many believe that the Nigerian economy is sick and the prognosis is worse. Recently, the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that inflow of foreign investments drastically reduced towards the end of 2018. The aversion could only have come from the poor faith that the foreign investors have in Nigeria and her future.
Is it all a bad thing? I think not. Foreign capital can always be withdrawn and directed to more clement climes, so, it is time for the managers of the economy to think less about FDIs and support local investors to succeed and make money that can remain in the system.
Nigeria’s current hunger for cash is a reason for Nigerians who have investible funds overseas to bring it into the country and earn good returns.
There is also a favourable angle to the stories of divestment by foreign corporations: each time they leave, they go with their liquid capital but leave their equipment and a pool of people who have gained exposure, even if not expertise, into that area of business and how it operates.
About 25 years ago, I knew of a multinational pharmaceutical company that pulled out of Nigeria, possibly because of the political lacuna and subsequent economic snafu occasioned by the Abiola crisis. They left behind their factory and its fittings which some young pharmaceutical companies jointly operated, running on shifts, to produce pharmaceuticals with Nigerian labels.
Not far from that period, another multinational drugs company divested and encouraged their former staff to buy up the company. Thus, a new Nigerian brand was born. In both instances, it was the people who gained exposure, sometimes insight and expertise from those multinationals that succeeded in taking them over.
This proves that bleak economic situations can also present an opportunity for those who would otherwise not have had the chance to become big players, to mount the ladder of influence. In other words, projections may seem dim and investors who only come in for the big dough may need to leave but that also opens doors for indigenous people to take their place.
Another case in point is in our floundering oil industry. The international big players have traded off some oil fields which are no longer considered high performers to local investors to whom those marginal fields mean a lot. This has sprouted a new crop of oil men who are now in a position to make the oil industry deliver more value for the country because they are stakeholders in the Nigerian enterprise.
An example is the Niger Delta Exploration and Production Plc which used such an opportunity to start a modular refinery with their crude oil while also processing and exporting the associated gas instead of continuing with the gas flares which the foreign investors refused to stop for over fifty years. Today, gas flaring is becoming a dying trend because more indigenous people are getting involved in the oil industry.
So, the entrepreneur who will succeed in these challenging times is the one who will look beyond the threats in the operating environment to focus on unfolding opportunities.
Is it over for the oil sector?
In many gatherings convened to discuss the prospects of the oil sector today, the outlook is always gloomy. What with many Western and now Asian nations declaring their impatience with fossil fuels and excavations which they hold responsible for the green house effect that has brought on unpredictable weather situations across the globe.
This gives room to Nigerians who have been unable to participate in the oil sector to get ready for a feast. The expatriates are reaching for more acceptable sources of energy to invest in, while letting go of their hydrocarbon investments for scavengers. Local entrepreneurs can keep positioning to take up those businesses as they drop them.
So, it is not over for the local oil sector, it is rather a new beginning for the growing number of indigenous ‘oil people’; an emerging population that will add value to the crude oil that we may no longer be able to sell in the global market in the coming years. Europe and America may not be using fossil- based fuels in the next fifteen or twenty years but Nigeria and other Africa nations still would.
Nigeria can now become reasonable and refine her crude oil and gas within; both for local consumption and for export to other African nations that may still be at our level of development.
Other topical energy alternatives that are gaining traction globally include solar energy, rooftop farming and advancements in the production of biofuels. Fortunately, these are also areas where clued-up local entrepreneurs can get involved to grow a more prosperous Nigeria.