In the past couple of days, there has been some clamour for Nigerians to patronise made-in-Nigeria products. The hashtag “Buy Naija To Grow The Naira” was even created to drive its awareness on Twitter. The aim is simple – Buy locally made goods to save the naira from its current alarming slope downhill. For all intents and purposes this campaign has become imperative especially in the light of the dwindling fortune of the naira against the dollar. Since the price of crude oil has been on a steady decline for a while now, oil producing countries have had to turn their attention to other sectors of their economy to ensure that their gross domestic product does not plummet. In a mono-economy like Nigeria there were no such options.
After jettisoning her first love agriculture for the more attractive oil in the last couple of decades. Nigeria has suddenly found herself in a quagmire occasioned by the consistent fall in the price of crude oil. This has had a multiplier effect on all other areas of the economy as we never really gave a long term thought to the consequences of our over-dependence on one sector. Now, the prices of goods and services have skyrocketed, organisations are laying off staff every day, the naira now exchanges for N345 to a dollar in the parallel market, while one would have to cough out a ridiculous N485 in exchange for one pound; an all time low since its steady decline at the beginning of this year following the stopping of weekly dollar sale to Bureaux de Change’s by the Central Bank.
Bottom line – the prognosis doesn’t look good, and there remains a pervading sense of uncertainty in the air. Hence, the call for Nigerians to strengthen their currency by reducing their long time penchant for buying foreign products as opposed to the made-in-Nigeria ones. One man who has been at the forefront of this crusade is the CEO of Silverd bird and Senator representing Bayelsa East constituency, Mr Ben Murray Bruce. The “commonsense” crusader has taken it upon himself to champion the cause of Obinna who makes shoes in Aba, Iya Kudi who deals in Adire textile in Ibadan and Hassan who manufactures leather wallets in Kano. Mr Bruce put his money where his mouth is by not only sharing photos of himself patronising Aba made clothes and shoes, but also going further to purchase made-in-Nigeria cars by Innoson Motors.
The Senate President has also added his voice to the “Buy Naija To Grow The Naira” campaign. Promising to re-examine to the laws to seek ways to improve support for domestic manufacturers and producers following his meeting with the CEO of the Nnewi based vehicle manufacturing company, Mr Innocent Chukwuma. These are steps in the right direction. However, the fact remains that the average Nigerian has developed an apathy for made-in-Nigeria goods over the years, and for good reason too. Locally made products are often seen as counterfeit and sub standard. Only very few Nigerian manufacturers put utmost care and attention into their creation. The Anything-goes mentality of the typical Nigerian has eaten deep into the fabric of our manufacturing industry.
Clothes whose colours run as soon as you dip them into water, heels that come off just as you step into the interview room of a potential employer, the locally made soap that makes the hands appear shrivelled after washing, pot handles that come off only a few weeks into using them, diapers that induce rashes in babies and cornflakes that turn soggy just as soon as you introduce a bit of water into them. This has been the narrative associated with made-in-Nigeria products for a while now, yet there are many fantastic Nigerian-made products which have stood the test of time. The truth is as plain as a pikestaff – Nigerians don’t trust their own products. Hence, the “long throat” for foreign goods, even though there are no guarantees that they are any better.
The reality is; if the government of the day is serious about growing the naira, then it must invest heavily in small and medium scale businesses so as to encourage manufacturers to produce their best. The first thing anyone who’s parting with their hard earned cash wants to be sure of is getting value for their money, especially in these austere times. Nigerians are not going to be cajoled or guilt-tripped into buying Nigeria except they are certain of the quality of what they are getting. As a matter of fact, this rule doesn’t apply to Nigerians only. There’s no one in their right frame of mind, in any part of the world who would choose to buy a fake product when they can get the authentic one at about the same price or for a slightly higher amount. It only makes sense.
There are people who have sworn off made-in-Nigeria goods because of the not-too-pleasant and sometimes embarrassing experiences they have had because they dared to put their trust in a home-made good. Essentially, this means that our manufacturers and local industry need to up their game in order to make sure they put out good quality products which speak for themselves. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) appears to be doing a good job in creating awareness on how to identify original products but things are far from uhuru yet. SON needs to do more to ensure that substandard goods do not define the Nigerian made goods market. The National Agency For Food And Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC) which has been under the radar since the glory days of its late former Director General, Dora Akunyili must be alive to its responsibilities and ensure that chalk isn’t sold as paracetamol in our Pharmacies. The right structure must be put in place to boost the local market.
In all, while it is shameful that a country with vast human and material resources like Nigeria still imports toothpicks and tomato paste, it is not enough to “shout it from the rooftops” and create a hashtag to encourage locally made goods patronage. If our leaders who are usually the first ones to ship in foreign made goods to satisfy their most basic needs can control their appetite for “oyinbo things” and patronize our own brands here, then the general populace will be more wont to follow suit, and not see this campaign as mere lip service.