Technical talent and Nigeria’s economic growth

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Talk that the Nigerian economy is bereft of growth abounds among industry stakeholders. It is one issue that is so strongly debated that sceptics cannot be flawed any day. But such talk erroneously fails to take account of pockets of growth in several sectors of the economy.

Take the food and beverages manufacturing sub-sector in Nigeria. Here, the brewery sub-sector is one manufacturing area that is growing speedily. As of ten years ago, Nigeria’s beer market had an estimated demand of 15 million hectolitres (mhl), while population was put at 126 million by the IMF. As of today, demand is estimated at 23 million, while population is estimated to be 167 million.

As growth in population and demand persists, there is still an estimated gap of about 3 million in the industry. Informed industry estimates, based on growth for the past five years, indicate that demand may be as high as 27 mhl by 2016.

Another area of growth is the construction sector, building materials in particular. Nigeria is currently scoring high with its cement market, emerging as the number one in sub-Saharan Africa with 27.6 metric tonnes per annum installed capacity, according to a recent report by Vetiva Research. With this record, Nigeria has overtaken South Africa, which has an installed capacity of 17.5 million metric tonnes per annum.

The growth in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector is huge and loud enough for everyone to see. Before the advent GSM in Nigeria in 2000, Nigeria had only 400,000 telephone lines, but today, the country has over 101 million active lines. Internet penetration, which was zero at the opening of 1995, is 45 million today. And inflow of FDI for Telcos, which was near zero in 2001, is $25 billion today. Like companies in the brewery sector, companies such as Procter & Gamble and Nestle are expanding.

The Nigerian cocoa processing industry, comprising both functional and non-functional factories, estimated at N45 billion today, has played a significant role in the growth of the Nigerian economy. It is one of the few non-oil industrial sectors that still provide significant input to the country’s foreign exchange generation, GDP and employment index. Each cocoa processing factory employs at least an average of 200 people and up to 1,000 indirectly.

The manufacturing sector is increasingly technology-dependent, especially the multinationals. Unfortunately, our training institutions have not revised their curricula to meet the rising demand for highly-skilled technical manpower to install, operate and maintain these new machines.

There is a dearth of talent in the sector. This lack of technical talent mars Nigeria’s economic growth story. This must be addressed urgently, with robust support from the public and private sector to train skilled personnel. The Institute for Industrial Technology (IIT) is an example of a technical school positioned to do this.

A report by McKinsey Global Institute urges that “businesses operating in this skills-scarce world must know how to find talent pools with the skills they need and to build strategies for hiring, retaining, and training the workers who will give them competitive advantage.”

 

In : Technology