Sunday, July 2, 2017

Africa: Food Security, Nutrition & Health.

Though considerable progress has been made in recent years in Nigeria and other African nations, in the fight to combat malnutrition or under-nutrition, a lot more still remains to be done; this is because the percentage of health problems related to under-, or malnutrition, is still at an unacceptable level in most African countries.

In this paper, we will discuss the causes of malnutrition, especially in the most vulnerable groups of people – children 5 years and under, women of reproductive age, pregnant women, and the elderly; we will also discuss the impact of food security on the following childhood health problems like stunting, severe wasting, wasting, underweight, and Obesity among children.

We will also discuss and appreciate the importance of the following in the maintenance of good nutrition: Micro-nutrients (iron, zinc, vitamins, iodine, etc.), macro-nutrients (protein, fats, calories, etc.) Also, we will discuss the four dimensions of food security which includes Availability, Accessibility, Utilization, and Stability. We will also look at the significance of nutrition and food security on health.

Finally, we will examine the impediments to food security in African, and offer possible solutions toward overcoming them.

In 2003, 2011, and 2015, according to available World Health Organization, and World Bank Group data, the percentage of children under the age of 5 years, and who suffer from the five classes of malnutrition in Nigeria, and some other African nations were as follows:
Africa: 2011 6-Country Malnutrition Data (WHO, WB)

Severe Wasting
Wasting
Underweight
Overweight
Stunting
Burkina Faso
2.40%
10.20%
24.40%
0.00%
34.10%
Ghana
1.40%
6.20%
13.40%
2.60%
22.70%
Mauritania
4.00%
13.90%
24.40%
3.20%
29.70%
Mozambique
2.30%
6.10%
15.60%
7.90%
43.10%
Nigeria
3.10%
10.20%
24.40%
3.00%
36.00%
Uganda
1.50%
4.80%
14.10%
3.80%
33.70%

Nigeria – multi-year malnutrition data (WB, WHO)
2003
2011
2015
Severe Wasting
4.80%
3.10%
1.80%
Wasting
11.20%
10.20%
7.20%
Overweight
6.20%
3.00%
1.60%
Underweight
27.20%
24.40%
19.40%
Stunting
43.00%
36.00%
32.90%

Ethiopia: multi-year malnutrition data (FAO, WHO)
2011
2014
2016
Severe Wasting
2.90%
2.50%
2.90%
Wasting
10.10%
8.70%
9.90%
Overweight
1.80%
2.60%
2.80%
Underweight
29.20%
25.20%
23.60%
Stunting
44.20%
40.40%
38.40%

Ghana – 2011 & 2014 malnutrition data (FAO, WHO)
2011
2014
Severe Wasting
1.40%
0.70%
Wasting
6.20%
4.70%
Overweight
2.60%
2.60%
Underweight
13.40%
11.00%
Stunting
22.70%
18.80%

While a progressive trend is noticeable over the years in some areas in the three individual countries since 2011, especially in areas of severe wasting, wasting, and overweight, much effort is still required by government and healthcare agencies in the areas of underweight and stunting in Nigeria, and severe wasting, wasting, stunting, and overweight in Ethiopia. The overweight trend in Ghana appears to hold steady for the periods under review, while only a little over 2 percentage points each have been shed between 2011 and 2014 – a period of 3 years – in wasting, underweight, and stunting categories. Overall, a lot remains to be done.

Causes of Malnutrition/Under-nutrition
Severe micro  - and macro-nutrient deficiencies is the major cause of, at least, three – underweight, stunting, and wasting - of the five malnutrition problems suffered by children 5 years and under in Nigeria, and Africa in general. Deficiencies in micro-nutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin A, and iodine (among many others), which are chemical elements found in the body in small quantities for normal growth and development of humans and other living organisms; and in macro-nutrients which are required in large amounts by humans to develop and grow, like carbohydrates (55-75%), protein (10-15%), and fats (15-35%), contribute to, if not the main cause of all the listed malnutrition problems that continue to plague mostly the 5 and under population, pregnant women, those of childbearing age, and the poor and illiterate population in African countries. These nutrients come from food and/or various multivitamin supplements. Now, how does one ensure adequate supply and intake of these nutrients to produce the desired health results? This is where food security is important.

Food security
Food security, according to the 2009 World Summit On Food Security, “exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Quite a mouthful, but it encompasses so many things that will be discussed in details when we look at the four dimensions of food security: availability, access, utilization, and stability.

1.     Food Availability:
“Water, water everywhere but nary enough to drink”. This is the same situation with food availability. For food to be considered available, a family has to have adequate, sufficient, and diversified supply of food to meet their daily nutritional needs. In other words, a family has to have available to its disposal enough combination of nutrition-rich foods to continuously satisfy its needs.  Unfortunately, this goal is never achieved, even in industrialized nations with perennial records of excess food production, for reasons that will be explained later

2.     Food Access:
          This is broken down into three types; economic, physical access, and social        support;

a.     Economic access - disposable income, food prices, and access to social support systems all determines the level of economic access a family has to food. Where disposable income is low, especially in large families with multiple responsibilities, though food may be accessible, budgetary allocations for food may not be adequate to access the needed quantity, quality, and diversity to meet nutritional requirements. Also, food prices do play a major role in accessibility; again, in a low income or large family environment, high food prices will force difficult choices that may result in choosing quantity over quality. This is the situation in many Third world countries, and even some poor sections of industrialized nations. A family in rural Africa may choose to eat cassava or corn meal two to three times a day, because it is heavy enough to satisfy the hunger pangs, and very much affordable. Same thing in a low-income family in the US which might elect to feed on Jumbo Jacks and fried chicken because of the filling effect in the stomach.

b.     Physical access - in this case, though the food may be available, along with the disposable income to buy, physically accessing the food is either difficult or impossible. This happens mostly due to lack of availability of infrastructure – roads, rail, ports, communication, and storage facilities - to transport the food from the farms and processing plants to the market or consumers. This results in wastage of most of the harvest, and the few that make it to market are priced so high that they become less affordable by the average consumer, because of the high cost of transportation/conveyance that has been passed on in the  retail prices

c.      Social support - social support augments shortfalls in economic and physical access. In developed nations of the US and Europe, governments have established social support programs, through their agriculture and commerce ministries, and in alliance with states, local governments, non-governmental agencies – including churches -, and agricultural firms to provide foods and other nutritional products for those who may need such services to augment their incomes.

Churches and many NGOs have set up food pantries and soup kitchens for families, homeless people, and even individuals who are temporarily between jobs, to cater for their nutritional needs. State governments, also, have programs to provide pre- and post-natal nutritional needs for pregnant women and their babies, either in the form of redeemable coupons at grocery stores or debit cards with which to buy only food and non-taxable items, at grocery stores. Only a handful – or even less – of African countries provide this support to the disadvantaged of its population. Even in the few countries where such services exist, corrupt practices by those in charge ensure that the needy are denied access to this support service.

3.     Food Utilization:
A family could have food access and availability without proper utilization, and this can result in mal- or under-nutrition. Lack of proper food utilization can be determined through the measurement of the size and proportion of the human body, to ascertain whether that person suffers from stunting (caused by prolonged inadequacy of food intake), wasting (short-term inadequacy of food intake), overweight/underweight, or severe wasting. With food under-utilization, families simply eat to fill their stomachs without consideration for nutritional balance; the day’s meal could be an all-carbohydrate/starch, or all-vegetable meal, but never a combination of both and plus fruits to have a balanced meal. In many African countries, including the ones with yearly abundant harvests like Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and Uganda, consumption of unbalanced meal combinations still persist, due largely to minimal nutritional/dietary education.

Other factors include the quality of food, methods of preparation, and health/hygiene conditions. Most times, due to low income or limited access, most of the food products are already in advanced stages of rot and decay before reaching the consumer. At this stage, it has already lost most of its nutritional value and is of no benefit to the consumer. Also, in some cases where the food is still fresh from the farm, or markets, the proper cooking method is never applied. Either the vegetables are under-cooked, resulting in not accessing the full nutritional content, or overcooked, thus resulting in the killing of most if not all of the nutrients. Again, this could be attributed to lack of proper dietary/nutritional education. Finally, unsanitary food storage facilities at the markets, warehouses, and private homes could lead to early decomposition or spoilage, which results in severe loss of nutritional content and value to the consumer.

4.     Food Stability:
The last step in food security is stability, and this happens in two forms; stable food supply and stable food prices.

a.     Stable food Supply – uneven weather patterns can affect food supplies. Some African nations like Southern Sudan, Somalia, and countries near the Sahara desert suffer occasional droughts which affect production. Typhoons and tsunami in some Asian countries, El Nino and hurricane effects in central and North America also affect harvest outputs in these countries. Even the warmer ozone effects on the arctic regions of, Russia, Alaska, and the Scandinavian countries affect the supply of some food products from that region. When weather patterns are even and favorable, food supplies tend to be high due to increase in harvest; this will increase global and, eventually, local food supply. The reverse is the case when weather patterns are unfavorable; output drops, creating widespread food scarcity.

b.     Food Price – The effects of uneven weather patterns on food production and supply result in changes in global food prices. These changes can be indirect at international supply levels, or direct at local end-user levels. When global or regional supply is low, food prices go up and families have to choose between nutritionally balanced meal and one that just satisfies the hunger pangs. This is the choice that faces most consumers in African countries. On the other hand, when food supplies are high and steady and stable, families can make healthier purchase combination choices.

So, the battle against malnutrition/under-nutrition in Africa starts with food security; physical and economic access to a stable available supply line of food that is properly utilized. Any interruption along these chain of food security, either due to low income, inadequate infrastructure, and uneven weather patterns affecting growth and harvest and price fluctuations, will impact nutritional intake level of the most vulnerable of the African population which are children 5 and under, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age, and result in problems of wasting, severe wasting, under and overweight, and stunting problems.

What African Nations Can Do
African governments do know that the problem of malnutrition/under-nutrition is a serious one in the continent, and some have declared some sort of state of emergency on agriculture; however, their best efforts are still hampered by inadequate budgeting, planning, and implementation. Also, poor preservation/storage and processing facilities are still lacking in most of these countries; so, even where you have a bumper harvest of all the necessary food products, most of the harvest is either rotting away or never make it to the consuming public due to poor infrastructure and distribution network.
Public enlightenment programs on nutrition and dietary requirements (including televised public service programs on proper meal combination and preparation) for the 5-under population, expectant mothers, and women of childbearing age should be a constant of every country’s health and agriculture ministries and agencies. For the rural poor, social support services should be provided to assist them in meeting their daily nutritional needs, either by instituting at least one free balanced lunch programs in every kindergarten elementary school, or issuing coupons to families making below a certain income level to augment their food budget.

Finally, African countries and regional bodies should pursue inter-regional economic relationships that will ensure steady supply of nutritionally essential commodities even in the times of drought and other severe weather patterns which negatively affect the continent’s or global food production and supply.

Conclusion
When African countries and governments put in place the right programs to ensure complete and unabridged food security in the continent in which every family have uninterrupted access to adequate, balanced and affordable food supply, the nutritional problems of the continent, which include over/underweight, stunting, wasting, and severe wasting will be one less problems the continent will have to worry about. To achieve any major success in this battle, the political will and determination to act has to be recognizable among the leadership.

Felix Oti
Arlington, Texas

felix.oti@outlook.com

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Much Ado About Change And Re-structuring

Clamors and agitations for change - any kind of change - are not done in silence, and in the case of Nigeria, there has been lots of noise in recent times about re-structuring and breakaways.

Why all the noise, and why this level of intensive clamor for change now? Well, for one, the country at its present state is not working. Matter of fact, it has not been working for quite a long time. Specifically, it has not worked for all of the people all of the time, but has worked for some people - regardless of region, zone, or ethnic nationality - some of the times. The Igbos feel perpetually marginalized; the Yorubas, Hausa, Fulani, Berom, Ogoni, Ikwerre, Bini, Efik, Egba, Christians, Muslims, Obas, Obis, Emirs, women, girls, young men, retirees, civil servants, unemployed, graduates, market women, illiterates, and anyone and anything in uniform, all feel at some point or the other marginalized by the "system". Now, with all the diverse ethnic, religious, professional and business, retired politicians, the never-tried, and the tried-and-failed all crying foul at the current system, or structure, why has nothing changed?

One reason is lack of sincerity of purpose. Any and every ethnic group or zone that has been schemed out of the current political system tends to cry "marginalization", and want out of the union until their fortunes turn around in the next dispensation, then the agitation for change dissipates to a bare whisper in very remote circles. Hausas, Fulanis, Igbos, and the Yorubas all play this same game.

The second is lack of clarity on what exactly should be replaced, and with what. Re-structuring is on the table, and so also is breakup; for proponents of re-structuring, what do you want re-structured? The political system, economic system, or social system? In a nation where the majority claimed that no system exists, what system, then, requires re-structuring?

Thirdly, even where there is consensus agreement on re-structuring, there is division on when and how? No one region or ethnic nationality wants to lose what they are currently enjoying for something they have no idea what the benefits will be. Some have called for a return to the 1960s model of regional governance; others have called for retaining the six Geo-political zones and running a provincial system based on these zones, with six provincial parliaments and administrators, and vice-presidents at the center. Others have gone as far as suggesting a tribal system of government, meaning more than 250 tribal administrations like what exist in some places like Afghanistan, etc.

For advocates of a break up of the Nigeria, or secessionists,  their reasoning is that the current united system emasculates their socio-political and economic growth and development opportunities; they believe that if they excise themselves from Nigeria and form a separate independent nation, their fortunes will grow and all the social and political problems that bedevil Nigeria today will stay put in Nigeria. This, at best, is a fairy-tale dream; but, that is not up for discussion here. However, it is impossible to really argue either way on the position of the secessionists, because there is no recent experience in the country to use as a yardstick.

Also, a breakup into ethnic nationalities, as being bandied about by some other groups, will only multiply the existing national problems by either six time (zonal/provincial governments), or 300 times (tribal administrations); because, within these ethnic nationalities exist tremendous discord. The same goes for every other alternative idea being floated out there, and these are some of the main reasons why the loudness of these agitations tend to ebb and flow according to which tribe or ethnic group is in charge at the center, or in line to take the center.

As I mentioned earlier, there are legitimate reasons for these agitations for a change of the current system in Nigeria; unfortunately, these efforts are directed at the wrong place. Agitators should focus their efforts at the local and state governments which directly impact the people much more than the central government. Ignoring the rotten system at the state level presided over by fellow ethnic brothers and sisters while crying foul at the central problem smacks of hypocrisy and tribal protectionism, and this attitude does not address the problem of bad governance.

Just as all politics is local, any change or re-structuring in any systems has to start at the local level. A hen cannot ignore the knife that cut off its head only to bend its neck at the soup pot. When we paper over our tribal/ethnic and state problems and direct our anger and clamor for change at the center, the eventual success achieved at that center will result in failure at the ethnic/state/regional levels.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Let Your Light Shine before Men

Mathew 5 14:16
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house” (Verses 14-15)
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (verse 16)

A large crowd of people were pressing on Jesus, so he climbed up on a mountain where he could secure a vantage position that will allow him a clear visual of the magnitude of the crowd, and at the same time provide some sort of protection while he preached to them. The Sermon on the Mount is considered the first preaching of Jesus Christ to a large crowd, and where he listed the topics that will form major biblical subjects that promises a way of life that leads to salvation. Known as the Beatitudes, these subjects are outlined in Mathew chapter 5, from verse 1 to 13. However, right after the Beatitudes, Christ also preached on the relationship between his disciples and the world; how we should attract followers to him, and what the world expects to see in the daily life and activities of those who profess to be Disciples of Christ.

“You are the light of the world”

Hear Him! We are the light of the world. Christ is not talking about fashion here: no painted fingernails, designers clothing, or the latest hairstyles. He is not talking about our private jets, mansions, and fleet of exotic cars, our gold medals and trophies collected through our sporting prowess. It is not our bevy of beautiful spouses decked out in expensive jewelry; yes, while those could and do sparkle, they do not produce the light Christ is referring to. Here, Christ is talking about our daily lives: how do we live our lives as Christians? At work, at home when no one is watching, in the church, in public places when everyone is watching, at grocery stores, in the classrooms, in our marriages, friendship with others, and in our relationship with our children and siblings. How does your light shine through? To know if your light shines through positively or not, you must first understand what that light is; and to successfully do this, you must first know who you are spiritually aligned with. Are you with Christ or with the world?

If you are with Christ, then you have to go back to the Beatitudes that preceded these verses and clearly understand those who will obtain salvation, and why:
1.      The poor in spirit
2.      Those who mourn (not necessarily for the deaths in their own families)
3.      The gentle
4.      Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
5.      The merciful
6.      The pure in heart
7.      The peacemakers
8.      Those persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and
9.      Those persecuted for the sake of Christ
Are you any or all of these? Does the world see any of these lights in you?

“A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house”

If you are or possess any of the qualities, the world will notice them from your daily life activities and interaction and they will strive to emulate you. If you have any or all of them but do not exhibit them (lighting a lamp and hiding it under a basket), then you are not giving light to “all who are in the house” (world around you). You can say to yourself all you want: “I know I am a good person; I do not cheat, steal, kill, or bear false witness”; but if there has been no witness to those, and no other life or behavior has been positively impacted by your good deeds, or lifestyle, then you are not a light unto the world. Do you turn them off and on, use them like a charm instrument, as occasion requires? Maybe, to get a spouse, a certain job, for good grades, to endear yourself to some groups for ulterior purposes? To attract the attention, and possibly convert certain class of people to Christ to the approval and praise of your pastor, and not everyone who crosses your path? Or, do you just have some and not all the required characteristics?

If your light is selective in its shine, then it is not to the work of God, or to His glory. Same thing if your light is artificial in its shine; faked just for the purpose of confusion and deceit, and not really from the bottom of your heart. Then you will not obtain salvation, because God is not mocked, neither is his instruction disregarded or used for ulterior motives. Are you like the bank counter clerk, that salesgirl, or the cashier at the fast food joint, who is forced to smile because he/she is expected to be “nice” to the customer; yet, behind the facade is the antithesis of all that the Beatitudes spells out for us as a path to salvation. Are you like the politician who patterns his or her message according to the needs of the segment of his constituency? That lady with a different dress for every different occasion, or the man presents with multiple personalities based on the status of woman he is courting? Are you presenting different lights to different audiences? Then your light is not of God, and cannot light up either His house or His community for rest of the world to see.

Felix Oti
felix.oti@gmail.com

(All Rights Reserved)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Nigerian 2017 Budget of Economic Recovery and Growth

The underlying philosophy of our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan is optimizing the use of local content and empowering local businesses”

“The role of government must be to facilitate, enable and support the economic activities of the Nigerian businesses ….”
President Muhammadu Buhari, December 14, 2016

On December 14, 2016, like millions of Nigerians (I hope), I watched the Nigerian president deliver his budget – speech and all – to the joint session of the Nigerian national assembly, and long before the saliva could dry from his mouth economic experts went to town analyzing the budget. I have always wondered how anyone could do that simply from a budget speech; especially, given that the details of the budget were not even known to members of the national assembly, at least, as at that time. Anyways, I believe in different yolks for different folks.

The two statements in paragraph 14 of the president’s speech caught my attention, and it was based on those that I decided to look for the details of the budget to see if appropriate allocations were made to the right agencies responsible for seeing this promise to fruition. – Ministries of Labor, Agriculture, Mining/Natural Resources, Finance/CBN, Economic Development, Works/Power, Transportation, Industry/Trade, Health and Justice. Analysis of the breakdown of allocations to these ministries and departments will present a better picture of where this administration is going economically and socially; especially, with regards to pulling the nation out of recession and placing it on a steady and stable growth footing. Until those details become available, we must review what role each of these ministries/departments playing in realizing the president’s goals above.

Optimizing use of Local Content
Here, local content is not only limited to mineral resources and raw materials; it includes localized information gathering and distribution, development and sharing of technological expertise, local labor recruitment, training and retraining, which requires establishment and refurbishing of training facilities. Now, which are the ministries and departments key to this role? They will be the ministries/departments of Agriculture, Mining and Natural Resources, Labor, Education, Economic Development, and Justice. A database of resources – natural and manufactured – that are obtainable in Nigeria for production and manufacturing purposes should exist in the ministries/departments of Agriculture, Mining, Natural Resources, and Economic Development, and be easily accessible to Nigerians who may wish to use such resources in their entrepreneurial ventures.

The ministry of Labor, on its part, should have or collect data on all Nigerians of labor age – 18-55 years; their academic and skills experience, and in collaboration with the Ministries/departments of Education and Economic Planning, formulate a training program not only geared towards enhancing the existing skills of this labor-age group, but providing training opportunities for a change of skills training, based on the prevailing economic situation. That way, the nation will always have an abundance of skilled labor force for every economic sector, and will not have to depend on supplies from foreign labor force like India and China. Where does the Ministry of Justice come in? Without laws, there will be societal chaos. Since the proposed data collected by the Ministries of Labor, Natural resources, Agriculture, Education, etc. towards creation and preservation of local content will include sensitive private information of Nigerians and their resources, a law guiding its sharing, with whom, and for what purpose is very important. So also is the safeguarding of any technology developed or enhanced by Nigerians, and the application of such technologies to avoid harm or injury to users that might result in legal disputes; and where such disputes occur, there should be a legal framework to resolve them.

Empowering Local Businesses
This involves a little bit of export promotion and import substitution policies, to enable local businesses survive and grow.  It also means tax breaks and other financial incentives like extension of generous credit and loan facilities, business-friendly laws – including easement of doing business in Nigeria; improving power, infrastructure, transportation and security services will go a long way towards realizing this goal; granting of import licenses for heavy machinery and raw materials not available in Nigeria, and education/seminars focused on spreading of information on the available forms of business, risks and benefits, resources and their accessibility, and market opportunities within and beyond the Nigerian shores. The ministries of Finance, Trade and Industry, Power/Works, Justice, Transport, and the Central Bank all have roles to play in towards meeting this goal. The Ministry of Finance and the Central bank should work with the commercial banks and other special interest banks, like the Banks of Industry and Agriculture, Import-Export bank, and the Islamic bank, to make loan facilities available at low interest rates – even if it means creating a soft loan or interest rate regime just for small and medium-scale Nigerian business owners.

On their parts, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Nigerian Export Promotion Board would handle the sourcing of international and regional markets, and promotion of Nigerian-made products, respectively. Also, the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) has the role of ensuring that made in Nigeria goods and services meet internationally-acceptable standards; this will help allay the concerns of international importers about the quality of these products. The Nigerian Customs Service should draw up a set of procedures to ensure smooth and quick clearing of big ticket production/manufacturing equipment at the wharfs, and reduce clearing costs for these and other business-related machinery, so as to reduce unnecessary demurrage and holding cost that might negatively impact on  businesses’ capital budgets.

Critical Infrastructure Needs
Without steady power supply and a reliable access to markets, no business will be successful, and this where the Ministries of Power/Works, and Transportation have roles to play in ensuring the success of the president’s 2017 goals. Without a doubt, power supply in Nigeria is epileptic at best, and the cost of alternative power supply has driven many local companies out of business. The major reasons why the national power agencies in Nigeria have not been able to make much of an impact are sabotage by the staff and the fierce resistance of generator importers. To improve power supply in Nigeria, government must first ban generator importation; with that out of the way, it could then focus on improving/modernizing available equipment, ridding the agencies of corrupt management and staff, and proposing a billing system that includes lower rates for business facilities like manufacturing and production warehouses.

Like power, the Nigerian road network is terrible and deserves a lot of attention. The same applies to the transportation system. Without necessary infrastructure, it is very costly to do business in Nigeria, even for Nigerian businesses. The responsible ministries must redouble efforts to improve Nigeria’s road network, provide for an efficient rail and water transportation system so as to efficiently move heavy cargo to their destinations. Frequent delays in air transportation add to the woes of any business entity, by increasing their cost due to unnecessary waste of time at airports. An efficient business environment requires ease of movement and communication by air, land, and sea; and, between these two ministries, and some other government agencies, a lot is expected of them if the 2017 budget goals of empowering local businesses will ever be achieved.

Enabling Business Laws
After the finance and infrastructure comes the enabling environment, and this is where the national assembly and the justice ministry find themselves working hand in hand. In collaboration with the justice ministry and the Presidency, the national assembly should look at laws currently on the books that need tweaking, and new ones that may be needed, to ensure ease of doing business in Nigeria both for indigenes and interested foreign investors. Currently in Nigeria, it takes about two years to get all the necessary documentation and approvals to set up a corporation; about half that length of time for a partnership, and about six months if you want to set up a legalized Sole Proprietorship. A personal experience: to renew/update my company information at the Corporate Affairs Commission took four days in Abuja, and a whole lot of palm greasing. With that experience, not many would want to set up a business in Nigeria. If the business establishment laws are modernized, and bureaucratic bottlenecks eliminated at both federal and state levels, doing business in Nigeria will be easier and prospective investors will flood the nation.

 While ease of doing business laws are important, it is equally important – if not more so – to enact laws that protects young indigenous businesses for at least 5 years, to give them enough time to find their footing and compete at par, or near so, in the international markets. Such laws would mandate government agencies at every level to source their needs locally, and only look outside for those needs that are not available locally. I believe there are laws or discussions in the national assembly to this effect. Since one of the problems that kill businesses in Nigeria is difficulty in debt collection – and payment of loans, laws that make it mandatory for buyers to pay their debts within 30 day of purchase, or face prosecution and confiscation of properties to the creditor, should not only be enacted but be enforced. All of these will encourage many Nigerians to establish businesses, with the assurance of the full backing of the laws of the nation.

Conclusion
There are so many things needed in Nigeria to successfully empower local businesses, and the above are just a few of them. One thing must be acceptable by Nigerians: economic recessions take about three years of focused investment in the right segments of the economy to end; so, any hope that the current recession will end by the end of 2017 is wishful at best. All of the above propositions, if implemented, cannot come to fruition in the 2017 fiscal year, but a continuous implementation over a period of three fiscal years will ensure a stable and growing small and medium business sector in Nigeria that will be the major employers of labor by 2023.

“The role of government must be to facilitate, enable and support the economic activities of the Nigerian businesses ….”


The Buhari administration, and subsequent administrations, must not allow the above statement to be just a budget presentation talk, as has been the case in many years past; government must make sure that it means what it says by working with relevant government agencies and ministries to enact and implement policies that achieves what the president promised. To this effect, the N50b set aside to expand Export Processing and Special Economic Zones; the N15b for recapitalization of Banks of Industry and Agriculture; the seed amount of $1.3b for the Development Bank of Nigeria, and the provision for establishment of model technical and vocational schools are all steps in the right direction, if the government can actually move from talking to doing.