ByÂ Franklin Alli
With the drop in foreign exchange earnings caused by oil glut in the mid 1980â€™s, the then Federal Government under General Ibrahim Babangida saw the need to address a national problem of over-dependence on foreign goods, raw materials and spare parts.
Hence, stakeholders recommended the establishment of Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) as a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology in 1981.
Going by its vision which is to be an indispensable catalyst for industrial growth and development, the Council is particularly mandated by the act establishing it to specifically carry out the following functions:
*Draw up policy guidelines and action programmes on raw materials acquisition, exploitation and
*Revive from time to time, raw materials resource availability and utilisation, with a view to advising on implication of depletion, conservation orÂ stockpiling of such resources;
*Advise on adaptation of machinery and process for raw materials utilisation;
*Encourage publicity of research findings and other information relevant to local sourcing of raw
materials for industries;
*Advice on and devise awards or rewards systems for industries that achieve any breakthrough or innovations and inventions; among other mandates.
One of the indices of measuring industrial development in any country is the growth of its manufacturing sector and perhaps this forms the argument of some analysts who see the countryâ€™s industrial sector as a failed one.
The major reason for the high level collapse of industries in Nigeria has been attributed to lack of electricity; a failure on the part of government to provideÂ infrastructure: roads, bridges, railways, electricity, waterways are under the purview of the public sector services.Â It is through effective and efficient provision of these services that development is created. That Nigeriaâ€™s economy is not buoyant today is because of industrial underdevelopment, corruption and non-qualitative leadership that has spanned over the years.
The present government talks of Seven-Point Agenda and Vision 2020, all these will be mere dreams without the development of indigenous technology and brain power.Â The success of industries are hinged on these in addition to provision of infrastructure, while adequate employment as an index of development can be achieved only by industrialization.
Nigeria is endowed in terms of natural and human resources and this has become an over-flogged issue. The question should be how far have we gone with these endowments? The government realizes the absolute necessity to diversify the economy, hence the various attempts to address the issues of industrialisation, infrastructure, corruption, electoral reforms and all that. However, the major concern here isÂ industries even though all indices of development are interwoven.
The present state of our industries is deplorable.Â Most of them source their raw materials from anywhere between 80, 90 and even sometimes 100 perÂ cent from abroad and the implication is that Nigerians pay for products produced from somewhere else because even up to 80,90 per cent of technologies used in production is also imported. The question then is how far has RMRDC gone with its mandates of sourcing and development of raw materials and technology? What are the visible results and impacts of the Council in industrial development? What is its albatross in terms of growth of our industries? Over the years, what has closure of shops by industries and loss of jobs availed us? The existing industries complain of several impediments in terms of infrastructure decay, what then has been the achievements of RMRDC as an interventionist agency in the area of its mandate? Have industries benefitted from the Council and if they have, where lies the existing problems?
The bulk of small and medium scale enterprises established in Nigeria hardly flourish adequately as a result of several factors: wrong choice of investment; lack of adequate capital; lack of managerial skills and shortage of information regarding markets for finished products.
Nevertheless, one of the achievements of RMRDC is having raw materials display centres in the states that provide information to potential investors on raw materials, technologies and investment information for different resource-based industries. These centres should be extend to local governments so that small scale industrialists should reach out for vital information.
Also, the biennial Technological Exposition (Techno-Expo), an exhibition organised by RMRDC to encourage indigenous manufacturing of equipment and machinery for processing, while creating market and patronage for them has benefitted medium scale industries more than cottage industries in terms of their participation.
However, the Council has been using the Techno-expo to showcase indigenous technology, research and development results that can enable our local industries to produce at cheaper rates compared with importation of raw materials and machinery. The problem here is the inertia of the private sector in Nigeria to put up the results and then turn into viable economic ventures.Â This amounts to absence of venture capital companies who are ready to take risks.Â It results in many R&D results remaining on shelves and laboratories.Â Development is a gradual thing and business is a venture – it involves risks. The private sector should take the necessary risks to grow and invest in long-term projects. The moment our industries rely more on locally-sourced and developed raw materials, local machinery and improve over time, we will definitely be getting there in terms of industrialization. It will transform the country from a traditional trading society to an industrial giant.
Our industries should also be committed to development in terms of product quality. Nigerians are widely travelled and are quality conscious. They believe it is far cheaper to buy something that is more expensive but lasts longer than buying that which is cheap but not durable. The made in Nigeria syndrome is mainly based on sub-standard products and not necessarily where the goods are made.
On the part of government, there should be the right policies to favour industrialization apart from voting money to restore power and upgrade infrastructure. Despite the availability of raw materials in the country and the call for improvement on local technology in the manufacturing sector, there are still accessories and raw materials that must be imported to enhance some products. No country is an island or completely self-sufficient. A company like Mercedez Benz with its 50 years of existence in Germany still have companies that are not based in Germany making different parts for them. The United States of America even in its desire for absolute self-sufficiency in many manufacturing sectors still imports.