By Peter Osalor
Thatcher’s radical policies, successfully adapted across the US, Europe and large parts of Asia, sparked off a new world order and confirmed the evolution of global economic powerhouses. For a uniquely placed country like Nigeria, blessed with resources but hexed with endemic problems, these events hold tremendous relevance and opportunity. They are also crucial to Nigeria making progress towards the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals of eradicating hunger and poverty and improving environmental sustainability, among others.
The first lesson for Nigeria of course is the need for fundamental changes in outlook and practices with regards to promoting entrepreneurship as a means to permanently overcoming poverty and achieving grassroots development. Of equivalent importance is upgrading infrastructure and improving access to social services, especially health and education. The World Bank outlines a three-pronged strategy for Nigeria to meet this challenge, which includes:
l Establishing a viable macroeconomic configuration that optimises incentives to the widest citizen base.
l Prioritising accountability as a means of encouraging entrepreneurship and the subsequent delivery of quality services to the population.
l Adapting policy and public expenditure conventions suitable to promoting efficient growth and enhanced productivity in a way that brings tangible benefits to the poor.
Some of these suggestions have already been adopted. In 2003, the Nigerian government set up the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy, in line with IMF poverty reduction policies, to achieve better fiscal management. The same year, fuel prices were deregulated and Abuja announced the privatisation of four national refineries. The current global economic downturn is certain to wreak further havoc on Nigeria’s fledgling and often floundering economy. What will determine the final outcome of its nascent entrepreneurial revolution, to borrow a statement from Apple honcho Steve Jobs, is the amount of perseverance is backs it up with.
A viable economic agenda for Nigeria that allows rapid entrepreneurial progress has to focus on fundamental adjustments:
l Creating a pro-active socio-economic environment that encourages creative and viable entrepreneurship from the grassroots level to onwards. Identifying and correcting infrastructure deficits and systemic imbalance inimical to small business.
l Developing a credit regime – through relevant financial and industrial policy changes – that is sympathetic to small business realities. Promotion of lending through equity, and not debt, is of critical importance.
l Removing administrative and trade barriers while simultaneously enhancing technical support and capacity building assistance for both existing and emerging entrepreneurs.
l Mobilising the country’s significant human resources pool by revamping the education sector to provide vocational, administrative and skill development training to rural and urban youths.
l Creating efficient and effective mechanisms for regulation and oversight of enterprise-development initiatives in general, and microfinance institutions in particular.
l Maintaining political stability and authority of democratic institutions; fighting corruption and building social consensus on important issues to ensure broad-based success of macroeconomic policies.