By Chinedu Ezeocha for Ezeocha Post Originally Published on Wednesday May 21, 2014 at 3:07 AM CT
According to World Bank data, China enjoyed a rise in foreign direct investment (FDI) from US$30bln in 2000 to $150bln in 2008. Cheap labor and existing infrastructure were responsible for this boom in FDI. As Chinese workers are getting educated and demands for better working conditions are on the rise, corporations are relocating their manufacturing base to neighboring Nepal and Bangladesh. Many are trooping into Africa. Ghana in recent times has been a host to legion of foreign corporations seeking access to cheap labor, existing infrastructure, and security for business.
FDI lowers the rate of unemployment, boosts the economy, and produces a strong middle class – the lifeline of any functioning economy. As one of the least developed countries of the world, Nigeria can position itself to take advantage of these billions of dollars in FDI that is looking for a conducive environment to be invested. Hence President Jonathan should be proactive in tackling the power issue, the infrastructural deficits, and more importantly, the Boko Haram security concerns. He has a moral obligation to do so.
Besides cheap labor and existing infrastructure, the third thing corporations look for before going into a country to invest their billions is skills bank. That means the readiness of the proletariats to fit into their respective job functions once employed without necessarily undergoing a fresh training. This also means a better education system that produces quality engineers, quality technicians, quality geologists, quality accountants, quality doctors, quality policy analysts, quality lawyers and so on.
Contrary to popular opinion about how moribund the Nigeria education sector is, as much as I concur and have already suggested reform in the education sector, Nigeria’s education system is not that bad. Many always compare Nigeria with Ghana with Ghana always coming tops. I lived in Ghana, and I studied in the United Kingdom. For all its history, both in the past and in recent times, it has been only Nigerian graduates that have been setting all manner of academic excellence records in the United Kingdom. Be it at Oxford, Imperial, or Kings College. No Ghana national has ever made the news for such extraordinary feat. Most Nigerians who set these records has their undergraduate studies in Nigeria. A system that set up a student to go as high as Oxford to go and set an all-time academic excellence record is not that bad. In terms of course delivery and administration, the only difference, the only way the Ghanaian education system differs from, and is better than Nigeria’s, is in the incessant strikes and lecturer exploitation plaguing Nigeria’s system. Nothing more. But Nigeria, if its leaders are determined, can fix the two and become much better.
The last thing corporations consider before FDI in a new country is the age of the workforce. People want young and energetic workforce who when the occasion calls can exhibit flexible approach to schedules. And for a country that boasts of a population with 50% less than 25 years, there is no better incentive in this regard for the corporations to troop in.
So what’s the way forward, President Jonathan? It is important to point out to you that at this time of your presidency, ‘all’ your rhetoric should be about creating jobs for the teeming unemployed Nigeria youths, growing Nigeria’s economy, and arresting national debts. Concerns for the wellbeing of the citizenry and how to advance Nigeria into the elite club of industrialized nations should be your priority in these last days of your presidency and not a bid for re-election for which you have no apparent stewardship to make a strong case for. I pray for the spirit of progressiveness, patriotism, and fatherly responsibilities be imbued upon you from above. You are afterall the father of the Nigerian nation.