AfDB urges economic diversification for growth

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Senior Special Adviser on Industrialisation at African Development Bank (AfDB), Prof. Oyelaran-Oyeyinka Oyebanji says diversification of Nigeria’s economy is the only viable way to survive the current global economic uncertainty.

Oyebanji stated this on Monday in Okada, Edo while delivering the 22nd Founder’s Day Lecture of the Igbinedion University, the first private university in Nigeria.

He said the diversification of the Nigerian economy had become important for it to respond favourably to the emerging challenges of the 21st century.

According to him, the country cannot progress unless it hastily industrialises its economy from the current overdependence on exportation of crude oil.

Oyebanji, who was the Guest Speaker at the occassion. regretted how all industries established in the early post independence Nigeria had become moribund.

He noted that nothing had exposed the danger inherent in the country’s reliance on monolithic economy of petroleum exportation than the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic that crashed price of crude oil at the global market.

“In pursuit of long-term recovery and sustainable development, Nigeria needs urgent economic diversification.

“Nothing is more poignantly demonstrative of the danger of over-reliance on a single or narrow range of commodities than the recent crash in oil price we saw in 2020 due to the COVID-19.

“Economic diversification entails a shift away from a single income source (oil and minerals) toward multiple income sources from an increasing spectrum of sectors, products and markets,” he said.

The guest speaker said South Korean economy, which was on the same pedestrian with the Nigerian in 1960s in spite of being non-resource based, had performed incredibly strong through export diversification whereas Nigeria hardly diversified.

“Nigeria got locked-in into petroleum export for export earnings to the detriment of value-added agriculture and manufactures.

“The result is low contribution of the manufacturing sub-sector which fluctuates between 5% to 8% to aggregate output in Nigeria compared with its peers in Asia (Korea about 39 per cent in the 1990s) is staggering,” he noted.

Oyebanji also stressed the need for the country to invest in infrastructure, saying economic diversification requires investment in infrastructure as the estimate Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit stands at $100 billion annually.

In his address, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Chancellor and Founder of the university, said that the institution, established in 1999, would continue to be a centre of academic excellence and research, as education remains the veritable tool for social mobilisation and bedrock for development.

Igbinedion, who was represented by his son and a former governor of Edo, Lucky Igbinedion. said he founded the institution because education sector could not be left in the hands of government alone, amidst growing admission seeking population.

“We shall continue to expand infrastructure, physical facilities and the aesthetics of the campus to further advance human civilisation,” he assured.

In his remark, the Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Nicolas Simard, who was the Special Guest of Honour, said Canadian universities were ready for partnership with the Igbinedion University. particularly in the area of Information and Communication technology (ICT).

Other areas of partnerships include food preservation and packaging as well as vocations such as in entertainment, journalism and cinematography.

The Canadian envoy stressed the need for renewed global commitment and collaboration in the wake of the challenges brought forth by COVID-19 pandemic and that Canada would be willing to play a lead role.

Earlier in his address of welcome, Prof. Lawrence Ezemonye, the Vice-Chancellor of the university, said the institution was determined to sustain its relationship and contributions to the society through the town and gown interface such as the occasion.

“Today, we are celebrating the success of our great university as it marks 22 years of academic excellence.

“This is a moment that allows us to consider what our aspirations have been over the years; reflect on 22 years of growth, grit and greatness; celebrate all that we have achieved together while aspiring towards a greater future.

“Our modest achievements over the last 22 years speak volumes. We have continued to champion educational revolution in Higher Education in Nigeria by delivering world-class education in a highly conducive global environment, inspiring a culture of creativity and innovative experience,” he said.

The vice-chancellor said that the university was determined, going forward, to be among the best 10 universities in Nigeria in the nearest future.