…there are really few options to investing in a workforce that is both nimble and agile. Not many may yet call global points of inflection. So its current challenge is to have a population and an infrastructure base that can turn on a kobo as it responds to changes in its operating conditions. Education. Education. Education. And a constant upscaling of the school curriculum.


In the last more than four years, efforts at reforming the Nigerian state have been equivalent to a grown man taking a leak in the lagoon. As noise, it has been an impressive spectacle, no doubt. One need only reflect on how supporters of the incumbent government wax lyrical about its myriad achievements to understand this. On different measures, however, it has failed to deliver the goods across many dimensions of the lived experiences of Nigerians. As signal of intent, it fails all together. There are few better illustrations of the latter dimension of the problem than the paralysis which afflicts this government each time it has to choose members of the federal executive committee.

And all these are happening at a time when the dynamics of our operating environment is rapidly changing. Consensus is that at some point in the next couple of years, if not sooner, the global economy is going to slow down. The boom-bust relationship that is the business cycle almost means that we may take this fact for granted. And this is before you add the tense relationship between the U.S. and China to the mix. As global trade slows because of these two, global demand will shrink. Far more worrisome, though, is the effect of the trade spat between both countries on global supply chains.

Until recently, it was clear that the trade link, via reduced demand for our major export — crude oil, is the main transmission mechanism from the global economy to the domestic economy. As global demand falls, the demand for primary inputs, including energy, falls. And global oil prices too. Given how much of our government revenue is dependent on oil export receipts, depending on how deep the price decrease is, our economy goes into a funk often deeper than the original global one. Okay, it also recovers faster than the global economy, once oil prices start heading up in response to improved global sentiments.

…one thing is clear. The Nigerian saw about re-purposing the economy away from its dependence on oil exports will no longer suffice as a reform goal. Crude oil exports do not matter in that way anymore and this was long before the advent of Mr. Trump.


Until recently, too, the pattern for emerging economies intent on sustainable growth was clear. Adopt pro-market reforms, especially those that bring domestic business costs down; strengthen the independence of the central bank, including through market-determined exchange rates; remove impediments to the repatriation of profits; invest in the employability of their large youthful workforces; etc. This challenge is invariably described in terms of following closely behind China as it moves up the production possibility frontier — by mopping up the low-end manufacturing jobs that then become too costly for its increasingly richer population to do competitively.

This global dynamic is under threat, however. Indeed, there are those who swear that it has changed irrevocably. The one major injury that the current U.S. government has done the global economy is to undermine the international division of labour that has been at the heart of global growth over the last four decades. China, unfortunately, was at the nexus of this division — the “hub” to “spokes” that increasingly included most emerging south Asian markets. And as Mr. Donald J. Trump continues on his path to make America great again, the U.S. has felt the need to dismantle the global supply chains on which much of the world economy relies today the — repatriation to the U.S. by major manufacturers of their previously outsourced/off-shored operations being a necessary condition for the U.S.’ recovery of the global leadership that it had lost to the rest of the world.

Net effect of these? Truth is, no one knows. We will have to wait a while to understand how new global supply relationships pan out. But one thing is clear. The Nigerian saw about re-purposing the economy away from its dependence on oil exports will no longer suffice as a reform goal. Crude oil exports do not matter in that way anymore and this was long before the advent of Mr. Trump. Concerns over the feedback relationship between the use of hydrocarbons and global warming, and the increased energy-intensity of global production processes had both doomed big oil.

As global supply chains shift in response to non-market stimuli, we would struggle to play in that space. What to do to boost domestic output levels, in the face of a rising, and restive, youth population? “Prepare the economy for the market”, increasingly sounds too blasé a recommendation.


If our longstanding reform goal is now in want of a good leg to stand on. The new one — attracting non-resident foreign investors (especially of the brick and mortar variety) — is leaving via the window. As global supply chains shift in response to non-market stimuli, we would struggle to play in that space. What to do to boost domestic output levels, in the face of a rising, and restive, youth population? “Prepare the economy for the market”, increasingly sounds too blasé a recommendation. More so that globally the concept of the market is being delegitimised by a rash of populist leaders.

But there are really few options to investing in a workforce that is both nimble and agile. Not many may yet call global points of inflection. So its current challenge is to have a population and an infrastructure base that can turn on a kobo as it responds to changes in its operating conditions. Education. Education. Education. And a constant upscaling of the school curriculum. We can do no worse!

Uddin Ifeanyi, journalist manqué and retired civil servant, can be reached @IfeanyiUddin.