Nigeria’s Urgent Need For A Supply Chain Czar, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú
We are in dire straits and we do not have a national rallying point. A drawn out crisis could lead to shortages, starting with food and into every other thing, since we import most things. In a disruption, how do we coordinate logistics, haulage, rail etc. here? How can pharmaceutical plants produce and with what raw materials?
Nigeria has been hit in more horrible ways than one. The country needs responsible and accountable leadership now to respond to the crises of COVID-19, low crude oil price, inability to find buyers for our oil and the economic fallout of it all. How the crises are handled will be far more important to us than what the crises are. Obviously, Nigeria is in a bad place. When faced with dire situations like we are in, we must think a bit deeper. Before the coronavirus outbreak, “matured democracies” had increasingly been making stringent calls for a rethink of the models driving the economy, the political economy and the systems of social and economic relationships. Many hanker for things which a few short weeks ago were unthinkable. A lot of people in Europe, faced with what is now effectively a war economy, are calling for the sort of governments of national unity or the 1920s-type popular fronts with which desperately pressed nation states united to face calamities.
A national government is not going to happen in Nigeria. As the financier, Atedo Peterside said on Channels TV last week that there is no elite consensus. That is, the necessary consensus on key issues which guide the actions of the political establishment. In a crisis, the different political contenders and parties must work out a “national democratic agreement”, a minimal programme to keep the country in relative stability. The Nigerian establishment locked in the mindset of a rentier state does not prepare for anything. No large buffers have been built up for the proverbial rainy day. What has to be done now is to run a war economy without a national government. One of the ways through which Nigeria can weather this storm as an import dependent country, is to protect the supply chain to prevent a total meltdown.
Immediately, a supply chain czar must be appointed from the private sector, whose major mandate must be to minimise one-sided dependencies as a way of encouraging local production in sensitive areas. Nigeria will be tested in the following months as income dwindles and our economic and strategic dependence on others expose us to economic headwinds. This pandemic shows that supply problems can easily create strategic problems. Local manufacturing must be beefed up and government procurement, credits and logistics assistance must be provided to enable them to achieve the needed economies of scale for prices to remain stable. With so much reliance on China for supplies, after this experience we must now develop new supply chains and routes. We must also negotiate new, imaginative mutually beneficial trade deals. This crisis has once again shown the underlying weaknesses of Nigeria’s dysfunctional rentier economy; the absence of basic industries, barely functional manufacturing and the inability to use government procurement to build up local capacity.
We need to start thinking two steps ahead from now on and have backup suppliers capable of opening up new supply lines when shocks like these happen or when things do not work out… If Nigeria is on lockdown, what is the scenario planning for a supply chain for essential goods in a largely informal economy with pathetic infrastructural deficits?
The time for mediocrity, stealing and irresponsibility has passed. Nigeria’s economy is in doldrums. We need to start thinking two steps ahead from now on and have backup suppliers capable of opening up new supply lines when shocks like these happen or when things do not work out. Many countries are on lockdown. If Nigeria is on lockdown, what is the scenario planning for a supply chain for essential goods in a largely informal economy with pathetic infrastructural deficits? We have to be proactive, its bound to happen again, even if in a different form. Union and Access Bank have closed down. Without deposits coming in, how long will the ATM’s continue to function? A supply chain Czar and an inter-ministerial committee put together to coordinate the supply chain in what is now a war economy is an urgent necessity. For once, the government must open up to fresh ideas and new people.
We are in dire straits and we do not have a national rallying point. A drawn out crisis could lead to shortages, starting with food and into every other thing, since we import most things. In a disruption, how do we coordinate logistics, haulage, rail etc. here? How can pharmaceutical plants produce and with what raw materials? At a dangerous time, France had Charles de Gaulle to “Rally the Republic”. Winston Churchill’s bombastic speeches appealed to a nationalistic ethos, hitherto suppressed among the British. Who will rally the Nigerian republic now? The omens are awful.