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Harnessing local content in post COVID-19 era

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Harnessing local content in post COVID-19 era

, News Agency of Nigeria

It is obvious that after the containment of the conoravirus pandemic, the world would face global economic challenges, especially countries that rely heavily on commodities for their foreign exchange earnings.

Stakeholders in Nigeria have therefore underscored the need for strategic approach, not just to contain the coronavirus, but also to ensure sustainability of the nation’s economy in the post-coronavirus era.
They noted that Nigeria relied mostly on oil for foreign exchange earnings and the future of oil is very bleak.

The current price of crude oil has dropped greatly from the $57 per barrel benchmark of Nigeria’s 2020 budget, because of COVID-19 ravaging the world.

The stakeholders who spoke at different fora, stressed the important of local content development, and called on the Federal Government to invest in local content development to sustain the nation’s economy.
They noted that raw materials, agricultural and natural resources deposits abound in the country and can be used to turn around the nation’s economic fortune.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who acknowledged the importance of local content development, said that prioritising use of local resources and creating local jobs in the construction and allied industries, among others, would be critical in sustaining the economy in the post COVID-19 era.
Osinbajo in his virtual address at the 2020 edition of ‘The Platform’ with the theme `Nigeria’s Battle against COVID-19,’ stressed the need to harness local content.
The Platform is an annual discussion programme of the Covenant Christian Centre.
The vice president listed some of the Federal Government’s efforts at addressing the economic fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will get through this much stronger economically, and much stronger as a people because of our resilience; there are a lot of challenges but they offer significant opportunities for us to turn things around.
“We have to prioritise the use of local resources in all public works; in road construction for instance, it is cheaper to build concrete roads using limestone than spending resources on the importation of bitumen.
“We have limestone in abundance, hence we should be looking in that direction; the road from Apapa Port to the Lagos –Ibadan expressway is being built with cement and is of high quality.
“In the housing sector where we have a huge deficit, we need to focus on using local resources to build houses and in the process we will be creating opportunities for young engineers, architects and builders.’’
In the same vein, the African Union (AU) Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), said that  civil society organisations and indigenous companies most collaborate to sustain post-COVID-19 efforts in order to boost economic development across the continent.

Dr Tunji Asaolu, 1st Nigerian Representative of the AUECOSOCC Nigeria, who gave the advice, said that Africa must look inward.

“There is the need to work closely with CSOs and relevant stakeholders in the fight against COVID-19.
“There is also need to support African home grown medication for the treatment of COVID-19 infected patients.
“Africa must take this opportunity to start looking inward as a continent whose development is people-driven and which relies on potential of the African people to become united and an influential player in the global arena,” he said.

He urged government at all levels to invest in agriculture, to forestall hunger and also invest more on screening and testing of people to help tackle the post-pandemic.
He underscored the need for autonomy of local governments in the post COVID-19 era, as the third tier of government would establish direct link and access for local communities to understand and participate fully in governance.
In the same vein, Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) urged the Federal Government to consider adopting local measures to combat the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
Agbakoba said that the dreaded coronavirus disease had exposed the fragility of the public health system of many countries including Nigeria.
“For Nigeria to handle COVID-19 successfully, especially in view of Nigeria’s public health system and paucity of funds, I need to make two overriding points.
“First, the need to depart from international strategy by developing a ‘Nigerian strategy’ in managing COVID-19 and diversification of the economy in view of dwindling oil revenue.
“On the need for a Nigerian strategy on COVID-19, I call on the Federal Government to interrogate available quinine medications and to engage Nigerian virologists and infectious diseases specialists,’’ he said.
He also called on the Federal Government to engage public health professionals and traditional and herbal medicine institutions with a view to exploring local Nigerian solutions to COVID-19.
He explained that such approach would also help to enhance the capacity of Nigerian specialists, in line with the policy of promoting and utilising local content.
On his part, Prof. Jonah Onuoha, urged the Federal Government to create enabling environment for the development of local content, promote industrialisation and other policies that would boost the economy.

Onuoha, who is the Head, Department  of Political Science, University of Nigeria Nsukka, said that government must find ways to enhance production, especially in the agricultural sector to ensure food security.

According to him, development of local contents is the only way to avoid recession, because no economy can be sustained without production.
“Production is what distinct the poor from the rich; Nigeria must invest in agricultural production now that the rainy season has set in.
“Nigeria is not producing anything from oil at the moment; people should be allowed to go to farm, because production of local content from agriculture is the way forward to escape recession.
“Federal Government must lay criteria for state governments on local content; they must produce within specific timeframe to achieve the desired goal,” he said.

The challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic is that Nigeria must look inward and harness local content. As suggested by stakeholders, government must put in place criteria for local content development. (NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria

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