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Nigeria must diversify, cut dependence on crude – Obasanjo

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By Sola Omoniyi, Lagos

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Sunday, again stressed the need for the country to shift from a mono-economy marked by over-dependence on crude oil and embrace non-oil exports, particularly agribusiness to overcome the problem of forex crisis that had significantly impacted the nation’s economy negatively.

Obasanjo alluded to the assertion by some commentators who opined that oil had become a curse to the nation, hampering the development of potentials in other areas.

The former President spoke at the closing ceremony of a one-week training organised for 200 entrepreneurs by the African Leadership Foundation in collaboration with the Africa ExportImport Bank.

The training, with the theme, “Agribusiness Export Readiness Accelerator Training Programme,” was held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Obasanjo said, “Historically, Nigeria has been known for its near total dependence on earnings from petroleum export, and her economy has suffered devastations arising from various oil shocks without any buffer to cushion against major declines.

“What was initially celebrated as a major blessing has become what economists now refer to as the ‘oil curse’. The recent volatility in the oil market and the expansive global push towards alternative energy now leaves no one in doubt about the urgency of diversifying our economic base through the promotion of non-oil exports.”

Obasanjo stressed that “Given the enormous resource endowment of Nigeria, I do not doubt in my mind that economic diversification is achievable at the shortest possible time if robust economic policies with appropriate implementation mechanisms are put in place, running consistently over some time.

“Nations like Indonesia and Malaysia were once mono-product economies like Nigeria, but are now well diversified and therefore less vulnerable to global economic shocks.”

The former President expressed sadness that Africa had continued to remain at the bottom of the global trade pyramid and global value chain accounting for only 1.9 per cent of global manufacturing because it has failed to add value to even its small export of primary commodities.

“In Nigeria, not only do we export our oil as crude, we turn around to import virtually all our petroleum products from other nations. The story is not remarkably different for our non-oil exports. Since international trade is a good barometer of the world economic growth and development, it then becomes quite easy to understand the poor economic performance of Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular,” he added.

He lauded Afreximbank for organising the agribusiness training, saying, “This is a game-changing development for Nigeria and the continent at large, and the strategic move aligns perfectly to foster self-sufficiency and reduce our dependence on oil.”

The President of Afreximbank, Dr Benedict Oramah, represented by the Senior Manager of Export Development, Mr Ody Akhanoba, said there had recently been an increase in the demand for processed agricultural products from Africa, especially in the US, UK and France, urging participants to maximise this growing diaspora market to further improve on the fortunes of the continent.

The Executive Director of Africa Leadership Foundation, Dr Olumide Ajayi, described the training as an eye-opener for the participants.

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