Emerging MINT Economies: The Challenges Ahead By Okafor C. Udoka

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After proposing Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) as future economic “super-powers” of the world in 2001, Jim O’Neil hit the world news waves again. This time around, the British Economist brings great alert to the world as he advances MINT- Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey- as the world’s emerging markets. Speaking on  BBC radio series tagged “MINT: The Next Economic Giants” on Radio 4, January 6-9, O’Neil declared of MINT, “If not as big as the BRICS, then not that far off.”

Although the acronym, MINT, was originally coined by Fidelity fund managers, O’Neil’s background in BRICS makes his latest proposal unimaginable to ignore. The fact that BRICS countries are actually moving on a cruising momentum to outpace the G8 and enthrone a new economic order in the world is a living proof of the possibility that MINT would come to be a reality in the near future if some conditions are met. 

However, it is a massive wonder, if not the 8th wonder of the world, that as the world stands still and debate the prospects of MINT, the MINT news and debate are not on the front burner of national issues in Nigeria; in a way, the news of MINT is hardly featured by the media- print and electronic. And one begins to wonder if we are really serious of growing and developing our economy to hit Vision 20: 2020. 

By and large, the MINT debate has once again brought to the fore our preferences as a nation and the kind of government and opposition we have in Nigeria. In other countries, the people, government and opposition are in fierce debates on which economic path needs to be pursued to realise their economic growth and development as contained in MINT projection but Nigeria’s own is different; ours is a nation of politics and power struggles with little or no attention to its economy.  

As for Nigeria in MINT projection, O’Neil says: “The place is complete madness, of course, and one can’t be 100 per cent sure, given its challenges, that it will be one country in four years. But after India, it’s the best in the world in terms of useful population. By 2050, Nigeria will have more people than the United States. If you get those young people in productive jobs, that place will arguably be the most exciting country in the world in the next 30 years. Linked to that, there are so many creative entrepreneurs there and, interestingly, so many educated Nigerians returning from the US because they smell this opportunity to be the next big thing.”

As exciting and welcoming as the news of MINT can be to Nigeria and its economy, there are variables which vigorously challenge our economic growth and seem determined to impede our economic development. 

For example, Nigeria is making record as the only emerging market in the world where poverty and growth are in competitive increase. We have an economy propelled by the service sector and high prices of goods which works for the overall benefit of the rich as the poor get poorer each passing day. The situation is accentuated with low standard of living of the greater number of the citizens. 

However, the steady growth of the Nigeria’s economy over the last 10 years in the face of massive corruption, mismanagement and lack of power supply suggest that if things are done differently the standard of living of Nigerians would improve to march our impressive macroeconomic indicators. But we have a greatly urgent work to be do as a nation and individuals. 

First, the federal government must solve the power supply crisis in Nigeria by all means possible. No nation has ever grown without steady power supply and Nigeria would not likely be an exception. 

It is a fact that government has given up its monopolistic control of generation, transmission and distribution of power but it must go a step further and create the enabling environment that will ensure that the new investors in the power sector work in supplying power to Nigeria; issues like effective and efficient regulation of the sector as well as availability of gas to fuel the power turbines must be addressed critically. 

Similarly, there must be a friendly business environment if our economy must continue to grow; thus, the government must pursue laws, programmes and policies which encourage security of life and properties, friendly rules, zero corruption and crimes under a dedicated leadership. 

Essentially, we must be mindful of the people we elect into public offices henceforth; we must be committed to electing people who have the pedigree, character and experience in drive our economy. In short, we must start electing our available best 11 in all elections; this is because leadership is critical in making or marring great countries. Indeed, we need leaders who would be ready and firm in spreading and redistributing wealth between the rich and poor. 

Our leaders should also be mindful of the place of capital expenditure and infrastructure in building modern economies; as such, emphases should be placed on building industrial estates, roads, railways, and dredging inland waterways to make businesses flourish amongst other competitive needs.  Government must also uproot all forms of terrorism threatening to take root here and ensure secured environment for economic activities. 

In line with the foregoing, the reform programme of the government must continue and run its full course in all sectors of the economy and arms of government most especially in the judiciary. 

The judiciary as the last hope of the common man also play important role in building and restoring investors hope in the economy through sound discharge of justice in a timely manner. So a working judiciary and access to justice are critical needs in meeting the MINT challenge of Nigeria. 

It is also indisputable that the banking sector has the capacity to stifle the MINT projection as evidenced in failed banks and unwholesome practices in that sector of the economy. The CBN should step up its aces in regulating our banks and implement workable monetary policies that would ultimately make loans available and curb inflation so that our manufacturing sector would grow and create jobs thereby ending the era of “raw materials export and importation of finished goods.”

In all these, we must begin to build and encourage home made technologies; the tertiary institutions and research institutes are challenged to work extra hard in creating technologies that would support our environment and challenges thereby ending capital flight associated with importation of technology from overseas. 

Let us embrace this MINT challenge of O’Neil and use it as a beacon to achieve economic growth and development in Nigeria. This challenge must not be allowed to die young because we have the labour, capacity, brains and resources to bring it to fruition but we also need educated and skilled labour to drive it too. And failure is not an option at all.  

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