Man of System

Been a while Aganga was bashed on this blog. Thankfully he has supplied fresh material. Going through the papers today, this caught my eye:

Concerned by the low level export of quality goods and services from Nigeria and in a desperate move to remove all barriers militating against export of goods and services, the Federal Government has inaugurated a National Accreditation Committee.

Minister of Trade&Investment, Olusegun Aganga

The committee was empowered to issue certificates of conformity which verify that management systems, product manufacturers, service providers and personnel have complied with best practice for quality, fitness for use and continued safety in operations.

This further ensures that buyers, users and consumers of products and services can pay for goods and services with confidence in the fact that their wellbeing is protected.

While inaugurating the committee in Abuja, yesterday, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), Mr. Olusegun Aganga, regretted: “The level of export from this country has been very low and the level of rejection outside this country has been very high.

“The efforts of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to set standards and improve quality of products through mobilisation and education of stakeholders is commendable.  However, the initiative under the National Quality Infrastructure will be more encompassing and address the gaps of the erstwhile arrangement.

“The benefit of an accreditation environment have been well recognised all over the world. Accreditation will among other benefits help to significantly reduce the barriers while facilitating export of high quality goods through product testing and certification. Efficiency levels will increase in organizations that are certified, it will enhance consumer satisfaction and stimulate industrial capacity utilization as goods and services will not be of low quality.”

I continue to be baffled that our friend is in charge of actually making business happen in Nigeria. And it is the main reason why I believe the government is either not serious about the things it says or has no strategy and is just winging it and hoping for the best.

First of all, he wants to remove ‘all barriers militating against exports of goods and services’. This is a noble thing – the government even admits that there are barriers in place which is the first step of solving the problem. So how does it plan to solve the problem? A committee!

Can it be that the current reason why we are not exporting enough goods is that we lack a committee to make this happen? Now, we have created a committee that will determine whether or not your product is good enough for export to a foreign country and then give you a licence. This committee will figure out what people in other countries want by sitting in Nigeria. Before you can send a product to say, Cambodia, a group of Nigerians will say ‘no, you can’t send this to Cambodia because Cambodians will not like it’.

Friends, cast your mind back to the 1980s. What kind of product did ‘Made in Taiwan’? signify? Yep, cheap and low quality. I grew up hearing my parents and Uncles deriding Taiwanese made products. But friends, today, Taiwan makes HTC phones and Asus computers – products which most Nigerians can no longer afford. Indeed, Taiwan is now so rich that its citizens no longer require visas to enter the United States.

So I ask you – how were those obviously cheap and poor quality products escaping from Taiwan and entering into Nigeria? Did they not have a committee to accredit their exports before sending them out so that the ‘wellbeing of Nigerians could be protected’? Or perhaps it was deliberate and Nigerians were used to fine tune these products till they got to the stage where they are now?

How about China? In 2013, it exported $2.21trn worth of goods and services. If there is a committee ‘accrediting’ all these exports, I am sure many Nigerians who have bought Made in China products will query its effectiveness. The Nigerians who acted as the guinea pigs for the first set of Chinese smartphones sold in Nigeria probably might not be able to afford the new ones like OnePlus – a firm which does not volunteer to its buyers that it is even Chinese:

Another local firm on the move is OnePlus. Reviewers in developed markets have been raving about its clever handsets, which offer top-notch performance and features for around $300—less than half the list price of the latest iPhone. Carl Pei of OnePlus argues that unlike its rivals, his firm was “born a global company”. Since its founding late last year, it has targeted 16 countries—including such challenging markets as America and Britain. “It helps that a lot of people don’t know that we are a Chinese firm,” he confides

I have also previously written about how the South Koreans used Nigerians to fine tune their Hyundais in the 1970s by sending us cars where the roofs ‘peeled off’ while washing:

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 12.41.07

Did the Koreans not have a committee to test if the roofs of their cars peeled off like a banana before exporting? Or did they deliberately sell them to us – with the bait of making them as cheap as possible – and then waiting for complaints to come in so they could refine the products based on those complaints?

There is a guaranteed system of achieving all those things that Aganga wants to achieve for Nigerian exports. It is called a market. There are various ways of entering and competing in a market – you can use quality or you can use low prices. For a country like Nigeria that does not have advanced skills, the best option is to compete on price and get the market to improve our products for us. There is no need for a committee to accredit any export. Send it out there, when they send it back, you will know what is wrong with it. The priority for any serious government must be to get those products out there as cheaply and quickly as possible. Because even if this so-called committee ‘accredits’ the products for exports, what is the guarantee that anyone will buy them? Will a buyer in Peru look at a product from Nigeria and say ‘Oh it’s got a certificate of conformity from the National Accreditation Committee…must be a lovely product, I must buy it‘. Surely they are not being exported into a vacuum? There is plenty of competition out there already.

The mistake being made here is in thinking that goods of low quality are beneath a country like Nigeria with our shiny new GDP. In fact, that is what we need to be doing and doing lots of it and it is evidenced by the high rejection of our products. If they are being rejected, price it until they accept it! using government subsidies if possible – Chinese manufacturers compete with subsidised electricity (if the Taiwanese had priced their goods at Western prices for us in the 1980s, we too would have rejected them). By setting up a committee, the only possible outcome will be that the volume of exports will reduce – the committee’s work will be to reduce the number of goods that make it out in the first place.

So why does Aganga like to waste his and Nigeria’s time with all these policies? I have only one explanation – he is a man of system as described by Adam Smith. Something must replace something. There must be a plan. Government knows it all. Ergo, when barriers are removed, you have to replace it with a committee. As if a committee is some kind of thoroughfare.

When a cancerous tumour is found in the body, it is removed. It is not replaced with a non-cancerous tumour, if ever there was such a thing.

We are well rid of evil.





3 thoughts on “Man of System

  1. LoL! Yes, there is indeed something like “non-cancerous tumour”. It’s called a Benign tumour. On a more serious note though, Aganga is a Master at vacuous verbosity. I was on a speaking panel with him once (TedxEuston 2009) before he became a Minister. My heart sank the day he was announced as Minister. It was clear that Nigeria was going to be in for motion without movement under the man’s watch!

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