Reversing Nigeria’s disarticulated economy
An articulated vehicle has various parts, joined with rivets, bolts, and knots: It has the cabin, housing for the driver and his mate, and a flatbed, that may bear a container for goods, all fashioned to function as a unit.
That its components are joined, and not compacted, like a car, explains why such a vehicle is regarded as articulated. To unjoin the compartments, all you have to do is find, say, a screwdriver, and simply uncouple.
On the other hand, disarticulation, if you would like to take it from the point of view of the medical profession, is the separation of two bones at their joint, or point of contact, either naturally by way of injury, or by a surgeon, maybe during the process of amputation.
The medical metaphor of disarticulation verily applies to the Nigerian economy that is no more than a patchwork of disjointed, but related, parts that also do not function as a system, said to be the sum of the whole parts. The various parts are uncoordinated, some going this way and the others, that way.
A working definition of a disarticulated economy, as obtained in nigeria, is one in which productive sectors produce goods that the economy does not consume, and the citizens consume products that their economy does not produce. In other words, the productive capacity is not related to the capacity of consumption.
In a curve by M. Eubal, “Disarticulation occurs when the main activities of the economy are increasingly dissociated from the demands of the wage earners.” What this is saying is that when your productive capability is out of sync with your domestic consumption needs, your labour is simply going to have nothing to do very soon.
Well, if you want to check the obverse, an articulated economy is where the productive capital (money, machines, and material) is directly related to the capacity of consumption, so that, to a large extent, residents of such a nation consume what they produce.
If you would quit the academic narrative, the dire reality of Nigeria’s economy can be described in the following words: There are three of four sub-sectors of the economy that should function like a unit, but they are not.
The agricultural sector, which should produce food crops and raw materials input for the agro-allied industry, is barely producing enough. A lot of food items are imported to supplement local production.
A cotton farmer in northern nigeria once admitted that it was not profitable for him to sell his produce locally. He even wondered who was in a position to buy his produce at the appropriate price, and be able to use it as raw material.
No one needs to say too much before you can recognise that the crude oil mined in Nigeria is an upstream business. Even the downstream segment of the oil industry imports petroleum products because the local petroleum refining infrastructure is comatose.
Nigerians are anxiously waiting, with bated breath, on billionaire Aliko Dangote to put his 650 barrels per day refinery to use. Nigeria’s petroleum sector is run essentially by foreign capital and technology.
The manufacturing sub-sector is on wounded knees, not being able to operate because of inappropriate, inadequate, and dilapidated infrastructure. Therefore, the manufacturing sector is unable to utilise the little raw materials produced by both the agricultural and mining sectors.
Just think of the failure to deliver agricultural input, like cocoa beans, from the farmgate, to the works of a chocolate or beverage manufacturer.
Also, think of the failure to deliver grey textile fabric from a weaving shed, to a process house, where it will be converted into finished fabric before being turned into garments.
A major missing link in these cases is an effective and efficient transport infrastructure.
You could therefore conclude that the agricultural, mining, and manufacturing sectors, which should have a firm value chain flow, are functioning at tangent, if not completely against, one another.
Marketing, or to put it more appropriately, buying and selling, is the only sector that seems to be functional in Nigeria. But the bad news is that it is almost totally delinked to the other sub-sectors. Most of the commodities traded in Nigeria, the ultimate trading outpost, are imported.
And the trading is funded by money got from sale of crude oil, turned into salaries of public servants, contractors’ fees, and outright fraud; Diaspora remittances; and a mix of proceeds from sale of illegal drugs and Advance Fee fraud.
In an article, “Structural Disarticulation and Third World Human Development,” published in International Journal of Comparative Society, Jie Huang submits: “Inability (of a disarticulated economy) to absorb (meaning, to provide jobs for) the majority of the labour force into productive activities leads to weak purchasing power of the masses.”
He concludes, with a tone of resignation: “This lack of correspondence between production and consumption stifles the driving forces of economic growth, crippling overall economic and social progress.”
What this suggests is that the recession that the current government boasts to have overcome is caused by an economic system that doesn’t function like a system, but commits its finances into importing practically everything, and also continues to send its productive manpower resources away on economic migration. That is a recipe for economic downturn and doldrums.
Nigeria’s Prof Claude Ake, fondly referred to as activistscholar-theorist, puts the blame for the state of things in nigeria, and the rest of Africa, on the intransigence and manipulative tactics of the metropolitan powers of the West.
Ake avers: “The rigidity of the international division of labour has not allowed African (read also Nigerian) economies to break out of the role of primary (goods) producers, for reasons which include lack of access to technology, the comparative advantage of the industrialised nations in manufacturing, and the constraints of domestic market.”
It looks like he is suggesting that international monopoly capital has permanently assigned the roles of supplier of primary goods, and consumer of finished goods, to Nigeria, the rest of Africa, and what remains of the Third World.
As if to grant the opportunity for equal time to Nigerian, or African, state actors, Ake adds: “The nationalist movement, invariably a coalition of ethnic, professional, religious, and social groups, tends to disintegrate with the elimination of imperial control.
“... The (initial) solidarity of the political leaders suffer because of differences in approach to (solving) the problems of administering and developing the country.” Ake is wearing a fitting shoe for the other foot.
But some critics actually think the problem is not just about the viciousness of international monopoly capital, and that of ideological, even primordial, differences of the stream of nigeria’s state actors.
They think the real problem is that of ignorance of the state actors; they aver that this pack of policymakers hardly understands the issues at stake, and so their priorities and choices hardly address the problems at hand.
The recent appointment of the Presidential Economic Advisory Committee by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), may just be an admission on the part of the political elite that they hardly have the solutions to nigeria’s problems.
What Nigeria really needs to do now is to intentionally engage its capital and labour to meet the consumption, or “stomach infrastructure” needs of its citizens.
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