3 months ago

Made in Nigeria

 

When I first heard about the call for Nigerians to embrace “Made in Nigeria” goods, I felt it was an excellent idea. Understandably there are certain industries that would need a whole lot more than calling for patronage, and I’d be bold to say that the textile industry falls into this category. We simply don’t have what it takes to adequately supply to the majority of the people’s present need. Having said that, I definitely also believe that there are areas where we as citizens must adjust our preferences for the greater good of the nation. Before we start to ask for more financial boosting and the whole lot, I think that we must first of all clearly and thoroughly understand our why’s (why do we want to be a great industry?) and what’s (what do we need to do to achieve that greatness?) and then we must know how we will accomplish the task ahead with a structured and sustainable roadmap.
I wanted to know a little bit more about what other people are saying concerning buying “Made in Nigeria” and it’s interesting to read and hear the differing views on this issue, but I believe at the heart of everyone’s assessments, we all want the same end result – a nation that’s thriving in every industry.

 

There’s a brilliant article by Simon Kolawole written in  THISDAYLIVE titled “Made in Nigeria and the Complications” and I’d love to share excerpts from it because it answers the question on why would we buy “Made in Nigeria”, and it has nothing to do with sentiments.

I highly recommend you read his entire piece to get the full gist. I particularly enjoyed reading the comments- a passionate debate ensues between two commenters on the way forward. Definitely check it out.

 

We’ll start-off on where he speaks on the alarming nature of items that are imported into the country and take it from there;

 

Emefiele had said there would be no more forex allocation for the importation of products we are already producing or can produce domestically — as well as items that are luxuries. At the time, toothpicks, rice, private jets and Indian incense dominated our attention. It soon emerged that tomatoes and vegetables — and many other items we produce here — are also on the list… 

 

His “vision statement” — if he were to develop one — would be: “crush imports”. In branding, this is called competition-focused vision. It would necessitate an aggressive strategy to make the local industry grow and snuff life out of imports. If it works out well, imports would reduce drastically and domestic industry would grow phenomenally.

 

Because I don’t dare claim to be an economist, I would assume that our CBN governors’ motives/actions are in the right direction, and perhaps the nation is going through a process that isn’t intended to drown/collapse us but instead, I think if we look at it with fresh eyes, we realize that now is the time to begin to see areas where opportunities exist and begin to work towards meeting the needs of the people; and the needs are quite vast. He goes on to state,

 

“Crushing” imports and promoting “Made in Nigeria” are conceptually excellent, but I will show you a more excellent way.

It is one thing for Emefiele to think about “crushing” imports and promoting “Made in Nigeria”, but it is a different matter altogether for Nigerian producers to rise up to the challenge. How many Nigerian products are export quality? How many of them are properly packaged and presented in a very appealing way to the consumer? I try to separate the issue of “quality” from “colonial mentality” — that thinking that anything foreign is better than anything local — because I have come across many Nigerians who would like to buy local goods but are simply put off by what they see.

How much attention is paid to the detail in the production process? What is the quality assurance for the consumer?

 

This in particular is what I really want us to focus on, and why I felt the need to share from the Mr. Kolawole’s article; if you and I were given the opportunity to produce solely for the Nigerian market, how many of us are willing to give it our very best? Would our standards change if we knew there was a 100% potential for exportation of the same goods? Are we driven by excellence or are we settling for less-than? Our stance on what we produce ought to consistently portray accuracy, integrity and quality.

 

In conclusion, he states,

 

I do not by any means suggest that all Nigerian products and services are poor. That would be a reckless exaggeration…

 

And I do not also suggest that it is easy for Nigerian products to attain export standards. I can list a thousand and one obstacles that have kept our local industry retarded and struggling for decades, reasons including the very hostile business environment lacking in infrastructural backbone, financial power and political support. We know all these things. But my focus today is on the quality of what we produce. Even if the age-old problems are resolved, how many of our products can begin to compete globally? That is my point… 

 

It is one thing to market a product with sentiments — it is another thing for the consumer to be satisfied and keep asking for more.

 

How do we get to the point where in everything we do, we as a people are known for excellence and integrity in our work/craft/service? In my opinion, it starts with the value we place on ourselves; knowing our worth I believe matters a whole lot more than we think. When I don’t value myself, I settle for less, but when I know my value, I know that I am worthy of the best my country has to offer me and I in turn, also want to offer the very best to my country. Our attitude changes from giving and receiving inferiority to becoming a people and nation that would do all we possibly can to be great, and that means we choose to become our brother’s keeper, or better yet, we “always do for other people everything we want them to do for us.” Matthew 7:12.

It’s as simple as that. If I want the best, why shouldn’t I task myself enough to GIVE the best?

 

3 months ago

turning a weakness into a strength

 

I recently heard a great teaching, and the paraphrased version basically states that everything we will ever pursue in life starts with a Desire. This desire to become a better textile industry and develop all aspects that pertain to its success must not end there. When a desire is planted in our hearts, if it’s strong enough, it moves us to make a Decision. For instance we decide that we’re not going to continue to have the same mindsets that held us back, or our work ethics have to be regenerated for the better or we’re willing to go back to school, etc. And when a Decision is made to move in the direction of the Desire, what happens is that you’ve placed yourself in a Position – a place that’s better off than when you began the journey. Being positioned to take-on the hardwork needed to move in growth will require a lot of Patience. This only means that we keep working relentlessly in what we know to be right and purposeful, even when times are tough and we seem to be going against the grain. Only after we’ve progressed, one step at a time; over a time period, we will eventually reach the Promise – that special place where we know we’ve dreamt of, envisioned, and worked hard to attain, believed and never gave up.

 

I love to see the possibilities in people and places and I can definitely see a greater future for Nigeria’s textile industry. My main concern right now is to engrave it into our hearts that we can become a great industry that feeds and clothes many of our people. Today it’s important to be grateful that we have a strong desire for better, and we’ve made a commitment – a decision, to walk-out those steps, one at a time. I strongly believe that the more we “walk” in becoming more knowledgeable in our various areas of concern, we will never regret it. Our ideas and concepts will build the future that we can only see in our hearts, right now.

 

How do we turn our weak points into strengths? Focus on what’s most important in the process right now – Preparation would be mine, yours of course could be different. We obviously don’t know all we need to know in our industry or even of ourseleves and how best we can be placed to aid in its development. So why not spend time building on who you are. You and I cannot change another person, if they aren’t willing to be changed, but we can focus on ourselves.

Let’s ask ourselves, how can I become the person that stands out in wisdom, in integrity, in understanding and mastery, in expertise, etc? Start there. Everyday I remind myself of the dream ahead, and although it may appear as though nothing is happening, trust me when I say that keep moving, don’t give up because it’s all part of the process.

 

My weakness – the unknown and what if’s.

Weakness into Strength – the vision stays in my sight, in my mind and causes me to move.

Textile industry weaknesses – our past failures; the current inadequacies within Nigeria; unfavorable policies and conditions, lack of proper structures (infrastructure), the know-how, etc

Weaknesses into Strengths – don’t give up. Know what we are up against and create a map on getting to the desired goal of greatness. Standing together. Building strong collaborations. Learning and equiping our people (training).

If we all decide to start to do something, no matter how small it looks, it will build into a force that’s greater than we could ever have been able to accomplish had we done nothing.

Take charge! Recently I heard a lady who’s defying odds in her industry say that each of us must begin to see ourselves as a spokesperson in our industry – when others are sighting doom, you’re saying recovery, preparation, greatness,… Yes we can!

L.o.Z

4 months ago

What’s our #1 area of lack? The Power to Imagine/...

 

 

I love this quote by Albert Einstein; “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

 

I thought about what was lacking in the textile industry and although solid facts exist like we’ve touched on in our previous two posts,(here) and (here), I also know that it stems a bit deeper than just the facts.

From my perspective, our industry has lost its heart to imagine the monumental possibilities of just how great we truly could be. If we would only start to harness these thoughts and build upon them, we’ll move a farther distance than waiting on policies and conditions to favor us.

We must start to think beyond our obstacles. Start to map a way forward regardless of what stands against our progress. Start to collaborate. Start to teach again. Start to think positively. Start to pen our visions down. Start to talk about how blessed we are. Start to see ourselves as being vital in the progress of our nation. Start to war for what belongs to us and our children. Start to desire for the re-birth of an industry more than we grumble about its decay. Start to see the journey ahead as a call rather than just a means to a paycheck. Start to see our dreams as being attainable. Start to pray in authority. Start progressing step by step, but above all, start now.

 

Does your mindset need to start adjusting to thinking of success and not past failures? Does your knowledge need a mighty boosting, eg going back to school, interning, reading etc Does your networking need new strategies? Does your vision need to be written? And the list goes on.

There are lots of things we could do today, depending on where we’re at, it really doesn’t matter. I once heard a great man say recently that 5 years from now, yours and my life will be either worse or better than where we are today; there’s no way it will remain the same. Something must make it become better or do nothing, and it deteriorates. That ‘something’ is our mind – how bad do you want to become better?

For me and probably a number of us out there, our starting point is in the personal & professional development of ourselves (skills).

Along the line, we’ll need experts and individuals to come alongside us to guide us and propel us further than we could move by ourselves. But, in the meantime, there is an urgency to rise to the call to what you and I must do for ourselves, today.

Here’s a lesson – start to align your thoughts with the greatness of purpose (loving God, loving yourself & loving others) and trash out thoughts that are against that vision.

L.o.Z

4 months ago

A More Comprehensive Look At Our History

 

I couldn’t help but keep digging a bit deeper on the net to what’s already been written out there, and I was so pleased to have stumbled on this extensively researched article by Ms. Uduak Oduok, Esq entitled “The Urgency of Now: putting Nigeria’s fashion industry on the global map” – I’ll highlight aspects that I felt were new to me personally, and will be immensely beneficial to us, but to read the entire article, which I would suggest, please see it (here).

Her angle on this as the title suggests, is majorly focused on the textile industry’s role in aiding the growth and advancement of the fashion industry within Nigeria. In spite of our failures, the fashion industry has progressed in carving a platform at home and abroad that we in the textile can not boast of. I do however agree with the article that THERE IS MORE! More to be gained and acquired within the fashion industry that will further enhance its growth. Needless to say, we’re focusing on the textile industry right now, so here’s a clip from what she had to say about the crisis we’re presently in:

 

Trade PoliciesPrior to the mid-50s, Nigeria had a successful agricultural industry, exporting cash crops like cotton, cocoa and groundnut. The success of the agricultural industry paralleled with that of textiles. Textiles and agriculture went hand in hand as agriculture provided the raw materials i.e. cotton in the first step of the textile supply chain. By the mid-50s, however, the agricultural boom came to an end. Post 1960, attaining its independence and embracing nationalism, Nigeria adopted an import substitution strategy. This translated to control on cotton prices and high tariffs, among many tactics used, on imported textiles. From 1967-70 [the Biafra War] and later 1977, there was an outright ban on imported textiles. These bans were meant to provide leverage for Nigeria in its dealings with its trading partners. In fact, the 1977 ban, for example, was the result of what the government deemed a self-sufficient Clothing and Textile industry. 

 

The government, arguably, got it right. As of 1980, Nigeria was ranked the third largest textile industry in Africa after Egypt and South Africa. However, amidst the oil boom of the 70s to 80s, Nigeria became over reliant on oil, to the detriment of its agricultural sector. Cotton production, for example, was in the 1980s, fifty percent below its production capacity. There was nothing in place to actively stop its rapid decline. Nigeria engaged in a culture of high consumption but produced less. By 1974, Nigeria was importing simple basics like food. Things would only worsen.

 

In 1985, President Ibrahim Babaginda took office. A year later, he steered Nigeria into an adoption of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s [IMF] Structural Adjustment Program [SAP]. SAP ran from 1986 to 1988 and was defined as a period of massive devaluation of the Naira.

 

Raw Materials: From 1903 to 1974, the British Cotton Growers Association was in place to help regulate and advocate for Cotton Growers. By 1974, it was replaced with the Nigerian Cotton Marketing Board who retained the same functionalities including added functions of marketing its cotton. By 1986, however, the year SAP was implemented, the board was abolished. What would follow, especially with no oversight, was a further deterioration within the cotton industry in terms of production capacity. This meant the textile industry had insufficient and at times no raw materials to work with. As a result, fabric manufacturers relied heavily on imported raw materials and other textile inputs to even begin fabric production.

 

Infrastructural issues and Unemployment: Exacerbating the problems above were infrastructural issues, particularly power supply. The constant power failure, also caused by a Nigeria Electric Power Authority [NEPA] operating well below its 6,000 MW capacity, made it extremely difficult for textile businesses to see a return on investments much less break even. The corresponding result was heavy retrenchments, huge turnover rates with the adverse effect of erosion of skilled workers, factory closures, riots and chaos. 

 

Further, although Nigeria, especially during the import substitution era of the 70s had tried to make most of its textile plants Nigerian owned, the fact remained that foreigners had the major market share. In 1986, for instance, according to extensive research conducted by Swedish researchers on the union power in Nigeria’s textile industry, Nigeria’s Textile Manufacturer Association reported 75 members. Of these 75, 30 were Indian owned firms with the rest being Chinese and Lebanese. Only 4 of the 75 were reported as indigenous Nigerian owned firms. Amidst all the instability, huge operational cost, riots and corruption, these foreigners returned to their countries of origin. Sometimes, they left just as quickly as they had appeared leaving no retrenchment benefits.

 

“Bend Down Select” and Chinese Imports: ….For Nigeria’s textile industry, the lack of diversity and innovation in textile designs plus the aforementioned factors, made it extremely vulnerable. Chinese textile mills outpaced Nigeria in production capacity, labor/skilled workers, regulatory compliance in exporting to Western countries and innovative equipments. Worse, the Chinese did not spare Nigeria in its domestic market. The Chinese mastered and produced Nigerian designs like “ankara” and “”aso oke,” stamped “Made in Nigeria” on them and sold them in Nigeria as local products. 

 

The affordability saw consumers shunning the more expensive and genuine Nigerian textiles for China’s cheap imports. Nigeria’s already stressed out textile industry saw even more factory closures, retrenchments, and lesser production capacity.

Now here’s what she had to say about a way forward, which by the way I think are brilliant suggestions and are in-line with what we want our industry to stand for especially in being environmentally friendly. I’ve only captured the first 4 out of 11 strong points she mentioned.

 

  1. Textile manufacturers and agricultural producers should collaborate to advocate for stronger infrastructure and government incentives that can help increase production of raw materials such as cotton.
  1. The clothing and textile industry should form a governmental relations arm within their respective sectors that undertake a comprehensive study and solutions on how to modernize, strengthen and get the industry to perform competitively locally and ultimately globally.
  1. The government should rethink and come up with stronger safeguard measures against Chinese and SHC imports. There is still a high rate of smuggling of products driven by affordability despite the ban on Chinese imports, for example. Thee one size fits all ban that worked in the 60s and 70s is no longer the solution for today. The government should undertake several measures and provide incentives to the average Nigerian that serves as deterrence for buying smuggled goods.
  1. All stakeholders should make a commitment to train and demand innovation in all phases of the supply chain. In addition, with respect to innovation, special emphasis should be added to natural/green textile goods that can be exported to the West as countries like the USA embark on a green economy.

 

I will continue to update us on any new-found information that aligns with our vision. Let me know if you’ve got any suggestions of your own, or perhaps you’ve got a contact in the industry, either past or present, I’d love to hear from you.

L.o.Z