A Question of Quality - Dr Yemi Amusan

Quality? Trending now.. .  So the analysis of our current economic climate rumbles on in a free for all debate ranging from inspiring and th...


Trending now..
So the analysis of our current economic climate rumbles on in a free for all debate ranging from inspiring and thought provoking to vacuous and outright ridiculous. Social media is the theatre, providing an endless stream of interactive entertainment. The discussion is becoming broader and more diverse by the day as the ripple effects of policies and the lack thereof, impact the life of the average Nigerian. Whilst some opinions seem to miss the point entirely, others bring to light, critical issues that have been overlooked for too long. Suffice it to say; this level of introspective conversation may well prove to be good for us all.  

Buy Local? 
One the the topics that has popped up, in various iterations, is the intriguing subject of “Made in Nigeria” goods and the necessity for Nigerians to patronise them. This, in itself, is an interesting thought depending on how you interprete the word "patronise". There is a pointed campaign currently running which encourages Nigerians to buy Naija (Nigerian) to grow the Naira. The drive presents the rationale that our economy will only grow when we begin to shun the imported goods and products we are able to produce in Nigeria, in favour of their local counterparts. 

This is a noble notion, logical or common sense, one might even say. It is also one that that may well be taken out of the realm of choice if the growing list of banned imports is anything to go by. The campaign inevitably raises the question; should we buy Nigerian products simply because they are Nigerian or because they are good? Are we buying by coercion because we have no choice or are we buying out of desire inspite of the available options. To look at it from another perspective; how do "made in Nigeria" goods stand up to global scrutiny when compared to their foreign counterparts. In other words... would the world buy Nigerian goods and products alongside their own? Of course this is a simplistic presentation of a more complex and stratified argument. It doesn't take into account the differentiation of raw materials and products in various stages of process, as well as the intricate web of trade agreements, policies and political interests that influence trade on the global stage.  

Are we forgetting something? 
Simplistic or otherwise, discussing the merits of our import and export policies is not the point of this piece. It does however, serve as an opportunity to point out a factor that seems to be missing from much of the current discourse. With the bans on certain hitherto imported goods and products, the question of quantity of local production has been raised in various quarters. This is a valid issue, especially when you consider the formidable rate and volume at which we consume most things... We are a consumer nation of Lucullan proportion. If we are not producing enough and evidence certainly suggests this is the case, we must be willing to do the needful to achieve the desired.  

A commitment to developing infrastructure along with policies that encourage and support the industrial development of our different sectors would seem to be a step in the right direction. Yet any programme that does not address the quality of Nigerian goods, products and services for that matter, will fall short in delivering on the real objective; to present a wide range of goods and products that are desirable not just to Nigerians because they are Nigerian, but to the rest of the world because they are good enough. To really grow the Naira, "Made in Nigeria" must become a competitive brand. This is a question of quality... a concept that must become part of who we are. 

What kind of people are we? 
Quality is the inherent value that gives a thing it’s worth. In any effort, endeavour, product, service or aspect of expression; quality is what determines its value and distinguishes it on a competitive platform.  Where goods, products and services are concerned, a commitment to quality means placing a priority on how well it performs and how a person feels during and after using it. The pursuit for quality begins with an appreciation for the hidden value of a thing and a committed desire to uncover this potential. Quality is essentially a relative measure, referenced by what is already known. It is the relentless desire for the improvement on what is known that leads to the discovery of greater value. Ultimately the quality of a product says a lot about its producer. The quality of what we produce is a reflection of who we are as a people. It tells the story of our value systems, our regard for one another and what we consider acceptable. 

What does quality mean to us? 
Do we define quality by global standards or are we uniquely qualified to set our own definitions? If by global standards there is a paucity of qualitative indigenous products, does this reveal something about us that goes deeper than turning cocoa into chocolate? Uncovering hidden value usually takes one or more processes. This requires determination to discover, patience to perfect and even more patience to simplify, scale up and commercialise. Even though many of the processes required to improve the quality of local goods have already been discovered..it is the 21st century after all… Many African countries seem to lack the determination and commitment to invest the necessary time and resources required to extend the value chain of their goods. It seems it is always easier to negotiate trade agreements that ultimately leave us at an economic disadvantage. We predominately present raw materials and niche products at the global market. The same can be said of our human capital. Without a commitment to providing resources necessary to develop our workforce and instil the relevant skills and work ethic and quality of service delivery, we are perpetually denying young Africans the opportunity to compete favourably on the world stage.  

How good is good enough? 
Any discussion about developing our economy that is not held in the context of a rapidly evolving global space is fatally flawed from inception. There is no doubt that Nigeria and indeed the African continent is replete with an overwhelming wealth of natural resources and talented people. We have seen glimpses of what we can offer the world in music, film and sports; just a few of the quality exports from this continent. To be truly competitive however, we must transcend being exporters of raw materials to developing and producing quality products in all our sectors. 

This will not be an overnight event but rather a long and painstaking process. We must learn and discover how to produce what we have, improve its quality, multiply our production processes and force our way into global reckoning. This is what we should have done decades ago… the next best time is now. If our leaders do not act now, they condemn future generations to a life of dependence on global welfare and hand outs. If we, the fractious polity, accept the status quo we are just as culpable. It is true that we cannot afford to wait for perfection before starting the journey of self discovery as a Nation. 

We must absolutely invest in Nigeria now and begin to look inwards to local and indigenous solutions… but we should not stop there…  If its good enough for Nigerians, should it not also be good enough for the rest of the world? Eventually we will have to answer the question of quality to discover what we are really made of.

 -Dr Yemi Amusan 



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