LAGOS (AFP) â€“ Nigeria needs to improve the way it does business if it is to fulfil its potential to become one of the worldâ€™s top economies, a leading economist said on Tuesday.
Jim Oâ€™Neill, who has predicted that Nigeria could become one of the next global economic powerhouses, said the government needed to lead from the top to make doing business more efficient.
â€œWhat is clear is that it needs to be better,â€ the former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management told a news conference at an Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) summit in Nigeriaâ€™s financial hub, Lagos, on infrastructure challenges.
â€œI think itâ€™s incumbent on all of Nigeriaâ€™s 168 million people that the leadership of this country in terms of policy makers start to set themselves higher standards for the maintenance of their weekly business lives.
â€œStart penalising yourselves if you donâ€™t turn up for meetings on time. Donâ€™t blame it on Lagos traffic or Abuja traffic. Africa and Nigeria are not the only places in the world with infrastructure challenges.â€
Oâ€™Neillâ€™s prediction about the rise of the so-called â€œMINTâ€ nations (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) came after a similar forecast for the â€œBRICSâ€ (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
He based his findings in part on demographics, with each having a large population and labour force that if handled correctly, could see productivity surge and attract increased foreign investment.
The effect of stamping out lax practices would trickle down, he said.
â€œItâ€™s a pretty simple thing to do. It would be potentially transformative in signalling a message to the standards that everybody in the country is expected to live by,â€ he added.
– Joining G20 is possible –
Nigeria is currently Africaâ€™s second-biggest economy behind South Africa but is widely expected to become the biggest after the results of a re-basing of its gross domestic product are announced.
Despite being the continentâ€™s leading oil producer, decades of under-investment in and mismanagement of utilities such as the power sector have left yawning gaps in infrastructure that are mirrored across Africa.
The AFC, which works to develop and finance infrastructure projects, estimates that improvements to infrastructure could potentially add an average of 2.0 percent a year to Africaâ€™s growth rate over the next decade.
In Nigeria, which last year part-privatised its ailing power sector to help boost supply and cut daily outages, decent power could boost growth from about 7.0 percent currently to 10-12 percent, according to Oâ€™Neill.
â€œThere is no reason why Nigeria should not become one of the G20,â€ he added in a separate statement.
But he said in a speech to delegates that leadership and good governance were essential.
â€œLook at Manchester United. They are struggling since (manager) Alex Ferguson (retired). It doesnâ€™t matter whether itâ€™s football, a country, a company, a school, good focused leadership is ultimately an enabling thing,â€ he said.
â€œIn order to have a chance to reach this prosperous future, Nigeria and Africa needs to have better leadershipâ€¦
â€œUnless you have credible governance, itâ€™s going to be very difficult to attract that finance.”