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Op-Ed

Corporate Social Responsibility and Latecomer Industrialization: Can Nigeria Do It?

Kelly Spence, Richard Joseph, and Abimbola Agboluaje

President Barack Obama in his recent Africa tour echoed the words of Howard French when he referred to sub-Saharan Africa as a region “on the move”. Nigeria, crippled in realizing its immense economic promise, was not again on his itinerary. However, Nigeria has been included among the focus countries of the Obama Administration’s “Power Africa” initiative to increase electrification in the continent. This represents an opportunity on which its leaders should capitalize. The initial funding provided for Power Africa could leverage the much larger sums needed. Central to such efforts is collaboration between the government and private sectors, domestically and internationally.

This article will appear in a published volume on Corporate Social Responsibility. It should be read in conjunction with Célestin Monga’s AfricaPlus essay, “Governance and Economic Growth in Africa: Rethinking the Conventional Paradigm” and Howard French’s  Atlantic article on Lagos State. The authors of this paper adapted the notion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the unique obstacles  in Nigeria, and other African countries, to developing a manufacturing sector that is responsible in the sense of being productive, and not just extractive, and which also contributes to reducing governance and social welfare deficits. To accommodate the high rate of population growth, it is estimated that 7-10 million jobs must be produced annually in sub-Saharan Africa. Accomplishing this task will depend on the long-delayed industrialization of the continent. Pursuing this objective brings many of the known deficits to the fore: inadequate electricity, water and transportation infrastructures; deficient taxation systems; rent-seeking political behaviors; and what Monga calls incompetence in policy planning and implementation alongside corruption.

This case-study will take the reader into the fine-grain of overcoming the challenges to manufacturing in Nigeria. It draws on projects conducted in Nigeria in association with an American non-governmental organization, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the special insights of a Nigerian scholar-practitioner who is closely involved in the initiatives being examined. Nigeria has to break out of the cycle of economic growth accompanied by increasing unemployment and poverty. The most critical aspects of the reform agenda -in electric power, oil and gas, transportation, enabling fiscal systems -are widely known and recognized. The question before Nigerians today, as it has been for decades, is “Can they do it?” Particular attention is paid to business associations that represent the manufacturing sector as well as coalitions of business associations that operate in several of Nigeria’s thirty-six states. Although we briefly discuss the well-known issues of corruption and money-laundering, most attention will be devoted to efforts to develop a socially responsible corporate sector and what that means in such a difficult context.

Read the full piece on AfricaPlus »

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