Every time I hear someone demand that this brand or that brand come set up a manufacturing plant in the country, I wince. Do we just love our uninformed sentiments that much? I am not into manufacturing, yet getting the most basic tasks done in Nigeria requires herculean effort and lots of manoeuvring. Not only that, I get them done at a much higher cost than the person in Accra, Nairobi, Pretoria, New York or London.
Why? We all flipping know why! We generate our own private power, run multiple erratic internet connections, face shady government officials and stifling government policies, among others. At the end of the day, we expend more energy, spend more time and incur more costs than we have any business with. These costs get passed to the consumer.
Now, imagine having to manufacture physical goods that have to compete in the international market under these conditions. Sane business people know that won’t do the bottom line any good. There is a gross lack of supporting infrastructure and policies, to put it mildly.
For decades, such businesses that have been operational in Nigeria have been moving their manufacturing bases to neighbouring countries. Entire manufacturing industries are extinct here now.
Look at the smartphone brands that claim to be producing devices in the country. Where are their products? When was the last time you met someone who uses one? Where you find them in the market, they are understandably overpriced and so not competitive. As such, you and I do not buy them. What sort of sales are these brands recording?
Samsung Mobile has finally said that they will not setup a manufacturing facility in Nigeria at this time. And at the rate we are going as a nation, maybe they never will – and I do not blame them. They did not come to Lagos to sell groundnut under the bridge. Anyone planning to manufacture smartphones in Nigeria now is building a white elephant in their head.
It simply does not make business sense for anyone, besides perhaps the bragging rights. You know how we love bragging rights in these parts. “First company to make smartphones in Nigeria“. But the smartphones are nowhere to be seen. Let’s have this conversation again when we have stable power supply, good mass transportation systems, potable water, reliable broadband, working metal and plastics processes involved plants, and forward-thinking government policies.