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PUBLIC ENLIGHTENMENT – POST-COVID-19 ERA – Managing Nigeria’s economy & promoting policy on utilization of raw materials, local products & services

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Creating a life of self-sufficiency and an opportunity to grow Nigeria’s economy through sensitization of the citizenry is the responsibility of all governments, individuals and organizations in varying degrees. Without solidarity and cooperation, attainment of goals and objectives might be difficult at this point in history when the overall negative effect of COVID-19 is very scary up to the extent of rendering global projections unrealistic because of frequent unanticipated upsurge of hazardous occurrences.

For economic development, the imperative of looking inwards has become more pronounced than ever. We have lived with the problem of dependency on foreign nations and the inferiority complex for centuries. These have been compounded by economic and political domination.  Till this moment, we are all involved in it, trying vigorously and sometimes aggressively to reposition the polity.  It is a very serious problem that has to be seriously combated post-COVID-19 era. This is an age in which after series of global health misfortunes occasioned by ravaging Coronavirus, the whole world has been put on the edge.

REVERSING THE TREND: Evidently,  REVERSING the situation calls for ingenuity, resilience, foresight, and a turnaround of the dominance of some aspects of our socio-economic life by the developed world. Nigerians also require a huge dose of patriotism to consume what we produce.  Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, AfDB President asserts that: ‘’The secret of the wealth of nations is clear – rich nations process all of what they produce – whether in agriculture, minerals, oil and gas or services – while poor nations export their produce as raw materials. While demand for raw commodities is elastic, demand for processed and value-added commodities is relatively inelastic. The future of food in the world will depend on what Africa does with agriculture.’’ This means that if we are able to utilize our raw materials locally and manufacture end products, there would be less stress on our economy. These are some of the reasons why products and services made in Nigeria ybe considered inferior to foreign items. Our orientation has over the decades been skewed in favour of items and services made in the developed world. The consequence is under-development as evidenced in our standard of living and abandonment of our economy to indirectly contribute to the development of foreign economies due to preference for foreign items.

We have lived with this pattern for long. One area that must be critically viewed is the skewed global information flow. For long, the information that we consume about ourselves is sourced from here by foreign stations, refined abroad, and fed into cable network channels for us to consume. They choose for us what to know about ourselves. Similarly, until recently, the pattern of information technology system has been such that signals or telephone calls originating from African nations are first channelled through underground communication cables to foreign nations that provide the gateway of finally sending the signals to destinations in Africa through their gateways.  According to communication expert, late Prof. Alfred Opubor, “Africa has been the victim of other peoples’ information domination. ‘’Those who had the means to create powerful channels to disseminate information widely had pre-empted the definition of what was good, what was right, what was important and what was civilized.’’ This is why our local products are considered inferior to those made in foreign countries. We loathe our own products that are good and efficacious,  like herbs and similar products. We embrace them when they have the emblem ”Made Abroad”

RECIPE – GOING FORWARD: Alfred Opubor argues that the media must ‘’focus on ideas, programmes, projects and actions highlighted, try to understand them, discuss their relevance and applicability to the African situation, and monitor their implementation in each country.  In so doing, the African broadcaster will be fulfilling an important role: throwing a critical searchlight on conventional wisdom, revealing contradictions, giving voice to opposing views, and providing diverse opinions and material to enable viewers and listeners to become more enlightened citizens who can reach their own conclusions.

‘’There are many national initiatives; some sub-regional plans and at the level of ECOWAS and the African Union, mechanisms in place to discuss drought, famine, hunger, malnutrition and related development issues. There are scientists and research institutes that are working on drought-resistant plant varieties, on quick-yielding fruit, tubers and grain; on cassava and rice and millet and sorghum, and animal husbandry.’’

The Economic Sustainability Committee headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, considered especially the probability of several millions of people losing their jobs while many others could fall into extreme poverty while examining the way forward following the outbreak of COVID-19. It is not a question of if or when; but a certainty that Coronavirus will take its toll more pretty soon.  Germany and the United States slipped into recession two months ago. The most reasonable thing to do as pleaded by the committee is to swing into action immediately to mitigate the effect of this anticipated downturn through some policy measures. Those that concern sustaining our economy through massive production come under Agriculture, natural resources, industry, trade, and investment.  The President has laid out a policy of Economic Recovery and Growth Plan…GROW WHAT WE EAT; EAT WHAT WE GROW” —With the state of things even globally, all of us are bound to support Nigeria. Poverty knows no political leader of political party, man or woman; black or white.

Pursuant to this policy and the need to engage in massive sensitization of Nigerians locally and abroad, we reproduce again the following lecture titled: Investment Opportunities in Africa’s Indigenous Stimulants delivered by an investment enthusiast, Prof. Tunde Adeniran at the 3rd International Conference on Africa’s Indigenous Stimulants held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan, Oyo State: 22-23 October, 2013.

One of the potential investment opportunities lies in AFRICA’S INDIGENOUS STIMULANTS. Stimulants are substances that increase central nervous system activities in the human body. Most of these stimulants contain chemicals of the methylxanthine group. They increase alertness, heart rates and energy levels in man. Stimulants are also widely used because they produce a sense of euphoria that most people crave for. Examples of naturally occurring stimulants in Africa include the following:

  • Khat (Catha edulis)
  • Kola Nut (Cola nitida and Cola acuminate)
  • Bitter Kola (Garcinia kola)
  • Coffee (Coffeaarabica and Coffeacanephora)
  • Tobacco [Nicotianatabacum)
  • Cocoa (Theobroma cacao)
  • Moringa Oleifeira

INVESTMENT AND MARKET OPPORTUNITIES IN AFRICA’S INDIGENOUS STIMULANTS By:  Tunde Adeniran

Protasis: A few weeks ago when I received a letter from my good friend and brother, Chief Audu Ogbeh (The Chief Executive Officer of Benagro Ltd and Executive Chairman of ICAIS-3), my immediate reaction was why me? For someone who, as a child, took to flight, a quick dialogue with his legs, on sighting kolanuts or bitter kolas due to some frightening myth and superstition, an address on the positive and enriching essence of such items should not be his lot. Then it occurred to me that such information was never to his knowledge and that some of the organizers were probably aware of my addiction to the usage of Moringa leaves which I supply to friends and associates from my backyard. Moreover, as an investment enthusiast and a former envoy of the Federal Republic’ of Nigeria who had been relatively effective in the promotion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and external marketing of Nigerian products, such a topic should be of interest. This should be more so in view of decades of enlightenment that had removed ritualistic misconceptions and ignorance regarding nature, immediate usefulness, and potential value of specific agricultural produce.

Introduction:  Today Africa is fast emerging as the new investment destination for most investors. Despite the focus by some on the unstable operating business environment in most African countries, investors are still being drawn to the African continent. This is due to the high returns on business investments in Africa when compared to returns on investments in the developed economies. Because the African continent has not made full use of the vast human and material resources vested in it by nature, there is a huge investment vacuum to be filled by any brave and adventurous entrepreneur. The case of one of the richest men in the world, Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote, is a vivid example. What Dangote has done is simple. He has dared to tread where others are scared to go. In human endeavor, high risk usually accompanies high reward after a proper cost-benefit analysis:

ANALOGY – WHEN MTN CAME TO NIGERIA: At a time when Europeans and North Americans shied away from investing In Nigeria’s telecoms industry, MTN came to Nigeria and has been able to use their phenomenal returns on their investment in Nigeria to grow their businesses all over the continent. From this and related ventures, African leaders are beginning to realize (albeit slowly) that their grip on power can only be sustained if they give their people the basics. This is the only way they can stave off agitation that usually threatens their positions, In this regard, the continent’s leaders seem to be moving away from state-controlled enterprises to giving those in the private sector the opportunity to control a big chunk of the economy. This new way of thinking has continued to create opportunities for people in the private sector to take advantage of the huge untapped potential/market that Africa possesses.

Agriculture and a Case for Diversification: The bane of most economies in Africa has been the over-dependence on one major product as the source of revenue. For example, the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Nigeria significantly distorted the structure of the economy by relegating agricultural products to the background. During the First Republic, the bulk of the resources accruing, to the regions came from agricultural products. There were groundnuts in the· North, cocoa in the West and palm oil in the East. But the curse of the crude oil took attention away from agriculture and elevated crude oil exploitation as the main source of revenue. However, the vicissitudes in the international crude oil market and the advanced research by the US in the search for alternative fuel once again points to the fact that the future of African economies may lie in agriculture.

Agriculture certainly promises to be the next frontier for good investment returns for investors in Africa. Endowed by nature, there are four things that give Africa (especially sub-Saharan Africa) a huge advantage in agriculture. They include

  • Large uncultivated arable land.
  • Large “unemployed labour force.
  • Adequate sunshine/heat all year round.
  • Abundant rainfall especially in tropical low lands.
  • Large untapped internal market that can be protected by government trade policies.
  • Possibilities of export.

Investment Opportunities in Africa’s Indigenous Stimulants:      One of the potential investment opportunities lies in AFRICA’S INDIGENOUS STIMULANTS.

Stimulants are substances that increase central nervous system activities in the human body. Most of these stimulants contain chemicals of the methylxanthine group. They increase alertness, heart rates and energy levels in man. Stimulants are also widely used because they produce a sense of euphoria that most people crave for. Examples of naturally occurring stimulants in Africa include the following:

  • Khat (Catha edulis)
  • Kola Nut (Cola nitida and Cola acuminate)
  • Bitter Kola (Garcinia kola)
  • Coffee (Coffeaarabica and Coffeacanephora)
  • Tobacco [Nicotianatabacum)
  • Cocoa (Theobroma cacao)
  • Moringa Oleifeira

The stimulants listed above can be grown with comparative advantage in parts of Africa especially sub-Saharan parts of the continent without recourse to irrigation or heavy use of fertilizers. The stimulant producing plants or trees are also not foreign to our culture in different parts of Africa.

  • The stimulants listed above or their extracts are used in the following industries:
  • Food and beverage industry.
  • Pharmaceutical industry.
  • Cosmetics industry.

Apart from’ these industries, some of the stimulants are used’ in their natural form for recreational purposes while others are used in Africa for celebrating occasions and as symbols of tradition. Bitter kola and kolanuts are used lavishly at weddings, traditional ceremonies, community festivals, etc, with varying appeals and symbolism in diverse settings and to various cultural groups.

KHAT (Catha edulis) Khat is predominantly grown in the horn of Africa and recently in Kenya. It’s use as a social or recreational product in, countries like Ethiopia dates back over a thousand years. The leaves are chewed for the stimulant effect enjoyed by the users. Khat leaves contain an amphetamine-like substance Cathinone. This explains its physiological effect as a substance that also causes lossof appetite while giving a feeling of euphoria.

Although it is legally used in some countries like Ethiopia, Yemen, Sudan and Ethiopia, Khat has been put on the controlled substances list in countries like Canada, Germany and the USA. Most of these countries frown on its potential for abuse. For now there exists only a relatively small world market for Khat. However work can be done to produce herbal drinks, which contains Khatleaves. This can be marketed for sale in the WEIGHT LOSS INDUSTRY because of the anorectic effects of Khat. Khat can also be usedas an ingredient of ENERGY DRINKS. The global ENERGY DRINKS market today is worth approximately $40.00 billion.

KOLA NUT (Cola nitida) As I mentioned earlier on, kolanuts, which are grown predominantly in West Africa, have traditional use in most African countries as a symbol of peace and friendship. They are also used for recreational purposes to combat fatigue, increase alertness and to suppress hunger. Kola nuts have also been exported to Europe and North America for use in pharmaceutical and food industries. In the beverage industry as a flavoring ingredient of soft drinks (e.g. Coke and Pepsi), and also for caffeine production for use in the pharmaceutical industry.Kolanuts are also used in the production of’ wine and chocolates. The caffeine content of Kolanuts ranges from 2.0-3.5% compared to coffee bean which has a caffeine content of 0.9-1.7%. Due to its high caffeine content this particular crop can be processed and placed as an alternative to coffee for use as a hot drink.

Most people drink coffee for the stimulant effects of its caffeine content. With its higher     caffeine content, processing Kolanuts as a substitute for coffee represents a huge market opportunity. With a total Global market size of approximately $70.00 billion and an export component of about $23.5 billion in the coffee bean trade, Kolanuts can be positioned to tap into the coffee market. However a lot of marketing/promotion would have to be, done to position Kola as an alternative to Coffee. This can however be achieved by touting its higher caffeine content. About 1-2 teaspoons of dry pulverized Kolanuts can be dissolved in hot water as an alternative to hot coffee drinks. Because of its higher caffeine content the stimulant effect achieved through coffee drinking can also be enjoyed using Kola nuts.

With higher investment in Kolanut production, there is great promise in such investments to create thousands of jobs for African countries since the coffee trade presently employs about 125 million people worldwide. Certainly, with a liberal supply of water and fertile soil Kolanut trees start to fruit in 5 years. However, recent developments have thrown up a variety that fruits in 3 years using vegetative propagation techniques.

By-products of Kola harvests include the Kola pod husk which can be used in liquid soap production and as a 50% substitute for maize in the production of feed formula for poultry. Most Kola trees (the two economically important varieties being kola nitridata and kola acuminate), if well maintained, will fruit for 50-80 years.

Bitter Kola (Garcinia kola) Bitter kola (Garcinia kola) belongs to the family of Guittiferal. In Nigeria, the Hausas call, it “NamijinGworo”, the Igbos call it “Agbilu”, “Adi” or “Akilu” while the Yorubas call it “Orogbo”. It  is grown in different parts of West Africa and also in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Garcinia kola owes its stimulant effect to its content of a methylxanthine derivative, catechine-caffeine called colanine.

Traditionally used for medicinal purposes in Africa, Bitter Kola has found use in the treatment of throat infections and bronchitis because of the astringent and dilating properties. They have also been employed as a diuretic to treat renal diseases such as mild cardiac or renal edema. Bitter Kola possesses stimulant and appetite suppressing properties, hence its use in suppressing fatigue and hunger. Bitter Kola has .also found use’ in most traditional ceremonies in certain African, countries especially at naming ‘and wedding occasions. Bitter Kola contains antioxidants which, combined with its stimulant properties, have been touted as a stimulant for enhancing sex drive. With a liberal supply of water and manure, Garcinia kola trees start to ‘fruit in about 5 years though the average fruiting period is 7-10 years. The trees continue to fruit for 75-100 years if properly maintained; Most farmers shy away from the cultivation ‘of this tree because of the longer time before fruiting. Work can however be done to shorten its onset of maturity.

More work also needs to be done to ascertain its sex drive enhancing properties since a huge market abounds for such products. The research work necessary in this regard should be such as to increase the exportable quality and quality beyond the present level by which the product is available in the market usually between March and November of each year.

As a result of its use in preparation of herbal drugs either as supplements, nourishment or herbal remedy, there is a growing demand for it. In view of its health benefits such as the treatment of cold, fever, .cough, sneezing, diarrhea and bacterial infection, the demand will definitely continue to increase. Meanwhile, Bitter kola is in great demand in the USA, Britain, China and India. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) hasalso opened up greater opportunity for the penetration of the American market.

COFFEE (Coffea Arabica and Coffeacanephora) Coffee beans owe its stimulant effect to its caffeine content. The caffeine content in Coffee’ beans ranges from 0.9-1.7% depending on the species. With an annual global production of 8-10 million metric tons this crop has been listed as the top agricultural export for about 1,2 countries and the world’s the largest argicexport as late as 2005. The green (unroasted} coffee bean is one of the most traded agric commodities in the world today. The global trade in coffee is valued at about $70.00 billion. The crop helps to contribute significantly to the GOP of countries like Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, Colombia, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, ORC and. Uganda. Unfortunately, African countries are still fringe. players in the cultivation and trade of this commercially viable crop. This is despite the fact that the topography and weather of some African countries favor the cultivation of coffee.

Coffee is used as a good source of caffeine for the pharmaceutical industry. However, its use is largely in the beverage industry for its stimulant properties. Vietnam tripled their exports of coffee between 1995 and 1999. Since a market already exists for coffee, investors in Africa can also take advantage of Africa’s under-utilized put cheap land, favorable weather conditions, cheaper labor, and closer access to the European market (when compared to some South American or Asian growers) to grab a bigger chunk of the coffee trade.

The top Coffee importing countries in Europe are:

  • Germany
  • Italy
  • France
  • Spain
  • UK
  • Because ofthe addictive nature of Coffee the’ market will only grow bigger.

Moringa Oleifera In the past few years many Nigerians have discovered Moringa to be one of the world’s most useful plants and nutritious crops. This drought resistant tree is said to have been brought to us from Southern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Moringa is now grown in Africa and the Caribbean. In northern Nigeria, Moringa was originally grown essentially for fence making but, today, its potential as the “tree of life” has made Moringa a rich source of protein for both human being and animal and a source of revenue. But more than that, virtually all parts of the plant are valuable to man as food, medicine, and fuel. Parts of the health benefits of theMoringa tree are said to include its strong antioxidant effect against prostrate and skin cancers, tumor and its’ anti-aging substance. Moringa is also said to “modulate anemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, high serum or blood cholesterol, thyroid, liver and kidney problems”.

Moringa was first introduced to me at our Graceful Ageing Fellowship (GRAF) in Abuja some years ago and testimonies from various people have been amazing. A professional has also confirmed that “Moringa has strong anti-inflammatory properties and ameliorating rheumatism, joint pain, arthritis, oedema and lupus. The plant is effective against digestive disorder including colitis, diarrhea, flatulence (gas), ulcer or gastritis”; Itisto a great advantage that Moringa can grow in any part of the country given its low moisture requirement. It can begrown through seed planting, stem propagation or through existing plant anytime during the year. With the promises that Moringa holds in nutrition, medicine, manufacturing and cosmetic industry, there is a huge investment opportunity in this plant also called the “miracle plant” of the century.

Scholars and public commentators have been giving some publicity to the value of Moringa for quite some time. For instance, according to Olumakinde Oni in the BUSINESS DAY of Monday 14 February 2001, “Serious minded investors can be assisted in the establishment of the plantation’ inc1uding procurement of seeds’ and stem cuttings. Propagation by seed has proved more reliable than the stem cuttings. Moringa is ready for harvesting from the age of 6 months and can be harvested for over 50 years if the plantation is well maintained”. Further in his profitability analysis, Oni posits that flit is possible to make a sum of N20, 000 from a stand of Moringa plant by selling the seeds and the dried leaves. From five hectares of land, we have about 6,000 stands. This gives a gross income of N120 million annually. The maximum operating cost to maintain the plantation is not more than N5 million annually. This is no doubt a good source of income for Nigerians”.

 

Already, in Niger Republic, investments in Moringa plant have started yielding dividends by providing farmers prosperity and overall life transformation among the rural people. Under a programme termed “Moringa Value Chain approach”, testimonies are pouring infrom local women: According to Karimou, a housewife, “it used to be that after the hot season, we were left empty handed,” … “now [with our Moringa production] we have food, clothes, and money for education and healthcare for our children. We have used the profits from selling Moringa to purchase animals, and even a new irrigation system for the garden to (further increase production).” (Quoted in Annette Frost, “Moringa: the Tree of Life”, www.huffingtonpost.com/annette-frost/mo)

Back home here in Nigeria, THISDAY newspaper of October 10, 2013 has reported that Nigeria can earn a whopping $1 billion annually from herbal products; According to the Report, a pharmacist, Maurice Iwu, argued that “countries like South Africa, Kenya and Ghana’ that have developed their herbs, health food and natural products earn a whopping $3 million daily from the sector”. In addition to that, he said the herbs and dietary supplements and phytomedicines are helping residents of the countries to effectively fight ailments. III don’t see why the nation cannot generate $1 billion annually from this. It ‘is just in terms of monetary value. The jobs that you create, the healthy nation that you have, the impact you have in the society are unquantifiable”, he stated:

CONCLUSION:  Very encouraging Investment and Market Opportunities exist for Investors in Africa’s Indigenous Stimulants. There is an existing market for some of the stimulants in African Countries but export potential also exists for these stimulants. Potential return on investment in these stimulants is high because of easy access to arable land, favorable climatic conditions and cheaper, skilled and unskilled labour. Ab out three decades ago two substances Ginseng, a dietary supplement and Artemisin, an antimalarial drug, both from plant origin, had not found their way into mainstream use’ worldwide. Today the reverse is the case because of a concerted effort by the Chinese to put them there. The same can be done for Africa’s indigenous stimulants. African stimulants can be produced and marketed to the world.

 Already, the approach of the present Minister of Agriculture to transform agriculture into a thriving business is yielding fruits in the rice and cassava sectors. African stimulants like kola nut, bitter kola and moringa hold even’ higher potentials in an investment opportunity and all that is lacking is to unlock this huge wealth waiting to be tapped. In this regard, there is also the need to tackle insect infestation, the major problem being faced by producers of , these products while a good storage system to preserve quality and improve sales is a vital necessity.

 

I am grateful to the following for their inputs: My associates: Bimbo Owolabi (a  Pharmacist) and Uche Ugboaja (a Policy Analyst); my nephew, Jenyo Oni (a
Microbiologist) and my niece Christianah Ojo (a Nutritionist]  I, alone, am responsible for any’ shortcomings in this address.