Published On: Fri, Aug 16th, 2013

From third world to first world

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“The strength of a material is in its universal appeal. The local champion died in the twenty first century, there are no longer local champions. The advent of globalisation means that a good shoe must smell, feel and look like a good shoe in Aba, Nigeria and in Munich, Germany. Anything less than that is “something”!”– Olakunle Soriyan


Olakunle Soriyan is right, the local champion died in the 21st Century. To be successful, the local appeal can only be a flavour and not an excuse for mediocrity; an advantage and not a disadvantage. The modern day entrepreneur must not only contend with the local forces of the marketplace but also that of the global. In the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry, the influence of China and India is a reality that cannot be overlooked. It is pertinent that, as a nation and an industry, we understand the implications of globalisation and to fashion effective strategies necessary for continued business operations. It is the view of this author that Nigeria has not been well advised in our current foray into the global market.

Trade in a Global Economy

Trade in a global market requires the provision of products with global appeal at the most possible finished form, as well as an understanding of the diplomatic negotiations required to make the presentations of these products possible. In Nigeria, the manufacturing industry is gradually getting more active, with the relative increase in the supply and consumption of electricity. Manufacturing is an essential processing factor required to increase the economic value of raw materials, as all raw materials are in their least economic value in their crude form.

The human resources that leave Nigeria (the brain drain syndrome) could have accounted for trade if we had adequate structures to repatriate some of the earnings of our citizens in the Diaspora. The domiciled capacity to process, as in the relative increase in manufacturing activity, without the ownership of such structures, is essentially rent. In other words, there is not much difference between the brain drain syndrome and a situation where resident manufacturing capacity is not indigenously owned.

In a global knowledge economy therefore, it is essential to own a particular body of knowledge; to own the requisite capacity to commercialise such knowledge via manufacturing or service provision; and to channel the proceeds of such to the development of the host nation.

Owning the Processing Factors

All materials of value are at their least economic value until acted upon by an immaterial resource. This immaterial resource called “processing” is the value expansion factor for all values. It is what made the university graduatemore economically relevant, after spending some time in the university, and made computers from silica and plastic. Hence, this processing value (immaterial value) is more important than the material value. Relevant education is important and the right application of this education within a strategic framework (process) is the most important of all production factors.

The ultimate winner in a global market is the one that owns the processing factors. And the beginning for every right thinking government and firm is to increase its net worth of such processing factors. To achieve such, greater focus on education, collaboration and technology transfer is needed. Generally, collaboration will best benefit the individual that attends to the terms of such collaborations. In a global economy, it is almost impossible not to collaborate. The challenge is to structure the details of the collaboration to favour you within the boundaries of fairness.

A situation where foreign firms can repatriate 100 per cent of their investment in Nigeria, import managerial expertise, while enjoying immense government subsidies from their host nation, cannot augur well for the development of our national economy. We could have a lot of activity but we would find it difficult to achieve sustainable growth, without putting the necessary things in place.

Courage demands that individuals and government stand up to the times and evaluate the terms of international trade relationships. A favourable term is one that does not hinder the free spirit of enterprise but still tilts the table in favour of enhancing the production capacity of the nation.

Of recent, Nigeria adopted the Nigerian Content Policy. Still in its infancy, the policy promises a whole lot of advantages to indigenous businesses in the oil and gas sector. The objectives of the Nigerian Content Policy are to promote a framework that guarantees active local participation, without compromising standards; to promote value adding in Nigeria through utilisation of local raw materials and human resources; and to promote steady, measurable and sustainable growth of indigenous capacity.

The oil and gas industry is not the only place where local content philosophy should be promoted; it is much needed in the pharmaceutical industry.

The Nigerian Pharmaceutical Industry

The pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria is in dire need of a local content policy, and one of the ways to engage is to promote the “we can” mindset among the relevant stakeholders. Much more than ever, there is the need for an effective strategy. It is very unwise to engage the global community without a sound strategy. And in Nigeria, the question to ask is “who is responsible for championing such a strategy?” A good answer would attempt to identify the relevant stakeholders, their responsibilities, individual mandates and to find a unifying vision.

The vision would not be too hard to decipher – to increase the productivity of the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry, to ensure indigenous capacity and to remove the obstacles to growth. Such a responsibility is not only a necessary one but an urgent one, as it is much more difficult to undo the effects of the neo-colonialisation that we are currently witnessing.


The West African Pharmaceutical Innovation Project (WAPIP) seeks to contribute towards achieving some of the ideals discussed here. The project seeks to make the knowledge of the processes required to commercialise pharmaceutical innovation commonplace and to help stakeholders that desire such to achieve their objectives.

To achieve this, we seek to first create ownership for innovation amongst the relevant stakeholders. The pharmaceutical industry, pharmaceutical research organisations, regulatory bodies, finance and intellectual property managers would need to understand their roles within the national innovation system and to create the necessary long-term collaborative structures required to initiate and sustain productivity within the pharmaceutical sector.

The focus is on the commercialisation of pharmaceutical research undertakings. Pharmaceutical research scientists would be helped to achieve intellectual property protection and other business development services like product development finance matching with interested local and international donor partners. The project seeks to also help the local industry find finance from relevant partners for commercialisation of indigenous research findings.

It is our belief that, to best leverage the opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry, the government must be proactively and continuously engaged by the industry to adopt certain policies that favour local manufacturing and local ownership of the manufacturing processes.

The government, however, cannot do this alone; she desperately needs the foresight of entrepreneurs in the pharmaceutical industry and other non-government organisations that are committed to the ideals of our national development.

These individuals – perhaps a handful – are the agents that would make real the dream of transiting from a third world country to a first world nation.  They are the ones that would save us from the status quo. Theirs, no doubt, is a difficult task. But it is one which they were born to do, and the time and season is now.

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From third world to first world