Nigeria is the Africa’s fastest growing economy and among the top 20 in the world, according to the recent World Economic Outlook report. Despite being the continent biggest economy, there are sectors left untapped for further growth of the economy. Solid minerals is one of the sectors Nigerian governments have not adequately exploit for job and wealth creations. This is a sector that served as the main source of earning before the discovery of crude oil in the eastern part. Available data indicated that the sector’s contribution to the GDP dipped in 2010 from 1 percent at independence to 0.3 percent. Whereas, the same sector contributed 9 percent to South Africa’s GDP in 2011. The sector which the country (South Africa) leveraged on to remain biggest Africa’s economy before the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP that led to its latest position.
The neglect of the sector has not only affected country’s GDP but also leading to the importation of Barites, Salt, Iron Ore and others that are available in large quantity. Recently, Gemstones Association of Nigeria claimed that Nigeria has the capability of earning 12.7 billion naira annually from the sector. With the varied efforts being put into the revitalization of the sector by President Buhari, the industry analysts believe that the new administration could realize 1 trillion annually.
Here are the key strategies concerned stakeholders, especially governments at state and federal levels need to follow in order to explore the sector to its fullest like China, Congo Democratic Republic, and China.
Infrastructure and manpower revitalization
Concerned stakeholders need to resuscitate facilities located at various minerals deposit sites in the country, and at the same time establish specialized training institutions that will specifically cater for the training and retraining of human resources. In this regard, a public private partnership would be the best option in getting skilled and semi-skilled labour needed in the sector. A recent study indicated that upgrading of basic infrastructure would create a conducive environment for the expansion of country’s non-oil sectors like solid minerals. Efforts should also be geared towards the establishment of certified laboratories as obtainable in other countries with dedicated attention to solid mineral exploitation.
Right investment in information gathering and dissemination
Analysts and foreign investors have pointed out on several occasions that available information on the existing solid minerals is not enough to make decisions. Government agencies at state and federal levels saddled with the responsibility of gathering and disseminating information on the sector need to wake up to their mandate and live up to the public’s expectations. Dissemination of right information beyond the country’s boarder would increase foreign direct investments (FDI), with the propensity of generating jobs for unemployed youths. Such information should be reported frequently and through all the media –traditional and new ones. This becomes imperative because the quality of information received by the investors would determine their level of investment.
Establishment of special financial support institutions
On the part of local investors, especially among those who want to invest in the sector on a small scale, capital is their greatest challenge. Establishment of functional solid minerals development bank for the provision of long-term and cheap funds to move the sector forward is highly imperative. This intervention will unlock the sector’s huge revenue and job creation potential for the country.
Right strategies for the sector growth
President Buhari has stressed that his administration would diversify the country’s economy and privatize business interests in aviation, telecommunication, energy, gas, health, solid mineral and infrastructure development. In the spirit of change push forward by the president, state and local governments also need to revisit abandoned minerals in their localities. It would be augur well if every state could prioritize one solid mineral by providing required facilities and institutional supports to local and foreign investors.
Implement existing policies and regulations
Strict adherence to existing policies and regulations are desirable towards the growth of the sector. Extractive Industries Act and various solid minerals policies for exploitation and marketing should be respected by relevant stakeholders. Effective implementation of these will help in preventing revenue leakages and environmental degradation of minerals deposit sites.