Nigeria agenda 2050: Fiction or reality?
By Marcel Okeke
The outgoing Government of President Muhammadu Buhari seems to be tinkering with so many futuristic initiatives that have the potential to stimulate and jumpstart the otherwise recumbent national economy. In this regard and quite surprisingly, too, the Government is yet bent on conducting a national census (now scheduled for May 2023) the very month or week it will be handing over to a brand new Administration.
The census was earlier scheduled to be held in March 2023. Similarly, for the umpteenth time, the Minister of Finance, budget and national planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed assured on Wednesday 16 March 2023 that the Buhari Administration would still remove the much-vilified controversial fuel subsidy before the end of its tenure on 29 May 2023; that is about 75 days away! Ahmed gave this assurance while speaking during a visit to the Voice of Nigeria radio, attributed the delay in the removal of the subsidy to the conduct of the 2023 general elections and the proposed national census.
In yet another futuristic initiative, the National Economic Council (NEC) at its emergency session and maiden meeting in 2023, endorsed a new plan called the “Nigeria Agenda 2050”. It is a plan designed to make the country an Upper Middle-Income Country and subsequently take it to the status of High-Income nation within the next 27 years. According to the Agenda document, it is a national development plan aimed at increasing real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of Nigeria by seven per cent, creating 165 million new jobs and reducing the number of people living in poverty to 2.1 million in 2050, from the 83 million people estimated in 2020.
At a meeting presided over by the Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the Nigeria Agenda 2050 was presented by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to state governors and other members of NEC, including federal ministers. According to the Finance Ministry, Agenda 2050 was formulated against the backdrop of several subsisting development challenges in the country. These challenges include low, fragile, and non-inclusive economic growth; high population growth rate; pervasive insecurity; limited diversification; macroeconomic and social instability; low productivity; and high import dependency.
Further breakdown of the roadmap by the Minister shows that Nigeria Agenda 2050 is a plan designed to transform the country into an Upper-Middle Income Country, with a significant improvement in per capita income. The plan, she explained further, aims to fully engage all resources, reduce poverty, achieve social and economic stability. “It also targets developing a mechanism for achieving a sustainable environment consistent with global concerns about climate change,” she said, stressing that the plan presents the road map for accelerated, sustained and broad-based growth and provides broad frameworks for reducing unemployment, poverty, inequality, and human deprivation.
More highlights of Nigeria Agenda 50 aligns with the country’s long-term ambition to improve its per capita Gross Domestic Product: say, from about $2,084.05 in 2020 to $6,223.23 in 2030 and $33,328.02 in 2050, with rapid and sustained economic growth, job creation and poverty reduction. It also projects annual average real GDP growth of 7.0 per cent. The real growth rate of the GDP of the first medium-term National Development Plan (NDP) 2021-2025 on average will be 4.65 per cent, according to Nigeria Agenda 50 and this will increase to 8.01 per cent in the second NDP. It is expected to increase to 8.43 per cent in the third. Consequently, the number of full time jobs to be created will be roughly 165 million during the Agenda period of about 28 year. The number of people in poverty will decline from the roughly 83 million in 2020 to about 47.8 million in 2025 and to 2.1 million by 2050, thus taking a significant segment of the population out of poverty, the Agenda optimistically provides.
But beyond all these lofty projections and expectations, the Nigeria Agenda 50 by the Buhari Administration, is obviously coming too late in the day. The extant realities and experiences of the economic managers of the Administration that are reflected in the content of the Agenda and its projections will, for sure, be unrealistic and/archaic in no distant time. And for a Government that has lasted for almost eight years to now be ‘spewing’ numerous socio-economic initiatives, including a long-term plan (of over a quarter of a century duration) is hardly impressive. Yes, the Government can beat its chest that it is charting the course for incoming Administrations, but how well did it carve its own roadmap over the last eight years? In truth, it had been practically beating about the bush; doing so many things by trial and error. Experimentation, much of the time!
The fuel subsidy incubus is yet with the Government, less than three months to the end of its tenure. The national election it conducted is widely flawed and the outcome yet being contested at various tribunals and courts. The national census, another usually very explosive and controversial socio-economic project is almost being left to be conducted during the exit month or week of the Administration. Is this a set up for the incoming Government? In retrospect, neither the Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) nor its first medium-term National Development Plan (NDP) 2021-2025 was couched to meet their projections. Today, the reality on ground puts a lie to the highly ambitious 4.65 per cent GDP growth rate during the 2021-2025 NDP. Same goes for the second NDP, according to Nigeria Agenda 50, during which 8.01 per cent growth is projected.
In point of fact, the 2021-2025 NDP has gone mid-way, but in no year since 2015 has Nigeria attained an annual GDP growth of up to four per cent. The persisting headwinds and challenges (both endogenous and exogenous) with accompanying vagaries and vulnerabilities are still very much with Nigeria. The bizarre and pervading incidence of oil theft remains largely unabated—negatively affecting both the volume of oil for sale and the realizable foreign exchange earnings. The level of unemployment in the land (especially youths) is still frighteningly high at up to 35 per cent. The multi-dimensionally poor in Nigeria is currently put at over 135 million, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Insecurity that is ravaging practically every inch of the country is largely unaddressed—such that farming and farmers are already an endangered species. The population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the country is in millions. Even business and commercial life is grinding to a halt—almost everywhere. Effective diversification of the economy (many products and service earning substantial forex) other that near-sole dependence on crude oil is yet a mirage. Successive Governments had only made a mere singsong or mantra of the economy diversification initiative. The economy has therefore remained a ‘rentier’ one –in which everyone positions to make money without doing anything ‘productive’. After all, oil money keeps flowing.
It is therefore a highly questionable exercise for the outgoing Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to be deploying its fast expiring twilight days in a ‘fantasy’ land, painting a picture of the Eldorado. Nigeria Agenda 50 is therefore most likely to be one of the so many documents like it that would be gathering dust on the shelves. We watch ‘Nigeria Agenda 2050’!
- Mr. Okeke, an economist, sustainability expert and consultant on business strategy is a Columnist with National Daily. He can be reached at: [email protected]