Importation = Innovation?

BY OBIORA ILOANUSI ||

Import-China

When innovating, three intrinsic things are needed. The first thing is an idea. This is the skeleton of what you will be hoping to create. The second thing you need is imagination. This is the bits and bobs that make whatever you want to create better or different to the other guy’s. Finally, you need that what you want to create is already in existence.

The third is probably the most necessary of all three. As humans we easily see flaws in things without. It’s easier to point what another person is doing wrong. On this basis, innovation is created. This article is not about human behaviour so I will carry on.

Importation could drive innovation.

When I look around the hotels, house, shops and market stall I try to calculate a MIN Index. This is a ‘Made in Nigeria’ Index. It is self-explanatory and should befuddle no one. It is an index I come up with, represented in percentage, of how many Nigerian goods are used in a location. So far my allocations are in the upper realms of 10s and 20s. At first it was alarming then I sat back and thought of item number three on the Essentials to Innovation.

Someone has to create it before you.

On average Nigerian import much more than it exports. At 92% imports to 8% export we are an import-dependent nation. The implications are staggering, but not in no way an economic apocalypse. What we export are mainly raw materials such as oil, gas and charcoal. What we import are mainly edible goods or consumer goods such as electronics. Goods that we either cannot produce in-country or do not have the relative advantage in producing such items. Items that befuddle the unknowing and begs the phrase ‘How manage?’ and ‘Onye ocha di egwu!’, the white man is good. The white man, once upon a time, imported it to and thought ‘By jove, these Chinese are wonderful!’ Look at where they are today.

Essentially we are importing ideas.

Between the first and third world country, that’s where opportunity is.

Imagine the individual (much like their American or European counterpart) who has never travelled beyond the borders of Nigeria. When the latest gadget hits the shelves and market stalls, sure the MIN Index goes down but the individual’s world as defined by the Green-White-Green expands. All of a sudden, what is outside their borders comes a bit closer and the gap is shortened. There are children in Sierra Leone building transistor radios from scrapped parts. How much more the child on our streets who now sees things from outside their once enclosed world?

Though I write of the innovative merits of importation albeit far off, there are the downfalls of import dependency. I have heard many lament the current level of import and its impeding growth. Mine own blood lamented the use of Singaporean toilet paper over Nigerian. I understood him: there has to be a limit. If we have to travel several thousand miles to clean our behinds…I leave that thought to fester in your mind.

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