‘Patronage of made-in-Nigeria goods will empower manufacturers’
Dr. Frank Jacobs is the President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN). In this interview with FEMI ADEKOYA, he stresses the need for government to address challenges mitigating the growth of the real sector, while advocating increased patronage of made-in-Nigeria goods in a bid to improve job creation and capacity utilisation. Excerpts.
What are MAN’s expectations from this currentadministration?
Manufacturing is the only way to go now for the government. We are all aware of what is happening at the international oil market with the crude oil price dwindling everyday and every country that depends on crude oil for foreign exchange in the past has to find an alternative and the best alternative is to diversify the economy. The manufacturing sector is one of the best ways to diversify the economy due to the huge potential in the sector that we can exploit. Since government is now interested in moving away from the mono-product economy, we see the sector as an opportunity for government to build a more diversified economy. In essence, government should give more attention to the manufacturing sector.
What efforts are manufacturers putting into the diversification agenda?
We are beginning to look inwards. We are beginning to change our processes from an import dependent way of doing things to processing local materials, as well as processing resources in this country which we have a large quantity of and by so doing, I believe we are helping to diversify the economy.
We want the present administration to continue with policies of the previous administration that have been enhancing productivity in this country. We also want the government to take the issue of patronage of Made-in-Nigeria goods very serious, because buying made-in-Nigeria products will empower our manufacturers to produce more and by producing more, they are going to increase their capacity to create more jobs. We know that without jobs in this country, the social implications are dire. So, government must do everything to encourage patronage of made-in-Nigeria products.
How has the prevalence of substandard goods affected manufacturing in the country?
This is the major challenge of all the manufacturers in the country. With my experience in manufacturing for over 30 years and as the president of MAN, I can tell you that one of the major challenges affecting our members is the faking and counterfeiting of our products. Sometimes, these unscrupulous people do this in collaboration with some companies in Asia, notably China, where they will go and produce Nigerian products in lower quality and bring them in and repackage them thereby making our own indigenous products more uncompetitive.
We think that it is important that government looks at this issue and do something fast about it. There are some agencies that are charged with that responsibility, especially the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) who has been doing a good job. We want them to keep up with the good work they are doing. I have a situation where my company’s products were faked in Aba. It was SON that fished out those people and dealt with them and since then, that incident has stopped. I think government must do everything to encourage and support SON as well as the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) to ensure that they perform the mandate for which they have been established, especially in ensuring that only good quality and standard products are sold in this country.
Some manufacturers recently protested against activities of SON in Awka. What is MAN’s position on this?
I heard about this protest and also made efforts to check into our records and to the best of my knowledge; we do not have any member of such in our membership. There is no such name as Bendusco. There is no such name among our members. So if he says he is representing MAN, we are saying we do not know him. Whatever he says, is not the position of MAN. In our system in MAN, we do not go on demonstrations to push out points. We have channels to address our issues. What he is doing is entirely different from what MAN does and of course, he is not a member of MAN
The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) recently unveiled measures to review the MANCAP certificate issued to manufacturers as a result of abuse. What effect do you think this has on manufacturing activities?
Manufacturers have derived a lot of benefits from SON, because I remember that at the inception of this current administration under Dr. Joseph Odumodu, MAN signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with SON. This MoU was to streamline the fee that SON charges MAN members so that MAN members are given favourable deals so as to encourage our businesses and this was not the case before. So, I think in a way SON has helped MAN in our businesses. It has helped MAN in creating a better environment for our businesses to thrive. We are very pleased with what SON is doing.
How much of the market share is counterfeiting taking out of the manufacturing sector and what is the current capacity utilisation of the sector?
As you are aware, a new government just came into power and when such changes occur, you do not expect businesses to move on very well. At present, I believe the capacity utilisation may have dropped a little because of the uncertainties surrounding the new government in power.
In terms of the market share being taken away, I cannot give you an exact figure on that but all I can say that for any given industry that has its productsheavily faked to the point that they are unable to sell, their sales volume will drop and their capacity utilisation will equally drop.
I want government to look seriously into the issue of infrastructural decay in the country, while we talk about ensuring the patronage of made-in-Nigeria products, we also want the infrastructure to be developed so that our members and manufacturers in the country can now trade under a favourable environment to make our products more competitive with our foreign counterparts.
We also think that the federal government should empower the SON more by ensuring that funds that are supposed to go to them to enhance their operations are given to them timely.
For those who see the activities of SON as a threat, what do you advice?
SON’s activities cannot be a threat especially to the manufacturers. Their activities are helping us in improving the quality and standard of our products to become competitive at the international market. Today, manufacturing should not be only for Nigeria. We must produce to sell these products overseas and be competitive at the international market. I do remember that recently, the European Union (EU) came up with a programme on a national quality infrastructure and the SON is in the vanguard of this programme. It was SON that actually engineered it and we are the beneficiaries of this programme and it is called the Nigeria quality infrastructure project. We remain grateful to SON for initiating that programme because it is in the best interest of manufacturers and the Nigerian economy at large