Shamelessly Made in Nigeria

Nigeria Flag

The new national anthem right now is Made in Nigeria, and as is our practice, everybody is pretending to be on the bandwagon. While the depreciation of the naira and scarce foreign exchange have genuinely compelled a lot of us to look inwards and engage in the development of local solutions to needs hitherto met at dollarised expense, others have seized the opportunity to engage in forex speculation. This unpatriotic practice has worsened an already unpleasant situation for a lot of people doing legitimate business. We are at a cross roads right now and the economic survival and prosperity of our nation depend on the decisions and actions we take at this point. So, how will Made in Nigeria get us out of this situation?

To begin with, we need to understand how the concept of Made in Anywhere has changed in the 21st Century. The arrival of the millennium ushered in rapid technological advances on a scale never before seen. It also announced the rise of China as an industrial powerhouse. Long before now, we were used to seeing products with labels that pronounced “Made in England”, “Made in U.S.A”, “Made in Germany”, “Made in Japan”, and so on. But those labels soon gave way to “Made in China” and “Assembled in China”. What happened? The label “Made in China” was for many years synonymous with inferior quality. But the Chinese quietly persevered and worked harder at continuous improvement.

Soon they were competing with Western Europe and America on quality, which they offered at far lower prices! It didn’t take long for the West to realise they could not effectively compete with China and soon many were taking their manufacturing needs to China. So now famous American brands like the iphone are either Made in China or Assembled in China while German automobiles have most of their parts made in China. Similarly, we can have a Made in Nigeria car with most of the parts imported from China. That is the reality of today’s competitive world. And this is why we must understand branding. Almost everything is made in China. So what makes the difference? The answer is Brand Power! Most brands of television offer similar features and are virtually all made in China. The big difference is Brand Power.

As we are now mouthing Made in Nigeria, we need to understand exactly what we are doing. The key word is competitiveness. We must direct our efforts to areas where we can build competitive advantage. Nigerian consumers will not buy Made in Nigeria simply out of patriotism. Not Nigerians, with our love for anything foreign! Our Made in Nigeria strategy must be built on superior value creation. I want to buy Made in Nigeria because it gives me more value for money.

This is what we will get if we focus on areas where we have competitive advantage. I can identify two areas to illustrate this. If we focus on building a petrochemical hub as I understand is being planned for the Niger Delta, we have competitive advantage based on the incredible oil and gas reserves in the region. Another example is the agro allied and food industry. We have competitive advantage here too, because we have the capacity and diverse vegetation to successfully produce an amazing range of food crops and build Africa’s largest agro allied industries.

I do not see how we can build Made in Nigeria cars and have competitive advantage. If you assemble Toyota in Aba, it is still not a Made in Nigeria car. While we were assembling Volkswagen in Nigeria it was not a Made in Nigeria brand. We must understand that. It will create jobs but it only gives more value to the owners of the brand. If you create a Made in Nigeria car, what will give it competitive advantage? Perhaps if it is very cheap and reliable, you may position it as a common man’s car and sell it for about N250,000. But is this realistic? When we consider the high cost of manufacturing in this country with our power challenges and all, is it feasible? I don’t think so. And I don’t see the patriotic fervour that will turn Nigerians away from foreign brands of cars to Made in Nigeria. While I commend the efforts of Senator Ben Bruce in this regard, I just don’t see the common sense in pushing Made in Nigeria products where you don’t have competitive advantage.

I walked into a store recently and asked for Dangote Salt. To my shock, the sales attendant told me they only had an imported brand of salt. I was so livid I didn’t even know what to say. I walked out in anger. I would gladly buy Made in Nigeria chocolates knowing that the cocoa was proudly grown in Osun State. But I am not going to buy a Made in Nigeria car because I just don’t have the assurance it will safely convey me from Lagos to Ibadan without breaking down and leaving me at the mercy of highway robbers. That is the power of perception. We must not deceive ourselves. Which brings me to the Made in Nigeria campaign that Sterling Bank has been running on DSTV SuperSport channels.

The well-produced advert shows a group of people, presumably employees of the bank, proudly dressed in colorful Nigerian attires. They talk about believing in what they call “the Nigerian Dream”. This advert is a laughable example of saying one thing while doing the exact opposite! Sterling Bank is using money made from Nigerian customers to run an expensive campaign as a broadcast sponsor of the Barclays Premier League. Imagine the double jeopardy! The English Premier League already has a title sponsor in Barclays Bank. Now, our Sterling Bank is sponsoring the broadcast here in Nigeria using a Made in Nigeria campaign.

Our Nigerian Professional Football League, NPFL, is in dire need of sponsors, and has been under a dynamic and visionary leadership. But Sterling Bank doesn’t see it as a Made in Nigeria brand worth supporting. Sterling Bank is also not one of the sponsors of our national team, the Super Eagles. Neither is the bank sponsoring any of the clubs in our football league. Yet they are in an endorsement deal with Arsenal Football Club of London. This is absolutely shameless and is the reason for the title of this piece. Our friends at Sterling Bank should pull that advert and go back to their strategy session and think of credible ways to support Made in Nigeria. The essence of Made in Nigeria is not about running adverts, making insincere claims and paying lip-service. It is about creating value and harnessing our incredible resources to create wealth and competitive advantage. It is not about going on TV and making hollow statements about a “Nigerian Dream”.
Muyiwa Kayode is the CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding

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