Economic Patriotism: A concrete factor for Nigeria’s Economy boosting

Couple years ago, a journalist threw a question at the head of a company. He asked:” Do big companies have a homeland”. The surrounding facts around this glance of scenario created some sort of odd atmosphere of perception as the head of the multi-billion dollars group of company was an immigrant now settled in France but his group of company spreads beyond his new settlement. He however dissected the question in an utmost unusual way to the marvel of everyone and also showed some unusual light from the history to the concept of what patriotism, economically and nationally (politically), entails – a few of which is infused this write up.

Although most citizens are quite nationally patriotic as  the slogans like ‘made in America’, ‘I love new York’, ‘proudly Nigeria’  and so one are seen across the streets on tee shirts, posters, campaigns and even to the flaunting of their nation flag is quite an ubiquitous custom by most citizens. On the contrary, their economic patriotism doesn’t share the same testimony or doesn’t share it at the same magnitude.

Most developed countries of the world started off from the spring-spot of manufacturing industries which was crowned by their citizens’ faithful patronage of the products and perhaps secondarily because they were well orientated or understood the landmark implication of the effect on their country’s economy especially on the long run. The result of a recent (July 2013) research by Brand Key , US based a branding research firm, said that  jeep top the rank of America’s most patriot brand at 98% for the cars, Levi Strauss for the wears at 95%, Hershey’s at 97% for the chocolate and Coca-Cola for the drinks at 97%. Other brands on the list included ford, Ralph Lauren, Gillette, Harley-Davidson and Wal-Mart among others. You would agree with me that these same brands highly patronised by their citizens are the same in most stores across the world even in our Nigeria which automatically implies their export demand – a major factor of economy boosting.

This habit goes for other developed countries like United Kingdom and even European and Asian countries although later. Most Asian countries and some European countries were dominantly industrial natures for other foreign brands until there was an economic awakening and reorientation of the need to patronise their local brands because of the cumulative epidemic effect of what their present mode of operation will impact to their economy and in its corner of globalisation at large.

Dominique de Villepin, former French prime minister, during his term called for “economic patriotism”. As expected, because of the misconception of patriotism especially from the political end, the citizens stand point is often expressed from reactionary, bellicose, nationalistic, chauvinistic and xenophobic direction. Thus, commentators were immediately alarmed by this discordant note in the ambient chorus of Euro-peanization, particularly in the business world.

At the calm of the reaction surely induced and generated by the lack of the understanding on the masses part, it was bestowed on the Prime Minister to throw some more head-on light on what for “economic patriotism” implies from skyscrapers view.

“…. It’s about regaining confidence in our abilities, promoting our assets to increase our stake in the new world order, on a national level as well as a European level”, the Prime Minister said. He elaborated by explaining that his decision on economic patriotism was hinged on a warning shot bolstered by the acknowledgement of two things: firstly, that “economic patriotism is simply what is already practised by the Americans, the Japanese, the Chinese and other countries”, and secondly, the increasing threats of foreign financiers to French companies, fifty of which are susceptible to hostile take-over bids, according to informed observers.

Nigeria and other developing countries should learn from the answer the former prime minister gave because although they rank far ahead of us economically, the former prime minister realised this and called urgently for a retracing of the countries step in the economic-patriotic pathway.

Evidently Nigeria and Nigerians have for decades battle with questions that relates to our product or brands like; how do we regain confidence in our abilities?, how do we promote our assets to increase our stake in the new world order, on a national level as well as a international level?  Here is our answer; we should be economically patriotic. In addition and quite important is that lack of economic patriotism grossly increases our susceptibility to hostile take-over bids when the going gets rough economically.

A practical example, in the deep of the recent economic recession, US and Europe were quite gulped-down, unemployment spew -out ever higher, greater debt etcetera but on the other hand, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) were/are enjoying such economic success that consumers have started to gain a whole new respect for and pride in what their countries offer and stand for.

Mckinsey & Company in a publication in 2010 reported about the rapidly growing ranks of middle-class consumers’ span a dozen emerging nations, not just the fast-growing BRIC countries. She gave an example of how Chinese beverage maker Hangzhou Wahaha, has built a $5.2 billion business against global competitors such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo by targeting rural areas, filling product gaps that meet local needs, keeping costs low, and appealing to patriotism – these are countries Nigeria’s Economy were once in the same bracket with their.

The Nigeria case: The immediate past Minister of Trade and Investment of Nigeria, Mr.Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga announced in October 2011 that the rice importation to Nigeria will come to an end in 2014. However, let’s not forget that Nigeria has used various trade policy instruments such as import at various times from 1978 to 1995 and have all shared a failure testimony. It is of utmost essence at this point to briefly highlight the pendulum-like and zigzag movement of Nigeria on ban of goods –a step towards economic patriotism- since the seventies to date.

From October 1978 to April 1979, the military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo banned import in container under 50kg. 1n April 1979, the government politically relaxed this ban fastened belt by introducing rice import under restricted license only for Government Agencies. In September 1979, the same government introduced a six month ban on all rice importation. Come January 1980, the policy was changed again by the civilian government of Shehu Shagari whereby the government issued importation licence for 200,000 tonnes of rice. In October of the same year, the same government changed the policy to no quantitative restrictions on rice under general import licence. In the same year still, a presidential Task Force on rice (PTF) was created and it was name Nigeria National Supply Company to issue allocations to customers and traders. In 1984, military regime of President Muhammadu Buhari disbanded PTF on rice importation and it was placed under general licence restriction.  In 1985, Major General Ibrahim Babaginda, the then present president, imposed a ban on rice and maize. In 1995, President General Sani Abacha removed the ban on rice importation.  In January 2004, president Obasanjo place an importation ban on 41 items on the ground that he believes the country has the capability of producing them.  However at the end of the day, since 1995 Nigeria has adopted a more liberal trade policy towards rice, until October 2011, when President Jonathan announced that it was going to ban rice importation in 2014. Furthermore, President Jonathan in 2010 announced the lift of ban of vehicles importation under 10 years and also the lift of importation ban of other goods like cassava, toothpicks, textile fabrics which were previously imposed by the previous government.

Thus if one is to plot a graph of our policy change and the frequency at which it changes, we shall most likely end up having a pen-in-a-baby-hand diagram because for a government to change a policy three times in a year and the same policy is changed by the next government admiration and as this ripple continues in the waters of nation’s policy, we shall eventually have a stormy nation and an earth-quaked economy stability.

How can we show patriotism rationally?

This answer to this critical question has more or less being given in the above paragraphs but let me attempt hitting the nail directly on the head. The starting point is supporting and purchasing domestic-brand products. Socio-economic researches have shown that manufacturing industry is the basic foundation for a nation’s prosperity. Without a strong manufacturing industry, China’s rise and renaissance cannot be achieved. In fact, in recent times, many Japanese brands are made in China. One should note that the development of modern industry greatly depends on the volume of sales and consumption. Therefore, the consumption of domestic products should be the driving force for the development of the national manufacturing industry.

From a historical perspective, government and public support and protection for national industry was one way countries developed. The UK once demanded the use of homemade shrouds. If the shroud was proved not to be homemade, the funeral would stop. Such an extreme way of supporting domestic products contributed to the UK’s rise as the world’s first industrial power. The US almost copied the UK’s way. Its first president George Washington wore a suit of locally made cloth when swore in publicly, encouraging Americans to consume more domestic products. Likewise, in recent news, china was pressuring bureaucrats to buy locally branded cars to help domestic automakers and cut lavish spending of taxpayers’ money. Even Guo Gengmao, governor of central Henan province of china, said “We should try to use Chinese cars when possible and actively advocate our officials to use them”. He also gave an account of how civil servants in the U.S., Japan and South Korea typically ride in local cars to buttress his point. It is quite evident that South Korea and Japan also pay a lot of attention to encouraging people to purchase more domestic products, so does India someway. In contrast, those countries which only emphasize trade volume and GDP growth fall into the middle-income trap due to a lack of development of national industry.

However, examples like Chinese and Indian haven’t fully adjusted to full patronisation of their brands even with their industrial endowment. For instance, statistics from an authentic source stated that in the motor industry, China is the world’s largest car market. In 2009, China produced 13.79 million automobiles but while domestic production is high and increasing every year, a big chunk of the market is made up of foreign owned brands and imports. Currently 44.3% of the Chinese car market is domestic brands, the other 55.7% being foreign brands and imports. By implication, if China was to buy only Chinese made cars, then many famous names would be hit (competed with). Especially manufacturers of luxury end cars such a Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Thus, granting them a better edge in international competition and economic development. However, it’s a pity that many Chinese are lately becoming aware of the importance of purchasing and supporting domestic brands. For example, China’s vehicle consumption is booming, but the market share of domestic cars is declining.

This is similar to a contribution of the dent in Indians patriotism; G7 is an electronics company manufactures laptops, mobile phones. Its manufacturing centre is Bangalore (India) but I got amazed 90% Indians don’t know about this, a site coordinator of tablet app builder company once said in 2011.

On the contrary, Koreans (south) have a better testimony off shooting from their dedication to economic patriotism. A recent dweller in Korea noticed that. Koreans buy only Hyundai or Samsung cars (essentially Korea made) only. He testified further that one won’t find a Honda or a Toyota and one may come across Mercedes but very rare. He professed that the government encourages citizens to buy “made in Korea” products.

More politically structured, Korea (South Korea) has moved away from a centrally planned, government-directed investment model economy toward a more market-oriented one. With the recent implementation of economic reforms since its 1998 recession, South Korea has made tremendous progress on many fronts. This includes a focus on corporate branding initiatives for the country’s top consumer goods manufacturers in key industry sectors like electronics and automobiles. They now have some stunning examples of great brand successes, such as Samsung Hyundai and KIA which has invested heavily to develop their own brands and who now understand and realise the blessing in economic patriotism as these brands now compete even in international markets. These achievements are one way hinged on the fact that the country teaches its schoolchildren that a local-brand purchase is an act of patriotism.

Although Nigeria products may initially not be of the best standards but it is the first way to grow into creating a better product and soaring heights at international and global levels.  I think Napoleon Bonaparte best said it right ‘love of the homeland (patriotism) leads the individual to utter devotion or even sacrifice’. The Indians for example prefer to buy an imported item irrespective of the cost because they believe that imported products are always of high quality and most of them are not even aware of their home-made product even if it is good quality like Nigerians and unlike the Americans and the Koreans.

Thus, the onus is on Nigeria and Nigerians to emulate the good examples. The Americans and Japanese economies are there as examples to emulate. We also need to smart and observant enough like the former French prime minister because the operation mode of being economically patriotic to foreign brands goes with the kudos of being quite attractive for foreign investors to come around but it is in actual a bait for citizens and nation they perceive as yet-to-grow-up (foolish) because they are seen as one of the driving force behind economic growth, and Nigeria (like France) is happy to be among the top countries in the world to welcome foreign investment but our concern should be the hostile acts that could harm Nigeria’s economic interests, or even its independence if the targets lie in sensitive sectors like energy and military technology, with possible repercussions on the national population as consumers or employees just as Dominique de Villepin ( former French prime minister) said for his country. The effect of the thumps up for being one of the top countries that welcome foreign investment should be seen more superficially as opposed to an actual and factual economic contribution.

Thus economy patriotism is not s not a question of raising illusory barriers against globalisation. It’s a question of recognizing that our interests and Nigerians’ interests come first and, above all, allowing our companies to fight on equal terms with those of the developed countries. Hence, economic patriotism shouldn’t be seen as a timid retreat from the threats (or rather the challenges) of globalisation, a resurgence of narrow-minded nationalism to the detriment of our nation’s solidarity or even a contamination of the governing sphere itself by the temptations of xenophobia.

In conclusion, let us get our canoes right and set, as we paddle it in the waters of global economy standards through the channel of economy patriotism. Let our citizens patronise our home-made product and brand, let our stores  sell home-made goods like Wal-Mart which was recently ranked the most patriot store and let our goods be durable and affordable unlike the Indians that complain of inferior goods as an excuse to the patriotic for international brands. The benefits of this is innumerable in the  circle of national and global economy as tax and import duties is grossly reduced, our local industries are strengthen, a standing demand for our local supplies, job security and employment opportunities for the citizens, exportation  of product is more in sight and general economy boost is attained among others.  

In a nutshell, I think it is safe to say that one can estimate the strength of a country’s economy by it economic patriotism. Alexis de Tocqueville said “In this world only patriotism or religion are capable of leading citizens toward the same, universal goal for so long.”

Thank you