Cottage industries can address poverty, unemployment

In Nigeria, poverty can be said to be chronic and endemic and, until now, little or no genuine efforts were made by previous administrations to holistically address this menace.

Among the measures designed to address the problems of poverty by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is the establishment of cottage industries. This week, the Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Mr George Akume, said that the ministry is concluding arrangements to create 774 cottage industries across the country.

The minister said the move was in line with the current administration’s policy of moving 100 million Nigerians out of poverty. If this development comes to fruition, therefore, “every local government will have one industry,” the minister said.

This initiative, according to the minister, will be based on industrial corridors and that means that where a local government is producing, for instance, Beni seed, government will provide it the facility for people to clean and dishoard their Beni seed and make profit from sale of the product that will, eventually, be exported.

Thus, seemingly, establishment of cottage industries, if well run, can lead to reduction in poverty rate. After all, cottage industry is a specialised form of small scale industry where the production of the commodity takes place in the homes and the labour is, usually, supplied by family members.

The machineries or means utilised for the production of the commodities, generally, are the common ones used at homes. The basic characteristic feature of cottage industry is that it is basically unorganised in nature and comes under the group of small scale industry types.

The commodities that are being produced by these industries are basically consumable ones and are produced through the utilisation of the traditional techniques.

With cottage industry, especially established in rural areas where unemployment along with under-employment are prevalent and where most Nigerians reside, the initiative could not have come at a better time than now because this industry helps the economy by absorbing a huge number of the unemployed in the rural areas.

However, while it is helpful that cottage industries are not mass producers of commodities, their existence could be threatened by the presence of factory based medium or large industries. This is because of the fact that these large industries utilise all sorts of cost effective technologies which enable them to supply products at low price.

On the other hand, the cottage industries are, basically, labour intensive and utilise traditional techniques in the production process which are generally not cost effective in nature and could escalate prices of their products.

Thus, products supplied by cottage industries could face risk of extinction if they don’t receive enough financial or other forms of support from the government.

Cottage industries, in fact, are faced with a variety of problems that blunt their growth and, hence, affects their expansion. The most serious problem is the high cost of production, which affects their sale. Other handicaps include organisational weaknesses, technical deficiency, poor marketing facilities, etc.

And, no doubt, with the advent of the machine age, cottage industries have lost much of their old position and popularity. In the age of mass production, it is impossible for these industries to compete with large scale industries.

No doubt, too, that despite the shortcomings associated with cottage industries, their importance, even in a machine age, is not negligible. Cottage industries can make significant contributions to the quest for the realisation of an industrially-efficient Nigeria.

Cottage industries are often characterised by their enormous potential for employment generation and it has been empirically discovered that cottage industries have given economic independence to the women in the developing as well as developed countries.

Therefore, other than the measures put in place by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for the realisation of the cottage industries, an important and, usually, the common form of support needed by the industries to succeed, is financial support to operators in form subsidies.

Conclusively, there is no reason to nurse fears that cottage industries are destined to die in an age of machinery. They can be operated in Nigeria amidst rumblings of big machines, especially if the government provides them with better equipment, sufficient finance and organises their activities.

Why Nigeria foreign policy needs review

It is said that the only thing that is constant in life is change. Thus, if foreign policy are those advantageous strategies a country employs to protect its national interest and achieve specific goals for the benefit of its citizenry and country, then, it is subject to review that will be informed by current realities.

It is in this light, therefore, that Nigeria is set to review its foreign policy in order to reflect current realities, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, said this week.

Speaking at the end of the weekly virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, the minister said: “With regards to changing the foreign policy direction of the country, we need to have an all Nigerian meeting of stakeholders to look at our foreign policy and review it, and to see in which direction it should be going.”

Of course, like the minister said, it is now a long time since Nigeria reviewed its foreign policy direction even though many reasons abound for the review. Among them are security threats the country faces such as those from the Boko Haram and bandits.

Ideally, having foreign relations with other countries should foster investments from such countries, but the security challenges posed by these threatening groups within the country make it quite unappealing to foreign investors.

There’s also the problem of an unstable economy which impedes Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Nigeria has a lot of bilateral investment treaties that are signed but not in force.

The reason for this can be pinned to an unstable economy. There is an urgent need for action to see these partnerships leading to sustainable development in the country.

There is also the problem about the perceptions about Nigeria. The old narrative about Nigeria largely remains the same, despite all efforts and accomplishments recorded by Nigerians abroad. This greatly hinders good relations among the community of nations. The international community tends to relate with Nigeria under suspicion and a level of distrust, all because of the shortcomings of few Nigerians.

If nothing is done, the country’s reputation will continue to thwart whatever diplomatic missions and representations Nigeria executes in other countries or the international scene generally.

Still, in the course of reviewing the foreign policy of the country, an effort that can be said to be overdue, the need to retain Africa as the centre stage of Nigeria’s foreign policy must not be ignored by the reviewers.

In fact, it can be said that any foreign policy that does not make Africa its main focus and takes into consideration the peculiar position of Africa is unrealistic.

Thankfully, Nigeria has been Afrocentric, showing great support in times of need to its neighbours. Angola, Mozambique, South-Africa, Liberia, Namibia and many others have benefitted from Nigerian foreign policy focus on Africa.

However, the impending review of the country’s foreign policy should consider how these huge financial expenditures and massive use of human and material resources suffered by Nigeria can pay off.

A situation where Nigeria and Nigerians abroad are subjected to some forms of humiliations including xenophobic attacks in South Africa, slavery in Libya and destruction of property in Ghana and other parts of the world should no longer be tolerated.

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