*Nigeria to lead Drive for Local Content in Africa
By Margaret Nongo-Okojokwu
The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote, has advised African countries to see local content as business and not as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of companies, if they intend to achieve success in the initiative.
Speaking at the 5th Africa Local Content Forum on sidelines of the 24th Africa Oil Week held recently in Cape Town, South Africa, Wabote insisted that local content is critical in driving growth and development in an economy and should be seen as purely business and not CSR.
He said, “Local Content is not CSR, it is business, in the sense that if you demand local participation in a business, whoever is giving you that opportunity must get value from that demand he has made. It is business, they would expect reward out of it.
“CSR is what companies do without necessarily expecting reward. They do it to benefit the lives of the people; to give back to them., but in this instance, because local content, whoever is giving it to you, expect huge benefits out of it, it is not CSR, it is purely business.
“That is the message I also want to pass to my various colleagues in sub-Saharan African as a whole, to realise it as a business. Once you realize it as a business, the rate at which you would succeed is enormous. But once you see it as CSR, the likelihood of success is not there.”
To give vent to this, Wabote further stated that Nigeria is planning to organise a forum for heads of local content programmes in sub-Saharan Africa to highlight opportunities inherent in the adoption of local content.
“It might not be a conference. We might start with just a meeting of the heads of local content of those countries and to develop a strategic pathway forward, before we start to talk about conference. Though it would not be a conference, it would be a deliberate meeting of the heads of those agencies and through that meeting we would be able to fashion out what the next steps are to be able to embrace the policies of local contents,” he noted.
Wabote argued that local content is an existential imperative for oil-producing nations, adding that the benefits of local content supersedes the boundaries of Africa,
He averred that efforts must be geared towards using African resources for the benefits of Africans; hence the need to develop local capacity in every sector of the economies of Africa, a point Nigeria is poised to help prove in the continent.
He said, “That is why the drive in Nigeria, and most African countries have seen the successes we have made in Nigeria and they are eager to learn from our successes and challenges in order to perfect their system, because there is no point in reinventing the wheel if there is a process already in place.
“We want to take the initiative as Nigeria to drive this agenda, to get ourselves together in a very small group and help all these other countries that want to focus on local content, by showing them a sustainable local content process.
“Like I always say, Local content is not a ‘one size fit all’; it is also not a sprint, it is a marathon. It is important to learn from people who have started the journey to see how you can build on their successes to move the local content agenda.”
Wabote added that following the achievements Nigeria had recorded in local content; it had set for itself a strategic target over the next 10 years and intends to see through the programme.
He said, “Part of my agenda is to foster that African integration in terms of pushing for local content to benefit local people, particularly in the oil and gas sector. And like I also know in Nigeria, we want to extend local content successes to other sector of the economy. Recently, the government issued some executive orders in terms of local content and procurement.
“These are all geared towards ensuring that Nigerians participate and benefit from their natural resources and also create employment for our people, which is very key. We have teeming youths in Nigeria, most of them are unemployed. The strategy is how do we get them engaged? How do we retain the much-needed foreign exchange to move ahead, to move our economy forward?
“This present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari, is set to ensure that we create that employment base through diversification of the economy beyond oil and gas,” Wabote emphasised