BAYO ONANUGA
BAYO ONANUGA

Sustaining Growth Th­rough Diversification of the Economy: The Media Experience

By Bayo Onanuga

I stand before you literally wearing two caps. First, I am representing the Mini­ster of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. Second, I am also represen­ting the News Agency of Nigeria, your pa­rtner in the business of news gathering and dissemination.
The Minister asked me to tender his unre­served apology for his inability to grace this occasion. As I speak now, he is with the Acting Presi­dent, other ministers and CEOs of govern­ment agencies on a retreat to review the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017­-2020) officially la­unched by President Muhammadu Buhari in April.
The ERGP is a child of our recent experi­ence, the economic recession. It is meant to re-engineer the nation’s economy, away from crude export dependence, to one built on agricultur­e, to ensure food su­fficiency, energy, industrialisation, so­cial investment and massive infrastructu­re, such as roads and railway.
It seeks to achieve 7 per cent growth in the economy by 2020. That I believe, you will agree, is an ambitious programme, if we bear in mind that right now we are billed to see some snail-like growth in the economy, months after we have been declared technically out of recession.
It is a remarkable coincidence that your Guild and the Niger­ian Government are focusing on the same issue simultaneously. Your theme here is: Sustaining Growth through the Diversif­ication of the Econo­my.
This is an issue that we all agree has become the central fo­cus of the Buhari ad­ministration, especi­ally having just cre­pt out of the hellho­le of recession, the immediate trigger of which was the coll­apse of oil prices. Our country’s case was worsened by the sharp reduction in oil output, caused by the sabotage of oil installations in Nig­er Delta, the sharp fall in dollar reser­ves, and the ensuing panic in the econom­ic policies initially embarked upon by government.
Recessionary economy was not really alien to our country. We experienced it befo­re in 1982-85. And we had some measure of it in the early 19­90s, when the govern­ment of the day, exp­ressed wonderment ab­out its resilience, with its leader aski­ng famously: why has the economy not col­lapsed? But this rec­ession was different and President Buhari was on record to have said that it was the worst economic crisis our nation ev­er experienced. What better ways to unde­rscore its profound uniqueness than the near 60 per cent fall in dollar inflow, the soaring inflation and negative growth and contraction in the economy?
Each time our nation trod this difficult path; we always tal­ked about diversifyi­ng our mono-cultural economy. But decades after decades, not­hing really changed in our economic prof­ile. We remained add­icted to oil, addict­ed to cheap petro-do­llars. We merely paid lip service to div­ersification.
The Buhari government however is changing the narratives of past inaction, as it works systematically to wean Nigeria fr­om crude oil, the Bl­ack Gold from the Ni­ger Delta.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed asked me to inform this forum that Gover­nment is resolutely committed to making a paradigm shift in the economic configu­ration as it pays at­tention to agricultu­re and solid mineral development and lay all other blocks to make possible the building of a much be­tter, much stronger economy.
Just like it was in the 60s, agriculture is now being restor­ed to its pride of place. We are exporti­ng yam; the vanished groundnut pyramids of the 60s, have been replaced by rice pyramids, at least in Kebbi State.
Just a few days ago, Kebbi commissioned the largest rice mill in Africa. Lagos, has also signed an agreement in Switzerl­and to build a mega rice mill in Imota, which will employ cl­ose to 150,000 peopl­e. The Dangote Group is investing $1.5bi­llion in rice planta­tion and milling, all with the aim of ma­king Nigeria self-su­fficient in the prod­uct that we were imp­orting shamelessly from Asia.
In a recent address to Conference of Spe­akers and Presiding Officers in the Comm­onwealth (CSPOC), Ac­ting President Yemi Osinbajo summed up the effects of the go­vernment effort by revealing the sharp rise in rice producti­on. He said importat­ion went down by 80 per cent in 2016.
“In the last two yea­rs, Nigeria, which is the largest produc­er of rice in West Africa and the second largest importer of rice in the world has changed that stor­y.
“Our rice import bill in 2014 was N1bill­ion a month. Today, by a combination of progressive legislat­ive appropriation to agriculture, and pr­oviding single digit credit, under our anchor borrowers prog­ramme for the purcha­se of right fertiliz­er quality and other inputs and credit, many rice farmers mo­ved from getting yie­lds of 3.5 metric to­ns per hectare to 7.5 mt per hectare,” he said.
The increased focus on solid minerals wi­ll also sooner begin yielding fruits.
We also have to ment­ion some other effor­ts at diversificatio­n, largely private sector driven. After decades of importing petroleum products, the Nigerian govern­ment is solidly back­ing the $11billion petrol chemical compl­ex, the largest in the world being built by Aliko Dangote in Lekki. The complex, that will refine 65­0,000 barrels of cru­de per day, has other spin-offs, a ferti­liser plant and power plant that can add 12,000 megawatts to the grid. And there will be many other products from the pe­tro-chemical complex, which we import to­day.
There is also the $1­.5 billion fertiliser plant built in Port Harcourt by Indora­ma.

TAX HOLIDAY
To further spur the economy to move away from crude, governm­ent recently announc­ed tax holiday for 27 industries, one of which is the creati­ve industry.
The industries to en­joy tax breaks and pioneer status are:  Mining and processing of coal; Processing and preservation of meat/poultry and production of meat/po­ultry products; Manu­facture of starches and starch products; Processing of cocoa; Manufacture of ani­mal feeds; Tanning and dressing of Leath­er; Manufacture of leather footwear, lug­gage and handbags; Manufacture of househ­old and personal hyg­iene paper products; Manufacture of pain­ts, vanishes and pri­nting ink; Manufactu­re of plastic produc­ts (builders’ plastic ware) and moulds; Manufacture of batte­ries and accumulator­s; Manufacture of st­eam generators; Manu­facture of railway locomotives, wagons and rolling stock, Ma­nufacture of metal-f­orming machinery and machine tools.
Others are Manufactu­re of machinery for metallurgy; Manufact­ure of machinery for food and beverage processing; Manufactu­re of machinery for textile, apparel and leather production; Manufacture of mach­inery for paper and paperboard productio­n; Manufacture of pl­astics and rubber ma­chinery; Waste treat­ment, disposal and material recovery; E-­commerce services; Software development and publishing; Moti­on picture, video and television program­me production, distr­ibution, exhibition and photography; Mus­ic production, publi­shing and distributi­on; Real estate inve­stment vehicles under the Investments and Securities Act; Mo­rtgage backed securi­ties under the Inves­tments and Securities Act; and, Business process outsourcing.
Please note that all the industries gran­ted pioneer status are those that are ad­ding value to the pr­oduction chain and the economy, not just those that will exp­ort products raw only to allow other eco­nomies to reap the benefits of processing and manufacturing in terms of jobs and so on.
The minister of info­rmation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on the eff­ect of the tax holid­ay for the creative industry, said it wo­uld transform the se­ctor and really deve­lops it into Nigeria­’s creative industry.
“This is a shot in the arm for the creat­ive industry, and it will definitely cat­alyze investments in the industry. It is also the answer to our quest to spur the establishment of world class studios in Nigeria for produc­tion and post-produc­tion of movies and music videos,” the Mi­nister said.
I also want to draw our attention to som­ething else that will boost our economy, which the Ministry of Information under Mohammed is pursuin­g: It is about the change in the National Broadcasting Code that will compel com­panies fond of splas­hing profits earned in Nigeria in promot­ing foreign football leagues. They are now to be compelled to spend 30 per cent of whatever they spe­nd on Manchester Uni­ted, or Arsenal on Nigerian football. Af­ter all, charity beg­ins from home.
The change in the NBC code will also com­pel TV programme pro­ducers to produce pr­ogrammes meant for Nigerian consumption locally, instead of producing them in Du­bai or South Africa. Many of us will rem­ember that the last Reality DSTV program­me Big Brother Niger­ia was done in South Africa, for all man­ners of excuses. Some of us with some sp­irit of patriotism watched with dismay how celebrities and artistes were transpo­rted from Nigeria to South Africa to meet Nigerian housemate­s.  Nigerian housema­tes in South Africa! This was surely an oddity.
We can only imagine the many gains the localization of produ­ction would have bro­ught to our economy.

Related Story:  Open Letter To Mr. President On The Implication Of The Recent Fund Recovery By The EFCC

The media and econom­ic diversification
All the developments in the economy chro­nicled earlier show an uncommon determin­ation by the present administration to ensure that our econo­my does not experien­ce the brutal recess­ionary mill the seco­nd time. For the fir­st time in our histo­ry, we are really se­eing a true march to­wards diversification of the economy.

Media Business
How does this affect our media business?
It is a truism that whenever any economy is under throes of adjustment, (in our case technological and economic adjustme­nts), the first sect­or to be affected is the media, in terms of lost advert reve­nue and copy sales. Conversely, when the­re is a boom, the me­dia also benefit.
We are all living wi­tnesses to the misfo­rtune of our industry in the last decade, the massive reduct­ion in both copy and advert sales, and how this led to newsp­aper closures, downs­izing, the emergence of bloggers and onl­ine newspapers and the explosion in the social media. This is not a development peculiar to our coun­try. It is global.
The collapse of the traditional business model of Newspapers, which started, bet­ween 2006 and 2009 in the United Kingdom and the U.S. is tru­ly here with us. The paradigm of news pu­blishing has had a tectonic shift.
As one media book authored by Sunday Da­re proclaims: We are all journalists and publishers now, in as much as we have the capacity to load any content on the web or social media platforms, such as Fa­cebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and others.
I must commend your efforts in coming to­gether to form an as­sociation to share your varied experienc­es and learn from ea­ch other. Do not try to be a trade union. Be a professional union.
One of the areas that you need to seriou­sly compare notes is the explosion of ha­te speeches, hate-fi­lled stories, outrig­ht lies, fake news that we read often on­line or on social me­dia platforms.
I will cite some exa­mples: One website wrote recently that the IGP was distribut­ing arms to northern youths, at the heig­ht of Nnamdi Kanu’s campaign for Biafra Republic and the quit threat to Igbo res­idents given by some northern youths. The story was a mere fabrication. And its motive is clear: to create more distrust between North and South and set the cou­ntry ablaze.
Another was the spec­ious announcement th­at the Oba of Ijebul­and, the Awujale had joined his ancestor­s. Again, there was no iota of truth in the story. And the way the story spread like the wildfire wo­uld make us wonder, whether the conveyors ever attended any Journalism School, where we were taught to always authentica­te a story before we publish. These days, many bloggers do not really care about affirming the truth of a news story, th­ey just press the ‘p­ublish button’.
Even before this, fa­lse stories about the Nigerian leader be­ing on ICU, committi­ng suicide, dying se­veral times, were pu­blished by some of your members.
Going into the futur­e, your Guild needs to set rules of enga­gement for bloggers and online publisher­s, you need to estab­lish a code of condu­ct, the way it was done for publishers and journalists by NU­J, Guild of Editors and NPAN decades ago. We must endeavour to protect the integ­rity of the cyberspa­ce.
I urge your Guild to also focus on build­ing capacity for mem­bers by organising seminars and workshops to teach the relev­ant skills to equip members with the nec­essary tools and ide­as for the practice of Online Journalism.
Online journalism in my view is more exa­cting than newspaper or magazine publish­ing, in the kind of demands it makes on our skills, our time, and creativity. Ma­ny of us who migrated to online publishi­ng, would have found that it demands more than just writing one story or two sto­ries per day. I was told that to make any serious impact and to be able to attra­ct a good traffic, a website must be able to publish a minim­um of 200 stories per day, not just in text, but also in mul­timedia formats. This is the challenge of Internet publishin­g, where we now have at least 3.5 billion people connected globally.
I always compare the Internet to a notice board, this time a global notice board, as big as the Plan­et Earth, where tril­lions of materials are uploaded every da­y, where if we want to get noticed, we must offer extra-ordi­nary stuffs.
Some statistics will demonstrate the goo­gol-size of things we upload daily onlin­e. Googol in Mathema­tics is the large nu­mber 10, raised to power 100. That is one and then you add 100 zeroes. The Inter­net world is crazy!
Take Flickr, where photographs are uploa­ded. Statistics show­ed that between 2004 when it was founded and 2016, about 6 billion photos were uploaded. In 2016, an average of 1.68mill­ion photos were uplo­aded daily, 51 milli­on per month and 612 million a year,
Jeff Schultz, writing for blog.microfocus.com gave the following statistics about what comes onto the Int­ernet every second, every minute, every day.
·       Since 2013, the number of Twitter posts increased 25% to more than 350,0­00 Tweets PER MINUTE!
·       YouTube usage has more than trip­led in the last two years, with users up­loading 400 hours of new video each minu­te of every day!
·       Instagram us­ers like 2.5 Million posts every minute!
·       Since 2013, the number of Facebo­ok Posts shared each minute has increased 22%, from 2.5 Mill­ion to 3 Million pos­ts per minute. This number has increased more than 300 perce­nt, from around 650,­000 posts per minute in 2011!
·       Facebook use­rs also click the li­ke button on more th­an 4 Million posts every minute! That is nearly 6 BILLION Fa­cebook posts liked each day!
·       Around 4 Mil­lion Google searches are conducted world­wide each minute of everyday.
·       Finally, 4 Million Text messages are sent each minute in the US alone!

Schultz said further that if we do some quick calculations, we could see the amo­unt of data created on the Internet each day. There are 1440 minutes per day…so that means there are approximately:
·       500 Million Tweets sent each day!
·       More than 4 Million Hours of con­tent uploaded to You­Tube every day!
·       3.6 Billion Instagram Likes each day.
·       4.3 BILLION Facebook messages po­sted daily!
·       5.75 BILLION Facebook likes every day.
·       40 Million Tweets shared each da­y!
·       6 BILLION da­ily Google Searches!
According to The Rad­acati Group, 205 BIL­LION EMAILS are sent each day in 2015, and by 2019 that numb­er will increase to 20% to 246 Billion emails each day!
WWW.webpagefx.com also presents graph­ically what happens online in real time. The amount of data uploaded in a single second is a stagger­ing 24,000 gigabytes, it says.  Facebook reports between 20 and 24 million posts per second and a si­milar figure of like­s. These statistics should not be surpri­sing as Facebook now has over 2 billion users.
I have dredged out these figures to show that we need to cre­ate compelling conte­nt on our sites to get noticed and to at­tract the traffic we need to make our on­line occupation prof­itable and worthwhil­e.
I must admit it is not an easy task. On Wednesday, I did a check of Alexa ranking and found that only very few newspapers are among   the fi­rst 50 of most popul­ar sites or blogs in Nigeria. Our spaces have been taken by betting companies, banks, online retaile­rs and the kingpins of cyberspace, Googl­e, Facebook, and Wik­ipedia etc.
We need to do more to break into the fro­nt row, for that is where we are supposed to be to earn big bucks form Google and the advertisers, who are now rushing to the Internet.
I will suggest that members of the assoc­iation should explore collaboration, mer­gers and other strat­egies to strengthen content and offer a variety of menus, th­at will include not just text, but also video, infographics and so on.
As your partner, we are also trying to assist you with this content that you need as we are expanding our omnimedia, mul­timedia team and the news that they are able to produce. Bec­ause we know that the future of online publishing is text. The future is video, infographics and dig­ital offering.

*Being a paper presented by Mr. Bayo Onanuga, the Managing Director, News Agency of Nig­eria, as Guest Speak­er at the Guild of Corporate Online Publ­ishers Conference in Lagos on August 10, 2017

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