Ideas Untrapped
Ideas Untrapped
On the Value of Knowledge - with Adedayo

On the Value of Knowledge - with Adedayo

My Conversation with Adedayo was an enjoyable experience, as you can tell from the lighthearted tone. He is brilliant and still very much underrated. He also has an incredible personal story - the triumph of choice, opportunity, and knowledge. I hope he gets to tell it one day. The recurrent theme in our conversation is knowledge (human capital) and its importance to development. You can also listen on Stitcher here or read the transcript below. Many thanks to Quadbee for the continued Herculean efforts in making these conversations possible.


Tobi: This is Ideas Untrapped and I am here with Adedayo Bakare. Adedayo is an investment banker, an economist, an entrepreneur and an all-round smart guy. So Dayo it's nice to have you here.

Dayo: Thanks for having me, Tobi. I've been looking forward to this I'm very excited.

Tobi: So have I, actually. So...let me just jump right in on something you said very recently about trade that, for example, if a country collects twenty percent of its taxes in tariffs, it's definitely killing trade. Just explore that angle a bit and get us into your frame of mind in thinking about that.

Dayo: I think I was responding to a tweet about the implications in terms of tax revenues if Africa countries get to implement this continental trade agreement that was recently signed that would start being implemented in 2020. And so I think one of the issues, (i mean) at least protests, from some segment of, say, policy analysts is that a lot of African countries actually depend on revenues from trade - that is, tariff revenues - and one of the ways I think that happens is...(I mean) most African economies are informal in nature. In Nigeria, for instance, I think IMF estimates that [the] level of informality we have in the economy is around sixty percent. So what happens is if government is not able to tax a lot of productive activities that is going on in the economy, and one of the easiest ways to continue to raise money, which is also tied to industrial policy, is around [raising] tariffs.

In Nigeria, for instance, we are very big on tariffs to encourage what they call local production even if in some cases we do not have the capacity to do it, but [the] government never stops. The auto policy for instance that was implemented under the Jonathan  era raised tariffs on motor vehicles to like seventy percent to encourage FDI into assembly plants for cars and all sorts. Then you start to imagine how does this even make any sense when we really do not have the capacity, we don't have the skill, expertise, we don't have a good business environment that will support industrialization. So why are we embarking on such a policy? And since the implementation of that policy it has failed woefully, because, obviously, I think it's only Innoson that has been able to, at least, benefit from that policy; and even when you think in terms of his manufacturing capacity, how many cars does he produced in a year? In terms of how affordable the car is, is it affordable for the ordinary Nigerian to buy? It's not. So obviously you have... you have that problem.

The starting point should not be that a lot of African countries will lose revenues from tariffs. The starting point should be that does it even make sense for an economy to be reliant on trade for its revenues, that is, in terms of tariff revenues as a share of total government revenues. - AB

Now in terms of revenues, one of the easiest ways to actually raise revenue is also to raise tariffs. You can have thirty percent tariffs, you can have fifty percent tariffs on some items and that is why overtime when you combine that with a largely informal economy (where taxation is very very [low], tax to GDP ratios are lower than, say, other emerging markets and advanced economies) then you tend to get a sense of why tariff revenues make up in a very large of share government's revenue.

Now, my argument is, the starting point should not be that a lot of African countries will lose revenues from tariffs. The starting point should be that does it even make sense for an economy to be reliant on trade for its revenues, that is, in terms of tariff revenues as a share of total government revenues. If we look at most of, say, the advanced economies you'll see that tariff revenues are a very very small component...

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: Of total government earnings and I feel like that is what Africa should try to explore.

Clears throat

And by exploring that we could open up a new vista of opportunities for the economy which could propel growth and prosperity. But the catch is this, it is very very easy to quantify one, the other is very hard to quantify.

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: You can easily quantify the fact that, oh, if we export a certain amount of goods in a year, if we tax it at this rate we're going to obtain this size of revenue. But when you tell a government to, oh, relax your tariffs to encourage maybe even your manufacturing sector such that they have access to quality raw materials, it's hard to capture into, you know, the productivity gains for the company or basically the employment potential of it, and even the taxes that accrue to the government from that extra productivity. It's actually hard for economies to quantify them. So that is why it is easy for someone to come out and say, oh, Cote d'Ivoire is going to lose 10% of their, er...

Tobi: Revenue.

Adedayo: Revenues... because of the implementation of the AfCFTA [African Continental Free Trade Agreement].

So apart the fact that a lot of Africans do not even trade... a lot of African countries do not trade with Africa, so a large chunk of the tariff is actually trade with external partners, that is, Asia primarily now and maybe Europe in the case of Nigeria. I think our major trading partners are Asia and Europe. So even when we start to develop, you know, local value chains to say, oh, we're exporting into the African market. Some of the natural resource that we have, most African countries do not even have the capacity or the industry to use it so we still have to export a lot of those things outside Africa and you can still generate whatever tariff revenues you're obtaining from that. But really the idea is that, for African countries, we have to look past trade as this money-spinning machine for the government. It's something that should spur enterprise and development and the development of processing industries and local value chains. We should see it as something...we should see in the sense that... the way the World Bank captures ease of doing business, say, oh, access to roads or the time it takes say...

Tobi: Register a company.

Adedayo: To register a company or to register a property.

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: Trade should also be something like that. I mean, tariffs should also be something like that - how liberal your tariffs are. Especially in the developing countries. Because it is also important, it goes a long way in what you have in the manufacturing sector and I think nobody would argue, even the government, with what we've seen  between 2015 and 2016 when we had the currency crisis and a lot of manufacturing companies could not obtain raw materials to use in production and we saw the impact on the books those companies and even for government which eventually collects revenue from them. So I think that is the way to actually think about it [but] unfortunately trade is very very contentious, and...

Tobi: Why is that, really? Is it really a case of failing to learn from history because, I mean, you talk about quantifiability, it may be difficult in the case of any specific country to prospectively quantify how much you'll gain from trade. But historically we know there are gains from trade. Huge gains actually. So is it simply a case...or what is really the constraint?... why is trade so contentious for us?

Adedayo: Umm, it's really the way we think about it. In Nigeria for instance, many people see trade - imports - for instance, they see it as "if you're importing from someone, you're at a disadvantage". That's the general idea which the Nigerian media will call waste. So Nigeria wastes 200 million dollars in importing tomato paste.

Tobi: Yeah

Adedayo: Or Nigeria wastes...

Tobi: Or we're losing...

Adedayo: Oh, we're losing our FX [foreign exchange] in importing iPhones...but they never say that about iPhones...


Tobi: Or Champagnes for that matter.


Adedayo: They never say. So you start to wonder why? I think there are several reasons. One of the reasons that I feel like most people overlook is: the average Nigerian believe that when it comes to certain kind of products, (agriculture is one) the Nigerian might have a palm oil tree in their house or they do maize, you know, in their backyard - they plant maize in their backyard which even if it's not commercial farming, for subsistent use - and a lot of's hard for them to understand that people trade based on what we now know as comparative advantage. You specialise in something you can do better than other countries such that by the time you're exporting to other countries they will buy it cheaper and it's good for everybody.

But the average Nigerian believes, you know, agriculture. We are very big on agriculture. We have the land so I can plant oranges behind my garden, so why are you now saying Nigeria cannot produce this and we have to import it? They do not understand that it's probably cheaper, maybe fifty percent even cheaper to plant rice in Thailand or Vietnam than in Nigeria. Most do not understand that maybe the soil you have (the soil formation you have) is not conducive to deriving high yields of those products; and it is on that basis that you have trading with other nations because you assume that oh, a country can do it better than you and you go there to import it; and basically the average Nigerian doesn't understand that. They just want to know that - palm oil...we are good at palm oil. Malaysia - they came to get their seeds...

Tobi: Yeah, how true is that story by the way?


Adedayo: I actually don't know how true that is but they will tell you that - Malaysia - they came to get their seeds for palm oil in Nigeria. And now look at them, they're the largest producers of palm oil... [stuttering]

Tobi: Whatever proxy we use...

Adedayo: and the world. And you begin to ask that okay so let's even assume they got the seedlings from Nigeria, what have you done to improve those seedlings? There are different varieties of palm oil, for instance - they have this Tenera, there is Pisifera, there is another one [Dura]. And what you find that a lot of Nigerians are planting, they are varieties that have not been improved. So in terms of yield, it's very very poor. The gestation period is extended, some go into six, seven years. You see palm trees taller than houses- like, you're basically going to hire someone to help you harvest your fruits. Many do not think in the sense that that is unproductive. They don't think in the sense that yields are very very poor; because when you process, what you can derive, the output you can derive is actually very very low compared to other countries. They just think in terms of we can plant it in Nigeria. They don't think in terms of "can we plant it better than other countries"? I mean, rice or palm oil or whatever it is essentially. So in a way, I feel like that is actually a crucial factor because in my discussions with ordinary Nigerians, they will tell you "I plant cassava, I plant this" but the question is not if you can plant it...

Tobi: We have Bamboos so why do we have to import toothpicks?

Adedayo: Why did we have to import toothpicks, exactly. But do you have the ecosystem to support the production of toothpicks? Oh, we have... there [are] tomatoes wasting in the North why are we importing tomato paste?

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: It goes beyond primary production, being able to produce tomatoes. Then you start asking, what kind of variety of tomatoes are you even producing? Are they suitable for processing? So those are the questions that Nigerians do not understand. Then there's also the case which is something connected to what is, I think, happening all over the world. We're seeing rising protectionism.

Tobi: Yeah...yeah.

Adedayo: It's actually all over the world and one of the things is...

Tobi: It's sad.

Adedayo: It is sad.


Adedayo: So for trade, overall, there is a net gain, right?

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: It's been proven historically that there is a net gain to society from trading. However, there could also be displacements...

Tobi: Definitely.

Adedayo: In certain sectors or industries, so you have politicians appealing to those sentiments and a lot of that view. People too, we tend to appeal to those sentiments because even when you see the conversations around the free trade agreement in Africa, a lot of people would say, "oh, they will come and dump goods in Nigeria - the manufacturing sector, they're going to kill jobs, they're going to do this"; and I always tell them "have you even taken a look at the manufacturing sector in Nigeria?" As a share of GDP it's not so big, but when you take it in absolute terms I think there are only, maybe, three more countries that have bigger manufacturing sectors - maybe Egypt. Morocco is also doing a lot now and South Africa.

Tobi: Yeah

Adedayo: Now the challenge with Nigeria is our manufacturing is not quite as sophisticated or complex as what you have in South Africa, in Morocco or in Egypt for instance. But in terms of saying "oh, do we have a big manufacturing sector?" Yeah, we have a bigger manufacturing sector than most of [our] African peers. We actually export a lot of manufacturing products through land and, of course, there's a question where... also when you think in terms even the trade balance (manufacturing trade balance with other African countries) I think we only have a negative trade balance with probably South Africa. When you look at West Africa as a whole in terms of manufacturing, we actually have a positive trade balance with West Africa because we have a big manufacturing sector even if it's just textiles or footwear and garments being manufactured in Abia... I mean Aba. We are sending it to [the] Benin Republic, we're sending it to Togo, we're sending it to Cameroon. If it's not even as sophisticated but we are, at least, doing something.

Tobi: The problem is we don't want them to send to us.

Adedayo: Exactly. Now, the problem is you don't want those things to come into Nigeria. So in that sense, there's a lot of fear around the dislocation of, maybe, workers, and there's a lot of literature on it as well and many people would usually say "oh, they should, maybe, train people who lose jobs and try to integrate them into other sectors of the economy" but I think one of the things we're missing is: even in terms of manufacturing, if we have liberal trade in Africa it could actually open the doors for other industries which we've actually not looked at in Africa that would actually take up some of the [un]employed people. As a share of employment, the manufacturing sector is very low. I don't think the manufacturing sector employs up to ten percent. We all scream "Dangote! Dangote! Dangote!" How many people can Dangote Cement employ?

And even that is connected to my ideas around seeing manufacturing as a way to growth and prosperity in Africa.

Tobi: Yeah, we will get to that.

Adedayo: When you start to explore it. So, really, trade is actually very very tedious in terms of the underlying concepts called comparative advantage. The ordinary man does not understand that and I think that is really the biggest misconception about trade and why we have challenges [in] having to implement liberal trade policies in Africa.

Tobi: You talked about agriculture.

Adedayo: Yeah.

Tobi: I'll like to explore something I was discussing recently with some people. You know, agriculture (and you can correct me if I'm wrong on this) currently employs about fifty percent of the workforce...

Adedayo: Very close. Very close. Yes, forty-five... about forty-five percent.

Tobi: But, again, when you look at history for example; over, say, the last 300 years; the global population - we've grown the global population by about sevenfold from around a billion to seven billion currently. We've grown agricultural productivity to about tenfold, that is, we actually produce a lot of food. But when you see agriculture share of employment, it has gone from about 75% to about 2.5% currently.

Adedayo: Exactly.

Tobi: So, now, my question is, isn't our share of agricultural jobs really a problem for productivity rather than people looking at it as a positive, you know, like, "oh, agriculture is the largest employer of labour in Nigeria hence you have to direct resources to it here". But isn't the correct framework to look at it be that to achieve agricultural productivity we might actually have to lose agricultural jobs?

Adedayo: Yeah, absolutely. It's very interesting because there was something I explored when I was at PwC [PriceWaterhouseCoopers] and we were looking at job creation in Nigeria and we were looking at basically services, the industrial sector, and agriculture and that forced me to, like, look at advanced economies and to see the structural transformation of the economies (that is, the structure of the GDP over time) and what you discover is as these societies evolve, as they continue to grow, the share of [agriculture] employment has reduced drastically, later on manufacturing starts falling and really what starts expanding is [services]. It's the services that really becomes the biggest share of GDP. So in Nigeria, it's actually quite interesting that you mentioned that because we have too many people in agriculture. I believe we have too many people in agriculture and they are largely unproductive. So...I've been reading a lot about what I call political crops in Nigeria.

Tobi: That's interesting.


Adedayo: They are very political. Rice is one of them...

Tobi: Okay...

Adedayo: Tomato is one of them...

Tobi: Okay...

Adedayo: Oil palm is one of them.

Tobi: All from Kano.


Adedayo: Rice from Kano. So one of the experiences that has shaped my ideas about agriculture is the project I was on with CUSO International. We had to work with farmers in different sub-sectors of agriculture and what you find out is: the challenge is's a lot of challenges, really.

When you go to the field you discover that it's not necessarily cheap money that is the problem of farmers. I had farmers in my project who had money but it was very difficult for them to source inputs. - AB

The farmers, for instance, one of the ways government approaches it is to say "let's pump more resources into agriculture". By more resources, basically more money - cheap money. But when you go to the field you discover that it's not necessarily cheap money that is the problem of farmers. I had farmers in my project who had money but it was very difficult for them to source inputs. They had to travel, you know, to the next town or the next city just to get fertilizer or to get inputs into what they were doing. So in my thinking about agriculture, what I would like to say is mainly Nigerian farmers are unproductive, yields are very very low and they've not improved for decades. Cereal, for instance, we say one of the most consumed things globally is cereal, right? And, so, I remember I was writing a report and I had to just go and look at how yields are trended over the years and I discovered that over the past four decades Nigeria has made no notable progress; in terms of expanding yields for cereal which is actually...which you could say is crucial to food security, right?

Tobi: Yeah

Adedayo: Draw a chart of other countries - Asian countries - and you'll see the rapid kind of improvements they've made. And I feel like that is what we have to start looking at. Government has to start looking at "how can we drive productivity?" One of the things I've been exploring of late too is: we're giving money to all these people [to] go and start farms. What is the total arable land we have in Nigeria? With the level of productivity we have in this country, when the population doubles according to [the] UN by 2050; if we plant rice on all arable lands in Nigeria, will you be able to feed 400 million people with the level of youth you have currently?  

So the question is - how do we do more using less land resources and getting more value per hectare? (And) that is one area I think the government needs to focus on that they've not been able to focus on, and to do that, really, you probably have to let go of most of the manpower you have [in agriculture]. Because it ties into what you're saying. When you start thinking [about it], agriculture is difficult but in Nigeria it is usually the last hope for someone who can't hack it in other fields.

"I'll go back to the farm", right?

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: They'll say they will go back to the farm as if agriculture is something that requires no intelligence, no form of knowledge or skill. "I'll go back to the farm or I'll plant this".

And that is why a lot of them can't get out of the trap; because when you are involved in agriculture then you start thinking about "you want to start a farm"...a large [organisation like] PZ, for instance, which is doing a lot of backward integration. They want start a farm, they'll go and look for "okay, where are the best places in Nigeria to site this farm?" I want to plant rice, am I planting rice...the land I have, is it upland or lowland? Will I be able to irrigate the lands? The yields on irrigated lands are better [than] on non-irrigated lands for rice. [But] a lot of Nigerian farmers do not know this because they have no skill, they did not go to school, they have no knowledge. Fertilizer: what percentage of fertilizer should I apply? What size? What are the nutrients necessary for this type of crop? The average farmer cannot know this because they did not go to school, they did not have access to even informal education to learn this; then you start asking yourself, should agriculture really be for the people who have not been able to do anything in their life - without skill, without knowledge? It's not. Government is shouting food security. To achieve that, by boosting productivity, we actually need to evolve in the way our agriculture is structured in Nigeria. Smallholder farmers will eventually not take us to the destination we want because they are too unproductive, they're too unorganised and that's even when you're producing a lot, [then] aggregating it becomes very very difficult in terms of access to, maybe, improved seedlings. Government is not doing enough in investing in the research institutes we have. We have agricultural research institutes - I know for one that NIFOR [Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research] is in Benin and a lot of the palm oil farmers I monitored then usually travel to Benin to actually get seed for planting in the nursery and sell it to farmers.

Tobi: There is a cocoa research institute in Ibadan.

Adedayo: Exactly. They are not investing a lot for them to actually generate ideas that could unlock our productivity deficit in agriculture. So for me, I feel it is necessary for Nigeria to move beyond the current structure we have where we have a lot of smallholder farmers. Like I've said; they are not fit for the job. If our task is really to feed Nigerians by producing locally, and with full knowledge that eventually we're going to get to the stage where we won't be able to import all of our food needs and we will need to start investing locally in food value chains because if we're going to have 200 million more mouths to feed in the next 30 years.

Tobi: That's scary.

Adedayo: It's scary. And you want to ask "what are we doing?" I mean, I don't know what the government is going to do about it but the current structure - if we want economic prosperity, if we want food security - it can't stand. We need to go into ... When people say large-scale (large-scale) farming, it is because a large-scale farmer would probably be a bit more serious, [she] would apply more thought before going into farming than someone who believes - "Farming is my last resort. When I go to Lagos and it fails, I go back to the farm". A large-scale manufacturer will not think in terms of that. We are recently consulting for a giant in Nigerian consumer space now. [A] household name. So they are backward integrating and they want to start...they've actually started - oil palm plantations. And, do you know what their challenge is now? It's actually to estimate the size of the market. Because there is no reliable data on something as simple as oil palm consumption in Nigeria and that's basically what we're working with them on.

Tobi: Wow.

Adedayo: They want to commit a lot of resources into it and that is why they are thinking about it that - "oh, do these opportunities really exist?'' In terms of selecting the place to site their farms, we know we have more oil palm businesses in the Niger Delta - Benin and Cross-Rivers and all these places. The thought required in terms of the soil requirement, the seedlings requirement, the fertilizer requirement - you can't rely on the smallholder farmers to make those decisions. It is the large-scale farmers, the commercial farmers that would undertake that, even if later on they employee labourers on the fields. But from the strategy perspective and in terms of boosting yields and everything, they are going to apply more thought than the ordinary smallholder farmer. So the question is how does this end? On the part of government I'm really not optimistic that they would do more than just giving cheap loans or giving subsidized fertilizer. Which is another policy area that is challenging. Government will say "oh, we will ban the importation of fertilizer" but different farms, different crops need different fertilizer requirements. It's also a very complex decision for framers to make but you're selling the same type of fertilizer or you're trying to sell the same type of fertilizer for every farmer; for the person planting maize, for the person...laughs

For the farmer planting tomatoes and everything. So you start asking yourself "now, okay, how does this make any sense?" And to break out of this chain, I think what will just happen is a lot of Nigerian companies especially those listed [on the stock exchange] and which we talk to their management regularly, we've discovered that they are trying to backward integrate as much as possible. So maybe that would spur some form of commercial activity and maybe we will continue to have private interests, maybe beyond the requirements for them to process their goods. They are going to start looking to export markets and, you have, maybe, PZ for instance. [They] have an oil palm plantation which they do not use all of the output maybe they would now start exploring outside markets (market outside Nigeria) and that could cause a chain of continuous investment in the value chain. That is the way I see it currently, that those companies (private interests) can continue to expand and slowly we see... because think about it- if Olam continues to invest in rice for instance and we know Olam will prioritize yields and all those things and they will be a bit more productive, at least, than the smallholder farmer; we could get to a stage where Olam (even in the domestic market) become very competitive such that even the normal farmer won't be able to go to the market and say "oh, I want to go and sell my paddy" because there is an Olam who has a large farm with very very high yields and, maybe, probably cheaper prices, better quality rice output that would now make the smallholder very uncompetitive and as a result of that you'll see that the share of smallholder farmers in terms of planting some of these crops that are so vital to food security continues to fall and you continue to have a lot of a private interest in that area.

Unfortunately data in Nigeria is actually very hard to gather and that is one of my issues also with development interventions in Nigeria because when you look at multilateral firms or NGOs. Once they embark on projects, there's usually a bit more thought into it; even in terms of monitoring and evaluating such projects.

Tobi: Even if they sometimes invest in the wrong projects.

Adedayo: Yes. Even if they sometimes invest in the wrong projects but to an extent, you can, at least, get data to analyse and see. Because we say "knowledge! knowledge!" Knowledge is compounding.

Tobi: Yep.

Adedayo: We just didn't start using laptops or iPhones. It was some people that started and we kept building on it, we kept accumulating that type of knowledge. So the questions for the Nigerian policy makers is: all the government interventions which is one of the reasons why... probably why all these bad ideas persist anyway because nobody actually tracks anything. You don't monitor it. The CBN does not issue a policy paper to explain their reasons for backing cassava [or] for backing oil palm or collect data on loans that were extended to farmers, repayment terms and everything. On productivity, monitoring those firms sort of productivity for their yields. I've never seen any report on that from the CBN or from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. Yet they pump billions. Then it's now difficult for us to measure - did this program actually work? Did it not work? What are the lessons from the past that we can actually apply to recent policies? We don't. Because nobody is keeping the data. So it's one of the ways I think all these bad ideas persist because we're not collecting data on it. There is nothing to analyse. You're basically flying blind. So as analysts, we basically just say "oh, this is not likely to work" because this this this or because in other countries that have done it this is how they've gone about. But in Nigeria, we've been doing development intervention since when?

Tobi: Yeah, a long time.

Adedayo: For a very long time and you will discover that the same ideas continue till today.

Tobi: Exactly.

Adedayo: So you start to ask if it's not working then why do you think it's going to work now? What are we doing differently? Are we learning any lessons? I feel like if we've been learning a lot from those decades we should have had a body of knowledge that we should have discarded some ideas already that this is not working and we should continue to build on it even if it takes a long time. Currently, it seems like everything is the same. Which is the same thing. They closed the border in the 1980s, they are closing the border today. So, really, that is the way out, I think. We are going to have more private capital into agriculture, not deliberately or incentivised by government themselves but by the fact that as more companies see reasons to backward integrate, as they see reasons to even improve competitiveness even in terms of their sourcing because they need to protect their margins and to be competitive globally. We're going to see a bit more interest and that would maybe force us to explore export market and that is the way out, basically. I have no faith in the government to take us out of...

Tobi: That's interesting. There are two things I'll just like to quickly pick up on from what you said. You talked about political crops...


Tobi: I don't know, I love that term so much and it's one of my challenges with the concept of comparative advantage...

Adedayo: Okay.

Tobi: I think that the problem with comparative advantage in our own context is that we naturally see our comparative advantages in our natural resources and when we try to do development that's where we...

Adedayo: Focus on...

Tobi: Funnel resources into, and historically you'll see that that actually causes deindustrialisation because some of your trading partners (they) then specialise and they will only deal or trade with you based on your identified comparative advantage which may just be primary products and then you make a lot of money when prices (international prices) are high but you have no industrial capacity whatsoever. So do we really need to rethink the concept of comparative advantage in our own context?

And then secondly, maybe a bit of a push back on large-scale farming. One underexplored area is land rights for farmers. I don't work with farmers so I don't know much in that area but from a little bit of experience, I know that some of them work in farming collectives. Some of them do not even have rights to the land on which they plant and if you recall one of the big policy changes in Asia, for example, was to give farmers the rights to their land. Even smallholder farmers became productive. So is it really about farms sizes or is it about who owns the land, basically?

Adedayo: Let me start [with] the first question. Yeah. I think in terms of comparative advantage, us looking at natural resources, I feel like...I really don't think it's a problem with comparative advantage. It's more of a problem with what we've decided to focus on, which is also connected to I think what you mentioned earlier about government organisations going into wrong projects. I think the starting point is trying to ask this question: how do the case of Nigeria, for instance, how do we create millions of jobs, right? So I think what they look at is just - which sector employs...

Tobi: Close to that?

Adedayo: Close to that. Oh, Agriculture. Okay, let's invest in agriculture. So it's something of that sort because they would say... they'll say you have comparative advantage. Why? because a lot of them are in agriculture already. Like I said earlier, they are really not very knowledgeable people, so they're already in agriculture. I can't say Nigeria is even more productive in terms of maybe planting tomato than a comparable country. They [policy makers] can't also say that. So rather than say, maybe, explore other sectors or maybe even other sub-sectors even under agriculture that could kind of bring a lot of change, they keep focusing on the same thing. For me, I really don't think it's about comparative advantage. You see comparative advantage in what you can explore. If you don't believe human capital can be explored for development, for instance; it's hard for you to want to now say "oh" or for a development organisation you could say - oh, Nigeria has a lot of people - or we have a lot of young graduates and if we don't see them as capital to an extent, we might not much see them as comparative advantage...because basically some do not look at human capital as comparative advantage and it could actually be one of the things that could unlock maybe some of the progress we want to see. But you are fixated on agriculture. You start from the sector and you're now trying to find within the sector what Nigerians can do better. I really don't think development interventions is from the perspective of what people can do better. It's from what are people doing and how can we make them better at what they are doing? That's why if you read FAO, World Bank and all those research, they'll say "oh, we have a lot of people, we have women in farming". The question is should these women be in farming? Are they planting the right things? Should they be trained to go into other sectors where they could be better used as labourers? No. What they try to do is: they're already farming, why don't we make them better at what they're already doing? It's really not from the idea that... maybe we should...

Tobi: What's the best to use...

Adedayo: What's the best use of these...

Tobi: Of their...

Adedayo: Of their labour?

Tobi: Of their capacity?

Adedayo: Or their capacity. So it's basically around - let's just help them do what [they do]. It's just like the average Nigerian man and maybe you are a rich family man where people come and knock on your door and they come and meet you and you're like "okay, what are you doing now?" [The person responds] "Oh, I'm into furniture".

Tobi: And you give them money.

Adedayo: And you'll be like "so, what do you need to improve your business?" Oh, I need a loan. You give them the loan. You're not asking whether "should you be doing carpentry? Shouldn't you explore something that would be better for you? It's a very lazy approach, I agree with you. So in terms of comparative advantages, I think we've been... we've not been open-minded a lot about it and we're not ready for the kind of changes we're going to have to make to look past maybe the natural resources sector has comparative advantages for Nigeria. In terms of (also) natural resources that are very very easy to get, the oil and gas sector for instance; one could say is natural resources, right? And it's one of those sectors where overtime maybe we should have seen more industrialisation if we've had a lot of local content into the industry. But it was so easy for us because we just had the resources. We had no capital. We didn't even have the labour because we don't have skilled personnel to actually say "oh, we want to mine oil or anything". We just hired...

Tobi: IOCs [International Oil Companies]

Adedayo: IOCs. "Come and do this for us". It's like you're in your I hire cooks, I hire cleaners. If I live in a rich man's house or my father is rich, I might not know how to do those things and they could be useful skills for you maybe in terms of application even if you don't want to become a cook or you don't want to become a cleaner. But nobody thinks about that and that is one of the things I've seen in that sector as well.

Because if you think about oil and gas, it's very capital-intensive. You need a lot of knowledge. We need to be able to build things and apply things and yet we've not seen it (kind of) spur innovation in other sectors of the economy (that is, the knowledge we've learnt from building ships or building rigs or doing all those things), we've not been able to see it in other parts of the economy.

Tobi: We can't even maintain refineries.


Adedayo: Not talk of building new things. Even in natural resources, there are unexplored areas that could actually cause a chain of development in other sectors. We've not seen it, really and it's actually quite disappointing. I think also [that] it's on the part of [the] government to do most of these things. In terms of local content, they're celebrating this Egina field. They're saying they did a fabrication and whatever at Ladol here in Nigeria. But ain't we like four decades late or something? because imagine if we've had that from the start...

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: A lot of those people would have...with the knowledge they've acquired in oil and gas they would have probably gone into other sectors maybe the one servicing the oil and gas industry then you'll see knowledge keeps, um..

Tobi: Percolating.

Adedayo: Exactly. All over the economy. So I think for us, it's not really just even about natural resources, [our] oil and gas experience, we've not taken advantage of some of the benefits it would have offered us in terms of building an industrialized economy or a knowledge economy. The second question was on, umm...

Tobi: Farmers. Land rights.

Adedayo: Land rights. Yeah. So let me give you a bit of perspective of what I've learnt. Okay, so I worked in Yala local government. It's very close to Ogoja. Ogoja is one of the popular places in Cross River and Obudu.

Tobi: Okay.

Adedayo: Yeah, very close to Obudu [in] northern Cross River and [in] one of the villages we worked in, one of the issues discovered was [that] it was very difficult to get land for women because women were not sort of entitled to lands. So even if the father dies and there is heritance, land inheritance...

Tobi: Yeah

Adedayo: It goes to the men. It doesn't go to...

Tobi: To the women.

Adedayo: To the women. And one of the things we were trying to do then is try to talk to the communities to actually relax some of those rules. So using that as an example, I would say to an extent, yeah, it affects because they pay rent on the land. And [for] some, the cost of acquiring some of the land can be bad. So for women farmers even if they're very productive on their farmlands, when you account for the cost of acquiring the land or even securing the land you will discover that they are not getting quite much in terms of their output. Yeah, I absolutely agree that land rights are critical to farmers but I don't believe it's the major thing holding farmers back.

I feel like knowledge; you can have land and not have knowledge and you'll still be unproductive without knowledge. So maybe the farmers we had in Asia (it's maybe something I have to read up on) have access to land, right? It's a good thing for farmers in Asia but I believe that was not the single most important determinant of their productivity.

Tobi: Definitely. Definitely.

Adedayo: Exactly. There is still a bit of knowledge gap with an average Asian farmer compared with a Nigerian farmer. But I feel like, from the experience I had on the ground, land is absolutely crucial; because it gave us a lot of headache. You know when we've invested a lot of people - technical training, giving them grants, train them, sponsoring them, feeding them, and at a point where they're supposed to start engaging in that activity they weren't able to secure lands or the lands they were able to get which men were able to get very easily, women had a challenge getting it or they had to pay a high price for it and you discover in most cases most of the lands they eventually get are those lands that are not quite as good and that would take them to walk long hours before you get to... you know when you have to walk 1 hour 30 minutes. You want to go and farm, you have to walk for 1 hour 30 minutes...

Tobi: Wow.

Adedayo: To get to your land before you... you can imagine the energy you've lost by walking 1 hour 30 minutes...

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: Just before you get to your farm then you start asking, you know... and that is one of the challenges most of these people have in terms of securing access to land. So I feel it's crucial for us to figure out a way to encourage farmers to have access to lands, especially for women. Women are at a particular advantage but I feel like it's still not going to (kind of) release the kind of impact we want in that sector we still need knowledge, really.

Tobi: I agree and a quick side note on that point. I think one of the least appreciated things about development in Asia is the Incredible amount of human capital that went into some of the reforms, you know... like, when you see people, they say "oh, Asia did this and hence we should do it too". We usually don't think about the state capacity for one, that is, the human capital that is within the government bureaucracy itself. These are incredibly knowledgeable guys who read a lot, who researched a lot, who actually were on ground and know what is going on in their countries and they could actually push through those reforms and they could see where things are going wrong and tweak and change course if necessary. You think about Korea -  sometimes we think of that history begins at the inflection point but usually, it doesn't, you know...

Adedayo: Exactly.

Tobi: Because I've read multiple papers about even the incredible amount of human capital even in terms of industrial capabilities that Korea acquired under Japanese colonization. But we look at an independent Korea and what they did and we say "oh, yeah, they did so and so policy and we should try and replicate that".

Adedayo: Neglecting the knowledge transfer.

Tobi: Exactly. So I agree with you about human capital, it's extremely important and I'm quite big on that as well. Let's talk about private capital now which you mentioned earlier. Now, shouldn't capital [also] be going to processing? I remember in one of your articles you talked about the processing gap in agriculture in Nigeria. Should private capital really be going into the same things that we've been doing which is production? Because you read things like Ivory Coast, for example, only gets about one point something billion [dollars] from cocoa exports whereas Germany processes the same cocoa into coffee and other products and gets three, four times the value. So shouldn't private capital be exploring processing? Wouldn't that be a bit more... trails off

Adedayo: Yeah, yeah, I believe so. And one of the things I explored in that article was to say one of the things holding processing back (agricultural processing back) for most of the companies we have in Nigeria is because, most times, in terms of the inputs they want, in terms of quality of the inputs, in terms of the quantity of the inputs, they can't get it locally because of the way Agric is done currently. We have a lot of smallholder farmers spread across [a] vast geography. Sometimes unorganised, even in their organised state, sometimes they're still very very tiny. And as a company, you want a reliable source...

Tobi: For your supply.

Adedayo: Of supply because you don't want disruptions to productions, you have commitments to meet as well...

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: For your business. So one of the ways Nigerian companies are trying to overcome that is actually what they now say backward integration where they have to do everything on their own. So rather than rely on the farmers to give me the quality and the quantity I have, why don't I invest in the primary bit? And most of the challenges Nigerian farmers have, I am able to leapfrog in because, maybe, I build a warehouse, I build storage facilities and all those things. But to come to the point about shouldn't private capital be going into processing? Yes. Absolutely. I believe private capital should go into processing, not just [in] terms of raw materials. If Dufil Prima or...(that's the makers of indomie)... or PZ... If they're able to get a lot of land and they're able to improve processing, of course, a lot has to do (also) with the business environment in Nigeria for you to now say processing is competitive for other the market. Because in a situation where there's a lot of protection of industries, how do you know you're truly competitive?

Tobi: Yeah

Adedayo: When all you do is sell to Nigerians? So when you now start looking at processing and you discover that we're only just 200 million people and you need to export outside the country, then the protection you've enjoyed from government might actually now put you at a disadvantage in terms of being able to compete with someone from Ghana or someone from Cote d'Ivoire. The initial stage is what we're seeing currently in terms of companies themselves going into primary agriculture. Like I've said, knowledge is going to be accumulated - with the progress we are able to see over time, if they are able to not just improve the way they do their business and if they're able to really maybe fine-tune whatever models they are using because many backward integration models have failed as well.

Tobi: Hmm...

Adedayo: Dangote Tomato, for instance, I think they've opened it since 2016, they've not produced anything.

Tobi: Is it really closed? I hear it's closed.

Adedayo: It's closed; because people just think things are easy to do [simply] because you see tomato waste in some place. So I think what he did was he had a contract with the farmers that, oh, don't worry, I'll give you seedlings, I'll give you maybe fertilizers, I'll give you a bit of capital. Plant this thing for me and come and sell to me. The model failed because some of these's still the same farmers, right?

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: They're still not knowledgeable enough or anything. Then some would say, oh, they didn't get the inputs on time before the planting season or the capital on time. Some would say the agreement they had with Dangote Tomato (maybe) at the point of change rapidly, prices change rapidly. If I signed a contract to give one ton of tomato to Dangote at five thousand naira per ton or something, for an example...

Tobi: And you lock that in.

Adedayo: And I lock that in and...

Tobi: And then...

Adedayo: And upon harvest, I discovered that the market price is seven thousand [naira]. The Nigerian farmer doesn't...

Tobi: Wahala ti de [there is trouble].

Adedayo: There is obviously conflict then...then how do I maximize the output? So in most cases you'll see them, (they'll go and sell to the...) they will go and sell at the open market to get... which of course I can't blame the farmer but it's one of the things you have to start thinking about even when you say, oh, I want to contract farmers to do all kinds of businesses for me. So that has actually also failed. Some companies also, [as a result of] lessons from what they've done before, they are trying to use it to start new programs or new backward integration schemes that would actually, maybe, be more favorable to them and support their type of business. For me I believe if we are able to get to an extent where a lot of these firms...a lot of them are able to do this or keep doing this, it could even force a lot of investment into processing. If I know that Olam, for instance, can supply these raw materials rather than exporting it out of Nigeria, you could have maybe private capital come into Nigeria. Even maybe local capital [would] want to go into processing because, at least, it's easier to...I mean, I can source locally from competitive producers - Olam or even if it is PZ that wants to later do that, even if they don't intend to expand processing to that scale.

I feel like the developments we see could spur some interest in processing locally because you've had a lot of private interests that would come into the market and be like "okay, if there is not a reliable stream of supply for this product, do I want to commit? I don't have the capital to commit to doing primary agriculture, even the resources in terms of both money and personnel to now continue to go into that. Of course, I can't quantify the number of businesses that would likely go into that but I feel like that is one of the advantages we could derive from people who are truly interested in one of those segments but do not want to do the rest of those segments. And [if] we have private capital into primary production, it could spur a lot of more industrial processors. And I feel like in every country, someone has to do the primary production anyway...

Tobi: Definitely.

Adedayo: Exactly. So, even if, before you have processing or whatever in the US and everything, someone still does the primary production but I feel like we can do it to an extent that it could now generate a lot of interest from processors in Nigeria.

Tobi: Okay. So let's look at the role of infrastructure in all this because...and I think you've also written about this so I'll be leaning on that a bit.

Adedayo: Yeah.

Tobi: I heard that line multiple times even from our chief economic officer or is it the Central Bank governor...


Who say things like "oh, I asked textile manufacturers what is the problem? They said power". And then CBN is going to fix that. "Oh, I talked to toothpick manufacturers and they said power or roads or"...

So what exactly are the infrastructure bottlenecks around industrialisation in Nigeria? Because what you see is that a lot of policy even around infrastructure still mimic are structural problems. For one, we know that after the colonialists left we stopped investing in railways, for example. That's a colonial infrastructure for some reasons, and even around things like road repairs or road construction, you'll still see things like ethnic fractionalization. Depending on who is financing the road, you'll see a lot more inter-state projects if it's the Federal Government and at local level you don't really see big infrastructure projects, you just see water pumps and um...

Adedayo: Toilets.

Tobi: And toilets. So what are the infrastructure bottlenecks and what can break the logjam?

Adedayo: I like what you said around the CBN governor - [the] minister of everything - going to meet this person "what do you need?" Oh, meet that person "what do you need?" I feel like it's a bad way to go about policy because it shows that we don't even have... like a vision towards the kind of country we want or like a coherent strategy. I feel like if we have maybe our economic priorities figured out, then our infrastructure should kind of be tailored. The kind of infrastructure we build should be tailored to the kind of vision we have for the economy. So the challenge is this: we have a lot of young unemployed people, in fact, we have... one in two Nigerians...they are either unemployed or underemployed. Now this is at the moment...

Tobi: One in two, is that right?

Adedayo: Yeah. Underemployment and unemployment is almost 50%.

Tobi: Wow!

Adedayo: If I remember correctly. Okay, maybe a little over 40% anyway. But I know for's worst for youth.

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: Yeah. So the challenge is going to become even more achening in the next 20-30 years when we have a lot of people in the country. So the question is, is policy really thinking about all these things? I don't think they are thinking about it. But what should they be doing? I think they should be thinking about it and to come up with a strategy. I've seen a lot of debates around so what is really the vision for economic prosperity in Nigeria? Do we have a vision to say oh, we want to industrialize or we want a knowledge economy or we want to do anything we want to? There is no vision for that. Even when we see the economic programs that [the] government brings out, they basically want to do everything and everything they want to do still mirrors what we have currently on ground. We invest in agriculture, we invest in agriculture, we do this, we do that. We don't know what we're trying to achieve by investing in agriculture. We don't know what we're trying to achieve by investing in human capital. We're just doing everything, and, for me I think, um, prioritising... because there's a shortage of resources. And in economics we say,'s essentially the study of opportunity costs because you can only have so much and you have so many things to do.

So I have this farmer coming, I have textile coming, I have Nollywood coming, I have these people coming to... I mean, to come and meet me and I am trying to do different kinds of things for them. I'm not thinking in terms of what should the economy really be focusing on for the future? What will be the biggest driver of jobs or productivity gains in the economy and let me invest or build infrastructure around that for people? I think one of the reasons why Emefiele is doing that is because they've not thought about that in terms of having a coherent strategy or a vision for the Nigeria of the future, or how the economy is going to be or how we're going to create jobs for people. But in terms of infrastructure imperatives, for me, I always tend to think in terms of...I'm very very... I'm really not keen on industrialisation so to say...

Tobi: Hmm.

Adedayo:: 'cause l feel like... I just feel like that has passed for Nigeria. I don't know why. I keep reading a lot about industrialisation and [how] it was the biggest driver of growth in Asia. It lifted millions of people out of poverty, right?

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: And even in terms of countries that are leaning more towards services like India, we've seen that they have also been struggling economically. They've not done enough in terms of lifting a lot of people out of poverty or creating economic prosperity or the kind of growth they had in China, sort of. But in Nigeria there are just too many competing factors. For manufacturing, we say, oh, we need road infrastructure. We know road infrastructure is terrible in Nigeria. Ordinary moving goods...

Tobi: Hellish.

Adedayo: Hellish, right? I was seeing something... I was reading an article and it's cheaper to import from outside the country (from China) than to move goods from one end of Nigeria to another end.

Tobi: It's cheaper to lay an intercontinental fibre optic cable than to take it from Lagos Island to mainland.

Adedayo: Exactly. So... and I start thinking what is really the way out for businesses? Does it make any sense for businesses to go to that extent? Of course we have our ports infrastructure issue, which is also crucial to industrialisation, because I can't start a manufacturing plant in Borno and decide that Lagos is the port I'm going to be importing materials from.

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: I don't see how that makes any sense for the country to have.

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: It makes no sense for your business to say, oh, I have a manufacturing plant in this place and I want to import through this same port in Lagos. In terms of roads too, the roads are not just bad, then you have human actors (state actors) on the road who are on the roads for safety but who are encumbrance to doing business, because they'll be asking you for money; and If you speak to businessmen they will tell you if you're moving goods - interstate in Nigeria - the kind of bribes you'll pay before you get your goods down to where you're taking them to. So, obviously, I feel like roads are also absolutely critical. In Nigeria, my major idea is, I won't say I know all the kind of infrastructure we need to build... my own is we should agree on what we really want to do. If we think industrialisation is the way to go to accommodate a lot of Nigerians into the labour force, then let's say this is what we are pursuing and let's try to build infrastructure that will make it happen. You know you need roads, you need ports, you need rail, you need those things. You need power.

If it's service economy you want to build, then you start thinking differently again. You mentioned laying fibre and if you want to have a service economy you might want to start thinking about communications and having to invest in broadband and all those things. So it's basically a decision between what you want to do - you don't need to privatise everything... build rail, build...we don't even have the capacity to do it. The government doesn't have the capacity to do it and we don't have a lot of private capital to pursue that. So I think if government comes out with a coherent strategy then we'll know the kind of infrastructure that is actually critical. If you say you want a service economy, you need human capital. Even in industrialisation too, you need human capital, but the level will obviously be different. Knowledge economies will have... you can't compare service workers in the US to factory workers in Vietnam or in Bangladesh. Even if they're educated and you need human capital in manufacturing. I don't want to call it, maybe, low skilled... obviously within human capital there are different strands, some are low-skilled, some are higher-skilled in what they're doing.   

So for Nigeria, I think it's something that we need to come out and decide and build the required infrastructure. Maybe we then really need to build a lot of rail. Maybe we need to just build (expand) our broadband or something and invest in more schools and in more health clinics rather than building a lot of roads going to nowhere. So I feel like in my thinking about infrastructure, and that was really the idea around the article - to say we are resources starved and we really need to prioritise. We really need to say this is what we want to do and invest in the infrastructure to make it happen. In a case where we have that, then all these distractions of the committee of Nollywood people coming to my office...

Tobi: Laughs

Adedayo: Or committee of cow farmers coming to my office to say, oh, this is infrastructure we need, this is infrastructure we need. Because that acts as a signal to private enterprise, to people in the economy, that this is government's focus and they will also start to explore opportunities along that line and you're not bothered about all these distractions about people doing rice farming or tomato farming or how you can help them build their own infrastructure. We can't do everything. We really need to prioritise.

Tobi: Do we need more private initiatives? Because I don't know...I get squeamish a bit when big things that could really really move the lever of the economy relies a bit too much on government. Because we all know some of the problems in that area, and the slow decision-making process and everything. For example, Tolaram is building a port in Lagos, I think with Lagos state government and a few other partners. So should policy really be about making such initiatives easier and then letting private capital just do some of these things?

Adedayo: For me, I think, the role of government is absolutely crucial even for whatever you want to do. I was reading about when US wanted to go to space and the kind of investment they made and how that sort of created knowledge for other industries and how they were able to build capacities along that line. And you want to think that was state-led to an extent. It's very easy to not credit some of the inventions you see to government even if it was as a result of a government grant or government-funded projects (on behalf of government). So I believe, absolutely, we really need high-quality people in power, to be honest. I think that's probably one of the challenges we have in Nigeria.

Tobi: Yeah. I take that point but it's interesting you mentioned the Apollo project. Because, really, even for a big economy like the US undertaking such a huge project, what you see is that behind the veil of everything there are lots of private contractors, private companies and government just acts basically as the coordinator. So should we just let government coordinate rather than looking for money to invest and saying that "oh, because tax-to-GDP ratio is low, we can't have good roads; and because you can't raise VAT, the second Niger bridge will be slow" and things like that.

Adedayo: Exactly. I absolutely agree with... I agree with that. But you know, the thing is coordination too...

Tobi: Takes knowledge.

Adedayo: Takes knowledge. And you need Trust. For instance, you talk about PP projects and in some cases government will take it over again, right?

Tobi: Yeah, and sometimes...

Adedayo: But they will not meet their commitment

Tobi: Yeah. Yep.

Adedayo:  So imagine you...

Tobi: There is actually lots of that in oil and [industry]

Adedayo: So imagine when you are now come out with a very bold policy proposal and they're saying "oh, don't worry we're just going to coordinate everything" and... I mean I'm even assuming you have the quality human capital to actually create strategies and to probably coordinate such systems and you invite private capital to "oh, let's come and do this". I feel like for Nigeria to do that, a lot of private interests will be reluctant because of the kind of history we've had. So it's not just about even knowledge, it's about trust in the ability of the government to do some of the things they want to do. So yeah, I absolutely agree with you that government can lead a lot of things and they do not necessarily have to do it themselves.

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: They do not need to provide the capital themselves, private interests will do that on their behalf but they need to get coordination right. They need to get the strategy right initially and you need people in government to do that. Private contractors are not the people that decide what the US government should do. It's people, knowledgeable people within...

Tobi: The government itself.

Adedayo: The government that come up with it and now say "oh, invite private capital to pursue some of these things". It's something we need to think of. I feel like government needs to completely eradicate this mindset that they are going to fix everything because that the idea we're seeing with this loan they want to go and get. That oh, we refurbished this, we refurbished that. You want 30 billion dollars that you can't even pay for, you can't even pay for the existing level of debt.

Tobi: That you probably cannot even raise.

Adedayo: Exactly. Because I don't know who will give you 30 billion dollars.

Tobi: I was talking to my partner on that and my first reaction was there is no way the Nigerian government can raise 30 billion dollars. This particular government.

Adedayo: Exactly. I feel like it's something we're ... we really need more quality people in government. Unfortunately, we don't have enough quality human capital...maybe the few people who want to do it (they) get frustrated out of the system because of bureaucracy and all kinds of challenges we have. But I believe the starting point is getting hiring right in the public sector. To have people who would then say "private capital, come and do this or come and do that...this is what we want to do but we want you guys to lead the effort".

Tobi: There's an interesting story in the news around that area recently.

Adedayo: Of course.

Tobi: So yeah. Getting hiring right. It's absolutely crucial even in public service. People usually think that you don't need smart minds to work in government but it's probably even a lot more important. Private sector are going to sort themselves because there is private interest at stake so you better get hiring right or you lose your money. But in the public sector where there is a lot of ethical concerns around public trust, I think it's very important.

So what's your biggest argument against industrialisation? I know we have discussed this privately and you said you don't really think that manufacturing and industry is really going to be a big advantage for countries like Nigeria going forward. What's your best take on that?

Adedayo: Mine is...from what I read about most of these Asian economies, there's a lot of importance attached to labour. In terms of the quality of labour, in terms of the cost of labour itself and this is not even to mention the physical infrastructure requirements of having an industrialized economy. And in terms of the quality of labour, of course, we have a lot of people in Nigeria, I feel like they don't have enough knowledge for an industrialized economy. I feel they are expensive. And it's not just cost, cost is not an absolute thing you look at. You know cost is measured into productivity [so] even if your labour is cheap in nominal terms (in naira terms its cheap), if you're not productive it's still expensive for the manufacturer. So in terms of the productivity of the people, I've not just seen it. I don't see enough in terms of that [productivity]. Because we are not actually competing with ourselves, we are competing with the rest of the world. And what happened in Asia? Asian countries did not just build an industrialized economy for their consumption, they built it to [be] globally competitive. They built it for the world. So when we say we want to build an industrialized economy we are going to be building it for the world, right?

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: And in terms of that, when you look at what other countries have been able to do or where other countries... Where they are currently, I don't think we are best suited to be the ones to bring [about] a situation where maybe you have less interest in Asia and you have maybe more interest in Africa. What you've seen in particular is, basically, we've been seeing switching even within Asia. So if China is not that attractive for you for light manufacturing or anything, you see people go into Vietnam, go into other...

Tobi: Bangladesh...

Adedayo: Other Asian countries, not necessarily coming to Africa. So and, yeah, [they are] a lot of opportunities there even to explore within Asia, not talk of how easy [it is] for knowledge to be transferred within Asian economies compared to just coming to Nigeria to come and say "oh, you're going to start a factory here or whatever". Then also in terms of capital, which is connected to the physical infrastructure requirements...maybe one of the overlooked things is, usually... Economists will say "oh, you need to save to accumulate capital and invest and all those things and if you're not doing enough of that, then you better be importing capital via foreign investment". But you see, in Asia, there was also a lot of local capital generated via savings. I know China has one of the highest savings rates in the world and when you're thinking in terms of creating development internally, in terms of building infrastructure or even the resources to educate people, then you're thinking in terms of - do we actually have the resources needed to kick-start the kind of development we want to have industrialisation-wise in Africa or in Nigeria? I don't think we've had enough of that because... I don't know what is responsible for weak savings (and I don't want to go into that), but I feel like on our own, we are not doing enough in terms of accumulating capital to invest in those areas. So it's not really just about shortage of knowledge or low productivity, there is also the capital bit about it that we are not generating capital internally and we are not receptive. So even when you have capital deficit, the next thing is to encourage as [many] people to come into your country to come and invest, bring external capital to come and invest. We've not created the environment for that to thrive as well or for anybody to see, for companies to see Nigeria as an attractive destination for investment. And so really, what then is the future of industrialisation for us all that put together? One could make that argument too for services, right?

Tobi: I was just getting to that.

Adedayo: One could make that argument for services but I feel like...okay, I'll use an example - services now, for instance, we talk about the recent... I'm talking about modern services...

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: We're talking about a lot of activities around tech currently happening within the economy and how people have gone [and] are doing well in spite of the government. Not because the government is deliberate in actually spurring innovation in the economy and I'm thinking to myself, how come we've had a local industry, of course, it's not still that big as we want to be but to put it into context - the capital that has come into Nigeria today via FinTech firms...

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: When you compare it to the total capital that has come into the country, it's actually sizable...

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: Actually very very sizable. Then you start thinking to yourself, are there maybe special areas of the economy that could easily come up, with little government support, that doesn't really need a lot of government support, that could easily go on and even be competitive globally and do fantastic job? In what areas can you think of that you have a lot of Nigerian people (professionals) go outside the country and actually be competitive? It's mainly in the service sector. I would argue that you would find a manufacturing plant manager or a factory manager in Nigeria that will beat someone in Bangladesh or in Vietnam but you can have a Nigerian software developer competing with someone in Europe. You have Nigeria software developers going to conferences and presenting ideas and talks and they are widely followed. And so one of the ways that I think about it is, some of the barriers we have in...that I feel like it will be very difficult for us to overcome...And the kind of effort we will need on the part of government to actually be committed to it, to actually have the knowledge to drive those changes and the resources to do that. A lot of that [activity], in the service economy, many people are already doing it without the government. The fintech firms we have and the companies investing in them, they are not investing in them because of government support. It's because they've discovered that even within this dysfunctional system we have in Nigeria, some people have managed to create an ecosystem that, at least, [make] things work. We can say regulation affects them to a very considerable extent. We know what this bike riding companies...

Tobi: Ride-hailing...

Adedayo: Ride-hailing companies are facing in Lagos for instance, which is also one of the issues we have with government in that sector. But, really, in terms of say, Andela, for instance... what has really been in terms of regulation? Some of these sectors have been able to avoid...

Tobi: The prying eyes...

Adedayo: Of government, for instance and because of that they've been able to attract a lot of investment into them and these companies are investing into them because (why?) Andela does not need road infrastructure that a processing company

will need, for instance. I don't need to start moving goods from the port to anywhere. What I just need is probably reliable power. I need good internet and to an extent, we say we have terrible internet. We actually have terrible internet. Broadband penetration is very very weak in Nigeria. We can all attest to that but to an extent too, things are getting better. They are building technologies for our market that actually would not make you require a lot of data usage.

I stream Netflix and it's not because you know they've dumbed down that technology to be able to accommodate the quality of [the] network that you have in developing economies and I don't know how they managed to make that happen but you find that too in terms of the productivity you have. With a laptop, a Nigerian can sit in a room and create value externally and get paid for the value they've been able to create. And what do they need? Power. Internet. Even if it's spotty, it still works to get the job done. It's different from the kind of barriers you have to scale for industrialisation. You're saying oh, there's this Bootcamp saying "oh, come and learn to be a product manager, once you acquire the skill over six months you can sell it anywhere in the world". We can't do that for manufacturing. It's definitely not easy. Manufacturing is not something that you can open Google and type on YouTube "how to design a website" and in two weeks, you're already making money from helping people to create a website or do some of the things. So really is that is really the idea around my bias for services. I have a very big bias for services and it's because I want something that will not require a lot of government effort. Because I do not trust the government. But because with the kind of people we have, it's still a sector we can explore, that even without government, even without a lot of infrastructure investment we can still make magic happen. And we've been making that happen because I was reading a know, hundreds of millions of dollars are coming into the country in investment just for tech. Andela that is just developing local talent and exporting it also has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars and the government is not able to attract [investments]. What they say is "oh, we have a memorandum of understanding" which eventually does not...

Tobi: Translate into real investment.

Adedayo: Translate into actual investment and these service companies are able to do that with the kind of investment government cannot even attract to develop certain sectors or certain industries. So for me. I feel like on the part of government, industrialisation requires a lot of effort. They need to not just invest in human capital but power, road infrastructure, rail, and all those things; not to now talk about the local value chain that would support industrialisation (which is a different thing entirely on its own). Do we have it? Do we have the knowledge for that? I don't think we have it. Is it easy to acquire the knowledge? It's not so easy compared to some of the options we have in services. So that is really my bias.

Tobi: Interesting but I would like to push back.


I think I'm doing a lot of pushing back in this exchange. So I'll like to push back on that a bit.

Adedayo: Okay.

Tobi: Now, isn't manufacturing, industrialisation a necessary process for you to hone your skills in making things? It's like Michael Dobbs said that development is not a leapfrog, it's actually a hard slog. You have to do go through the grinder, because you mentioned FinTech and, at least, to me, it does not still yet feel like the investments are coming primarily because of the potential. You mentioned Andela, Andela is having to change its business model and Jumia is actually unwinding in several markets across the continent.

So wouldn't it be a case of, eventually, a lot of this hot money comes in and no real returns and then the investment dries up over time. So I see manufacturing as a way for the local workforce to actually develop your skill at making things because I don't really see any country in the world - you mentioned the case of India that has really concentrated on services but they still have a struggling economy.

Adedayo: Yeah.

Tobi: They are not even close to China in terms of economic productivity and value. I haven't really seen (in) a country that failed at manufacturing but prospered in services. So for me, that is why I think that however tough it is, manufacturing still represents a necessary step. You know, I don't think a company like Huawei or Xiaomi in China will be making globally competitive phones today if the Chinese economy didn't start with basic assembly. And even in China today, you find out that services is bigger than manufacturing. And china is usually our go-to example when we talk about manufacturing. So is it really possible for an economy to leapfrog into services without really learning to do the basic, hard but necessary things? That's my push back.

Adedayo: I don't think it's possible but I'm working with the institutions we have. Like Economists would say - I've held the government constant. I do not have any trust in the current government or with the kind of structure we have in Nigeria, how difficult it is to get smart people into government, and let them stay that they will be able to come up with a strategy that will work for Nigeria. Because I believe industrialisation is deliberate. To the extent that industrialisation is a deliberate policy by government, and that it takes a lot of hard work, then we must be ready to do it. The question is do we have the capacity to do it? Do we have people who are willing to do it? I don't think we do and basically my argument is while we keep waiting for that miracle to happen in Aso Rock or in Abuja or in government offices; that they get hiring right, that they figure out a way to come up with policies, that they'll figure out a way to get the buy-in of private investors; there is something else that can be happening while government is still trying to get the acts right. In waiting for them to get their acts right, we can't be stuck forever. Now you can talk about the little gains that will accrue from focusing on services and don't forget what I'm even actually advocating for is not even government involvement in services. It's by private enterprise just doing that in spite of whatever it is government is doing to, at least, bring some form of benefits.

Yeah, I get the sense you're making in terms of having... I mean even in terms of competition. In the end, [the] average software developer in the US maybe works with Google. Google has been operating for decades. We know the knowledge they've been able to acquire, [and] how they've been able to transfer that. So it's perfectly understandable when I can say, in terms of the sophistication of the market we have currently, it's not there. You can't expect software developers who have worked on projects for decades, you can't compare them or software managers you've had with those people directing projects compared to the Nigerian market which is still at its early phase really. So the kind of accumulated knowledge that has benefited maybe software developers in the US given the structure of the environment they have is obviously absent in Nigeria. And the problem we have now is we are not even retaining those talents locally because it's by... like you said, just like by building things in manufacturing. Also in technology, it's by building things. It's by building things that you also improve and a lot of Nigerians in tech, they've not had that kind of exposure or knowledge from having a very good industry from the start. Don't forget this entire thing we've seen in this market has not been up to a decade. It's not been actually been up to a decade, so we should be a bit more...erm

Tobi:  Optimistic.

Adedayo: No, not optimistic. We should not forget that in making our comparisons. We've been doing this industrialisation thing since when? Ajaokuta has been since when?


No, I'm going to mention it. Government is pursuing industrialisation, they say "oh, we need steel, right?"

Tobi: Ajaokuta is not a good example of anything.

Adedayo: It's not a good example of anything because that is one thing that should make you see the folly of the government we have and in thinking about industrialisation, we should think in terms of what government have been doing over the years and what they will still continue to do. One of the loans they're collecting now, don't they plan to use it to fund the same Ajaokuta?

Tobi: The same moribund projects.

Adedayo: Exactly. Then you start thinking what is really the plan for industrialisation? So I think we should be a bit... not be too harsh on what we've seen in that area in terms of local technology or whatever. Everything that has exploded has been within a decade.

Tobi: Now, the question is - couldn't it be that we're struggling with industrialisation for political reasons, not because we can't really do industrialisation if we want to? Because when we talk about services even the way that some of these advanced economies are profiting from services... okay, now, one of the arguments that you see toss around these days is the so-called creative industries - Nollywood (and Burna Boy) is blowing up all over the world and the so-called economic potentials of that. I mean, when people talk about Nollywood, one of my favourite examples, when I talk about this with friends, is that… Logan, for example - The movie Logan - by Hollywood standards is considered low budget at, maybe 60 million, [a] 50-60 million dollar project but you still find that that project supported 15,000 jobs. I'm still waiting for a Nigerian movie, even with that budget, that would have that much economic effect. Because there's an entire value chain of people that build sets, software managers, equipment makers and you find that the way we tell our stories, the ambition - they don't really allow for that much creativity enough for the so-called creative industry to have and to thrive. Music is the same. The new rave in town is for every artist to have their own XYZ Live in December. But Cardi B was just in Nigeria recently and even the way everything was managed, you'll see that there's still a bit of difference. The stage manager has to be brought in from abroad, how (the stage) the set had to be constructed. You go to a typical Nigerian show and the artist come on stage to mime

Adedayo: Yes.

Tobi: Basically. The set is... the sound is...

Adedayo: It's terrible.

Tobi: It's terrible...

Adedayo: Happens all the time.

Tobi: If we really want to benefit from services, are we not going to run into the same issue of what Feyi Fawehinmi as called our anyhowness? Are we not going to be treading the same path? Is service really going to...I'm not being harsh, I hope I'm not, anyway?

Adedayo: You've made a valid point. I feel like a lot of things are a actually changing. I am someone who is very pessimistic about the future of Nigeria and that's not going to change but even in how gloomy everything is, there are still some things I'm seeing in some sectors that I can say I'm optimistic about certain sectors. The creative sector, like you rightly mentioned, is one of them. I know things are imperfect, yeah, I go to all these shows and I see all the problems they have. But one thing I've noticed right now is, even when you have all these very poor setups even in Nollywood and music and everything, there's a new generation of Nigerians, I don't know if you've noticed it? There is a new generation of Nigerians trying to do things differently and, for me, I'm always very careful about the quality of things, the aesthetics and everything. Nigerians really do not care about it. And it was when I was growing up; if you build a cabinet for my mum, my mum will tell you this is not aligned. If you build a structure, a home or a part of a home and you see that it's not straight, my mum will complain "this thing is not straight" and I picked that up and that is also reflected in the output we see all over Nigeria, even in workplaces. Usually what I always tell my analysts is "don't you have eyes for good things or something?" Yeah. Because I'm like there are some things you see that you should know this is bad and you should correct and I feel like that is what we've seen in almost every area of Nigeria. Nigerians are attached to poor quality things maybe because they don't know better but not enough people demand better as well. But what I have recently noticed is, there is really a new generation of Nigerians changing the narrative in each of those sectors even within music. There are new breeds who are more deliberate about their act. For instance, Olamide can decide to mime...mime all his shows but I know Lady Donli doesn't mime.

Tobi: Who is Lady Donli?

Adedayo: She's [Zainab Donli] one of the new kids on the block and I think she's just 23 years old.

Tobi: Oh.

Adedayo: So she curates...

Tobi: Apologies to her by the way.

Adedayo: She curates an entire experience and a lot of these kids (also) you could say maybe many are not schooled in Nigeria and some have had exposure to see what happened abroad and they are bringing it back home. And what you find is, later on, you'll see the Nigerian consumer, once they see that there is an option, that there's a new breed of people who are more deliberate about their craft ( you know Simi, you know Adekunle Gold - those ones are very very deliberate about the experiences they curate for people), then you start to see changes. It's not going to happen at once but over time it is going to change. In fashion also, you see a lot of young Nigerian creatives coming up with different kinds of designs. Of course, they're still victims of their environment but in terms of applying their resource into doing things better, I feel like there is a new breed of Nigerians who are more deliberate about what they're doing, creating good quality products in the service economy. I see that in the service economy more than anywhere else in Nigeria. I mean, that movement that I'm seeing, I see it more in services than any other sector in Nigeria. And your point about politics and industrialisation, I totally agree that it is not really a case of it can't be done, it's a case I've said I've held that this government going to be useless, right? I've held that constant and it is on that basis I'm discussing my services bias.

Tobi: I hope they don't come for you for those views.

Adedayo: So basically what I'm saying is "yes, I agree with you". Then if we can say under ideal situations...if we're talking of the ideal now, say, we have a government that works, and they say "oh, industrialisation, what should we do? Should Nigeria be doing industrialisation?" I'll say "yes." Or you're saying, oh, should we bring managers from Asia to come and hold positions in Nigeria, sort of, to like manage everything. I'm totally going to agree with you but currently, like I said, I have a long-term...I have a long-term sell on Nigeria and it's getting worse by the day. My recommendation is "sell" for Nigeria. So, government, I have absolutely no trust. Not just even in government, because we tend to think of institutions as all these four-year, we tend to concentrate on Buhari or Jonathan but even government institutions are not in four-year cycles. It's still the same staff that are in those ministries over decades, over periods of time. And we need to be a bit more deliberate about improving that quality fundamentally and not just focus on saying "we want Kingsley Moghalu to become president or we want Mrs Obi to be the president because even if she becomes the president she's still going to be a victim of the institutions she inherits. So I'm not really looking in the sense of not just in terms of the political cycles but also in terms of the core of our workforce in the public sector.

Tobi: Interesting. Interesting. So recently, I think on Twitter, there was this issue where a bunch of Nigerians are calling for some form of dictatorship. That democracy...

Adedayo: We need a strong man.

Tobi: [That] democracy isn't really working and you mentioned the issue of political cycles, is that really a problem? As in, is our current democratic structure a barrier in the way of serious long-term planning?

Adedayo: I don't think it's a barrier. Because Nigerians don't want the lazy way out, we talk about economic restructuring... this debate that has been going on for forever and I'm thinking even if you have a strong man, most of the challenges you have in Nigeria you'll still continue to have them.

Tobi: We currently have a strong man.


Adedayo: Oh, wow! That is true. So you're still going to have it [those problems] because economics is not something you can will into happening. You can't will growth or development no matter how...if you're the strongest man on earth...and that is why even... they will say even Asia, China became a bit more liberal on their way to economic development.

Tobi: Definitely.

Adedayo: So I believe most of the consensus we need to reach...Nigeria is very heterogeneous (we all know) and at every point in time, there are always conflicting actors when we need to make very critical decisions maybe on the future of the country. And I feel like that is the stage we need to arrive at in terms of cooperation within ourselves, knowing how to organise ourselves better and I don't think in terms of organisation, having a military man or a strong man who is going to is going to rule for 50 years is going to do it. In Africa, we are not exactly alien to that concept. We've had strong men lead so many countries for decades in Africa and even in those systems, you can see the level of dysfunction present. If you're a strong man or whatever it is you are you still need quality people around you. China with whatever it is (political system) they're practicing, it was different ideas that led to the chain of events that brought about their industrialisation and development. It's not necessarily because of the strong man.

If you have a strong man who is smart enough to realise that, oh, he needs smart hands in ministries, he needs to pursue liberal ideas or very good ideas and [he] gives them the free reign to kind of make the decisions they want to make; then it's a different case. Obasanjo was considered a strong man too within the context of Nigeria's history and still, the difference between his government and what we've seen lately is that...he necessarily didn't have the ideas, his experiences couldn't even have given him the ideas he implemented, but he was able to, at least, assemble people who were promising and who could come up with things like pension reforms and all sorts of reforms that they pursued under the administration. Some would argue, maybe Ayo Sogunro... would argue that the Nigerian constitution itself is not something that means that every president that emerges will be a strong man, right?

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: And the kind of arrangement we have in terms of our political system means, even if you have someone who is not a military person per se, when he becomes president he has a lot of powers...

Tobi: Yeah...

Adedayo: I think that one is there, but, really it's in terms of the kind of ideas we eventually pursue. And in terms of making those kinds of ideas happen, I feel like democracy offers the best path.

Because having strong men is... umm, the time it takes to make changes could take...

Look at Zimbabwe now, this guy was there for decades, meanwhile they could have experimented over that period of time that that man was there pursuing the same, you know... imposing the same level of ideas and all those things; suppressing voices and new ideas. I feel like under democracy there are more lessons to learn along the way, you are able to do experiments more quickly, you are able to change ideas more quickly than you would have under a dictatorship or anything else. I am disgusted at the views that what we need is a strong man. The history of Africa is replete with all these strong men... who have not made anything happen. So I don't think that is a factor to really doing anything.

Tobi: But, okay, to play... I'm not exactly playing the devil's advocate here but there's a kind of nuance in that argument that I would like to explore.

Yes, ideas. The entire reason we are having this conversation is because of ideas. Ideas matter, a lot. Ideas are what determines the kind of change a society will make but we also know that ideas do better under a good leader, someone like Park Chung-hee in South Korea or Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore. It's a bit difficult to imagine the history of those countries without the kind of deliberate, determined and admittedly brilliant leadership that those guys really implemented. Deng Xiaoping in China is also a good example of that. Is it just the fact that we have low-quality strong men in Africa, who are...who don't really know...they are just strong on paper but they don't really [know much]. Because you mentioned Zimbabwe, you have the current guy I've forgotten his name now (a bit difficult to pronounce) [Emmerson Mnangagwa]; who was with Mugabe for those years and now Mugabe is dead, you're trying to change direction and then you wonder that - okay, what was it that kept sustaining the equilibrium that was under Mugabe if there were people even within the party structure who felt they were going in the wrong direction? You can't help but conclude that it is the sheer force of the man at the helm itself driving that process because at the root of it you may have people actually competing.

And Nigeria, Obasanjo... you mentioned Obasanjo, there's also a very good example there where, when he was about to leave he privatised the refineries and I think one of the buyers was actually Dangote. And one of the first things the next administration did on getting to power (from the same party, someone whom Obasanjo actually mentored and basically ushered into power) of the first things he did was to rollback that particular action and then  years later, today, the entire country is waiting for a Dangote refinery - that could have happened years ago.

Adedayo: Absolutely

Tobi: So there is also the question of continuity. So is it just a question of we have low-quality strong men in Africa and it's not just that people have a death wish with tyranny and dictatorship?

Adedayo: Of course with all the evidence we've had, with insights, we can say we have poor quality strong men. But I think I agree with your general idea on the fact that even when you have a democratic system you need someone who can give people something to buy into and who can make things happen (let me just use that phrase). Someone who can make things happen like they did in Korea, like they did in China, like they did in Singapore. Now it's not necessarily because of the fact that they used every power available to them, although some use it in some cases. Sometimes it's really about the kind of ideas they are pursuing and that is why these men you mentioned are probably unicorns because I'm sure even in the history of China...China and India, I was reading their history, [they used to be] one of the prosperous economies of...those days.

Tobi: Of the past, yes.

Adedayo: And what happened between then and now when they're even still considered as emerging economies. They've had a lot of leaders even along that structure that they've been practising and it was someone that just had a different idea of how things should be done and that was what made the difference. It was not necessarily the fact that the structure remarkably changed. I mean, if you look at structure vis-a-vis the ideas, you would see that the ideas have evolved more than the structures they had in those places and I think that is really the difference. Also in terms of party system - parties are also institutions, right?

Tobi: Yes.

Adedayo: And in Nigeria it's still the same problem. So in, say you have the party in China or the party in Singapore or anything, they tend to be more ideological in terms of having the same ideals - they value the same thing. In Nigeria, you'll see socialists in PDP, capitalists in PDP and someone who doesn't even know what he wants to do. So there's really no ideas on the kind of things they should promote. I feel everything still goes back to the ideas of the leaders we have, not necessarily structures. If you have a bad structure, someone with ideas can make things even better, even whilst also improving the structure of what you have on ground. In terms of institutions, that plays a major role too and we need to start asking ourselves questions - how can we build very good institutions? Not just even for government institution or private institutions, even to the political parties. I feel like, for me, we've had too many bad strong leadership not just even in Africa...

Tobi: All over the world, yes.

Adedayo: To the extent that those you mentioned are unicorns, basically. And the people who have been very radical in what they have been able to [achieve] in terms of their ideas and what they've been able to pursue and the kind of partnerships and cooperation they [have] sought to make things happen within their country. The question now is, if you get it wrong, how long does it take to change course?

That is one of the things we probably didn't explore and I will like to see if they explored that in the case of China and India given the rapid progress they had early on and the later slump they had. Was it that there was a mistake in terms of leadership, and given the structure of the political system they had, that was perpetuated for a long period of time until they finally had maybe someone come out and make very bold improvements?

Tobi: I think from what I've read along those lines, I think it's supports your position in a way. I mean, China for example, part of the reasons for the slump in economic growth in China (part of the reasons they had nearly a thousand years of regress) was because there was no scientific revolution. The scientific revolution that happened in Europe which ultimately culminated in The Enlightenment totally missed China and a bunch of the world. So, yeah, ideas are important like you said. So I guess we know what we're doing here then.


Tobi: (So) on that note, I would like to ask you and you have 50 seconds to answer this.

Adedayo: laughs

Tobi: What is the one idea, currently, that you would like to see spread rapidly in Nigeria?

Adedayo: One idea. I think the idea is just that things can change and I'll give you examples. You know most times, we say "that won't work" or "this won't work". When you hear someone talk about something, "this won't work, it won't work", so you discard it. You don't even explore it. Being on Twitter has exposed me to a lot of movements that I've seen and initially, you'll be like "why is this person doing this thing, it doesn't make any sense, it's not going to work" and eventually we discover that it takes some time but eventually it works. Sometimes it works immediately but not every time. And that goes with activism, even as terrible as Nigeria is, we've seen small movements who have made changes. So I would say the biggest idea I would probably like to promote is for Nigerians to believe things can work, [and] that ties into demanding for something better really. Because if women are doing the market march, don't touch women, no catcalls and you see that there was a lot of resistance when they went and subsequent visits into the market, people started seeing that there was actually a difference and that is very very key. Basically they say [in] Nigeria we have low-quality people. Editi wrote an article around "manage it like that". We need to think that things can work, things can change, so we should start demanding for better-quality things - from politicians, from businessmen. I feel like that is one of the ways we can really improve our outcomes. If Nigerians believe or [have] ideas that things can change...this is not how or if it is done this way, it can always be done better. That things can change. I think that's the biggest thing I can think of. Because I feel like the multiplier effect in terms of the relationships we have, even with the micro relationships; demanding for better quality from your Tailor or from Carpenters.

You'll discover that Nigeria doesn't even have Tailors...Benin Republic Tailors, Ghanaian Tailors are actually better than Nigerian Tailors. Even in carpentry, the works you see done by all these people from other countries, they actually do it better. Then you start asking what kind of culture do we have? It's a culture where we don't test things, where we don't question things, especially when they're in print. Be it in the constitution, even though it is wrong to be in the constitution in the first place, that is why our parents will see broadcast on WhatsApp [and] because they've not been taught to question things or to challenge things in print or to challenge ideas, they will see it: use salt to bath your kids to prevent them from getting ebola and they start broadcasting it to everybody without questioning it, without testing it. So I think that is really the idea I have in terms of [ideas] that can really have a massive impact on the populace.

Tobi: Some Nigerians will tell you they believed in change in 2015.

Adedayo: That is not the kind of change I'm talking about. Abeg!


This is not believing in a leader to bring about magic. This is in our relationships to ask for better governance. Some believe Nigerians are not, you know, they don't do a lot of activism. We all tracked what happened in Hong Kong...

I think we have a lot of capitalists on paper but when you go out their business they become socialist. - AB

Tobi: Yeah.

Adedayo: And some [people] will feel like "Nigerians are not..." and, for me, I feel like maybe it's because of the culture. We've been taught not to question things from authority. You have to just obey and do it the way it is if you don't want problems and I feel like that's a different kind of thing to explore that would really open a lot of minds into things we can do differently and maybe we could start seeing the benefits. When you tell a Nigerian [or] some Nigerians that "oh, this person collects... his earnings from government job cannot support his living" and some Nigerians will say: ibi t'eyan tin se na n'eyan tin je. Yoruba people will say: from where you're working that you'll derive benefits. But should you be collecting bribes? Everything is just normalised because it's the way it's done anyway, so we'll continue doing it that way. So I feel like that is what really needs to change, that concept of "manage it like that" needs to really change overall.

Tobi: Do we need more capitalism? I mean, do we need more capitalist evangelist?

Adedayo: I think we have a lot of capitalists on paper but when you go out their business they become socialist. Even when you see a lot of Nigerian capitalist that have enjoyed free enterprise, that [free enterprise] has supported their businesses and the lack of protectionism in a particular industry actually facilitated their entry into that sector or the kind of knowledge they've been able to acquire, you'll discover that, maybe, when they go outside the industry or when they are talking about broader issues, they know, more...

Tobi: That instinct...

Adedayo: That instinct kicks in automatically. So I won't say we need a lot of capitalists. I believe we have a lot of capitalist in Nigeria already.

Tobi: We need more capitalists in practice rather than on paper.

Adedayo: We need more, maybe, more people to imbibe capitalist ideas rather than just say... Dangote will say he's a capitalist. Is he not a capitalist?

Tobi: I don't know.


Adedayo: He'll say "private enterprise, I'm doing private enterprise even if it's government patronage...

Tobi: Really...

Adedayo: That has supported everything that I'm doing". You people don't want to believe that [he's capalist] and would always seek government protection in everything he's doing but he wants the free reign to do what he's doing. So we are capitalists when it's convenient to be.

So, yeah, I think it's the ideas we need to spread. Capitalist ideas need to spread and they need to be imbibed rather than people just saying we need more private people. We have a lot of private people doing private stuff in Nigeria.

Tobi: I also think a lot of the arguments we have should be framed in a localised manner because... obviously because of history, we automatically associate capitalist ideas with imperialism, with colonialism - something foreign. So I think a lot of the advocacy and the arguments...

Adedayo: That we have to own it.

Tobi: Yes. We have to own it.

Adedayo: That ownership is not there.

Tobi: Yes.

Adedayo: Absolutely.

Tobi: Thank you very much, Adedayo.

Adedayo: Thanks for having me.

Tobi: It's...

Adedayo: It's super exciting.

Tobi: Yeah. Thank you very much.

Adedayo: Thank you.

Ideas Untrapped
Ideas Untrapped
a podcast about ideas on growth, progress, and prosperity