by E.B Ayo
Industrialisation is necessary for a country to get rich — it has lifted many countries around the world out of poverty. This is simple economics. Nigeria is a territory with many natural resources like gold, bauxite, and a tropical agricultural landscape that allows multiple harvests in a year. Getting industrialisation right is crucial in the fight against poverty. No wealth distribution policy comes close to achieving the same result.
If I have a lot of agricultural produce with no industrial, large scale processes to transform my farm produce into enhanced goods, then I am limited and have to buy the transformed products. This increases poverty.
Nigeria’s southern border is the Atlantic Ocean, and there are numerous rivers and lakes across the country. Many Nigerians eat fish, and to preserve it for longer periods, fish is dried, smoked, or transformed in other ways. When traditional fishing communities cannot fish, or when the bulk of the fishing fleet presence in West Africa is foreign, the supply of fish inland is reduced, and this creates opportunities for local markets to be flooded with imported stockfish, bought thousands of kilometres away. This stockfish, skreið, is air-dried fish with gills and guts removed to avoid contamination, and then hung to dry on wooden rafters, on an industrial scale.
The best gift for these countries is a Nigeria dependent on their stockfish, generation after generation. It sustains their economy, and makes their people rich.
When people have acquired a taste for your product, cannot do without it, and believe they cannot make it themselves, this is the perfect business model – one that ensures repeat business. Nigeria is a large market, so countries that make products Nigerians depend on are laughing all the way to the bank. It is no surprise that these countries have enough money to establish and maintain state-of-the-art medical facilities that many Nigerians go to for healing. This is a classic chicken and egg scenario.
Stockfish is not a new trade item. It was brought on the slave ships that kidnapped Africans, hundreds of years ago. Today, stockfish is sold to their Nigerian descendants and relatives. The Vikings also carried stockfish, AKA dried cod, as food on their ships during expeditions around the world. It was the fish ‘kilishi’ of that era. This enormous cash cow — sold to Nigerians who have now become dependent on it — will not be given up without a fight.
One Nigerian woman I know was vilified by her Nordic family-in-law because when they asked her what she would like them to bring for a visit, she said “stockfish.” They expressed shock that she asked for something ‘expensive’ and labelled her a gold-digger. The young lady was surprised by their reaction because, in Nigeria, stockfish is easily available, and she was being frugal. She later found out that some stockfish in the Nordic area, tørrfisk, costs over 120 USD per kilogram (over 45,000 Naira), and that in Norway, the average person hardly eats stockfish — they find it too expensive.
Since stockfish is so lucrative, manufacturing it in Nigeria can be an industrial business opportunity for some Nigerians. West African waters are estimated to have over eighty varieties of fishes. Fish from Nigerian waters can be processed into stockfish – made in Nigeria, by Nigerians, for Nigerians. The export market of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is huge — Nigerian stockfish can be exported to other African countries, and beyond.
A dear lady, Su Kahumbu Stephanou, once said, “It is our collective responsibility to invest in food production. Me, you, everyone. We all eat.” To this, I’ll add that since we all eat in Nigeria, we should also transform our agricultural products locally, adding value.
Orange jam or marmalade is delicious, it is made using only two or three ingredients: oranges, sugar, and lemon juice. It is that easy. A simple industrialised production process can be created, using this wholesome recipe to make any organic fruit jam of your choice, avoiding artificial ingredients found in a large number of commercial jams.