Extractivism and global crisis – how Nigeria’s economy suffers from a flawed structure. Supply situation of the population with food in Nigeria – What can an investment in Africa bring? In conversation with Thomas Wegener, CEO and founder of GrowExpress Ltd, Ibadan Nigeria and chairman of the board Farmer Future e.V.. , Berlin.
African economies are subject to the idea of extractivism, which means that every global recession and every drop in commodity prices leads to crises in economic development. For good reason, in April 2020, Senegalese President Macky Sall called for a radical cancellation of the debt of African economies. The argument follows the idea that the extractive nature of productive structures on the continent hinders economic development. Extractivism is the dominant feature of most African economies, including Nigeria. The lack of associated structural transformation processes and the persistence of dependence on primary commodities, lead to economies organized around these commodities. Foreign exchange earnings across the continent are largely derived from primary commodities and from the extractive sector, mining, oil and gas production, and export-oriented agriculture. In Nigeria, it was oil and gas deposits that basically prevented the national economy from developing toward modernity. The colonially inherited pattern of agrarian and mining extractivism leads to uneven development and meant that there was a commodity boom between 1990 and 2010 due to urbanization and industrialization of Asian countries that eventually ended. Agricultural extractivism includes strong disadvantages for the development of structures. The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development supports these actions, which are necessary to transform Africa’s economy.
Nigeria – Idea of model food production
Nigeria is awakening from its „slumber“ – as confirmed by researchers at the University of Washington, who predict that Nigeria could rank ninth among the world’s most economically powerful nations by 2100. When we hear of Nigeria in our latitudes, we often first think of problem reports such as terror, poverty and corruption. „Yes, I am also confronted with these reports and fears when I report on the GrowExpress Ltd. model crop project. I have been professionally based on the African continent for over 20 years. The change, growth and opportunities on the African continent are fascinating and at the same time very challenging, just in terms of scale,“ explains Berlin-born Thomas Wegener, founder of GrowExpress Ltd. and the non-profit Farmer Future e.V. in Berlin.
Thomas Wegener operates a model food production farm near Ibadan in Nigeria with the company GrowExpress Ltd. „After the oil discoveries a few decades ago, Nigeria had neglected its own agriculture. Rural exodus was the result, fertile arable land went wild and bush-bush emerged, and the prospects for life in rural regions dwindled. Young generations try to gain a foothold in the metropolis of Lagos, but this often ends in further poverty,“ explains Thomas Wegener.
„Together instead of against each other“
GrowExpress convinces with „together instead of against each other“ and gets the contract for a model estate, how was that exactly? Thomas Wegener: „After scientific discussions with the university in Ibadan, the following concept was developed: with each other and not against each other. In a tendering process, the GrowExpress Group prevailed and was awarded the contract for the cultivation of a large vacant state estate in the fertile plains of the OYO National Park, which is located south of the Niger’s 4180 km, the third longest river in Africa. Under the concept, the land will be restored and returned to agriculture by removing the ecologically non-valuable scrubland that has developed over the past decades. Involving local forces who also benefit from these economic activities through education, respect as well as income, international investors have been found working together to revive agriculture in one of the most fertile parts of West Africa in the state of Nigeria.“
What does GrowExpress Limited stand for?
Thomas Wegener: „With GrowExpress, we want to be part of the desire of change of the Nigerian people, as a team together with institutions such as GIZ-GIAE and IITA, who carry out and implement the Cassava and Maize Value Chain Project training of Lead Farmers.“
The GIZ-GIAE/IITA Cassava and Maize Value Chains Project hosts regular training sessions for extension agents, lead farmers, and spray service providers for the cassava seed system component of the project. A total of 35 farmers* registered for the foundation and commercial seed production under the project were trained. „Among these participants were 16 people (15 women and one man) sponsored by GrowExpress Ltd,“ Thomas Wegener proudly explains. On the first day, the training included a presentation on the cassava seed system and six steps to cassava weed management by project manager Godwin Atser. A baseline survey on farmers‘ knowledge was also conducted. Second day covered the business scenario for cassava seed production by Cassava Seed System Component Manager, Mercy Diebiru Ojo, and IITA GoSeed Operations Manager, Ibikunle Akinyemi; and Rudiments of Cassava Seed Field Inspection and Reporting, by seed certification officials from the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Akinyemi Library, and Ibitoye Oluwasegun. Godwin Atser conducted a video presentation on the Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management toolkit. In addition, participants and resource staff co-produced a cost-benefit analysis of cassava seed production. The BASICS-II project manager, Prof. Lateef Sanni, was also in attendance. In his address, he explained the need to establish an economically sustainable cassava seed system and the prospects of cassava seed enterprises. Professor Lateef Sanni urged the farmers* to participate in the project with an entrepreneurial mindset.
Conclusion: Investing in people and African agriculture for future generations with sustainability
Nigeria is one of the largest economies in Africa, and one of the ten most populous nations in the world; two-thirds of the population is youth; Nigeria is globally attractive as a major market. „Sometimes investors ask me what we will invest in Africa if more funds were made available. The answer is simple: investing in people and African agriculture. In this way, investors ensure firstly that they do good and secondly that they are very successful economically in the short, medium and long term at the same time,“ Thomas Wegener replies.
Dr. Rainer Schreiber
Lecturer adult education & personnel consultant
Personnel consultant and honorary lecturer Dr. Rainer Schreiber studied economics with a focus on financing, controlling, human resources and training. Since 2022 he is an author at ABOWI-Reputation.com. His interests lie in professional adult education and he publishes on the topic of personnel consulting, demographic change and economic policy. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing Director – GrowExpress Ltd.
Cocoa House, Dugbe
GrowExpress Ltd office is located in Nigeria, Cocoa House, Dugbe, 200263 Ibadan. Completed in 1965 at a height of 105 meters, Cocoa House was once the tallest building in Nigeria and the first skyscraper in West Africa. It is located in Dugbe, one of the main commercial areas in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. Grow Express Ltd. manages an estate of 800 hectares about 200 kilometers north of the megacity of Lagos, Nigeria. For more information, visit: https://growexpress.org
Managing Director – GrowExpress Ltd.
Cocoa House, Dugbe