The economy of Nigeria has been driven by the extraction of oil, which over the years has contributed to violent conflict and immense environmental destruction. In addition, it has had other negative long-term social implications. Nigeria’s more than fifty-year-old industry has a lot of lessons to provide in any discussion of justifications for alternative development models. The wellbeing economy paradigm has implications for socio-economic change in countries like Nigeria, which are affected by what is commonly called ‘the resource curse’. This emerging paradigm is capable of influencing policy relevant development discourse in Africa, but must heed warnings of the risk of current failing economic systems merely repackaging itself in the guise of this.
The growth economy, characteristically, will not rest on any long term social benefits if an immediate prospect for profit is the attraction. This is rational within the free market system. Internationalization of capital functions with specific interests in profit-making, via exploitation of labour and natural resources. Classical economic theorists like Adam Smith argue that the invisible hand has a social role to play in the prosperity of society. As believable as this may sound, reality has shown that for the developing countries of Africa, where international capital has continued to search for new opportunities, it has to be seen from the point of view of exploitation of labour and natural resources, rather than from any properly advertised wisdom of the free market system. Social transformation (which should be our core goal), defined in terms of wellbeing of citizens and environment, has been outside the goal of business. Stories in African countries continue to point the shrinking value of capital, in the face of increasing social and environmental costs. In many of these countries, champions of industry and the local political class have dominated the space that otherwise would have been an area of influence by the vast majority of citizens in the public interest. A few countries have boasted strong growth statistics (in terms of Gross Domestic Product), but these same countries continue to face economies that deny citizens access to basic social amenities.
Possibilities of change are suggested in the wellbeing economy, via a different form or organising production and services. In the case of Nigeria, it can move away from the many years of increasing appetite for economic growth through an environmentally and socially destructive extractive sector. It suggests a shift away from a system that sees environment and socio-economic wellbeing as incidental.
The wellbeing economy will privilege a different kind of change through political and policy processes that privilege citizens’ preferences. The politics of the wellbeing economy will be democratic, with political rights devolved (properly) to ordinary people. The wellbeing economy framework will mean shaking up Nigeria’s existing economy, social and political foundations, not only from the political and economic class power and domicile in the people, but also to make petroleum less visible as the driver of the economy. It its place a thriving (people-driven and localised) manufacturing and service sector as well as technological advancement, along with a revived, regenerative agricultural system that meets food security needs, will take front and center where economic activities and ecological systems achieve a good balance.
This article has been synthesised from Allen, F. 2018. Imperatives of a Wellbeing Economy in Nigeria. International Journal of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education. 5 (1): 16-22.
Image credit: Veronique De Viguerie