NONSO OBIKILI
African. Economist. Plus other things
Current.
Education. PhD Economics. SUNY Binghamton

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Employment History

Policy Associate
Economic Research Southern Africa
July 2013 - Date
Cape Town, RSA

Research Associate
Stellenbosch University
April 2016 - Date
Stellenbosch, RSA

Contributor
The Guardian Nigeria
Aug 2016 - Date
Abuja, NG

WARA - Residency Fellow
American University
August 2018 - September 2018
Washington DC, USA

Director of Applied Economics
African Heritage Institution
Aug 2016 - Nov 2016
Enugu, NG

Lecturer
State Univeristy of New York at Binghamton
Jan 2010 - May 2013
Binghamton NY, USA

Teaching Assistant
State University of New York at Binghamton
Aug 2009 - Dec 2009
Binghamton NY, USA

Research Assistant
Central Bank of Nigeria, Microfinance Division
Aug 2006 - Aug 2007
Abuja, NG

Consulting

LEAP-PERL

National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria

United Nations University - WIDER

National Treasury - South Africa

Mathers and Savant

WNT Capitas

Nextier Advisory

Research.Publications

"State Formation in Precolonial Nigeria". . Oxford Handbook of Nigerian Politics. Forthcoming

"Fiscal Policy During Boom and Bust". with Kingsley Moghalu. Oxford Handbook of Nigerian Politics. Forthcoming

"Markups and concentration in South African manufacturing sectors". with Johannes Fedderke and Nicola Viegi. South African Journal of Economics. 2017

"The trans-Atlantic slave trades and local political fragmentation in Africa". - . Economic History Review. 2016. 69(4):1157-1177

"A dream deffered: the microfoundations of direct political action in pre- and post-democratization South Africa". with Biniam Bedasso. Journal of Development Studies. 2016. 52(1):130 - 146

"An examination of subnational growth in Nigeria: 1999 - 2012". - . South African Journal of Economics. 2015. 83(3):335 - 357

"Social capital and human capital in the colonies: a study of cocoa farmers in Western Nigeria". - . Economic History of Developing Regions. 2015. 30(1):1 - 22

"The introduction of higher banknotes and the price level in Nigeria". with E. N. Egbuna. International Journal of Economics and Finance. 2013

Research.Working Papers

"Emigration and education: the schooling of the left behind in Nigeria". with Biniam Bedasso and Ermias Gebru Economic Research Southern Africa no. 722

"Human capital inequality and electoral outcomes in South Africa". with Biniam Bedasso UNU-WIDER Working Paper No. 2016/100

Research.Works in Progress

Climate, yams, and precolonial centralization

Before Formalization: Attitudes toward Government, Taxation, and Governance Alternatives in Lagos's Informal Sector with Adrienne LeBas

Tax Appeals and Social Intermediaries in Lagos Nigeria with Adrienne LeBas and Jessica Goetlibb

Colonialists, Taxation and Punishment: Prisons and Labor Coercion in British Colonial West Africa with Belinda Archibong

Decolonizing with data: Cliometrics in Africa with Johan Fourie

Convict Labor and the Costs of Colonial Infrastructure:Evidence from Prisons in British Nigeria, 1920-1938 with Belinda Archibong

Op-Eds.(Selected)

"Bi-monthly column". Guardian Nigeria newspaper. https://guardian.ng/contributors/nonso-obikili/

"The trans-Atlantic slave trade and local political fragmentation in Africa". AEHN. September 2016

"Long-term effects of slave exporting in West Africa". Oxford University Press. March 2016

"Buy Naija to Grow the Naira: probably pointless but potentially dangerous". Premium Times. 24th Febraury 2016

"Naira devaluation and the Nigerian economy: focusing on the big picture". Premium Times. 20th February 2016

"Myths about devaluation". Premium Times. 15th Februaru 2016

"Removing the autonomy of the CBN: a really bad idea". Business Day. 8th June 2012

"Who really benefits from fuel subsidies". Business Day. 5th December 2011

Blog

Why you probably should not let foreign exchange dealers make agriculture policy

Fri, 14 Dec 2018 06:29:46 GMT

The Central Bank “as part of its developmental objective of employment generation and inclusive growth” is as at it again. The 41 items ban from the foreign exchange market worked so well that they have gone on to include “fertilizer” on the list of items effectively banned from the foreign exchange markets. What this means is essentially importers of fertilizer cannot buy foreign exchange officially, which is the Central Bank’s way of trying to restrict imports to boost local production.

But what is fertilizer? The answer depends on what you know about fertilizer. If you are a small scale subsistence farmer — which the majority of our farmers still are — or a casual observer, then fertilizer is just fertilizer. The stuff you add to the soil to make the crops grow better.

However, if you are a scientific farmer, or in other words a “farmer wey go farming school” then you know that fertilizer is not just fertilizer but there are a range of fertilizers of different types for different uses at different points in the life cycle of whatever crop you’re growing. There is NPK, which I learned means nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium combined into one blended product. And even with NPK, there are different blends available: 15–15–15, 20–10–10, 6–24–24, etc. There is CalMag, DAP, MOP, MAP, SSP, Urea, and so on. All different fertilizers with different chemical components.

Of all these chemicals, which ones do we produce locally? As at now, only Nitrogen — the “N” in NPK. Some of this “N” is blended into NPK, and some is sold on its own as a product called urea. As for all the rest of those chemicals? We still import them. We still import phosphate which was the big part of deal with Morocco pushed via the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative. We have phosphate deposits in Nigeria, but they are not commercially viable so far. We still have to import DAP and SSP and all the other fertilizers. Even the blending plants in Nigeria still have to import all the other components of the NPK they produce, or rather blend, too. And all those imports are technically “fertilizers”.

If you are a small subsistence farmer, then you probably do not care. Fertilizer na fertilizer. But if you are a scientific farmer, you understand that just like humans need a combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to grow and develop, plants also need a combination of nutrients to thrive. And if all but one of those nutrients is no longer readily available for your farm, then your life is going to become a bit more difficult, and a bit more expensive.

This is important because the challenge for Nigerian agriculture is to move from old school subsistence style farming to more scientific farming. Yields for most crops in Nigeria are amongst the lowest in the world because we still mostly do not do scientific farming.

From tomatoes…

…to rice ….

…. maize …..

… to soybeans ….

…. and even cassava which we are supposed to be the largest producer in the world….

… our yields are way behind other countries. A large part of that story is because we do not practice scientific farming. We are still doing the local “fertilizer na fertilizer” farming. The Central Banks policy which is trying to restrict the imports of other types of fertilizers which we do not, and in some cases cannot produce, is in essence trying to actively prevent farmers from becoming better more productive farmers.

Why would a Central Bank want to do this? Even before you get into the fact that fertilizer is a raw material and more fertilizer use means you are growing more crops, which presumably is a good thing. If you import fertilizer and use it to double your soybeans production then that is a good thing, regardless of where the fertilizer comes from. The agriculture sector, which is still currently a big employer of labour, is currently growing at its slowest pace in years and it is amazing that Central Bank officials would think that a smart thing to do is to restrict access to key raw materials, some of which we can’t even produce locally. This policy makes no sense.

This is an example for why you really should not let foreign exchange dealers make agriculture or trade policy. Hopefully the people at the ministry of agriculture and the ministry of industry, trade, and investment call the central bank to order.

NB: If you dig a little deeper there is no evidence that the 41 items policy has done anything other than channel profits to a few benefactors. So what gives? You think that a central bank which is theoretically supposed to be filled with economists would know how to measure impact but not these days. Oh well.

Also, thanks to all my farmer friends who helped explain this all to me. It’s a complicated business being a scientific farmer especially in Nigeria where you can wake up one morning and the policy environment has changed.


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