Economy and Resources
Nigerian economy since the colonial times has been largely driven by export of raw materials. This was one of the aims of colonialism and even subsequent western strategies of neo-colonialism and globalization. Northern Nigeria, especially Kano, was a major producer of groundnuts. In fact Kano produced about half million tons which was about half of Nigeria’s commodities as the main source of foreign exchange and government revenue. The oil boom of the 1970’s made the government to neglect agriculture. Many of the rural dweller rushed to the cities in search of “greener” pastures.
Government at the federal and state levels formulated policies for the revival of agricultural productivity and poverty alleviation, because the survival of the society was threatened, as Nigeria became an importer of food. Among these policies were the Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution , Better Life for Rural Women and Family Economic Advancement Programme. Agricultural practitioners have complained that they have not benefitted from previous programs, hence the present state of poverty especially in northern Nigeria. The federal Government made attempts to encourage industrialization in Nigeria though several programs and institutions such as NIDB (Nigeria Industrial Development Bank), NBCI (Nigeria Bank for Commerce and Industry) and NERFUND (National Economic Recovery Fund).
The people of Kano have been known for the “extensive initiative and perseverance”. Kano merchants have been famous in West Africa some of them were even legendary for example the late Alhaji Alhassan Dantata who was the wealthiest Nigerian at the time he died. Alhaji Aliko Dangote one of the wealthiest African industrialists is a great-grandson of the late Alhaji Alhassan Dantata. Kano businessmen, including Dantata pioneered the first textile industry in Nigeria the Gwammaja Textiles established by the Kano Citizens Trading Company. It should be noted that even the pre-colonial period, Kano “was probably Nigeria’s most celebrated textile exporting center.”
Kano’s products were in high demand even in North Africa and it was rightly observed by Professor Elizabeth Isichei in her book A History of Nigeria that:
Almost as far as the Nile, and certainly in Southern Morocco, the blue haiques and burnouse of semi-Arab and Moorish tribes are the products of craftsmen in Kano and Sokoto, and this ‘country cloth’ as it is called, is worth much more along the coast than any turned out in Manchester.
Private investors established most of the industries in Kano. The regional government, during the first republic, established no industry in Kano as it did in Kaduna and Sokoto, which hosted the textile and cement industries respectively. The Federal Government established only one industry in Kano, the National Truck Manufacturers (NTM), a commercial vehicle assembly plant that was never viable because of its precarious foundation and it was closed and later privatized. But in Kaduna, the federal government established a fertilizer plant, a motor assembly plant and a refinery. The last two are all functioning and the refinery is perhaps the most important industry in northern Nigeria.
Most of the industries established in Nigeria during the oil boom era were import substitution-based and with the fall in prices, the value of naira crashed, most of them collapsed because they relied on imported raw materials. The worst affected were those in the North especially Kano. This is because, the transportation cost from Lagos to Kano skyrocketed. Hence, they could not compete with those in Lagos or Otta and since there is no railway, it will be difficult to restore such establishments. Energy supply to Kano has also remained epileptic. The cost of diesel, which is used by generators, has also skyrocketed, especially in Kano. These and other reasons made many factories to close and render their workers unemployed.
Agriculture is one of the most important pillars of the State’s economy with about 75% of the total working population engaged directly or indirectly in this activity. The principal food crops cultivated in abundance are Millet, Cowpeas, Sorghum, Maize and Rice for local consumption while Groundnuts and Cotton are produced for export and industrial purposes. During the colonial period and several years after the country’s independence, the groundnuts produced in the state constituted one of the major revenue sources of the country. Kano State is a major producer of Hides and Skins with over 80% of the tanneries located in the industrial estates of the state producing high quality tanned leather ranked among the best in the world, which are exported. Some of the exportable commodities grown in Kano State include Sesame, Soya Beans, Cotton, Garlic, Gum Arabic an Chilli Pepper. Most of these commodities are available at Dawanau Market about 13Km from the Kano city center. Kano State contributes over 20% of Nigeria’s non-oil export revenue.
Commercial activities in Kano received its first encouragement with the establishment of Kurmi market by the Emir of Kano Muhammadu Rumfa in the 16th Century CE. Subsequent leaders made contributions to the emergence of Kano as a leading commercial center in the Sudanic Africa. For example, the first two Emirs of Kano, Ibrahim Dado and Sulaimanu in the 19th century encouraged traders to move from Katsina because of Maradi raid. This was one of major contributing factors that made Kano the richest province in the Sokoto Caliphate. The Jihad leaders of the caliphate encouraged Kolanut trade and kano was the greatest beneficiary with an annual turnover of about $30 million. Kano merchants were also very innovative and they were able to integrate commerce and craft industry during the pre-colonial period this contributed to the prosperity of the province. Kano was producing an estimated 10 million pairs of sandals during that period because of an estimated 10 million pairs of sandals during that period because of economic harmony. Emir of Kano Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi (1953 – 1963) established the Bompai Industrial Estate which was the first of its kind in the state through a loan guaranty that was later used against him by the Northern Regional Government.
Kano State is most important and largest commercial center in Northern Nigeria. With about 10 million people, it provides a stable and continues market for both manufactured and semi-processed goods. The volume of trading activities conducted on daily basis in the markets, notably Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi (Sabon –Gari), Kwanar Singer, Kantin Kwari, Kurmi and Dawanau markets signify the state’s great potentials as a market for various products.
In addition to the large and unique markets, Kano is also blessed with plentiful and various kinds of agricultural products which provide huge raw materials for Agro-Allied industries. Agricultural products like Maize, Guinea Corn, Rice, Cotton and Groundnuts are readily available to serve as raw materials for oil milling, flour and textile industries. Other agro based raw materials are Gum Arabic, Livestock, Hides and Skin, Cowpeas and Citrus fruits.
Similarly, the second Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in the country has been approved by the federal government and the state government is making efforts for its actualization. It is expected to provide additional impetus to both local and foreign investors. Furthermore, the state is one of the three states in the Northern part of the country that serve as a dry port and Inland Container Depot (ICD) for import/export activities of the hinterland shippers.
The impressive infrastructural facilities such as the Malam Aminu International Airport road and Railway links to other parts of the country as well as the excellent road network within the state provide unique opportunities for the steady growth of commercial activities. There are over 100 branches of commercial banks. Similarly, there are several branches of insurance companies and brokerage firms making Kano the leading financial center of Northern Nigeria.
The Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Cooperatives is charged with the responsibility of registration, supervision, inspection and auditing of all types of Cooperative Societies in the state. The Ministry also conducts public enlightenment programs to sensitize the public on the advantages of cooperative organizations.
Kano State is the second largest industrial center in Nigeria and the largest in the Northern Nigeria. There are at present over 400 privately owned medium and small scale industries in the state producing various items, such as textile materials, tanned leather, foot wears, cosmetics, plastics, enamel ware, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, furniture and bicycles. Others include agricultural implements, soft drinks, food and beverages, dairy products, vegetable oil, animal feeds etc.
The strategy put in place by the State Government to boost the growth of industries was to provide large industrial areas such as Sharada industrial areas (Phase I, II, and III) the Challawa Industrial Area and Tokarawa Industrial layout. More of such industrial estates are being envisaged in the very near future.
Kano is blessed with abundant tourism resources which include historical monuments and sites, as well as unique places of great interest, such as Kurmi market established in the 15th century is in the heart of Kano City, the centuries-old city wall with some of its gates still standing. The Gidan Rumfa (Emir’s Palace) is the oldest and largest traditional palace in Nigeria. It is the oldest continuous sit of the authority in Nigeria. It was established by Sarkin Kano Muhammadu Rumfa (1463 – 1499) and its has been in continuous use since that time. Although the Sarki’s authority has been transformed to community leadership, his influence is still profound and everyday common people seek solace in his leadership for his intervention in some of their predicaments.