Making meaningful progress can be particularly daunting in developing countries like Nigeria, where there are constraints such as a lack of expertise in project implementation, patchy or ambiguous laws and weak enforcement, and a lack of accountability among ministries and agencies. In Nigeria, the challenges are compounded by the federal system, in which policies and plans are developed at the federal level but need to be implemented at the state level.
With those issues in mind, we have identified eight actions that are critical to ensuring maximum impact.
1. Set clear priorities, move quickly, and keep it simple. Leaders can squander their political capital by taking on too many projects at once. Instead, it makes sense to focus on a few significant problems and show results quickly.
2. Focus resources on those priorities. Once priorities are established, leaders should direct their best teams as well as their financial resources and budgets toward those goals.
3. Develop detailed action plans and monitor execution closely. This means establishing rigorous plans with specific targets and milestones, clarifying responsibilities, and monitoring progress.
4. Create links between implementers and decision makers. People leading change efforts need to report directly and have access to decision makers. In Nigeria, these links must be forged within the states and the federal government, and between the two levels.
5. Lead from the front. This requires being hands-on while inspiring and empowering people.
6. Go for early wins—but keep an eye on the long term. Some initial, well-publicized successes are critical to creating momentum for reform. But leaders should keep in mind that the most successful long-term solutions generally develop over time, through learning and adaptation.
7. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Leaders of reform need to make sure that their message is clear and unequivocal, and is communicated effectively to government workers and private citizens.
8. Leverage partnerships. The government needs to develop strategic partnerships with the private sector, donor organizations, and development finance institutions.
Addressing the current economic challenges in Nigeria and unleashing the energy and drive of its people will require action by the government—most notably in infrastructure, health, and education. Improvements in those areas will create sizable, positive ripple effects throughout the economy, including possibly a surge in foreign direct investment. Focused and sustained effort can yield real progress—and raise the well-being of all Nigerians.
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