Building Systems and Institutions in Developing Countries – Taiwo Odukoya

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The importance of building institutions, particularly in developing nations, is a subject that has been widely discussed by scholars and development experts through the years. This is because national or organisational development is practically impossible without institutions.

It was the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Leadership Project, in the early 2000s, that surveyed thousands of executives and leaders, and concluded that one of the key indicators of sustainable leadership and organisational success is the building of institutions.

Now the benefits of institutions cannot be overemphasised.

I. It allows for focus and steady growth in the accomplishment of the vision and set goals of a nation or organisation. Examples abound in this regard. In Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew’s widespread institutional reforms revamped education, created an efficient civil service, encouraged innovation, and moved the nation from the Third World to the First World within a single decade. The same can be said for China under Deng Xiaoping, where peculiar institutional reforms opened up its economy and transformed it into the global economic powerhouse that it is today.

It was the renowned Professor, Douglas North that said, “We must create incentives for people to invest in more efficient technology, increase their skills and organise efficient markets. Such incentives are embodied in institutions.” I cannot agree more with him.

II. It makes for the building of equitable and just societies. Imagine a society without a functional constitution, judicial system and the whole array of social infrastructure that work to reduce conflict and preserve a climate of predictable outcomes? That would be chaos. Institutions define and enforce property rights, the rule of engagement in business, enable excellent investment and make for better political and economic planning.

III. Functional Institutions will promote continuity in government. Leaders may come and go but institutions remain. By investing in systems that harness the contributions of everyone, nations and organisations are able to transcend the genius or weakness of any single leader. Nobody will be able to hijack the aspirations of the people. And self-perpetuation in government, like we find in most developing nations, will be almost impossible. Leaders may lean ideologically to the left or to the right, but as long as sound institutions are in place, they are compelled to pursue the attainment of the common good.

With the embracing of change and the current yearning of the people for a better Nigeria, the country has never been better positioned for the development and establishment of solid and functional institutions. It is important, however, to always remember that Nigeria is a conglomeration of nations whose greatness lies in the proper harnessing of its diversity. So in building the institutions that will appeal to and command the respect of all, our respective cultural, social and religious nuances must be taken into consideration.

As Benjamin Disraeli said, “Individuals may form communities, but it is institutions alone that can create a nation.” I believe we are in the best of times. I see God in our tomorrow.

This Opinion Article was originally published on OpinionNigeria

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