This was revealed by the former prime minister of Ethiopia and the chairman of Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe yesterday as he delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group. The theme of the Summit is: ‘Securing Our Future: The Fierce Urgency Is Now’.
The former prime minister, who expressed admiration for Nigeria, said the country’s poverty rate has hovered around 40 percent since the turn of the century. He said sustained poverty reduction can be achieved when and only when there is the existence of the combined factors that include sound market economic management, economic freedom and sound economic policies.
Boshe said rapid and sustained economic growth is a precondition for peace and security.
He praised Nigeria for successive handover of power which, according to him, is a good example to other countries whose leaders go the extra mile to hold on to power, and cause resentment such as have been witnessed recently in Mali and Guinea. He also praised Nigeria for great strides made in infrastructure development. He extolled the government’s initiative of InFraCo, which is a public private initiative intended to reduce Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit.
He also praised Nigeria on its Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), which was a response to the impacts of COVID-19.
Boshe said when Ethiopia started developing its industrial development parks, her first experience was from Nigeria, stressing that Nigeria has a very good regulatory framework for industrial development parks, citing especial example of the like of Lagos. He however noted that Ethiopia used the Nigeria example for its services, but Nigeria has not yet implemented hers.
He called on the private and public sectors to join hands to create wealth and provide jobs for young people. He also called for effective governance to shore up economic growth, eradicate corruption and corrupt politicians, effective governance to reduce poverty and shore up inclusive growth that would benefit all Nigerians.
The former prime minister said Nigeria, the giant of Africa has a long way to go, but hopes Nigeria will implement policies to liberate her people from poverty.
Although Nigeria’s poverty profile for 2021 has not yet been released, it is estimated that the number of poor people will increase to 90 million, or 45 per cent of the population, in 2022. If the World Bank’s income poverty threshold of $3.20 per day is used, Nigeria’s poverty rate is 71 per cent
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, enumerated the many development programmes and projects Nigeria is undertaking, including the renewable power project to connect 1.5 million homes. He also listed roads, bridges and rail projects that will have an impact on the economy.
He stressed that the federal government is committed to lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by the end of the decade.
He also said labour-intensive jobs will be the major source of creation; he declared the summit open.
Others who spoke at the ongoing Nigeria Economic Summit #NES27 said unless national and sub-national governments take deliberate and focused steps to transform the country, Nigeria will be left far behind not just by the world but also by several emergent bright spots in Africa. They added that Nigerians will continue to wallow in poverty, hunger, insecurity and division.
“We can no longer afford to dream and theorize about the right policies, projects and programmes that will prepare us for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or gaze in admiration or envy at other countries as they leave us far behind,” chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Mr Asue Ighodalo said.
Ighodalo challenged the president and state governors to eradicate poverty in their states, open-up the rural sector, provide extension services to farmers, provide them with storage facilities and routes to markets, improve the quality of education of their children, improve healthcare facilities and enhance internally generated revenue.
Mr. Ighodalo said the urgency is also anchored on leveraging on the greatest opportunities of these times, which require the will to make and implement the right choices.
“The urgency to reopen our economy differently and attractively; the urgency to resolve our security problems; the urgency to ensure macroeconomic stability; the urgency to accelerate our digital and technological capacities; the urgency of seizing the competitive African Market space created by the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Area; the urgency to not just grow tax revenues, but to grow our non-oil export earnings; the urgency to attract and acquire fourth industrial revolution technologies, and the urgency to create innovative and transformative solutions to social problems and to climate change issues,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari, on his part said the federal government has empowered over 1.1 million businesses through the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Survival Fund which was launched to support businesses ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
President Buhari said the outbreak of Covid-19 has had far reaching implications on businesses in Nigeria; he added that the federal government is responding to challenges and opportunities through its economic sustainability plan that was introduced to tackle Covid-19, rescue businesses and sustain growth and investment in human and social capital.
“The results are beginning to show especially in the area of GDP growth which appreciated by 5.01, and inflation which has been on a downward trend.
Buhari said the summit serves as a commitment between the public and private sector towards Nigeria’s economic growth for the past 27 years.
He said the outcome of the summits has contributed to economic policies and projects while providing an opportunity to preview the development of the economy and make frantic efforts for the future.
Earlier, the NESG chairman acknowledged that the impact of the pandemic worsened Nigeria’s vulnerabilities to external shocks, due to the structural weaknesses of the economy, its heavy reliance on imported goods and continuous dependence on crude oil as a major source of revenue.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed said government recognises the need for increased domestic resource mobilisation as evidenced by the implementation of the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative (SRGI), an important intervention which she said is already yielding positive results in stimulating non-oil revenue growth.
“This future we all crave will be achieved by the dedication and hard work of all stakeholders, with leadership at the federal, state and local government levels and in collaboration with the corporate sector,” she said in her opening remarks.
Ahmed said for Nigeria to achieve the desired economic growth, investments and policy changes must be implemented in a sustainable and inclusive manner, ensuring that the needs of the present do not compromise the prosperity of future generations. “In developing interventions, the wellbeing of present and future citizens of Nigeria must be guaranteed,” she said.
At a separate sub-summit on the theme: Sustainable Food Security And Systems Response, the group managing director of Flour Mills of Nigeria, Omoboyede Olusanya brought to the front burner the need to increase local supply of raw materials to enhance food security. He said innovation of local raw materials drives investments in backward integration.
As for his company, he said Flour Mills of Nigeria uses local raw materials and innovation to get affordable products to ensure that even though imported raw materials increase in price, as there is a huge gap in the supply and demand of raw materials, with innovation and local supply, the company is able to keep prices down while retaining quality.
Olusanya said Nigeria produces 22 million tonnes of grains whereas the country needs 60 million tonnes annually.
Because of the cyclical nature of prices of raw materials, according to Olusanya, Flour Mills partakes and off-takes and innovates to try and make products as affordable as possible.
As to whether Nigeria has been a good investment destination over the many years Flour Mills has operated in the country, Olusanya said a resounding yes, and committed to continue investing in the country based on Nigeria’s size and growing youth population and talents, which makes the country an attractive market. He said Nigeria has also been a protected market. He said the coming of the African continental Free trade Area (AfCFTA) opened a new dimension to what the Nigerian market is. He cited the instance of the opportunities that exist in the population size, but also said that size and population makes Nigeria an attraction for the external market and a potential dumping ground for products.
He said in the future, the ability of companies like his to compete would depend on his cost side, which explains the need for local production of raw materials.
He said there is a need to make farming an attractive job for the youth.