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Osinbajo: Informed Leadership Committed To Good Governance, Key To Africa’s Growth

He identified terrorism in the Sahel as a common global challenge.

Yemi Osinbajo

Nigeria Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has stressed that for Africa to fulfill the needs and yearnings of its people towards growth ambitions, the role of knowledgeable leadership committed to good governance remains critical.

Osinbajo stated this at the weekend while delivering a virtual lecture entitled “Africa 2050: Making Growth Work.” to the 2023 Africana Conference of the Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA.

The Vice President who addressed a wide range of issues affecting Africa’s development noted that though situations of wars, pandemic, political strife and energy crisis, among other factors, were inhibiting development in the continent, leadership remains key. 

According to him: “Africa’s growth ambitions will surely need knowledgeable leadership committed to good governance.

“Apart from the serendipity of getting the right leaders at the right time, the things I have spoken about fall within the purview of national governments. The reality though is that getting the right mix, timing and sequencing of development policies and implementing them successfully remains a major challenge”.

Osinbajo also reiterated his view that Africa has the potential to become the first truly green civilisation – the first civilization on earth to use renewable fuel for purposes of a transformative economic journey.

He explained that, “since it has the lowest carbon emissions, Africa can develop by deploying and using green energy effectively and by mobilising its young population to promote green manufacturing on a scale that would make it the global green factory of the world.”

Closely related to the continent’s growth ambitions, he noted, are the external environment driven by the global economic order, peace and stability.

Quoting Nobel Laureate, Robert Solow, that “ingredients do not make a dish”,  Osinbajo explained that one thing that also matters in the drive for growth, but which is not under control of domestic authorities is the external environment. The global economic order matters because it frames the trade and development policy options available to developing countries.

He cited success stories in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and increasingly India and Vietnam, noting that the liberal international economic order allowed for the exchange of ideas, technology and know-how across countries and could be said to have peaked with the globalisation that started in the late 20th Century.

The Vice President further noted that the claim has been made that more people were taken out of poverty in post Second World War period than in the preceding 500 years.  

“This is not so difficult to believe if we consider the remarkable transformation of China and India.  For instance, China is reported to have lifted 770 million people out of poverty over a forty-year period, while India is said to have lifted 415 million people out of multi-dimensional poverty over the last 15 years.”

Osinbajo, however, submitted that Africa has not been very lucky, stressing that “…we should ponder a bit on the global economic order and ask ourselves whether the conditions under which recent late developers grew fast is still available and would still be available to support Africa’s quest to make growth work over the next 27 years.” That is between now and 2050.

“To be candid, the omens do not look good and it seems to me that those of us with an abiding interest in international relations must work together to ensure that it continues to enable global peace and security, as well as economic progress.” 

On peace and security, Osinbajo alluded to the fact that “the ability of Africa to make the most of growth depends a great deal on peace and security in the rest of the world and within the continent.

He, therefore, urged developed countries to support the fight against terrorism in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan region. 

According to him, “given the scale of the problem and the fact that the threat of terrorism anywhere on earth is a threat to the whole of humanity, I think it is time for the global community to treat the menace of terrorism in the Sahel as a common challenge.  

“As I have stated on several occasions, this is one area in which the great powers and emerging powers can put aside rivalries and work together with ECOWAS and the African Union on an initiative to stamp out terrorism in Africa, especially in the Sahel.”

On the issue of access to resources, the Vice President added his voice to the call for the framing of a new institutional framework for debt restructuring that goes beyond the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and the Common Framework.”

He noted further that, what is needed at this time is a new international framework for tackling debt issues along the lines of The Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable that took off at the IMF/ World Bank Spring meetings. 

“This is a framework that brings together all those concerned bilateral creditors, including China, private creditors – including bondholders, the multilateral development banks and, indeed, debtor countries. This is surely the way to go to if we are to address the changed nature of the terrain in terms of new prominent players and new types of debt.”

Commenting on climate change and technology, Osinbajo said because Africa is rich in fossil fuels but energy-poor, a just transition is one that will allow the continent to use existing natural gas as transition fuel, saying Africa can use climate action to underpin an increase in productivity and to create jobs.

“While Africa must insist on climate justice in the sense of common, but differentiated responsibilities, it should also agree that there is a new way by which it can benefit from the process of adapting to climate change.”

He listed other factors that can ensure effective growth in Africa to include regional integration, leveraging the African Diaspora, ensuring good governance and tackling corruption.

Osinbajo also noted that “it is important for Africa to overcome the limitations of its small, fragmented economies. The take-off of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January 2021 is a step in the right direction. The AfCFTA is expected to create a $2.7 trillion market by eliminating trade barriers and enabling economies of scale on the continent.  This arrangement should be exploited in full to enable African countries make gains from trade, not only in goods, but also in services.  

“The process, of course, will be aided by putting in place the necessary infrastructure to underpin production, as well as an efficient payments system that overcomes the need to purchase third currencies before trade can take place between African countries.”  

The Vice President also highlighted the important role of the African Diaspora.

His words: “Another great resource that will enable Africa to make the most of growth is its Diaspora. Instead of lamenting the brain drain (which is admittedly costly) Africa should organise itself to take advantage of its Diaspora.  

“In addition to remittances which rose from $37 billion in 2010 to $96 billion by 2021, the African Diaspora is a significant source of strength. They have established businesses in various sectors, offered themselves for public service and provide cutting-edge services in fields like medicine and surgery. Indeed, the Diaspora is Africa’s vanguard for keeping up with the rest of the world”.

Answering questions later on from the faculty and students of the Fletcher School, Osinbajo spoke about the lessons learnt in his position as Nigeria’s Vice President, stating that the importance of knowledgeable leadership and building the right team were key to the successes recorded by the administration.

He expressed hope that the incoming political administration would continue with some of the best practices and solutions adopted by the current administration in addressing challenges in the economy and polity. 

Deji Elumoye in Abuja 

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