By Sodiq Omolaoye
Former Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili, has decried the dwindling economic fortunes in Africa, saying the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), put at $2.3 trillion, was low compared to the resources in the region.
She urged African governments to invest more in youth, women and technology in order to improve the economy of the continent. Ezekwesili stated this in Abuja while speaking at the launch of Big Ideas Platform by the School of Politics, Policy and Governance founded by her.
The platform was established to facilitate the generation and sharing of fresh ideas, innovative solutions and implementation strategies to address Africa’s plethora of challenges.
According to the former Vice President for the World Bank’s Africa Region, with such enormous resources and youthful population, there is no excuse for many Africans to be wallowing in abject poverty.
Her words: “I have often said that there are three game changers for our country and those three game changes have been in great exhibition today. Number one big change of our continent is the young people. Africa’s mean age, or median age is about 18.6 years, compared to global average of more than 40 years. What that means is that this is the youngest continent. There is so much locked up in the young people. Africa’s young people are already showing the world that they can act globally, that they can compete globally. And that despite some of the challenges that hold them back due to poor governance, if they find their feet, they can even surpass the ideas that others put on the table. So, Africa’s young people have economically proven to be game changer.
“Another thing is African women. That is very clear. What data shows us is that Africa can actually increase its GDP by $360 billion by 2025. We just need to include our women in the developing process, and Africa stands a chance of such increase in its GDP, considering that the continent’s GDP is still a paltry $2.3 trillion. It means that there’s so much that is held up in gender disparity.
“The third factor is technology. Technology has been Africa’s most insignificant revolution. We did not participate in the agrarian revolution and we were not part of the Industrial revolution.
“We were not really that much part of the early days of the knowledge revolution, but the ICT revolution has been our first participation and not even as a major producer of ideas of it, but just a consumer. Yet, we already began to learn how to participate in producing innovations within it. So, even if you are the most pessimistic person, you have absolutely no business leaving today’s programme without boost of optimism, that with our young people and women joined with the capacity that technology offers, we will definitely be the ones that will determine the 21st century.”
Speaking also, North-West National Vice Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Dr. Salihu Lukman, said most of the challenges bedevilling Nigeria today was because political parties in the country have not lived up to expectations.
The ruling party official noted that since 1999, Nigeria has not been lucky to have a political party that is clearly functional and running its affairs democratically to deliver dividends of democracy to the people.
Lukman noted that rather than investing in political parties, Nigerians, especially politicians, only see parties as means to produce candidates for elections.
“Almost as a generation, we have focused more, at least since 1999, in candidates for elections, and thinking that the most important thing in politics is to produce candidates while imagining that once that is addressed, we will likely produce good leaders and that has in turn produced a lot of frustration.
“The big missing element is that over time, we have failed to invest in our political parties. As it is today, we don’t have any one party that is clearly functional, running its affairs democratically, in a way that citizens can access it and when they become members, they can explore the possibility of emerging as candidates,” he stated.
Executive Director of Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), Hansatu Adegbite, stressed the need to have more women on the decision-making tables, adding that the cost of inequality is extremely high, and Nigeria have been paying the cost for the longest time.
Source: The Guardian