Echoes from Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria's 10th An­niver­sary Col­lo­quium

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents -

Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria, at its 10th An­niver­sary Col­lo­quium last month in Abuja, as­sem­bled de­vel­op­ment pol­icy thinkers, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and so­cial en­trepreneurs whose in­ci­sive ideas can in­flu­ence bet­ter pol­icy out­comes in Nige­ria. The lec­tures de­liv­ered by the two key­note speak­ers – Dr. Muham­mad Ali Pate, former Nige­rian Min­is­ter of State for Health; and Mr. Ar­shad Rab CEO, Eu­ro­pean Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment (EOSD) – were both en­ti­tled, "Nige­ria's Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Agenda."

Dr. Pate, who is cur­rently an ad­junct pro­fes­sor at Duke Global Health In­sti­tute in the United States, sit­u­ated the dis­cus­sion on Nige­ria's sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment agenda within the con­text of the global Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs). He said em­phat­i­cally that the coun­try was not on track to achieve the 17 SDGs, which have be­come the ref­er­ence points for mea­sur­ing progress to­wards the global agenda to put the world on a more sus­tain­able tra­jec­tory.

One of the rea­sons the former health min­is­ter gave for Nige­ria's un­der­per­for­mance was the lack of stew­ard­ship in the coun­try's lead­er­ship ethos. The in­evitable out­come is a "gov­er­nance sys­tem that has be­come un­sta­ble, in­con­sis­tent and ex­clu­sive."

The col­lo­quium, which held at the Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Cen­tre, was or­gan­ised at a crit­i­cal junc­ture in the na­tion's his­tory. Youth un­em­ploy­ment reached an all-time high of 33.10% in the third quar­ter of 2017. 87 mil­lion Nige­ri­ans live in ex­treme poverty, as many cit­i­zens of the coun­try are get­ting poorer. Dr. Pate said Nige­ria was al­ready go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion of meet­ing the first SDG, which calls for an end to poverty in all its man­i­fes­ta­tions, in­clud­ing ex­treme poverty.

All this is hap­pen­ing in an in­creas­ingly un­pre­dictable world, where cli­mate change, con­flicts and dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies are up­set­ting global sta­bil­ity. In the con­text of these chal­lenges and un­cer­tain­ties, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the EOSD em­pha­sised the need for Nige­rian pol­i­cy­mak­ers to learn in short or­der the need to cre­ate "adap­tive poli­cies." One of such poli­cies prof­fered by Mr. Rab is “sus­tain­able in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion.” This en­tails the re­duc­tion in the car­bon in­ten­sity of economies and adop­tion of clean and en­vi­ron­men­tally sound tech­nolo­gies in in­dus­trial pro­cesses.

Rab's pre­scrip­tion for Nige­ria to em­brace emerg­ing de­vel­op­ment poli­cies was in agree­ment with Dr. Pate's call for the pro­mo­tion of pol­icy en­trepreneur­ship in Nige­ria. Sim­ply put, pol­icy en­trepreneur­ship is the abil­ity of cer­tain agents or shapers of change to find pol­icy so­lu­tions to so­ci­etal prob­lems through in­no­va­tive think­ing. Apart from the high level of poverty and un­em­ploy­ment, some of Nige­ria's prob­lems, which re­quire ur­gent pol­icy at­ten­tion, in­clude the bur­den of both in­fec­tious and non-in­fec­tious dis­eases such as malaria, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, HIV, di­a­betes, hy­per­ten­sion, heart dis­ease, can­cers, among oth­ers. Dr. Pate also spoke about “so­cial apartheid” in the coun­try, whereby chil­dren of the poor are left to a bro­ken ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem while the elites send their chil­dren to pri­vate schools or abroad.

In­deed, the key­note speak­ers and other mem­bers of the high-level panel agreed on an agenda to in­vest in the hu­man cap­i­tal of the coun­try, with Rab echo­ing the need for “hu­man cap­i­tal that is ca­pa­ble of crit­i­cal think­ing and sys­tems think­ing.” In a pro­posed re­form of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, it was rec­om­mended at the col­lo­quium that no child should be left be­hind.

Over the last decade, Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria has pro­vided a plat­form for many of these pol­icy ideas to be dis­cussed. Jide Ak­in­tunde, Man­ag­ing Ed­i­tor of the monthly mag­a­zine pub­lished by Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria In­ter­na­tional Lim­ited, pro­vided the wel­come ad­dress at the col­lo­quium. He ex­pressed gen­uine ap­pre­ci­a­tion to all the read­ers of Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria and stake­hold­ers who have sup­ported the pub­li­ca­tion over the years. He said the pub­li­ca­tion, which has been the lead­ing pub­li­ca­tion in Nige­ria, pro­vid­ing thought lead­er­ship in the fields of de­vel­op­ment and fi­nance, will con­tinue to re­main ob­jec­tive, hon­est and cham­pion the col­lec­tive progress of the coun­try.

"For the coun­try to de­liver its best to the cit­i­zens, we be­lieve the cor­po­rate and in­di­vid­ual cit­i­zens must first give our best for our coun­try," said Mr. Ak­in­tunde who is also Di­rec­tor of Nige­ria De­vel­op­ment and Fi­nance Fo­rum (NDFF), the con­fer­enc­ing arm of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and or­gan­iser of the col­lo­quium. His op­ti­mism about Nige­ria was shared by the US Am­bas­sador to Nige­ria, Am­bas­sador Stu­art Syming­ton, who was rep­re­sented by the USAID Mis­sion Di­rec­tor, Stephen M. Haykin.

In his re­marks, ti­tled: "The Out­look of the United States on Nige­ria's Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment," the diplo­mat said the US was bullish on Nige­ria as he spoke de­ci­sively on the coun­try's val­ued part­ner­ship with the United States. Ac­cord­ing to the US Am­bas­sador, the pil­lars of the bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries in­volve strength­en­ing gov­er­nance ca­pac­i­ties, sup­port for ef­forts to in­crease eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties, and in­vest­ment in the Nige­rian peo­ple.

Speak­ing on the for­eign re­la­tions im­per­a­tives for a Nige­rian sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment agenda, in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions scholar and chair­man of Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria's ed­i­to­rial board, Dr. Femi Aribisala, said the coun­try ought to use for­eign-pol­icy as a diplo­matic means to pro­mote the in­ter­ests of the Nige­rian peo­ple. He dis­cussed the need for a par­a­digm shift in the world­view of the Nige­rian lead­er­ship.

Other mem­bers of the high-level panel were Dr. Kole Shet­tima, Africa Di­rec­tor at the MacArthur Foun­da­tion, and Dr. Amina Sal­ihu, Se­nior Pro­gramme Of­fi­cer at MacArthur Foun­da­tion. In his re­marks, Chair­man, Fis­cal Re­spon­si­bil­ity Com­mis­sion (FRC), Barr. Vic­tor Mu­ru­ako, dis­cussed fis­cal sus­tain­abil­ity as a strat­egy for Nige­ria's sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. Among his pol­icy pre­scrip­tions is the need for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to take proac­tive steps to trans­form the struc­ture of the econ­omy from overde­pen­dence on crude oil and to fix the debt limit of all tiers of gov­ern­ment in com­pli­ance with the Fis­cal Re­spon­si­bil­ity Act.

A key agenda that speak­ers at the col­lo­quium em­pha­sized was the need for com­pe­tent lead­er­ship to trans­form the tra­jec­tory of Nige­ria. The 2019 elec­tion would pro­vide a piv­otal mo­ment for the coun­try to have a new lead­er­ship that would take up the chal­lenge of fo­cus­ing on pri­or­ity goals for the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of the Nige­rian peo­ple, econ­omy and the en­vi­ron­ment.

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