Echoes from Financial Nigeria's 10th Anniversary Colloquium
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.