The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mrs Theresa May, has painted a grim picture of economic inequality in Nigeria and many other countries in Africa.
May, who is visiting Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa this week, made the comment in Cape Town, South Africa on Tuesday.
The Prime Minister said many individual Nigerians were enjoying the fruits of “a resurgent economy.”
She, however, stated that 87 million Nigerians were living below $1.90 a day, making Nigeria “home to more very poor people than any other nation in the world.”.
The Prime Minister paid tributes to two great Africans: the late President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, and a former secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, who died this month.
May said, “The life stories of these two great men encapsulate the ebbs and flows of history. They demonstrate just how much can be achieved over the course of a lifetime. But also that progress can never be taken for granted – the fight to secure our gains is constant.
“Mandela was born in 1918 with the world on the brink of peace from a war that was meant to end all wars. But when Annan was born just 20 years later, those dreams of a lasting peace were about to be shattered once again, claiming millions of lives, including many from this continent.
“It was in the aftermath of this devastation that the United Nations, the organisation that half a century later Annan would go on to lead, was founded. And despite false starts and mistakes along the way, global institutions and co-operation established in this period have delivered great gains for development.
“It was at the same time, that independence movements of a generation of new nations, took on a renewed urgency. People across the world won the right to self-determination, constitutions were written and countries were born.”
According to her, the embrace of free markets and free trade has acted as the greatest agent of collective human progress the world has ever seen.
She stated that in countries that had successfully embraced properly regulated market economies, life expectancy had increased and infant mortality fallen.
“Absolute poverty has shrunk and disposable income grown. Access to education has widened, and rates of illiteracy plummeted. And innovators have developed technology that transformed lives,” she added.
May said wars and state-based conflicts had declined and replaced by new threats. She stated that in the past five years, terrorists had killed around 20,000 people in Africa.
The Prime Minister stated that Africa had made remarkable progress.
“In 2018, five of the world’s fastest-growing economies are African. The continent’s total GDP could well double between 2015 and 2030. By 2050, a quarter of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s consumers will live here,” she stated.
Citing African countries that were recording progress, she stated, “From the Western Cape to the Mediterranean come stories of increasing stability, growth, innovation and hope.
“South Africa, for so long blighted by the evils of Apartheid, is free, democratic, and home to one of the continent’s largest economies.
“In Cote D’Ivoire, United Nations peacekeepers have gone home and GDP is growing three times faster than in Europe.
“And Ethiopia, for a generation of British people often associated only with famine, is fast becoming an industrialised nation, creating a huge number of jobs and establishing itself as a global destination for investment.”
She, however, lamented that the economic prosperity was not uniform around the world as well as emergent democracies and growing economies.
May stated, “Africa is home to the majority of the world’s fragile states and a quarter of the world’s displaced people.
“Extremist groups such as Boko Haram and al-Shabab are killing thousands. Africa’s ocean economy, three times the size of its landmass, is under threat from plastic waste and other pollution. Most of the world’s poorest people are Africans and increasing wealth has brought rising inequality, both between and within nations.”
Explaining inequality in Africa, the Prime Minister stated, “For example, much of Nigeria is thriving, with many individuals enjoying the fruits of a resurgent economy. Yet 87 million Nigerians live on less than $1.90 a day, making it home to more very poor people than any other nation in the world.
“Achieving not just growth but inclusive growth is a challenge faced by governments in the UK, Europe, North America and beyond. And as African economies become more successful, it is an issue that is being confronted here too.”
She said that in the years ahead, demographic change would present further economic challenges and opportunities for Africa.
The Prime minister stated, “Before arriving here this morning, I visited the ID Mkize Secondary School in Gugulethu. The teenagers I met there were an inspiration, full of ideas and enthusiasm about their own futures and full of pride about the future of their country and their continent.
“It’s an outlook they share with so many Africans, 60 per cent of whom are aged under 25. Such a young population represents a phenomenal level of human capital and potential. With their innovation, dynamism and creativity, Africa’s young people could enrich not only this continent but the world economy and society at large.
“But to make the most of this promise, it needs to be properly harnessed. Between now and 2035, African nations will have to create 18 million new jobs every year just to keep pace with the rapidly growing population. That’s almost 50,000 new jobs every single day, simply to maintain employment at its current level.
According to her, this would be a huge challenge for any continent, particularly where economic growth is still fragile and markets are still developing.
She added, “It is indicative of the need to redouble our efforts to ensure the forces shaping our world deliver for all our people. Because the challenges facing Africa are not Africa’s alone. It is in the world’s interest to see that those jobs are created, to tackle the causes and symptoms of extremism and instability, to deal with migration flows and to encourage clean growth.”
“If we fail to do so, the economic and environmental impacts will swiftly reach every corner of our networked, connected world. And the human impacts – from a loss of faith in free markets and democracy as the best way to secure global growth and human rights, to greater conflict and an increased susceptibility to extremism – will be similarly global.”
May said that as a Prime Minister “who believes both in free markets and in nations and businesses acting in line with well-established rules and principles of conduct, I want to demonstrate to young Africans that their brightest future lies in a free and thriving private sector.
“One driven and underpinned by transparency, high standards, the rule of law and fairness. Only in such circumstances can innovation truly be rewarded, the potential of individuals unleashed, and societies provided with the opportunities they want, need and deserve.”
She noted investment would not be attracted nor growth achieved in the absence of security and stability.
May added, “By 2030, 80 per cent of the world’s extreme poor will live in fragile states. Even in countries considered relatively stable and prosperous, pockets of fragility persist.
“The UK is already providing support for African governments that are meeting this challenge head-on. Nigerian troops on the frontline against Boko Haram have received specialist training from Britain.
“Counter-terror operations in Mali are being supported by British Chinook helicopters. British troops in Kenya have trained African Union peacekeepers heading for Somalia, while also working with international partners to reform the Somalian security forces for the long-term.”
Explaining her presence in Africa, she said, “This week I am visiting three countries, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, that I regard as key partners in achieving this goal. With thriving democracies, strong international ties, including through the Commonwealth, and fast-changing economies, they are typical of 21st century Africa; an Africa very different to the stereotypes that dominated previous centuries, and that some people still believe even today.”
Nigeria’s population to grow by four million yearly – FG
Meanwhile, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma (SAN), has said Nigeria’s population will rise by four million every year.
He, therefore, stated that there was an urgent need to curb the growth rate and ultimately reduce poverty.
Udoma said this while delivering his speech at the 58th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja on Tuesday.
Speaking at the event with the theme, ‘Transition, Transformation and Sustainable Institutions’, the minister said China was able to reduce poverty and boost its economy by checking its population.
He said while he would not recommend the Chinese approach of one-child policy, there was a need for Nigeria to adopt an approach that would suit its own reality.
Udoma said, “We need national support for measures that can help to moderate rather rapid rates of population growth. Current estimates suggest that we may be adding over four million people to our population every year.
“This is the size of many large cities. Indeed, it is the size of some smaller African countries. As the Chinese have shown, managing population growth is an important part of any strategy to achieve sustainable economic development.
“In this strategy, 46 points of the Economic and Recovery Growth Plan gives responsibility to my ministry together with the Ministry of Health to develop policies to help manage our rate of population growth.”
Also speaking at the conference, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) blamed past administrations for the problems in the Lagos ports.
Osinbajo, who was a discussant at the programme, said this while fielding questions from the moderator.
He was responding to questions on why his ease of business initiative had failed to curb the cost of haulage which had risen by 360 per cent as well as claims by business mogul, Aliko Dangote, that businesses were losing N86bn to Lagos gridlock every year.
The Vice-President was also asked to explain why the cost of transporting goods and time had increased from three days to 21 days at the ports.
In his response, Osinbajo said, “What is partly responsible for some of the problems we have around the cost of doing business are the ports etc. I think one of the major failings that we have had as a country apart from institutions is the failure to invest in infrastructure, especially when we were earning significant sums of money and I think that failure has led to some of what we are seeing today.
“The Apapa Port for example is a 35-million MT capacity port and now it is doing 85 which is really completely way out of its league; it shouldn’t be doing what it is doing. So, you have 30-tonne trucks coming out of the Apapa Port destroying the roads regularly.
“The railway should begin from the ports, taking goods out. That was never really done even though the tracks were laid. So, today we have to do exactly that, to re-lay the rail tracks so that the Lagos-Kano rail can take cargo out of the ports to the hinterland. We are also decongesting the ports by opening up the ports in the South-South.
“So, the issue is these are investments that ought to have been done and we are doing that now.”
He added that critical institutions that should drive growth had been failing.
The Vice-President noted that even the judiciary as an institution had not performed to expectation.
Osinbajo added, “Of course, we have to build institutions but institutions naturally take a while to build and unfortunately they are failing and really falling behind and I agree that truly many of our institutions are failing.
“One of the reasons for me is that even the institutions that our own profession is largely based on has not exactly done as well as we expect that they would. So, there is a problem around institutions but I think the major problem is that no matter how you look at institutions, they are largely about people and leadership.”