4 February 2008

Nigeria: Cecilia Ibru Addresses African Heads

Addis Ababa — Apparently for the first time in the history of the African Union, a private sector representative was allowed to address the union and present the declaration on African's industrial drive, put together by the UN Global Compact before the African Heads of States at the 10th Ordinary Session of the African Union, Addis Ababa, , Ethiopia , last week.

This development, no doubt, represents the rising global acceptance and need for the public-private sector partnership (PPP). The choice however fell on the chief executive of Oceanic Bank International Plc, Dr. (Mrs.) Cecilia Ibru, African Business Woman of the Year 2006 and the current African Banker of the Year to present to over 35 African Heads of States and Governments, and scores of diplomats, African ministers, heads of United Nations (UN) organs, including the secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, and international observers, on recipes for industrial development in Africa.

In a well-received and applauded presentation, Ibru called for accelerated reforms and the enabling legal framework as well as political will to increase the level of industrialisation and development in thecontinent, noting that policy inconsistencies are inimical to industrial development.

While urging the leaders to evolve consistent economic policy in their respective countries, she enjoined them to see infrastructural development as ultimate public goods that would bring the desired economic growth and development.

For the continent to witness real development, she said African states have to jointly collaborate on ways to foster key infrastructural development that will remove all barriers to the movement of persons, transfer of goods and services across the continent.

She said : " Achieving this will lead to landmark progress in our quest to deepen regional and global trade and also consolidate our fragmented markets to a point where Africa as a continent can achieve greater competitiveness in global markets "

African leaders, she further said must put in place policies that would promote industrialisation in terms of tax holiday and that growth of the entrepreneurial class is mandatory for industrial development in the continent.

On privatisation, she said concession should be predicated on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) strategies or other forms of PPPs in areas such as telecommunication, transport, power, housing, education and the healthcare sector, insisting that leaders across the continent must work towards creating the enabling environment for industries to grow and excel.

She urged the African Union leaders to engage in partnership with the private sector, particularly in areas where the private sector has core competencies and also strengthen existing mechanism and develop new ones, where necessary to fight corruption and fraud.

She also enjoined the leaders to coordinate the development of an African action plan for public-private partnership such that they can work together in advancing the African Agenda under the WTO and Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs).

Reiterating the commitment of the private sector to working closely with the public sector in utilising its respective core competencies to form synergies and achieve results collectively, she said the private sector is also committed to providing full support to the continental and sub-regional integration agenda as these, to her, serve as a strong basis for the promotion of inter and intra-African trade and investment, poverty reduction and promotion of sustainable development, attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the integration of Africa into the global economy.

To bring about the sustainable growth and development on the continent, the private sector, according to Cecilia Ibru, proffer that the leaders submit the recommendations of the private sector forum to their respective assemblies, ensure proper implementation at all levels, regional, sub regional, and national and also develop a mechanism that would ensure full and transparent feed-back communication with all stakeholders.

They also canvassed the promotion of women business owners and also the need to empower women entrepreneurs through proper legislation and conducive environment.

Bemoaning the high poverty level in Africa, where more than 218 million people live in extreme poverty, especially in the rural areas where more than 70 per cent of the continent's poor people live off agriculture, she said, empowering the poor can only be an opportunity for value creation, as the population of over 800 million people, represent a huge market for business opportunities.

She challenged the African leaders to leverage on the huge population of over 800 million, comparable to India 's 1.2 billion and china's 1.3 billion to transform the economies.

Noting that Small and Medium Scale Industries (SMEs) are the engine room for the development of any economy world-wide and indeed a panacea for poverty alleviation, she enjoined the leaders to collaborate and adopt strategies that will empower the financial sector to drive the SME activities She said credit is mandatory for this sector to stimulate demand that will encourage manufacturing of consumer goods which most African countries are currently importing .

Just as Europe is enjoying the robust trade engendered by strategic convergence in monetary policies, she said, Africa also stands to gain from pursuing the elimination of non-tariff barriers of a monetary nature to create an environment that is conducive to the introduction of the single currency within the continent.

"There is need for us to strive for greater convergence in macroeconomic policies that will foster economic integration, growth in trade and poverty alleviation."

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