Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has declared that the transformation in Africa was driven by its ambitious businessmen and women stepping beyond national boundaries to global sphere.
Osinbajo made the declaration at the inaugural Africa Rising lecture of the Harvard University Business School on Tuesday, a release issued by Mr Laolu Akande, the Vice President’s Media Aide, on Wednesday said.
“Africa Rising is as much about improving standards of governance as it is about an increasingly confident youth and civil society.
“It is also about businessmen and women who are stepping beyond national borders and going global,” he stated.
The Vice President delivered the keynote lecture at Batten Hall of the Boston institution on the course “Africa Rising, Understanding Business, Entrepreneurship, and the Complexities of a Continent”.
The event was a gathering of erudite scholars, academics, professionals, faculty, alumni and students of Africa descent.
The Vice President noted that “it appears the political pan-Africanists of old have given way in terms of prominence to the business pan-Africanists.’’
He mentioned such prominent industrialists as Aliko Dangote, Issad Reb Rab, Mike Adenuga, Hakeem Bello-Osagie, the Sawiris owners of Orascom from Egypt, and mining magnate Patrice Motsepe amongst others.
Prof Osinbajo traced the genesis of Africa’s economic turnaround to the last decade of the 20th century and noted that democracy provided the fulcrum for change in the mid-1990s.
He observed that the change was accelerated by “phenomenal rise in Chinese resource bullishness, the commodities boom including new oil and gas discoveries in many African countries, digital technology, mobile telephones and the Internet.”
He explained that the creative ingenuity of Africa’s businessmen and women cut across different sectors of the economy such as in agriculture, telecommunications, manufacturing and ICT.
“We have been seeing the slow but steady maturing of institutions, press and civil society that are boldly taking advantage of the empowering nature of the Internet and an increasingly engaged diaspora.”
Drawing attention to Africa’s phenomenal growth, Osinbajo observed that the continent development experience had thrown up very important lessons.
According to him, one of the lessons is that “economic growth is not sustainable without nation-building, and even of greater importance, state building.
“Many of the ethnic and other parochial tensions that have tended to create insecurity and outright conflict time, and time again are largely as a result of failure to deliberately undertake nation- building efforts.”
Osinbajo highlighted the benefit of discarding the error of African Exceptionalism – the belief that African countries are in some way exempted from the rules by which other countries and continents have succeeded.
He explained that such fallacy claimed that somehow Africa must not be judged by the standards and expectations that apply to other countries.
The Vice President stressed the need for a healthy distrust of purist ideological prescriptions, in favour of a commonsense introduction of markets with a fair balance of state participation or intervention that had shown interesting results.
He posited that “sustainable growth comes from productivity increases in the real sector, which perhaps explains the continued high unemployment in Africa even at 6% growth rates; the ‘jobless’ growth phenomenon.’’
According to Osinbajo Africa cannot afford to underestimate the power of technology to fast-track the continent’s rise.
He noted that emerging technologies had played extraordinary roles in every aspect of the continent’s most touted successes.
He averred that many, including Africans themselves, constantly needed to be reminded that Africa is not a country.
Accordingly, he said that Policy-makers and development partners must understand that what worked in Rwanda or Zambia might not necessarily work in Ghana.
Osinbajo advised African leaders to pursue a people-centered economic model which translates economic growth to an improved standard of living of the average citizens on the continent.
He stated that social safety nets had become imperative, citing the over N500 billion social Investment programmes of the Buhari Presidency, targeting the youth, artisans, market women and the vulnerable in Nigeria.
Before the lecture Osinbajo had interacted with professors at the Law School, Africa Studies Centre, the Business School, the University Marshal as well as Harvard students, among them a good number of Nigerians.
Earlier, Prof. Caroline Elkins of the Harvard Business School hailed Osinbajo’s contributions to legal profession in Africa and his impressive public service career especially during his tenure as Attorney-General of Lagos State
In the Vice President’s delegation were Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.S., Amb. Sylvanus Nsofor, and Nigeria’s Permanent Representative at the UN, Prof. Tijani Bande.