African countries that like to recount abundant resources under their soil have been told to stop sitting on ‘dead capital’ and go out and fight for investments.
The immediate past president of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, who fought for his country’s upward surge in ease of doing business global ranking, has therefore urged Africans to get up and fight for investments into their countries, saying continent could face socio-political rebellion from exploding populations.
Kikwete, guest speaker at the 2017 African Bar Association conference in Port Harcourt hosted by the Rivers State government, pointedly told African leaders; “If you do not invest, you stagnate; except you want someone else to give you food, clothes, and everything you want.”
He told top lawyers from across Africa: “If we cannot attract investments in our various economies, we cannot develop or exploit the ‘abundant resources’ we pride ourselves with. It is dead capital.”
Kikwete, an economist, regrets that Africa continues to get the smallest share of foreign direct investment (FDI) of $59 billion in 2017 rating, whereas Asia grossed $443 billion and the EU closed out $1 trillion. “Even the little that trickles to Africa is to extract natural resources. That is why Africa’s development is very slow; that is why poverty is very high,” he said.
The Tanzanian statesman further regrets that half of African countries is below poverty line when they have 60 percent of world’s uncultivated land mass and abundant mineral resources.
“Dissecting the legal and regulatory framework for doing business in Africa’, he said the problem could primarily be traced to colonialism that shaped African economies to empty into European economies, never designed to be autonomous or sustainable. “For instance, all rail lines were designed to feed raw materials to the coasts without considering inter-ethnic communication or transportation needs,” he said.
He however said blaming the colonial masters is no longer fashionable after 50 years of independence, saying nothing has changed in the way African economies run during colonialism and now. Kikwete however admits that some reforms have taken place in African economies, but it ought to be very rapid to recover lost ground.
He said Africa could become the richest continent if it was not for bad governance, strife and poor economic planning in the face of huge natural resources, saying only one African country, Mauritius, made the top 50 in ‘ease of doing business.’ He bemoaned; “Africa has 54 countries and only one is doing business well, it means that the rest African countries are not getting things right”.
The ex-president said the task before African states is to create peace and political stability needed to steadily attract investments because that is what would change the continent and unveil its potentials to become a wealthy and healthy continent.
He advised presidents to read the global ease of doing business ratings and do something about the 11 areas assessed. He told the audience how Tanzania did badly in 2014, and he raised the matter only for his ministers to say the country was doing well but others were jealous. “I rejected that position, summoned a summit of stakeholders, shared actions and now, Tanzania moved from 139 to 132.”
The Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, chief host and chairman of the local organising committee, said Rivers State was safe and attractive to businesses, reeling out various measures so far taken to make businesses work better.
He however said the essence of the AFBA was to call on them should the state be suppressed in the coming years by the centre.
The alternate chairman of the committee, Ibrahim Eddy Mark, said the presence of the likes of Kikwete marked out the Port Harcourt conference as top class especially by the personal involvement of the state governor, himself a lawyer. He said no untoward happening had occurred in the Garden City despite what he called fabricated bad image of the state.