Again, Nigeria missing at WEF meetings in Durban
Nigeria is again missing at the meetings of the World Economic Forum on Africa, holding in the South African port city of Durban and the absence of the government of the continent’s largest economy is both troubling and puzzling to senior business and government leaders gathered there.
The embarrassing absence of the Nigerian government was the topic of discussion by delegates Thursday morning, as host president Jacob Zuma led another ten heads of state, including controversial Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Museveni of Uganda.
There is a large Nigerian private sector delegation but the absence of any government minister at the meeting is quite telling, as the meetings near a close.
From the many plenary sessions to the side meetings, including panel discussions, Nigeria’s place is either taken by a businessman or is left unattended.
The effect of the government absence means no one is speaking officially for Nigeria and even when worrying comments are made about Nigeria, they go unexplained or unanswered.
At the opening plenary on Wednesday, the point was made several times that Nigeria is witnessing a devastating famine in the North East. It was such a massive slur but no one spoke for Nigeria, leaving people wondering how a nation pumping out 2 million barrels of oil daily cannot feed her people.
At another session on the sideline of the meetings, another slur by way of growing complains about Chinese business people in Nigeria who see themselves as ATMs because of frequent attacks and extortion. Again there was no one to speak for Nigeria.
At key panel discussions on Nigeria and South Africa on Wednesday evening, there was no Nigerian government Minister in the room. Of the five panelists, Nigeria’s slot was taken by a private equity CEO, while South Africa had all its four slots taken by a strong representation.
At a McKinsey sponsored meeting on the growing Chinese presence and impact in Africa on Thursday morning, South Africa and Kenya had several government ministers in attendance but once again, there was not one government minister in the room.
The last time a Nigerian leader attended the WEF meetings in Africa was in 2013 when the country was campaigning to host the meetings. Once it secured the host in Abuja, the Nigerian government pulled back.
Zuma is unsurprisingly taking full advantage of his country’s attractions as a good host for the WEF meetings, and he ventured Thursday morning as he addressed the plenary, to boast that South Africa was hosting the meetings on the behalf of the rest of Africa.
He took time to speak about Nigeria-South African relations saying it was time both countries prioritised the crucial work required to move the whole of the continent forward.
Zuma and his colleagues who were at Thursday’s session heard time and time again, how leaders of the continent were failing to deliver democracy dividends to their people and that this was to blame for the rising youth unrest in much of Africa.
Zuma spoke of driving a radical economic transformation to take African economies on the path to inclusive growth. “As leaders, we have not addressed adequately how we are going to close the gap between the rich and the poor,” admitted the president. Intra-Africa trade and regional integration are a high priority. Investing in infrastructure remains top of the agenda, to ease the movement of goods, people and service across Africa. Work to “soften” borders between countries – often imposed by outsiders looking to divide and rule – will further boost integration
To succeed will require mobilising sufficient financing. Africa must develop local capital markets and raise domestic resources through more-effective taxation. More important, however, is “to arrest illicit financial flows,” said Zuma, who added: “Billions are taken out of Africa each year and this is money that should be used to fund our development.”
Africa’s youth are impatient for change and have been very clear in calling for leaders to address exclusion, poverty and unemployment, said South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, addressing the 27th World Economic Forum on Africa. “For us to move forward,” said Zuma, “we need that energy, we need that imagination” which young people bring.
However, to meet the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will require skills as well as energy. Zuma acknowledged that Africa has many young people who possess qualifications but are not easily employable. They lack the “scarce” skills needed to deal with rapid technological change. Given slow global growth, unemployment among young people looms as an enormous issue. As a result, “education is project number one in our country,” said Zuma, but government needs business, unions and civil society to help create bridges for young people to enter the job market.
Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, identified the crisis of leadership as a common theme across the world. He called on Africa’s older generation of leaders to act as role models for the younger generation. Schwab listed the three key values of a leader shared with him by Nelson Mandela: to respect human dignity and diversity, to serve the community you belong to and not your self-interest, and to act as a trustee for future generations.
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