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Elumelu says Covid-19 Presents Opportunity to Reset Africa

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·   Advocates Martial Plan to Boost Electricity And Ease Debt Burden

·    Wants Youths Prioritised as SMEs are Empowered

The Chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, Tony Elumelu, has stated that the Coronavirus Pandemic currently ravaging the world presents an opportunity to reset the African continent so that Africans can be empowered to become more productive and self reliant. He said this today at the high-level Roundtable discussions made up of African leaders including Dr. Ngozi Okonjo – Iweala, the Special Envoy of the African Union on Covid-19 and Tidjane Thiam who is also a Covid-19 Special Envoy responsible for mobilising international economic support for Africa.

 

During the session titled ‘Resilient World: An African call for a new world order’, Elumelu stated “I see this pandemic as an opportunity to reset Africa.’ Whilst pointing out that Africa as a continent has all it takes to emerge into a strong digital economy, the UBA Group Chairman advocated a martial plan that will galvanise the entire continent and make Africa less dependent on the ‘circularity of debt’ from developed nations, which according to him, has been a major setback for decades.

 

He said, “I feel that as we engage the rest of the world in providing relief, we need to look for a more fundamental solution to Africa’s challenges. I have often argued for a martial plan overtime. We need to mobilise everyone. If we have a martial plan that mobilises resources to address particular issues, then we can mitigate against this constant begging for assistance.”

 

Explaining further, Elumelu pointedly said, “The truth is that we have resources to help mobilise people. As the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, we committed to endow $100m to support young African entrepreneurs and we have been seeing the positive results this has yielded so far. It is evident that if we can fix access to electricity, ensure stability of the macro-economic environment, ensure prioritisation of the youth, empower our small and medium scale enterprises and fix youth migration, then we are in for a better and more resilient economy’. “There is the urgent need to prioritise our youths and empower our SMEs. The people who work hard need to be encouraged,” Elumelu noted passionately.

 

Tidjane Thiam who supported what Elumelu had proposed, said that rather than depend on international assistance at every point, there is the need for governments and institutions to invest in activities that will prioritise the youths and create a better enabling environment. 

 

“I totally agree with Tony Elumelu. The major challenge is that we do not see enough entrepreneurs. Similar to what obtains in Asia and Europe, there is the need to promote a class of Entrepreneurs to drive the African economy.  we need to groom more Tony Elumelus’ from Africa’ he said. Tidjane continued, ‘We know what needs to be done. We need government and multinational institutions to bring in capital so that there will be investment in health, infrastructure and the like. We do need to get rid of this debt cycle because constant rescheduling and begging for relief for debts is not good for us as a continent,” Thiam said.

 

Okonjo-Iweala, on her part, called for a system where youths and women will be empowered to create and produce more to boost the African economy.

Whilst calling on private and government parastatals to engage in meaningful partnerships that will help to galvanise job creation and entrepreneurship among youths in Africa, she said, “As Tony pointed out, we can see this pandemic as an opportunity for the continent. We have the African Free Trade Agreement, and we have to make it real. 

 

“We have to specialise our countries to manufacture the things we need so we can trade with others. We need to produce good jobs for our young people. We need to empower our women and youths and put them at the centre. It is said that Africa would have the largest number of youths in the world by 2050, so we need to fix this,” she noted.

 

The roundtable which was organised by the New York Forum Institute, also had in attendance African Heads of States including President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger; President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya; President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire; President Macky Sall of Senegal and President Julius Bio of Sierra Leone;

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Photos: Orji Kalu Released From Prison…

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Orji Kalu, former governor of Abia state, has been released from prison.

Awa Kalu, his senior counsel, confirmed Kalu’s release to TheCable on Wednesday night.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned Kalu and Ude Jones Udeogu, a former director of finance and account of Abia state on 36 counts of money laundering to the tune of N7.1 billion and they were jailed in December.

On May 8, the supreme court nullified the trial of Kalu’s co-convict.

The apex court held that Mohammed Idris, the trial judge who had been elevated to the court of appeal at the time of the case, ought not to have presided over the matter while he was an appeal court judge.

On Tuesday, a federal high court in Lagos ordered the release of Kalu.

Below are photos of Kalu leaving the prison:

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AfDB crisis: Surprises ahead in boardroom voting power

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—Africa shoots self in the foot

—Only thing worse than being ignored by the US is being noticed by the US‭ ‬

A fresh angle emerged over the weekend about a possible loophole that exists in the voting power arrangement at the African Development Bank (AfDB) that could easily play regional shareholders into the hands of non-regional members should the current United States push actually means Washington wants the bank President, Akinwumi Adesina, out of office.

Many in diplomatic circles, who told Business A.M. they were following developments, think this may be the ultimate goal. But how the United States succeeds in achieving this goal can be seen in how, over the time, the voting power between regional and non-regional shareholders has closed up.

As at December 31, 2019, the distribution of voting power among the regional and non-regional executive directors of the bank was in the ratio of 3 to 2. Regional executive directors had 3,836,605 votes, representing 58.784 per cent, while the non-regional executive directors had 2,689,959 votes or 41.216 per cent.

People familiar with the situation told Business A.M. that even when there are no misgivings, when a powerful shareholder like the United States has an agenda to pursue the diplomatic horse-trading is often fierce.

One source in London put it bluntly: “Would you want to be on the wrong side of President Trump?” He asked, in reference to how such a diplomatic horse trading could play out should the US press some regional shareholders to take its position.

The fact that the US has taken an interest in the matter at the AfDB is something that Business A.M. learnt makes the situation bad as it is. “I’ve always thought the only thing worse than being ignored by the US is being noticed by the US,” the source said.

But the real battle that lies ahead will be in the boardroom, given the voting power equation. As someone said, “the fate of Akinwumi Adesina is not in the hand of African countries but foreign investors.”

But while the ordeals of the President Adesina evokes sympathy, it appears a lot of voices in his support, either from his home country Nigeria, or from other African countries, as shown in media reports over the weekend, have dwelled more on African sentiments than looking at more potent issues that could ultimately determine the direction of events after the moment when the frenzy of supports gets to saturation point.

“In corporate governance, noise is different from facts. Whether the defenders of the embattled AfDB President know it or not, the real battle is more in the boardroom and the ultimate determinants are numbers. In this case, the numbers will play up in a number of ways, one of which is the voting powers of countries,” explained a Lagos-based diplomat.

Nigeria as the largest shareholder has 9.3 per cent voting power. It is followed by the United States which has 6.6 per cent voting power. Others with significant voting powers are Japan (5.4%); Germany (4.2%); Canada (4%); France (3.7%); Italy (2.4%); U.K (1.7%); Sweden (1.5%); Switzerland (1.5%);

Apart from Egypt with 5.4%, South Africa with 4.9%, Algeria with 4.2%, the rest of 8 African nations from Cote d’Ivoire to Kenya have nominal status from 3%-1% voting power.

The vulnerability of most African regional member countries can thus be seen from the table. And when it comes to wielding powers, guess where the pendulum would swing and what factors would sway the vulnerable and the weak to the side of the strong.

And if the US, rightly or wrongly accused of orchestrating the crisis, decides to exit the AfDB, might there be an exodus of other non-regional members? In the unlikely event that this happens, what is the future of the bank? Will it remain afloat or go bankrupt? What will be history of the bank in ten years’ time, should this happen: that the bank ran into financial crisis while regional members try to save one helmsman?

There are insinuations that, post-COVID-19, China might step up its regional interests in Africa. If those interests extend to financial institutions, it will be one of the most egregious mistakes to give China any greater leverage in AfDB than it currently has, even if the motive is to spite the US. The experiences of countries in Europe recently should be a good guide as they are insisting that the stakes of China in their businesses must be kept to the barest minimum.

The question that comes to the fore is this: Is Africa now trying to have it both ways? So, if any of them raise any objection, would they be heard?

How did Africa get here after setting up a bank, then they gifted it to Asia, Middle East, Europe and America? And, what would other countries think of Africa’s reactions to the US?

One analyst said: “I really don’t know enough of the details. But, big picture, especially at this moment, financing in Africa in general and the ADB in particular needs this kind of on-going controversy over governance and transparency like a hole in the head. An internal inquiry, however exhaustive, was never going to have the credibility of an independent probe.”

The future image and credibility of the bank is very important. And external inquest would help in burnishing, not tarnishing, that image. If disallowed, a dark cloud of aspersion may hang precariously and dangerously on the bank for a long term as a bank where public confidence doesn’t matter so much as insiders’ judgment. It may affect the ratings of the bank henceforth and the prospects of getting more funds raised from countries outside Africa. The desperately needed development may therefore suffer needless setback.

So where is this heading to right now? “Well… three weeks is a long time in ADB politics. But it’s not good for Adesina, if only to have failed to prevent it reaching this point,” said one diplomatic source.

 

  • Business AM

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COMMUNIQUÉ ON FIVE YEARS OF BUHARI: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

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The leadership of New Nigeria Collective (NNC), a non- government, non-profit making organisation, yesterday, at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, reviewed the state of the nation, coming at a time the federal government marked its fifth year in office and the first of the second term of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The NNC noted without biases, the weight of the challenges that are currently besetting governments at all levels in the country and concluded that while the room for improvements and inexcusable delivery of promises palpably points to itself, it has not been a poor journey after all, especially, if the situations in other climes are factored into account side-by-side with the current global health challenge, the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was against this backdrop and the growing malcontents amongst a majority of Nigerians, that the NNC objectively dissected the Buhari administration and clearly pointed out THE GOOD, THE BAD and THE UGLY markers that have become the talking points in the last five years.
The NNC also noted without reservation that its resolve to look at the last five years of the administration in totality as against the last one year was borne out of the reality that countries have been challenged significantly by Covid-19 in the last few months, some dating back to late last year.
To that extent, no genuine assessment could be based on the last one year of the administration, when evidently something else had taken attention away from the familiar good governance and the development of the nation. It’s therefore safe for both the government and the people to look at the administration holistically.
Thus, the NNC, at its NEC observed the following:
1. That the response of the Government to the Covid-19 pandemic has been commendable, particularly its successful handling of the same contrary to some of the predictions of doom and gloom by both the local and international observers/experts. The NNC alo noted with a sense of appreciation and motivation, the dedication, commitment and honesty of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who as the chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, has led the nation thus far and successfully so. Mr. Mustapha is a positive example of a public servant.
2. That the recent reductions in the pump prices of petroleum products by the administration three times in a row following the slump in the global price of crude oil was a good move, which spoke to the sensitivity of the government to the plight of the people. The NNC equally commended the recent removal of subsidy from petroleum products as a result of the changing global indices, despite its dwindling fortunes.
4. That the NNC recalled that upon resumption of office of the administration, the economy was plunged into recession but that through conscious, critical and tough choices, as well as positive thinking, the administration survived and crawled out of recession and consequently, stabilised the economy.
5. That the NNC collectively stated that whilst the administration might not have achieved much in terms of economic gains, it sure has put the nation on a better pedestal as far as infrastructure development is concerned in spite of earning less compared to the previous administrations. The NNC
alluded to the nationwide railway construction, the 2nd Niger Bridge, repairs and conspicuous rehabilitation of major expressways in the six geopolitical zones as well as the evident developments in the aviation sector.
6. That the NNC commended the recent financial autonomy granted state Houses of Assemblies and the Judiciary. This, the NNC, contended would go a long way in charting a completely different path, not only for the present crop of office holders, but for democracy to thrive better.
7. That the NNC applauded the synergy amongst the three arms of government. Unlike what obtained in the past, the three arms of government not only work together now, they are consistently looking in the same directions in nation’s interest, notwithstanding some of the misgivings that have attended this rare camaraderie.
8. That the NNC further noted the recent financial autonomy granted local government administrations in the country, thus liberating them from the claws and undue interference from state governments
9. That the NNC took judicial notice of the repeated bailouts of states in financial distress. That the Ministry of Budget and Planning, with the cooperation of the National Assembly, has successfully returned the budget to the January to December cycle is worthy of note, as it now allows for prompt response and planning by those whose activities are directly and indirectly affected by the budget.
10. That the NNC described the developments in the Agriculture sector as mind-blowing, noting also that the school feeding programme of the government is a plus that cannot be shoved aside. That for the first time in the history of the nation, people now consume locally produced goods, while local farmers now have gains through government initiatives in agriculture.
However, while pondering some of the downsides of the administration in the last five years, the NNC noted as follow:
1. That the government must address the allegation of lack of transparency in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. That it would be irresponsible to let it slide.
2. That the government should be wary of its constant borrowings for projects that do not have commercial values or that can adequately guarantee a smooth repayment plan, including the cost of servicing the loans.
3. That the NNC noted with disappointment, the constant rivalry amongst some of the inter-governmental agencies, citing the recent drama that attended a disagreement between the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami and the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa. The development, it said, was reprehensible.
4. That the NNC noted the unceasing insecurity, particularly, the unabated killings in the northern part of the country. While noting the efforts of the security agencies to stem the tide, NNC noted that the situation requires more deliberate actions to stamp the scourge out of the system.
5. That the NNC observed as a low point in the life of the administration, the seeming redundancy of Vice President Yemi Osibajo. The NNC is of the view that the vice-president has a lot to offer and should be deployed to better use. The group also alluded to the alleged nepotism of the administration and advised an appointment spread that typifies Nigeria’s differences as a social entity.
6. That the NNC recognised some of the frustrations and disappointments of the people on some of the actions and inactions of the administration. It, however, solicited support for the government since its failure or success is a brunt that all would bear at the end of the day.

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