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African leaders proffer solutions to continent’s industrialisation challenge

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Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda(left); President of Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi; President of Senegal, Macky Sall; The Founder, The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Tony Elumelu;  Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Wife of the Founder, The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Dr. Awele Elumelu; President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame;  Moderator and Host GPS/CNN Presenter, Fareed Zakaria, during the Founder’s Presidential Dialogue held at the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum 2019, the largest gathering of African entrepreneurs, held in Abuja…yesterday

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President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, in Abuja, said that Nigeria had liberalised its energy policy on power generation and distribution to allow investors generate power and sell to willing buyers, as opposed to the old, centralised practice where energy generators were obliged to produce and pool energy in the national grid for distribution nationwide.

He said the latest development was aimed at attracting investment to the sector and encourage industrialisation in the country, noting that African youths possessed enormous talents and strength to transform the continent.

Buhari made the disclosure through Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the 2019 edition of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum where African leaders in politics and business, as well as captains of industry, gathered to discuss and provide workable solutions to the continent’s industrialisation challenge.

In attendance were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Macky Sall of Senegal, Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Prime Minister of Uganda, Ruhakana Rugunda.

They were joined by notable leaders in business, such as the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Prof. Akinwumi Adesina; the Deputy Director-General, European Commission, Koens Doens; President of the Afreximbank Bank, Prof Benedict Orama; and President of Arab Bank for Development, Sidi Ould Tah, among others.

Osinbajo said the new policy was part of measures by the Nigerian government to upgrade her energy supply requirements.

The Vice President hailed the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) for establishing TEEP, saying that the lives and countries of thousands of beneficiaries have been touched in various positive ways. 

He described Africa as a landscape, emboldened by multitudes of young people who are refusing to wallow in self-pity or frustration but have realised that conquering the challenges of their environments was the milestone for outstanding success.

He said: “We have young men and women who have come to understand the transformational power of technology in the 21st century. But our continent continues to be defined by unsavoury and unwholesome stories, which do not often accurately represent the reality of life and opportunity. The people in this room are the perfect and long-awaited counterpoints to those one-dimensional narratives of Africa that have sadly gained ground over the years.

“Outside on the streets of every village, town and city are many more individual embodiments of the potential of Africa. But to change the story, we must fund young entrepreneurs and provide opportunities for capacity building. Our school curriculums must emphasise not just STEM but critical thinking and entrepreneurship. And the promise of entrepreneurship banks must be kept.”

Also speaking at the event, the President of Rwanda, Kagame shared his country’s experience, saying that the first major steps into placing Africa at the top echelon of global business was to positively change the mindset of the younger generation, just as his government has done and got higher rank than Japan in the World Bank’s ease of doing business categorisation. 

He said: “The first thing is to deal with the minds of the people. People will sit back and expect things to happen. It won’t happen. You must work for it. In Rwanda, we looked for ways of doing things differently. We focused on making people understand that development and prosperity are things we must achieve together. 

“So, how much time do we take to do things we must do? If you’ve invested in infrastructure, what follows? That’s why there must be a robust planning and excellent execution of programmes. Remember our country was torn apart by political unrest. But we ensured we saved it, we got united and now, we are moving on the path of progress.”  

President Sall of Senegal said there was an urgent need to counter the perception that the risk level in doing business in Africa is very high in order for the continent to attract relevant offshore investments. 

In his remarks, the President of African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina advocated for the establishment of investment banks by African countries specifically to address youth unemployment and job creation and advised that emphasis should be on investments rather than youth empowerment as is currently the case.

Adesina said banks should see potentials in youth rather than risk by granting them credit to enable them to invest and turn the fortunes of Africa around.

He lamented that the poverty level was still high but said the continent possessed what it takes to change the narrative. 

“Look at the young people, we can’t keep postponing their future into the future. Everybody sees risks among young people. We must change that. We have a growth rate that does not create jobs. Governments are not playing their roles. Poverty is not an asset. 

Sidi Ould Tah, President, Arab Bank for Development said the focus for African leaders should be youth empowerment and evolving enduring partnerships across the continent.

“No country alone can fight poverty in youth and women. It’s about partnership. We should be working on capacity building. It’s paramount,” he said. 

Koens Doens, Deputy Director-General, European Commission said Africans have young entrepreneurial spirit that should be well harnessed. 

“We want to support this enormous spirit with expertise. We’re looking at partnerships for job creation.  We want to heavily invest in vocational programmes and skill development,” he said.

He assured that the Commission would earmark huge funds for TEF to scale up its business and scale-up entrepreneurs. 

The President of Afreximbank Bank, Prof Benedict Oramah harped on establishing and sustaining different levels of cooperation across Africa. 

He called for robust investment in infrastructure and the reorientation of African youths to reflect the realities of the 21st century.

He assured that the Commission would earmark huge funds for TEF to scale up this business and scale-up entrepreneurs. 

Since 2015, the TEF has committed $100 million to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 African entrepreneurs over 10 years.

The entrepreneurship programme aligns with the goals of the African Development Bank, whose Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy aims to support African countries to create 25 million jobs and empower 50 million young people by 2025.


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