A former Vice President of the World Bank and ex-Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, says if the Federal Government will lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty and hardship, then there is a need for policymakers to devise means to grow the economy at a minimum of seven per cent per annum.
Ezekwesili said Nigerians must “disrupt” the current economic development strategy, noting that the strategy had failed to deliver better living standards for the citizens.
The former World Bank vice president spoke as a guest speaker at the fifth anniversary lecture of Realnews Magazine in Lagos on Thursday.
She spoke on the topic, ‘African leadership in a turbulent era’.
“We must grow at the rate of at least seven per cent per annum in order to lift our citizens out of poverty,” she stated.
According to Ezekwesili, there is a need for an economic development strategy that is anchored on human capital, adding that the time had come for Nigeria and other African countries to stop making export commodities the basis of their economic development strategy.
She stated, “This is a momentous period for Nigeria and other African countries. Crude oil, copper, gold, platinum and other export commodities must not be the basis of our economic development.
“Sound policies, efficient institutions and the right investment mix are required for our development as a country. In this development framework, leadership is essential. In the turbulent 21st century, you cannot find technological solution to the absence of good leadership. Robotics, artificial intelligence, among others, cannot substitute for the failure of leadership. Leadership deficit has rendered Africa powerless.”
The former minister advised policymakers that in the face of failure, there was a need to admit and review strategies in order to come up with reforms that would impact the people positively.
Aside effective policies, she noted that Nigeria and African countries needed to build strong institutions and make investments in public goods for the good of the people.
She added, “When you have good leaders, they know that resources are scarce and will always never be enough. As a result, they make effective and efficient investments in public goods and not award contracts to cronies.
“They ensure that public goods are delivered to individuals and businesses. They spend their scarce resources better and leverage better sources of investment.”
Citing the example of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Ezekwesili said her generation knew him as a hero but wondered how the Zimbabwean leader had turned himself to “a locust.”
“Mugabe became a locust to his country; look at his tragic end,” she added.
“A disrupted Africa with a different mind-set of leadership will solve human problems better. We have been comfortable with dismal performance of leadership. Africa needs accountable leadership in a time of turbulence. Leaders of African countries need character, competence and capacity,” Ezekwesili concluded.
The Chairman of the programme, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, said the lecture was coming at a time countries of the world, including those in Africa, were passing through turbulent economic and political times.
He, therefore, highlighted the need for leaders to come up with appropriate policies and strategies to turn things around.