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Osinbajo urges Africa, Europe embrace digital economy

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Osinbajo with other world leaders in Vienna

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called Africa and Europe to work together to advance and harvest the economic benefits of digital economy.

Such collaboration, he said, would at the same time prevent a counter-productive widening of the digital gap.

Osinbajo stated today on Tuesday at the Africa-Europe High-Level Forum in Vienna, Austria, which had in attendance other African and European Heads of States.

The meeting, which was organized by the European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) held in Vienna, Austria.

Osinbajo who spoke on ‘Taking cooperation to the digital age’, noted that investments in digital technology could make important contribution to growth and development by fostering productivity gains from continuous innovation.

Nigerians in Vienna meet with Osinbajo

“Given our fast-growing population in Africa, we are, of course, keen to work together to boost the job creation potential of new technologies rather than concentrating on jobs destined to disappear in the digital age.

“Faster growth, sustainable development and job creation are also vital for reducing irregular migration from Africa to Europe. In our globalized world, people can see disparities in standards of living across regions quite easily.

“This means there must be increasing openings for entrepreneurship and jobs in home countries for those who would otherwise embark on risk journeys in search of opportunities. In Nigeria we are taking urgent and practical steps to provide such opportunities for our rapidly increasing youth population.”

Prof. Osinbajo also highlighted the strides made by the Buhari’s administration in developing Nigeria’s technology sector through supporting public-private sector initiatives and the advisory group on technology and creativity.

He noted that the advisory group had been working to build an ecosystem for funding, training, infrastructure and intellectual property protection.

The Vice President added that the country’s Social Investment Programme has been leveraging on technology tools to drive it in its bid to improve the economy and lives of Nigerians.

“Under our social investment programme, 75,000 young people are being trained in coding, software development, hardware maintenance, animation and data management, and we’re set to train another 200,000 young men and women.

“Similarly, we have established 8 technology hubs to support tech startups across our six geopolitical zones and two major cities of Abuja and Lagos.

“We’ve encouraged partnership to establish venture funds to support innovation and are now engaged in talks to establish a $500 million innovation funds with bilateral and multilateral partners.

“We’ll be deploying digital methods and tools on a larger scale to expand learning opportunities for younger Nigerians, as conventional education through brick and mortar institution can no longer be viable given the huge numbers and limited resources.

“Already, 200,000 out of our 500,000 young graduates in our N-Power scheme have tablet devices, which we use for on-the-job training and further skills acquisition. This experience will guide our efforts as we seek to expand digital literacy at earlier stages of education.

“Similarly, our education curriculum is being reworked to emphasize Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. The Arts have been included because of the growing recognition of the strengths of our country, especially in the arts, music, film and literature.”

Osinbajo also highlighted the growth in e-commerce in Nigeria, with references to leading e-commerce platforms that have leveraged on technology to grow their businesses.

He said, “Financial technology is being used in our efforts to rapidly scale up financial inclusion.

“Working with our banks, TELCOs and FinTech companies, we’ve used digital tools and platforms to provide interest-free micro loans to up to 1.3 million Nigerians and about 300,000 received Conditional Cash Transfers by the same means.

“We hire, pay and train online 500,000 young men and women in the largest post-tertiary direct jobs programme in Africa. Through participation in this scheme, present and future beneficiaries would be brought into databases for unique biometric identification.’’

The Vice president also thanked European countries for their support, while calling on other EU member states to partner with Nigeria and Africa to impart skills, raise resources, promote investment and provide infrastructure to build a digital economy.

“I’m optimistic that our efforts would attract strong support and active engagement of our partners in the European Union.

“Indeed, already, we have some good examples of that in the African Digital leaders Training programme, which is a partnership between Ventures Platform of Nigeria and Enterprise Lithuania with funding from the European Union.

“This innovative programme would provide digital skills training for 50 young Nigerians in Lithuania, while at the same time, relieving temporary labour shortage in that country. A reintegration component is also built into the package.

“We have a moment in the history of Europe-Africa relations that can yield tremendous mutual benefits. Let us seize this moment,” he said.

Earlier on Monday night, Osinbajo had an interactive session with the Nigerian community in Austria during a town hall meeting.

At the meeting attended by leading members of the Nigerian community in Vienna, the Vice President commended the work of Nigerians in Diaspora, noting that that the Nigerian community was adding value to the country.

“We very strongly believe that our country can do much better than where we are, we have practically everything that it takes to make the country work.

“In fact we have more than what it takes to make the country do exceedingly well; there is no question about that. But corruption has been the major problem in the country.

He said that Nigeria “must tackle the monster of corruption. There is no country in the world that can survive when its resources are stolen the way our resources were stolen’’.

“It doesn’t really matter how you slice it or describe it, so long as a few people can take government or public resources and do with it as they like, they are not likely to be able to do the basic.”

He also urged Nigerians to continue to support the work of the administration in making the country better through provision of more infrastructure and tackling grand corruption, among other development initiatives.

“Today our country earns 60 per cent less than it earned five years ago, but we have spent N2.7 trillion in two budget cycle in infrastructure, that is the highest in the history of our country,” he said. (NAN)

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Africa speaks

Open Letter to President Joe Biden

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President Joe Biden © The U.S WhiteHouse 

The Legacy Premier Foundation joins the rest of the world in saluting and congratulating you and the amiable Vice President – Madam Kamala Harris, on your outstanding triumph in being elected the 46th President and Vice President of the United State of America. It was an all-round resounding victory that showcased your fruitful political career over the years. It was also incredible to know about your magnanimity in clinching the presidential seat. How beautiful It is to see one who gives so much get rewarded! You are an icon as you have consistently expressed your genuine thoughts, and the electorate has regarded this honorary virtue.

Reiterating the words of Fashina, et al.(2018), their study revealed evidence of a long relationship among economic growth, foreign aid, human capital and other growth determinants namely; real domestic investment, foreign direct investment and trade openness. It is also evident in the study that among other factors considered responsible for economic growth, foreign direct investment and trade openness appeared the most viable for explaining growth attainment in Nigeria as there were more statistically significant factors. On this account, we would trust that you will keep on offering the truly necessary help; support and aid for Africa-oriented programs. Currently, we need a great deal of help in the advancement of Africa development.

Going down memory lane, since the escalation of World War II, there has been a significant development in Africa’s general foreign exchange. The development contrasts well to that of other continents, for example, Latin America. The estimation of imports, notwithstanding, has exceeded exports bringing about an unfavourable lopsided exchange for most African nations. One way to overturn this is through foreign aid and grants.

Over the years, there has been a huge surge in African commodities by and large, and this can be credited to the increment in the demand for essential commodities during World War II and in the prompt post-war refurbishment period. Thus, the fulfilment of independence by most African nations, particularly in the mid-1960s was trailed by an offer for economic development that is fortified by the export-expansion drive.

Another wholesome reason for the rather slow growth in African exports is the perseverance of the present circumstance that has been essential for the explanation of the economies of numerous African countries.

To salvage this, the African Union has launched the operational phase of the Africa Continental Trade Area (AfCFTA), which could become the world’s largest trade area, going by number of participating nations, once it’s fully operational. Nigeria is on the verge of developing a national AfCFTA strategy. In Nigeria today, we have the road, maritime and air transport options well utilised, but the railways would have an edge over the others when the trading bloc starts operations because of its relatively lower costs. Nigeria therefore is positioning itself to take very good advantage of these policies to come.

After years of talks, the end goal is to determine one marketplace for goods and services across the 54 African countries, allowing the free movement of business travelers and investments, and making a continental union to streamline trade; which thereby attracts long-term investment.

There is also the “African Growth and Opportunity Act,” (AGOA) which has been the foundation of U.S. monetary commitment in the last twenty years, with the nations of Sub-Saharan Africa and has assisted with expanding two-path exchange between the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa.

AGOA builds on existing US trade programs by expanding the (duty-free) benefits previously available only under the country’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) program. Duty-free access to the U.S. market under the combined AGOA/GSP program stands at approximately 6,500 product tariff lines, including the tariff lines that were added by the AGOA legislation. Notably, these newly added “AGOA products” include items such as apparel and footwear, wine, certain motor vehicle components, a variety of agricultural products, chemicals, steel and many others.

In conclusion, we see that the agreement will expire by 2025, but we want to see to it that this applaudable act is extended further to help bolster economic development in the whole of the Africa continent.

For this, we humbly request for aids and policies targeted towards trade openness, laxity on stringent policies against migration and support on democratic practice that will enhance human capital and socioeconomic development on the continent. We also offer you our wholehearted partnership in your future works, and we expect your tenure achievement to be all-encompassing and all-reaching.

This wouldn’t just imbue more credibility to your governance, it will be a far-reaching policy towards igniting hope in the heart of the African populace.

We look forward to meaningful collaborations through our organization, Legacy Premier Foundation – a global intergenerational non-profit organization committed to empowering and developing underserved communities through human capital and socio-economic empowerment.

We remain open to a meet and greet opportunity with your team.

God bless the President
God Bless Madam Vice President
God bless the United States of America

Signed: Dr Remi Duyile, Legacy Premier Foundation Management

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What’s Happening To Democracy In Africa?

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Yoweri Museveni and Bobi Wine (Source: PML Daily)

Nobody was genuinely surprised that Uganda’s Electoral Commission declared the incumbent, 76-year-old Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) the winner of the country’s violent Presidential ballot. It was a forgone conclusion. The victory is Museveni’s sixth since fighting his way to power in 1986. Although his 35-year rule has been extended, this time around the desperate groans for change were felt across the entire world.

African leaders have a long history of using violence and fear against political opponents. At the time of writing, Bobi Wine, Uganda’s 38-year-old musician turned formidable political opponent, is under house arrest. Wine insists that the election was rigged against him and his life is under threat. Many of his supporters and close political allies have been tortured and detained by the country’s security forces. After his arrest in November at least 54 people died following protests. This is taking place all under the watchful gaze of the media, the United Nations and the African Union. At one point Museveni ordered the shutdown of the internet. 

2021 will be a busy political season for the African continent with more than 13 countries heading to the polls to elect new leaders. The invasion of the Capitol and the legacy of President Donald Trump is proof that Africa can no longer look outside of its borders for positive influence. Constitutional change, fair elections, independent courts and free media is fundamental if Africa is to truly govern itself. Without these basic pillars of a democracy, civil war is the inevitable outcome.

Somalia 

Presidential Election
February 8th 

Incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed will face former president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. The threat of political violence still lingers as the tensions among key parties remain high and electoral preparations are lagging.

Niger

Presidential Election
February 21st 

Former prime minister Mohammed Bazoum of the ruling party will go head-to-head with former president Mahamane Ousmane. Niger is attempting its first peaceful transfer of power since gaining independence from France 60 years ago.

Republic of Congo

Presidential Election
March 21st 

The President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, who is one of the world’s longest-serving leaders is seeking a fourth term. His challengers include Mathias Dzon, who is the former Minister of Finance between 1997-2002 and Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, who came second in the highly contested 2016 presidential election that Sassou Nguesso won. Congo is an oil-rich but impoverished country. It is in the grip of a deep economic crisis, triggered by the slump in oil prices but worsened by long-standing debt and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cabo Verde

Legislative Election, March
Presidential Election, October

President Jorge Carlos Fonseca is stepping down in 2021 following the conclusion of his second and constitutionally limited five-year term.

Chad

Presidential Election, April 1
Legislative Election, October 24

President Idriss Déby is seeking his sixth term in office, having previously overseen the removal of term limits in 2005 and then their restoration in 2018—though they are not to be applied retroactively. The 68-year-old former military leader came to power in 1990 following the toppling of the despotic Hissan Habré. 

Djibouti

Presidential Election, April

Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of the small but strategically vital country of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, announced in late December he would be running for a fifth term in presidential elections this April.

Benin

Presidential Election, April 11

Benin will hold its presidential election on April 11, 2021, the country’s election commission announced Tuesday. The first round of the election will take place on April 11 in the West African nation, the Independent Election Commission said in a statement. A second round will be held on May 9 if none of the candidates passed the 50% threshold, the commission added. Although current President Patrice Talon said that when he was elected for the first time in 2016, he would remain in the government for only one term, his candidacy for a second term is seen as almost certain.

Ethiopia

Parliamentary Elections, June 5

Ethiopia will hold a parliamentary election on June 5 as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed seeks to quell political and ethnic violence in several regions. Abiy’s Prosperity Party, a pan-Ethiopian movement he founded a year ago, faces challenges from increasingly strident ethnically based parties seeking more power for their regions. Africa’s second most populous nation has a federal system with 10 regional governments, many of which have boundary disputes with neighbouring areas or face low-level unrest.

São Tomé and Príncipe

Presidential Election, July 31

President Evaristo Carvalho is seeking his second 5-year term in presidential elections in July. Carvalho was previously prime minister, president of the national assembly, and minister of defence. São Tomé and Príncipe enjoys a competitive multiparty democracy and a history of peaceful transfer of power between parties. The 2021 elections are expected to be freely contested and transparent.

Zambia

Presidential and Legislative Elections, August 12

Presidential elections will be held in August 2021. The election will be the sixth (and, he says, last) attempt by opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development to win the presidency. Hichilema was the business-friendly candidate in 2016 who campaigned on fixing the then struggling economy.

The Gambia

Presidential Election, December 4

The Gambia’s upcoming elections will be the first since Yahya Jammeh lost power in 2017. President Adama Barrow’s first term has largely been about rebuilding after more than 20 years of Jammeh’s rule. This mammoth task requires reforming every sector of the country, not least of which the economy and the security sector and finding avenues for the country’s youthful population. 

Libya

Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, December 24

In November 2020, Libyan politicians convened by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to sketch out a plan to reunify the country agreed that Libya would have elections on December 24, 2021—the 70th anniversary of Libyan independence in 1951.

By: Juliana Olayinka (Broadcast Journalist)

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Coronavirus and Societal Inequality- Nonny Ugboma

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Coronavirus image: credit politico

In reflecting on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world, there is a huge realisation that  the world has reached a critical juncture and  there is a harsh wake-up call of the impact of in-country inequality both in  advanced and developing nations.

The massive gap between the haves and  have-nots may  have exacerbated  the havoc caused by  the spread of the coronavirus! This means that we can no longer ignore, what is arguably, the worst global crisis–societal inequality.

Interestingly, inequality is not a problem found in the global south alone as it has also been growing in advanced countries like the UK and USA since the 1980s. In the USA in 2018, the total income of the top 10% is 1.8 times more than the total income of the bottom 40%, according to the Palma ratios published in the OECD report on inequality.  The figure for the UK was  1.6 in 2018.

The inequality statistics is even more alarming in the global south with the total income of South Africa’s top 10% being 7 times more than the bottom 40% as at 2015. It will be interesting to know what the 2020 figures would be across the globe.

So, solving the inequality crisis should be governments’ priority in 2021 and beyond. The pandemic has already shown that the state of our collective health can only be as strong as the weakest link– the very low income group – and that this monstrous virus does not care about income brackets or status as everyone is a qualified host.

When it comes to exposure to the virus, the fact is, in addition to front-line health workers, low-income earners are also exposed and are more likely to be transmission vectors because they are key to the provision of essential services as cleaners, cashiers, waiters, couriers, and drivers to name a few.

The bottom line is that we are all vulnerable because these essential members of our society come into contact with people at different levels of society and they are faced with choices that touch every stratum!  For instance, whilst the extremely rich and middle-income professionals are able to take time off, to work from home or self-isolate, the lower income group, usually hourly-paid or zero-hour workers, cannot afford to stay home because without work they will not be paid, and without pay they cannot provide for themselves or their families. The implication is that they are more likely to put themselves and others at risk.

However, we note that the level of devastation of this virus in Sub-Saharan Africa has not been as pundits had expected with these countries’ high poverty rates and poor health systems. Experts are speculating that, paradoxically, it appears that these harsh conditions may have helped insulate the mostly young population from dying from Covid-19. Nevertheless, this does not mean that inequality in Africa is not negatively affecting the transmission in the poorer countries.

On the contrary. Residents of developing countries like Nigeria should be a lot more concerned because they live in extremely connected and linked societies. The more resilient and asymptomatic poor  are often in close contact with the working class and affluent as they are employed as cooks, domestic workers, drivers and artisans. Also, no matter how isolated people keep their domestic workers, they eventually have to come in contact with others in the markets ,the over-crowded public transportation systems or poor housing facilities.

The resultant effect of the inter-connectedness of the different levels of the society is that the elderly, as well as those who lead more insulated lifestyles with various underlying health matters are more vulnerable and more likely to develop serious symptoms and complications. Furthermore, the number of existing public health facilities are not adequate to handle the treatment and private facilities are too expensive thereby resulting in more deaths for this group of the society. 

Therefore, it can no longer be business as usual because the more unequal the society continues to be, the more unsafe it will be for the rich in all aspects! Governments, especially in developing countries, should see this as a wake-up call to rethink policies to address inequality in the long-term,  not just by providing short-term reliefs. Instead of focusing on growth indices, governments would need to work collaboratively with the private sector and other sectors in a mission-oriented approach to build public infrastructure and to ensure the establishment of more inclusive institutions and systems that sustainably create social value.

Author: Nonny Ugboma – Executive Secretary at MTN Foundation

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