An International Consultant/Special Adviser on Investment, Diaspora and Development Partners to the Africa Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU COSOCC Nigeria), Mrs. Chinwe Maduike, in this interview with journalists in Abuja speaks on effort by the AU Council to harness diaspora resources to drive investment on the continent. Adelola Amihere was there:
As an adviser to AU on investment and diaspora, what are some of the areas you will be focusing on?
We have got initiatives and projects designed to sustain economic progress in Nigeria and Africa as a whole with my core area of work largely focusing on: investments, diaspora matters, strengthening and forging new strategic alliance with developmental partners. All projects will be designed in line with Agenda 2063 which is a strategic framework for the socio- economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.
How do you intend to help the council tackle the various social vices pledging Africa youth?
Africa has the largest youth population of the world. According to the United Nations, 226 million youth aged 15-24 lived in Africa in 2015 representing nearly 20% of Africa’s population, making up one fifth of the world’s youth population. The continent’s youthful population presents a powerful opportunity for accelerated economic growth and innovation.
However, as a consultant, I do recognise the fact that this demographic also presents economic and social challenges. Unemployment or underemployment, and lack of social security, educational opportunities and inclusive governance can drive youth to informal or even criminal activities, making them susceptible to recruitment efforts of terrorist organisations, or lead youth to attempt illegal migration. At present, the African Union ECOSOCC has seen an unparalleled improvement and leadership in the area of youth advocacy through the sterling leadership of its present chairman and country rep. A world renowned seasoned youth advocate.
The AU ECOSOCC through his leadership, are very aware of the fact that a youth population without opportunity can lead to political instability and security challenges.
To address this issue, we are working with African governments on effective policies and measures which are critical to harness the benefits of the potential demographic dividend. To date, the AU ECOSOCC has assisted various African governments to implement sound policies and projects in human capital sectors such as tertiary education, vocational training, skills development, agriculture and food security, health, labour intensive job creation and encouraging entrepreneurship, as well as peace and security.
In addition, African governments need support from a wide range of international partners and stakeholders as the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved without the active engagement and contribution of Africa’s youth to identify their priorities, partner with development partners to foster robust implementation of the various development priorities.
Bearing this in mind, the first steps towards implementation progress has been registered at both regional and global levels, with the formulation of two ambitious, holistic agendas: Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the African Union Agenda 2063 with its corresponding First Ten-Year Implementation Plan. Both agendas bring youth issues into sharp focus. In particular, Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063 states that Africa wants: “An Africa, whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth.”
Furthermore, the theme of the 28th African Union Summit in January 2017 called for “Harnessing Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth”. All major development activities across the continent were focused on harnessing youth potential to drive forward Africa’s transformative agenda. This was coupled with the declaration of the decade 2010-2019 as the Africa Youth Decade to accelerate youth empowerment and development.
The office of African Union – ECOSOCC Nigeria, continues to support youth empowerment in Africa through its advocacy efforts. We are reaching out and engaging international partners and organisations to provide a platform for African youth to raise awareness of the challenges they face, as well as to discuss ways to strengthen African youth participation in global, regional, national and local governance processes.
Agriculture is the new focus in Africa, especially Nigeria, are you also looking toward this sector?
Agriculture is Nigeria’s single largest and a key economic sector. In 2016, agriculture accounted for 24.4% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, the value chain is highly underdeveloped. We have a number of AU ECOSOCC projects which seek to address this particular problem.
AU ECOSOCC, recognises the fact that most raw materials from the sector are exported without any value addition, resulting in loss of huge revenues and jobs. Massive investments are also required to increase production and create value addition in the sector. Our ongoing projects is aimed at addressing this through the help of key, government ministries, international partners and experts in the agricultural field.
Agricultural value chains hold considerable promise in reducing poverty and promoting inclusive growth when the poor and other marginal groups participate in them. Under the right conditions, value chains can move smallholder farmers from subsistence into commercial agriculture. Our projects aim to achieve self-sufficiency and deepen diversification, increasing private sector participation, the quality and safety standards of agricultural products, improving institutional and financial frameworks, promoting national policies that support the agricultural sector; by reducing barriers to inputs, increasing access to finance and providing incentives, creating an enabling environment and improving market access through capacity building and training inputs.
Critics are of the view that Africa should shun handouts from donors and international community but should leverage on its diaspora members to drive investment in Africa, what is your take on this?
Aids to us in Africa, has largely resulted in programmes that stimulate local economies and subsequently reduce aid dependency. The provision of foreign assistance to us, from the West, has at times in Africa, made us develop a culture of dependency on our donors and fostered paternalism as opposed to partnerships with the West. This I must stress is very bad.
In today’s world, African governments must identify priorities, define, and implement them and not be reactionary to the politics of the West. Our government’s need to take this opportunity to scale up policies that engage diaspora’s spur democracy, thus creating the enabling environment for diasporas and investors to build prosperity in Africa through concrete priorities such as job creation, regional integration, and economic engagement and effective engagement of diaspora communities.
Diasporas can and must be engaged to promote trade and foreign direct investment, create businesses and spur entrepreneurship, and transfer new knowledge and skills if properly engaged. To date, remittances and investments by the diaspora are the main source of funding for diaspora-led development. Foreign direct investment by the diaspora is also becoming a substantial economic driver, particularly in countries like Nigeria and the African Continent and this cannot be ignored. Rather it must be harnessed.
According to the World Bank, diaspora can facilitate investment between origin and ‘host’ countries through access to information on investment opportunities and knowledge about the potential risks/benefits. African governments must seek and actively do more to remove obstacles and create opportunities for diasporas to engage in economic development.