Keynote Address by Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, at the Georgetown Africa Business Conference 2018 (GTABC2018). Washington D.C., USA

PROTOCOLS.
1. A very good morning to you all. Let
me start by thanking the organizers of
the Georgetown Africa Business
Conference for the opportunity to be
part of this conversation, which I see
as crucial to the social and economic
development of Africa. My thanks also
to Banze Nadia Ilunga, the GTABC
Head of Content, for inviting me to
deliver this keynote address on ‘ The
African Value Chain: Harnessing Local
Talent and Opportunity’ . It was
important for me to come and share
ideas with like minds, not least
because Georgetown’s active
promotion of dialogue across
communities – as well as its fostering
of greater understanding in the world
– have become that much more
central to achieving peace and
development in today’s world.
2. Permit me to observe that our
gathering is in some way a reflection
of the changing attitudes towards the
continent. It used to be the case that
when those in the West thought of
Africa, all they conjured up were
images of conflicts, epidemics and
despots. While we still have reports of
conflicts and outbreak of disease on
CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera, we also
now have programs like ‘ Inside Africa’ ,
‘ African Voices’ , ‘ Marketplace Africa’ ,
and ‘ Africa Business Report’ – that
showcase entrepreneurial acuity, talent
and innovation.
3. Some of us can still recall, with the
obligatory shake of the head, the cover
story of The Economist of March 11,
2000, with the title ‘ Hopeless Africa’ –
in which the magazine concluded that
‘for reasons rooted in their culture’,
Africans cannot escape conflicts,
corruption and disease. Remarkably, a
decade later, the magazine carried
another cover story, this time in its
December 3, 2011 edition, with the
bold header, ‘ The Hopeful Continent:
Africa Rising ’ – in an apparent volte
face . That effervescent phrase, ‘Africa
Rising’, has been with us since.
4. Another interesting dimension to the
Africa Rising narrative is that much of
what is celebrated as economic
growth on the continent was in fact
serendipitous. Because much of
Africa still relies on commodity
exports, we are able to make a
connection between its economic
growth and the rise in global
commodity exports, rather than any
new thinking or deliberate planning.
5. I tend to align with those who reject
this notion of Africa as a piggy-backer
on the global economy as rather
simplistic – especially given the
remarkable political and social
transformation that the continent had
undergone by the end of the last
century. Democratization and the
more accountable governance system
that comes with it, promote a way of
thinking and doing things, which in
turn create more conducive
environments for business and
investments. It was hardly a
coincidence, therefore, that the Africa
Rising mantra emerged about the time
that almost all the countries of Africa
had embraced constitutional
democracy as the only legitimate form
of government.
6. I believe, however, that this kind of
skepticism is healthy. It forces us to
continue to interrogate the markers of
our growth, what it means, what policy
options it places before us and what
choices we must make if economic
development is to yield real dividends
for the people, and address the social
and economic challenges that we
face.
7. That said, there are many indicators
that assure us of the possibilities for
taking African business prospects to
the next level, but that is if we can
grab and maximize the opportunities.
This conference is therefore very
much in the moment. The IMF has
also reported an annual growth rate of
7% for 10 African countries, including
some like Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and
Mozambique that had only recently
suffered the trauma of conflicts and
natural disasters. However, the grim
reality is that about the time that my
country Nigeria was celebrating itself
as the largest economy on the
continent with a GDP of USD 509.9
billion, the combined GDP of all the 54
African countries was almost equal to
that of India alone. And it is important
to note that only about 100,000
individuals account for 80% of Africa’s
GDP. The GDP of the 46 Sub-Saharan
Africa, including South Africa is about
the same as that of Belgium or
Chicago. Our share of global trade still
hovers around 3% and Africa is only
able to attract 5% of global FDI. This
is not to say that we have not made
progress but I see this as opportunity
not yet available. The point here
however is that in the context of the
overall global economy, this progress
amounts to very little or nothing. This
is why it matters very much that
economic development must not be
something that happens to Africa. It
must be something that is envisioned
and deliberately planned to reflect the
African worldview and the African
condition. It must be that which puts
our people at the very centre of our
development agenda both as agents
and agencies. It must be that which
responsibly exploits and harnesses
Africa’s resources to the benefit of the
majority of her people, especially the
youth.
8. Africa is home to about 1.3 billion
people and her population is expected
to double by 2050, a mere three
decades away. More than half of
these would be between 18 and 35.
This has been described as a great
demographic opportunity that is
unique to Africa. While the average
age in Europe is 45; for Africa, it the
scale tips to the side of the twenty-
somethings. A large youth population
such as ours means a huge market in
terms of consumption, services and
labor. However, for Africa to benefit
from the demographic dividends that
a massive youth population offers, we
must make the right investments in
quality higher education and create
the right conditions and opportunities
for entrepreneurship and employment.
No African country can do this alone.
A large market is only useful when the
people have the necessary purchasing
power; and a huge population is only
an asset when it is productive. My
country, Nigeria, is already a
population powerhouse, the largest in
Africa and the seventh in the world.
Our population currently stands at 180
million and it has been rising at the
rate of 2.7% since 2010. The UN
predicts that Nigeria will close in on
the 300 million people mark by the
year 2050 – overtaking the United
States as the third most populous
country on earth.
9. Now, while it seems everyone in
Nigeria views oil as the focus, it is
actually not true – oil accounts for
less than 15% of the GDP. Nigeria’s
true asset is its teeming population, of
which the youth demographic is
surging forward. The anticipated
youth-driven economic growth will be
unprecedented and unbeatable, but it
will only happen if we can harness the
latent talent of the growing population.
The golden population of youth will
fulfil its destiny for the benefit of
Africa and the world at large only if it
is empowered, educated, better skilled
and better prepared for the
opportunities ahead.
10. Speaking of the present time,
Africa’s share of global trade still
hovers around a paltry 3%, and we are
only able to attract 5% of global FDI.
A large youth population such as
translates into a huge market in terms
of consumption, services and labor.
However, for Africa to reap the
demographic dividends, we must
make the right investments in quality
higher education and create the right
conditions and opportunities for
entrepreneurship and employment. A
large market is only useful when the
people have the necessary purchasing
power; and a huge population is only
an asset when it is productive.
11. As Akinwumi Adesina, President of
the African Development Bank (AfDB),
said: “ If Africa has the youngest
population, what do we do with the
youth and how to develop their
capacity to unlock their
entrepreneurship? How does Africa
take advantage of its diversity? ” We
should be asking ourselves whether
government and private sector can
hire the exponentially increased
number by African youths by 2050.
They are rising, they are hungry for
success, and they want that success
make an appreciable impact on their
communities. All we as policy makers
need do, is provide them with the
enabling environment, the tools and
skills needed.
12. The 52 Annual Meeting of the
African Development Bank Group
which took place in Ahmedabad, India
in May 2017, held that: “ Africa needs
to push for accelerated development
by harnessing local resources to boost
entrepreneurship and drive its
industrialization. ” What does this tell
us? Big industries are all very well, but
their survival depends on a good
spread of Micro, Small and Medium
Enterprises. Not only do MSMEs serve
as a good source of raw material, they
are also – crucially – incubation
centers for technological development.
And here is the clincher: MSMEs are
run by indigenous people – the local
talent and opportunities we are
seeking to harness.
13. It is important, therefore, that African
governments at all levels identify their
areas of comparative advantage and
build on them. In Agriculture,
governments are becoming more
attuned to the need to develop the
value chain along the entire
industry. Agro-Politan Development
Strategyis now part of the sectorial
lexicon. This simply refers to a
strategy that provides multiple
opportunities in Agriculture and Agri-
Business – with emphasis on the
localization of the entire value chain,
namely: Plant-Process-Store-
Package-Market-Sell . This is to
ensure that Africans are fully involved
in the Agricultural Value Chain.
14. When we look at Nigeria, which is
seeking to diversify its revenue base
from over-reliance on oil, it becomes
apparent that we are not even close to
tapping into the Agricultural Value
Chain to any sustainable
degree. Available statistics show that
the country is currently producing
below the recommended quantities.
Take Dairy products: Nigeria
spends $480.3 million annually on
milk importation, since local
production only accounts for 34% of
our needs – that is 1.7million tonnes
– about 10 litres per person per
capita. This is in comparison to the
global average of 40litres per person.
When we even come to Africa, the
average is 28litres. Sadly, Nigeria is
the lowest on the Milk food chain. Of
our estimated 20 million cattle
population, only 2.3 million are used
to produce Dairy. Nigeria:
15. In Poultry, our consumption per capita
amounts to 1.41kg. And yet we
consume 1.2 tonnes of Chicken
annually, about 900, 000 metric
tonnes of which are unfortunately
smuggled in through our borders. Our
1.41kg per capita is a poor second to
Ghana’s 7.67kg/capita. South Africa
stands at 32.98kg/capita; while Brazil
and the USA are at 41.34kg and
45.49kg respectively.
16. Or Rice, arguably the most talked
about food item in Nigeria. Even the
BBC had to declare that, “Rice is a big
deal in Nigeria” – and believe me, it
is. But what of the production of this
staple food? We consume over 5.151
metric tonnes of Rice – consider the
fact that 2.1 metric tonnes of that, is
imported. And for two years in a row
now, we are the world’s second
largest importer of Rice, which really
makes you wonder. Why? Well,
because there is absolutely no reason
why Nigeria should not be self-
sufficient in this product – and even
supply to other countries.
17. I have often spoken of my experience
with Shonga farms when I was
Governor in Kwara State, when I
invited white Zimbabwean farmers to
come to the state. This encouraged
me to believe in the power of
Agriculture. And how, the likes of
testing with got involved, Dangote is
now investing massively in Rice
production, among other things. I can
predict that in the next five years, the
largest produce is Dangote.
Agriculture is no longer being left to
the lone farmer. Africa is no longer a
social event; it is being seen as a
business venture.
18. Like others have argued, there is
really a need to devise an economic
model that produces and
manufactures primarily for the African
market, and then use that as a basis
to engage and negotiate with the rest
of the world. The value chain
approach is based on the philosophy
of comparativeBurdens and
benefits are distributed to increase
efficiency and productivity, while
adding value. Developing the African
Value Chain potentially positions the
continent to increase the quality and
quantity of its participation in the
global economy.
19. Some 60% of Africa’s involvement in
the global value chain is limited to
supplying raw materials and inputs for
other countries’ exports production. It
is time we recognised that any efforts
to create jobs and improve the
economic condition of our people
must mainstream agriculture in a way
that underlines value chain within
Africa itself. Adopting the value chain
approach will enable us to focus on
areas of comparative and competitive
advantage; clarify relationships among
businesses within our continent; as
well as adopt common policies that
facilitate efficient production across
borders. The global value chain as
exemplified in ‘Factory Asia’, in which
many Africans are active participants,
can be replicated on our continent, but
only if we are prepared to embrace a
new way of thinking about ourselves,
the challenges we face and the
possible solutions.
20. Another sector that provides value
addition and comparative advantage is
the Entertainment industry, which has
grown tremendously over the last 20
years – especially in Nigeria, Kenya
and South Africa in Nigeria, Kenya
and South Africa – as our artists have
risen from local champions to global
recognition. Nigerian musician Wizkid
recently sold out London’s prestigious
Royal Albert Hall, and is much sought
after for collaborations with major
American Music artists. Whilst
interacting with Wizkid recently, he
told me he ‘filled a stadium of 40,000’
in Gabon a French-speaking country
where they didn’t understand a word
of his lyrics; and he himself was
astonished. The Shoki dance
movement went from the back streets
of Lagos to galactic heights in the
music video of U.S. Hip-Hop artist,
Missy Elliot. I remember in my
younger days, if you went to a disco
party in Nigeria, the deejay would play
100 per cent American RnB like
Shalamar, The Whispers and Earth
Wind and Fire. Now, no such thing.
Nigerian musicians like Davido and
Phyno are all the rage. My own kids
listen to Nigerian musicians at their
parties. I would never have thought in
my lifetime that I would see this
happen. We have come full circle. Our
contemporary music industry, by the
sheer dint of youthful creativity and
innovation, has indigenized. This is
now creating new opportunities, new
artists are springing up, new studios
are coming onstream, records are
being made, talents developed. As far
as South Africa and beyond, Nigerian
music is being played. When we were
young, it used to be that you had to
be a lawyer or an engineer, but now
creativity is really changing the game.
21. The same can be said of Nollywood,
which is the second largest movie
industry in the world; and is another
bold example of people creating a
value chain as though from nothing.
When the first video feature in what
would become known as Nollywood, a
film called ‘ Living in Bondage ’ was
released in the mid-90s, few could
have imagined the huge industry it
would spawn, but here we are today.
Nollywood stars are known the world
over, and the industry employs
thousands of Nigerians. So influential
are these stars that, when news
spread recently a major Nollywood
star had been cast in a small role in a
Hollywood film, Marvel’s ‘ Avengers:
Infinity War’ , Nigerians went wild. It
turned out to be fake news, but maybe
we are on to something. Marvel
Studios, if you are listening, if you
want an audience of millions in Africa
for your upcoming film, then there is a
casting decision you need to make.
22. In fashion, Nigerian designers are now
major players on international stage.
Apart from the PR benefits, in real
economic terms, the fashion industry
holds a huge potential for job creation
within the continent. The
Commonwealth study mentioned
earlier identified some key activities in
the textile and clothing value chain.
These include: design, component
manufacture, which includes yarn,
fabric, buttons, zippers and sundry
accessories; assembly of finished
garments, transport to the market,
marketing and sales and distribution.
If we scan through these, we would
find that with exception of some
categories of fabrics, almost all other
inputs are imported into Africa. If we
consider that in terms of mass sales,
the Africa fashion designers are hardly
exporting off-the-rack clothing lines to
the global market, we may reach the
conclusion that other economies
outside the continent are deriving
greater benefits from our homegrown
talents than Africa itself. What would
be really interesting to consider is how
the African fashion industry has
boosted the production of fabrics,
buttons and zippers in China or
Europe.
23. Which brings me to the burgeoning
tech hubs of Yaba in Lagos and
Nairobi in Kenya; and the role of
technology. Naturally, a continent with
a fast growing population that enjoy
good music, movies, media and
content production – and are eager to
pay in order to stay abreast of
information concerning their social
entertainment – would not take long
to be a continent to reckon with. The
advent of apps and entertainment
platforms aided by strong broadband
technology spearheaded by young
African investors, took the industry to
exponential heights. In Lagos, tech
start-ups not only weathered the
recession unscathed, they are
attracting major seed funding, driving
business growth and are impacting in
every value chain imaginable, from
agriculture to blood banks. We cannot
say it enough that Nigeria has some
of the most talented, hardworking and
innovative young people in the world.
This much was attested to by Mark
Zuckerberg when he visited Nigeria
some time ago. He said: “I was highly
impressed by the talent of the youths
in the Co-Creation Hub in Yaba. I was
blown away by their talent and the
level of energy.” Something tells me
we have not even scratched the
surface of what the movie industry
alone can contribute to the economy
of Nigeria and the entire African
continent. All these would challenge
us to plan and implement far reaching
reform, especially in the higher
education sub-sector, so as to ensure
that our youths are market ready in
the entire value chain of identified
economic drivers; agriculture,
construction, ICT, entertainment,
sports and fashion industries.
24. Nevertheless, the contribution of
these new sectors like the
telecommunications, entertainment
and retail have been great pointers to
what was possible if the policies were
right and the general condition for
investment is provided. Within 16
years of the liberalization of the
telecommunication sector in Nigeria,
tele-density has grown from less than
1% to 108%, making Nigeria one of
the fastest growing
telecommunications sectors in the
world. Nigeria Telecommunication
Commission estimates that
investments in the sector is now in
excess of $68 billion and has
contributed up to N15 trillion to the
Federation Account. Perhaps, more
importantly, the sector has created
hundreds of thousands of career and
ancillary jobs and has impacted
directly in driving businesses and
innovations in the ICT sub-sector.
Explosion of the telecommunications
economy in Nigeria is clear evidence
of Nigeria’s huge market with a
population of 170 million people, half
of which are in the 15-35 age bracket
category. Perhaps we are yet to fully
estimate how much direct and indirect
impact this single revolution has had
in developing other economic sectors,
including retail, business and
commerce, banking and a lifestyle
that has continued to expand
opportunities for further investments
in this sector. Regardless of the
challenges that may exist, the
liberalization of the
telecommunications sector in Nigeria
has changed lives, created millionaire
and would remain a proud symbol of
what is possible on our continent if
we get it right. However, while it is
encouraging that seven out of 10
Africans own a mobile phone it is
worth highlight the fact that in Nigeria,
for example, only 15.5 million own a
smartphone – 23.3% of the
population. Internet penetration is still
less than half in the country; at
46.50%, it translates into 91.6 million
of the populace.
25. African governments must provide an
enabling environment for the nurturing
of raw talent. Our education system
ought to move away from a theory
based approach and paper
certification to inculcating practical
skills that support apprenticeship and
boosts innovation and industry. This
is the place of Vocational and
Technical education which provides
that the youth inculcate practical skills
that will not only make them
employable but will also help the
continent in building an army of job
providers
26. Without doubt, the vision and
philosophy of the African Union is for
a continent whose strength and
prosperity are based on greater
cooperation and partnership among
our various countries and peoples. We
are still far from realizing the full
vision of the Union, which includes a
common currency and common
Central Bank, among others. However,
we need to demonstrate that we
remain committed to achieving this
vision no matter how long it takes.
27. Speaking of challenges, there are
quite a number of factors that militate
against productivity in the short term.
These include: infrastructural
challenges, Insecurity, Power or the
lack of it, Lack of Education, Lack of
access of funds for MSMEs.
28. A Commonwealth Office study found
that it is more cost efficient for
Tanzania to trade in agriculture and
manufactured goods with United
Kingdom and the United States than
with fellow African nations like Ghana
or Botswana. The overall report holds
out hope for greater regional
integration, while also highlighting
some issues we must address for real
progress to be made. Some of these
are policy related, while others are
infrastructural challenges. Existing
tariff based barriers significantly
hinder trading across the region. In
developing a regional value chain
perspective, it is critical that these
barriers are removed, because
fragmented production processes
involved in value chain production
implies multiple border crossing and
can therefore amplify the effect of
tariffs. Free trade and inter-regional
trade agreements are crucial to
keeping tariffs low, to increase
participation in the development of a
regional value chain.
29. Therefore, the quality as well as
absence of critical infrastructure
across the continent, coupled with the
geographical location of some
countries, present an even more
critical challenge to participating in
the African Value Chain. As a result,
many African countries are saddled
with some of the highest trade costs
on the planet. According to the 2015
World Bank Ease of Doing Business
Report, the cost of exporting a
standard 20-foot container is more
than twelve times higher in Chad (US
$6,600), six times higher in Rwanda
(US$3,200) and three times higher in
South Africa (US$1,532) than it is in
China (US$500). While China enjoys
economies of scale from shipping, it
is important to note that it has also
invested heavily in infrastructure.
30. We must develop a very
comprehensive regional trade
agreement with deep integration
measures, providing for non-tariff
barriers to trade—including investment
and competition policy, intellectual
property protection, and dispute
settlement—that can support value
chain integration, in particular regional
value chain integration.
31. Governance issues around the trading
systems around can also create
significant encumbrances and add to
cost. For many industries that rely on
just-in-time production, delays and
unpredictability can be as strong an
impediment to participation as costs.
In many African countries, trading
across borders is burdensome and
costly, although there is wide variation
between countries. According to the
World Bank Doing Business indicators,
it takes 51 days and requires seven
documents to export a container from
Zambia, 40 days and ten documents
from Angola, and 26 days and six
documents from Mali – but only 10
days and four documents from
Morocco.
32. The East African Community and
South African Development
Community (SADC) has achieved a
significant reduction in barriers to
trade, but generally across the
continent, tariffs are still high and
sometimes even higher than between
Africa and other parts of the
world. The UN Conference for Trade
and Development in 2013 found that
an African firm’s export outside of the
continent faces an average protection
rate of 2.5% while exporting the same
goods to other African markets would
gulp about 8.7%.
33. In short, that the quality of Africa’s
participation in the global value chain
cannot improve unless we first
achieve the development of the
African value chain based on greater
economic and social integration of
Africa itself. Without the demonstrable
commitment by African countries to
think beyond their immediate borders,
Africa will remain on the lower rung of
the global production ladder, as our
individual countries labour in vain to
create conditions to enable
participation in the global value chain.
Let me emphasise that the exploitation
of our continent does not become
more acceptable simply because it is
done by China, India or Brazil. It is
visionless leadership that strips its
own country of local content or
indigenization laws to benefit foreign
investors, but to the impoverishment
of its citizens.
34. The opportunity to integrate into any
value chain is fostered by the ease,
cost and reliability of international
flow of goods and services. Therefore,
African countries that are able to
remove the main non-tariff barriers
and make trade facilitation process
faster, and more reliable, and cost
less will be more successful in
harnessing the opportunities in
regional value chains.
35. It is heartening to note that some
serious efforts are already going on in
this direction. The Lagos to Tangiers
highway project; the Trans Sahara gas
pipeline project, as well as the
Chinese-backed railway projects that
would connect East African countries,
are all remarkable in many respects.
We now have fast trains running
between Ethiopia and Djibouti, moving
people and cargo. It has reduced a
journey of three days to just eight
hours; and 3500 tonnes of cargo can
now be moved from the port of
Djibouti to the heart of Ethiopia within
10 hours. Before this project, it would
take 70 trucks driving for up to four
days to move the same quantity.
36. It is important to note however that
infrastructure in Africa today is still
largely financed by government, with
limited private sector participation.
Many of these infrastructures are
therefore poorly managed. The
massive upgrading of infrastructure
that we need will also require us to
develop and strengthen regulatory
framework for procurement and
public-private partnerships in
infrastructure developments in
addition to developing the capacity of
relevant government agencies to
manage these infrastructure contracts.
In terms of planning, we also have to
pay more attention to intra-regional
connections and spatial planning. This
is very important because increasing
links between countries and between
growth poles and growth secondary
cities will unlock growth opportunities
even between rural and urban areas.
37. The value chain approach is also
based on supply chain efficiency,
which is aimed at lowering transaction
cost, minimizing delays and reducing
imbalances. Therefore, if we do not
make the necessary investments in
transportation and remove the current
restrictions that make it easier for
Africans to travel across Europe than
within Africa itself, we would not be
able to take full advantage of the
opportunities that abound within our
continent. Development of critical
transport and logistics infrastructure
must complement trade policy as a
priority intervention, to enhance the
integration of countries into the
African Value Chain. A research
conducted by OECD in 2014 on Base
Erosion and Profit Shift found that
0-10 percent of total trade cost is
accounted for by tariffs, 10-30 percent
by physical trade cost while 60-90
percent is by non-tariff related costs
such as trade procedures, regulatory
environment, currency fluctuations
and availability of communication
services.
38. Perhaps the most remarkable
progress in improving African
interconnectivity so far, was
announced last week when 23 African
countries launched the Single African
Air Transport Market (SAATM). The
International Air Transport Association
(IATA) had earlier estimated that
liberalizing air transport routes for only
12 African countries would create
more than 150,000 jobs and boost the
continent’s GDP by $1.3billion. We
can therefore estimate that the
benefits of this particular initiative,
which is in fulfillment of the African
Union 1999 decision, would even yield
greater dividends with the added
benefit of direct flights between
African countries, which, believe it or
not, hitherto involved stopovers in the
Middle East or Europe. This single air
market is coming not long after
several African countries agreed to
ease visa requirements for African
nationals. By the time the remaining
32 countries join up in the open air
agreements, the benefits to the
African economy would be immense.
39. In the National Assembly, our
Legislative Agenda has a very strident
economic focus, to help remove
impediments to the value chain, and
some of these efforts have already
seen Nigeria move up 24 places in the
World Bank Ease of Doing Business
Report 2018. The Nigerian Senate’s
Made-In-Nigeria Initiative is intended
to help stimulate the production of
goods locally, and to get Nigerians to
embrace the same, thereby moving
away from the previous fixation on
imported good. The Public
Procurement (Amendment) Bill makes
it compulsory for all government
agencies to procure products and
services from Nigerian manufacturers
and vendors in the first instance; they
may only go to a foreign supplier
when local options have been
exhausted. The Companies and Allied
Matters Act (CAMA) makes provision
for the regulation of SMSEs as well as
greater access to credit. These are
just a few of the many legislative
interventions of the National Assembly
so far, with many more in the works.
40. Fashion, construction and ICT are all
massive job creation sectors.
However, unless we develop real
capacity for value addition in a way
that enables Africa to take charge of
the production process, others would
continue to derive greater benefits
from the talent and opportunities that
abound in our continent while our
youth go without. One of the major
issues in this regard is access to
credit, which remains critical in
entering, establishing, or moving up
value chains. The various regional and
sub-regional development banks are
markers of Africa’s commitment to
home grown credit. However, broad
based financial inclusion remains a
challenge, and limited access to credit
and financial services will continue to
threaten any efforts at poverty
eradication and promotion of real
entrepreneurship among our youths.
Strengthening financial inclusion must
therefore remain at the top of our
regional political agenda. Although the
financial sector in Africa has
witnessed remarkable improvement
over the past decade especially in
countries like South Africa, a lot of
countries are still very limited. SMEs
are less likely to have access to loans
than their counterparts outside of the
continent. As governments, our focus
should be to increase access and
lower cost of financing as well as
ensuring that we develop functioning
financial systems that can increase
the number of potential trading
partners and volume of trade. In
addition, we must begin to think of
financial system development
strategies that will encourage further
competition between players in the
sector as well as introducing policies
that limit collateral requirement and
reduce credit information gaps.
41. Harnessing the opportunity that
comes with participating in regional
production networks can accelerate
African economic transformation,
particularly through the gains
associated with enhanced productivity,
skills development, and diversification
of exports. However, the gains from
Regional Value Chains and GVC
participation are not automatic.
Opportunity only means what is
possible and not what will happen.
These would require a broad set of
policies with a particular focus on
trade facilitation, investment, transport
infrastructure, and access to finance.
But beyond these, it would require a
critical mass of political leaders on
the continent with capacity to think
globally, act locally and understands
what it truly mean to be a leader on
the African continent in a globalized
world.
42. The continent is yearning for
leadership not only in government but
also in commerce. Local talent is
yearning for partnership and
collaboration with talented, capable
people such as yourself to realise the
hopes of the growing youth
population.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
Federal Republic of Nigeria