Okowa, at UN forum, harps on wealth creation for global peace
DELTA State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, has called on the international community to partner African nations on job and wealth creation “as a means to ensuring global peace and security.”
Delivering the keynote address at the Africa Industrialisation Day at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Okowa said beyond creating awareness of the challenges of industrialisation in Africa, the forum should address the need for “firm commitments to strengthen partnerships that will drive industrialisation in Africa, create jobs and sustainable opportunities for youths, women and all people to enjoy better social and economic well-being.”
The event, which is marked every November 20 under the auspices of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to mobilise the commitment of the international community to the industrialisation of Africa, has “SMEs for Poverty Eradication and Job Creation for Women and Youth” as its theme for this year’s edition.
At a symposium to mark the ceremony, Okowa commended “UNIDO’s passion and dedication to spurring Africa’s industrialisation,” noting that the occasion “is a reminder to all of us, of the need to redirect Africa’s economic development position from being a global supplier of raw materials and primary commodities to one with progressive value addition through agro-processing, agro-industrialisation and beneficiation of solid minerals.”
While stressing that “SMEs are engines for cost-effective employment generation, social inclusion, equitable development and self-reliant industrialisation using local raw materials,” the governor deplored the stunted growth of the continent due to “funding gaps, infrastructure deficit, energy problems and poor governance structures.”
Okowa informed the gathering that Nigeria’s policies through successive administrations had revolved around the growth and development of SMEs as catalysts for economic development.
According to him: “The Federal Government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, Bank of Industry and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) is frantically taking measures to enhance the performance and growth of youth- and women-owned micro and small enterprises through a host of concessional financing initiatives spanning equity financing, debt financing, loan guarantees and grants.
He called for international support for the state’s Job and Wealth Creation Scheme, which is in its six months.
Earlier, UNIDO’s representative to the United Nations, Paul Maseli, warned that “if Africa misses this opportunity to industrialise and create sufficient employment opportunities to support decent living conditions, it could present a significant risk and threat to social cohesion and political stability in the future.
“Fast-tracking industrialisation efforts in Africa in the post-2015 era is particularly imperative to create jobs for broad segments of the population. With almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world. And it keeps growing rapidly. If the present trend continues, the continent’s labour force will be one billion by 2040, making it the largest in the world, surpassing both China and India.
“If the continent can increase the productivity and fully unleash the potential in this segment (SMEs), it will go a long way in the economic development of many African countries. Let us not forget how important SMEs are in the economies of advanced countries like Germany with its famous ‘Mittelstand,’ or Italy with its SME-based success model. These are examples African countries can certainly learn from,” he said.