UN chief economist predicts Nigeria’s bright future, despite challenges

United Nations- image source climateactionprogramme

United Nations- image source climateactionprogramme

Despite squandered opportunities, unfortunate narratives and current challenges, the future of global economy may yet be Nigeria, as the country is expected to eventually actualise its enormous potentials.

Speaking yesterday with The Guardian, the Executive Director and UN under-secretary general and executive director of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Mr. Carlos Lopes, expressed no reservation about the place of Nigeria in the comity of nations. “I definitely believe that Nigeria is the country of the future,” he said with a gleam of hope evident on his face.

Noting the government’s current dilemma of financing public expenditure as a result of struggling oil price, Carlos said: “without doubt, what is happening currently with the price of oil affects public expenditure in Nigeria tremendously, and of course, public expenditure has affected the economic narratives of the country. Public expenditure in Nigeria is almost completely dependent on oil; it’s like an addiction. But that is not all economic activity in Nigeria.”

The ECA boss arguing that the Nigerian oil represents less than a third of the country’s economy activities, stressed that “this is not the sector that will grow Nigeria’s economy. Yes, we can say oil is still important to Nigeria, but oil is not the future of Nigeria. The future lies in the diversification of the economy, which gladly, is already happening.”

Lopes, who was speaking to The Guardian shortly after declaring open the 17th Session of the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa (RCM-Africa) which started yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, reiterated calls for coordination in the implementation of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the global Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030).

The RCM-Africa is a platform for the UN system to support the African Union and its member countries to implement global and continental development goals in Africa. The mechanism is also expected to play a key role in making this a reality.

According to Lopes, “There is no doubt that global partnerships can provide the impetus for tackling the key socio economic challenges currently facing Africa. Global partnerships can work for Africa if they are aligned with the strategic objectives of the continent and buttressed by a unified continental voice. We have the opportunity to model what such a partnership could be.”

But on macro-economic calls on the government to remove subsidy, devalue the currency and increase taxes, the UN chief lent his weight to removal of subsidy, but sounding a serious note of caution. His words: “I do agree that removing subsidy is a good thing, because subsidy affects the poor more than the rich. It is a skewed distribution of income that benefits the rich.

“But while in principle I support removal of subsidy, things must however be done in sequence; you have to sequence it properly. Otherwise, you can have a depressive moment on your hands. The macro-economic policies must be carefully weighted so that you don’t cause dysfunction in the system and that may stall a lot of things from happening”.

He expressed the same sense of caution to valuation of the naira. He said: “Devaluation of the currency is very tricky business. But more importantly is the way you exercise your financial control to making sure that you don’t let your currency to fluctuate to the point of you lose track of the reality of what the market it; otherwise, you would lose the bases of your macro-economic policies.”

Meanwhile, apart from former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, who is in Addis Ababa to attend the Annual Assembly of the Forum of former Heads of State, one of the side events at the ongoing Africa Development Week, coinciding with the AU-ECA Conference of Ministers, presence of Nigerian government officials is significantly sparse. Indeed, senior adviser to the President (Economics) Mr. Yemi Dipeolu, himself a former ECA chief of Staff, was the only government official of note seen around.

In another side event, there is growing consensus among experts that, as far as Africa is concerned, migration trends are not “troublesome.” In a presentation on addressing the challenge of international migration in Africa, Director of the ECA Social Development Policy Division, Ms. Takyiwaa Manuh, said the dominant image of European countries being flooded by migrants from Africa, doesn’t say it all.

Manuh said that recent media coverage and research on irregular migration as well as the high death toll amongst those crossing the Mediterranean have falsely reinforced the belief that African migration is essentially directed towards Europe.

“Migration streams within Africa are much larger than those out of Africa. About 31 million of the continent’s population has migrated internationally. This is little more than 3 percent the continent’s population. More than half of those migrating internationally do so within Africa, with only about 28 percent of migrants from Africa going to Europe. Of total migrant stock in Europe, less than 12 percent are from Africa,” she explained.

Lopes reinforced the “pain to gain” potentials of migration to Africa. He told The Guardian that African migrants outside the continent repatriate more money to the continent than the entire donor agencies do.

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