…Lagos points the way forward for the Continent as Soyinka, Prof Collier, others gather for knowledge Confab
Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Friday flagged off the Kuramo Conference Lagos 2012, charging all participants to use it to secure the future of the generation of young Africans who look to the present generation for leadership so that the problems of hunger, famine, poverty and under development on the Continent can be overcome now and not in the distant future.
The Governor who spoke at the Convention Centre of Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island before a gathering of multi-disciplinary experts, professionals, regulators, policy makers and corporate leaders including Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, Director for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, Professor Paul Collier and international economist, Dr Dambisa Moyo, said Kuramo is about the African Renaissance, it is about knowledge, improvement and influence.
“Kuramo is also a confluence of ideas to tackle and consider from a unique African perspective, the issues that challenge the Continent globally. Kuramo will continue to provide a platform for public and private sector collaboration to drive international development in Africa and secure a better economic future for ourselves”, he added.
Governor Fashola said Africa stands on the edge of another scramble which has been necessitated by the downturn in the global economy and the gradual decimation of the Commonwealth such that the West has turned its eyes on her direction again.
“But this time the scramble is more intense because the West has been joined by the East and the scramble is between the two powers, with Africa in the middle. So, we can choose to turn to the left, or to the right, or to the front”.
The Governor said this time around, the rule of engagement must be such that Africa will dictate because she holds the key to the strengthening of the global economy, a fact which must not be forgotten.
“More importantly, we must use that knowledge to forge developmental partnerships instead of perpetuating a dependency, based on an expectation of benevolence. We hold the key and we must use it to unlock the door that leads to the vast promise of the endowed Continent”.
“We must no longer hand over the key to others to unlock the door for us. The reason is simple. They will go through the doorway before we do. This time it is incumbent upon us to walk through those doors ahead of our partners or at least side by side”.
Governor Fashola explained that Kuramo is about alternative thinking because it takes the view that alternative, innovative ideas are the key to the future noting that Africans must turn normalcy around, stand things on their heads, push back the frontiers and literally rattle the cage to stimulate innovation and pursue creative solutions to global problems.
Speaking on the recent declaration of all members of the United Nations Human Rights Council that access to the internet and online freedom of expression is a basic human right, the Governor said internet access in Africa is limited by a far lower penetration rate than the rest of the world.
He said part of what should preoccupy the mind of participants at Kuramo 2012 is how they can help to shape policy that can bridge internet access gap and others like the policies that encourage the production of the best chocolates from Ivory Coast where some of the best cocoa seeds are sourced.
Others include policies that encourage the production of microchips and electronic accessories from Congo where very large deposits of copper are mined amidst unending conflict and policies that will encourage the production and not the importation of large quantities of malaria drugs and treated nets on the African continent and keep the production jobs there instead of in the West and Asia.
Continuing, Governor Fashola challenged the eminent gathering of knowledge experts to come up with policies that would ensure that “a large quantum of Africa’s gas reserves are used to energize and power her to industrial greatness and produce jobs on the continent instead of being exported only for the cash values. Policies that help to bring back and keep a large stock of Africa’s rich human capital at home, instead of those that throw them abroad as displaced immigrants. Policies that for instance encourage new institutional and governance models to transform economic growth into shared opportunities”.
The Governor also said the quest for the Pan African Parliament to acquire legislative and oversight functions from the African Union is another example of what is possible just as he canvassed closer ties between African nations and integration for trade and services on the Continent.
He described Kuramo as a force for shaping policy to help Africans look inwards and think Africa saying examples abound in history about how inward-looking policies; whether intentional or inescapable have helped to strengthen economies.
“How many African countries trade with each other? Why can’t we encourage policy to compel African nations to trade as a priority with each other? Zambian copper; Ghanaian cocoa; Cameroonian coffee; Namibian diamonds; Malian cotton; Nigerian oil? Why don’t we promote the idea of a United States of Africa? Why don’t we promote the idea of an Afrozone? Why can’t we support PAP’s quest?”
He reiterated that Kuramo can promote peace in Africa, relieve the continent of conflict and wake the world up to an economic policy of sustenance that focuses on investments in environmental protection rather than one that is driven by investments in the manufacture and sale of small arms that do much damage in Africa than it does in those places where the arms are manufactured.
Governor Fashola stated that just as every new challenge throws up the potential to find a solution, Africa has the answers to challenges to the global wealth, but that those answers would only resonate if the Continent speaks as one because inherent in unity is strength.
“Just as the Berlin Conference set the rules for dividing up the continent in the 19thCentury; so also the Kuramo Conference intends to continue to set the rules for African innovation in the 21st Century. I have no doubt that as this conference progresses it will become more and more apparent to you all, that Lagos is the perfect setting for an alternative platform like Kuramo to tackle the world’s problems from an African perspective”.
Nobel Laureate, Profesor Wole Soyinka who chaired the event said the Kuramo Conference is not just another talking conference like others before it, declaring that one of the attainments of the last Kuramo Conference is the Lagos Court of Arbitration which would be launched as part of the current conference.
Professor Soyinka said during his visit to countries in Europe, the Americas and China which are all undergoing economic difficulties, there are still evidences of solid base for human development in those countries.
He added that during his last visit to China, the Chinese also pointed out their bewilderment at the development that has taken place in the country in 10 years, adding that if it is possible in the Asian Continent it is also possible in the African Continent.
The Plenary Speaker, who is a Professor of Economics and Director for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, Professor Paul Collier described Kuramo as a right idea in the right place.
He said for the national government in Nigeria the challenge is about managing oil wealth in the country, adding that in Nigeria today, the issue of oil revenue is extremely volatile adding that the country needs rules and regulations to guide it.
Professor Collier said Lagos is perfectly located to be Africa’s megacity and it could emerge as the megacity of Africa’s future, stating that harnessing the potential of Africa is what Kuramo is all about.
Another Plenary Speaker and international economist, Dr Dambisa Moyo said Nigeria is the only country in Africa where there is a glimpse of getting it right through the creation of a sustainable economy.
She said most leaders in Africa lack self respect because they prefer to willingly go around the globe seeking aids when they have a continent with limitless opportunities, adding that former leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda all had self respect.
In an interactive session which was also part of the opening ceremony, Governor Fashola while responding to a question on lack of exchange programmes for Universities said the Lagos State University does have exchange programmes with Universities in Singapore and several other countries overseas.
He added that the State Government has also been promoting research as it recently launched the Lagos State Research and Development Council to develop and encourage research efforts in the state.
On suggestions that public officers should be compelled to send their children to public schools while they also attend public hospitals, the Governor said the Constitution guarantees a freedom of choice for every citizen adding that individuals cannot be compelled against their will.
He said the present administration has taken it upon itself to ensure that public schools compete favourably with private schools in terms of facilities in such a way that pupils who do not attend private schools would not have lost anything.
The event also witnessed the launch of the Lagos Court of Arbitration by former Chairman of the Bureau of Privatisation, Mr Akin Kekere- Ekun who said the support of the Lagos State Government for the LCA is comforting and essential.
Mr Kekere Ekun added that business is best driven when it is led by the private sector, adding that the Lagos Court of Arbitration would be a success.
Earlier, the President of the Lagos Court of Arbitration, Mr Babajide Ogundipe said the LCA is about the culmination of an African idea to serve the people better and help in settling disputes.
He said the choice of Lagos was informed by the fact that Lagos represents Nigeria in terms of being the commercial nerve centre and that several Alternative Dispute Resolution practitioners are based in Lagos.
In his goodwill message, one of the trustees of the Investment Climate in Africa, Mr Williams Kaleima said the organization decided to support the project Lagos Court of Arbitration Project because of the direct impact it has.
He noted that it would improve Africa’s image as an investment destination because businessmen would be clear in their minds that if a dispute arose in the course of any transaction it would be resolved.
The opening ceremony attracted members of the State Executive Council, former Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, Minority leader of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, Minister of Youth Development, Mallam Inuwa Abdulkadir, Mr Fola Adeola and several multi disciplinary experts, policy makers and leaders in the corporate world.