April 7, 2014, marked a historic day for Nigeria, with the rebasing of our GDP to nearly $500 billion. This new figure makes us the largest economy in Africa and the 26th larget in the world. Not only has Nigeria overtaken South Africa as Africa’s largest economy, but we are now on par with Poland and Belgium, and ahead of Austria ($394 billion), Thailand ($401 billion), Iran ($389 billion), UAE ($395 billion) and Argentina ($474 billion). This is a significant milestone and merits reflection.
This rebasing means that globally, people will pay more attention to Nigeria, but it also means that to compete effectively we need to focus on further diversifying our economy, improving our business climate and reducing income inequality. I believe we can only be truly proud of having Africa’s largest economy when we can ensure that every Nigerian is able to live a dignified life and has the opportunity to pursue their goals free of want. As a committed pan-African, and in keeping with our Africapitalist philosophy, I believe, by definition, these sentiments apply to all Africans.
Being part of the solution
Addressing the infrastructure deficit – specifically, improving access to affordable, reliable power – is at the heart of this imperative and this is why we are committed to boosting generation capacity at Ughelli and making further investments to ensure more people can access the power they need to live healthy, productive lives.
These issues are part of a wider conversation about living standards and equality of opportunity across the world – principles which lie at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals, launched in 2000 and which expire next year in 2015. As we approach the end of the initiative, the focus is shifting to the post-MDG development framework, to ensure that the next system we put in place will address current challenges and successfully eradicate global poverty for the next generation. Unlike the initial set of metrics, this one is being developed through broad consultation, including with the African private sector as we cannot realistically tackle Africa’s social problems without private sector leadership and involvement.
I am consequently very honoured to have been invited to deliver the keynote address at a United Nations General Assembly and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) joint thematic debate, titled “The role of partnerships in the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.” The session will be held in New York at the UN Headquarters today (April 9), and I will speak immediately after Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, addressing the 193 members of the UN General Assembly and the UN media corps, on behalf of the African private sector.
This is the first time an African private sector leader has been invited to contribute at this level to the post-2015 MDG framework and it demonstrates how the international development community is now proactively involving and consulting the African private sector, as a key constituent in solution-finding. This is a further demonstration of the timeliness of our thinking on Africapitalism and shows that the world is ready for a new way of engaging with and on Africa – one that is based on mutual respect and an acknowledgement of the pivotal role of the private sector in addressing complex global development challenges.
Delivering a promise for tomorrow
Following the UN speech, I will proceed to the Said Business School at Oxford University to offer a keynote at the closing plenary session of the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship on Friday, April 11, at the invitation of founder and host Jeff Skoll, the inaugural CEO of eBay and one of the pioneer e-commerce entrepreneurs, media magnates, and philanthropist of his generation.
Each year, over 1,000 distinguished entrepreneurs from the social, finance, and wider private sector as well as the public sector and civil society, convene at Oxford University for the Forum to engage in three days and nights of critical debates, discussions and work sessions aimed at innovating, accelerating and scaling solutions to social challenges.
Following the keynote presentation, I will be questioned by a panel of young leaders handpicked to represent Latin America, Africa, and Asia on key global issues that will impact our world for decades to come. I am looking forward to exchanging ideas with the participants and spreading the word about the amazing work being pioneered by The Tony Elumelu Foundation.
It is a great honour to be invited to speak in front of such esteemed audiences, and I am conscious that when I speak, I am representing the many people who work for the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Heirs Holdings, and the wider HH Group, as well as the broader Nigerian and African private sectors. Africa’s economies are gaining global attention and we – its citizens – all must use this momentum as a powerful source of motivation to excel. As Africapitalists, we can build on these opportunities to set the agenda for Africa’s economic development and emerge, triumphantly, as the world’s newest and greatest economic powerhouse.