While I admit that much has been achieved, it is clear that much more is required. Many Leaders in West Africa are yet to fully understand the true benefits of ECOWAS economic integration including the long-awaited single currency regime. There is so much to gain by leveraging strength. I am praying and hoping that the newly launched African Continental Free Trade Area arrangement (AfCFTA) will be fully consummated soon. For me, it is the critical fair chance that Nigeria has to achieve any meaningful Share of Global trade.
Africa contributes only 2.84 % to the Global GDP representing the second smallest continental economy in the World, after Oceania. Yet it has a population of about 1.35 billion which is 16.72% of the World Population, making it the second most populated continent after Asia. This population is growing at nearly 2.5% per annum and is projected to reach 2.5 billion in 2050. Over 460 million people in Africa are living in extreme poverty which is about a third of the Population. COVID-19 and its aftermath coupled with the Russian- Ukrainian War have forced many African Nations into dire poverty, reaching 82% in South Sudan and over 50% in most of the Sub- Saharan African Countries including South Africa( 55.5%). This level of poverty of course has been compounded by high levels of unemployment rate which varies across the Countries with Nigeria( 37%) South Africa( 33%), Rwanda( 24%), and Sudan( 20%). Ghana’s unemployment rate at about 5% is exceptional and indicates it’s economic performance until the headwinds hit it causing massive inflation and devaluation.
According to the Worldometer (www.worldometers.info>gdp>gdp-by country), China is contributing 15.12% of the Global GDP, only next to the USA ( 24.08%), but far ahead of Japan (6.02%), Germany (4.56%), India (3.28%), UK (3.26%), France (3.19%), Brazil (2.54%), Italy (2.40%), Canada (2.04%) and Russia (1.95%)
Above are the 11 biggest economies in the World and also control Global trade and Global Geo politics. Africa is not represented here. India represents the Asian Continent at number 5 while Brazil represents Latin America at number 8.
The biggest African economy measured by GDP Nigeria is at number 30 contributing only 0.46% of Global GDP, with South Africa at number 32, Egypt at number 44, Algeria at number 53, Morocco at number 61, Ethiopia at number 66, Kenya at number 67 and Ghana at number 74 contributing only 0.07% of the Global GDP. Behind Ghana, the GDP contributions of the other African Countries are so insignificant that they equate to 0% such as Sierra Leone number 155, Liberia number 157, Burundi number 158, and Gambia 175 out of 190 Countries measured.
As earlier stated, the whole of AFRICA contributes only 2.84% of the Global GDP which is markedly below what India alone contributes( (3.28%) and just slightly higher than what Brazil contributes( 2.54%), yet all the African Countries occupy a single seat each in the UN, the same as US and China!
PLAUSIBLE PREDISPOSING FACTORS
The chronically under-development of Africa and its poor economic performance can be blamed on 5 Key factors:
• Colonialism – warts and all
• Poor Education
• Difficult operating environment
• Low capital attraction and retention
• Poor Governance
Colonialism disempowered most of the African Nations creating the dependence syndrome. Poor education which still subsists prevented the development of properly skilled manpower than can compete. Difficult operating environment which still persists includes, difficult physical environment- paucity of enabling infrastructure, poor health and safety barriers (Malaria for example) and un-inviting legal / judicial structures and processes.. Low Capital attraction and retention derived from most of the earlier key issues but mostly anchors on POOR GOVERNANCE, which was and to my mind is still the biggest obstacle to the global emergence of Africa economically.
THE 4TH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
Africa lost big time during the 1st( 1784) and the 2nd(1870) Industrial Revolutions. During the First we were largely missing on the global map and during the 2nd were still either under colonial rule or just emerging as independent Nations. 1st Industrial Revolution was the Water and Steam era that generated the Mechanical Production Capital that enabled mechanized production. The developed Nations then of Europe and America optimized this era to dominate the World . Cost of goods were high and not easily accessible to Africa. The 2nd Industrial revolution started around 1870 with the discovery of electric power. This led to mass production of goods and Africa became a major recipient of imports. The first industrial efforts especially in the North of Africa began to emerge and most of Africa entered late
The 3rd Industrial Revolution which started in 1969/ Early 70s was ushered , following the development of Electronics and then its combination with Information Technology ( IT) to automate Production. USA, Japan and China amongst other Nations were early adopters of the 3rd Industrial revolution which eventually metamorphosed into the Digital Revolution . Opportunities opened to Africa to leap frog but the hindrances identified above have not let Africa to optimize, except for a few Countries particularly in North Africa.
Right now the World is transiting into the 4th Industrial Revolution which was recognized in 2016. This is the era of the fusion of Technologies that is blurring the line between Physical, Digital and biological spheres . This is being characterized by
• Velocity and scope
• Exponential evolution rather than the linear of the Previous
• Disruption of almost every industry in every country
• Heralds changes that transform entire systems of PRODUCTION, MANAGEMENT AND GOVERNANCE
It truly consists of MOBILE CONNECTIVITY assisted by:
• Artificial Intelligence (AI)
• Internet of Things (IoT)
• Autonomous Vehicles
• 3-D printing
• Materials science
• Energy storage
• Quantum computing
• Digital fabrication technologies
Many innovative systems are being designed from this Technology. New Algorithms and software to discover new drugs are currently on the offering. Engineers, Designers and Architects are combining Computational designs, additive manufacturing and synthetic biology to pioneer a SYMBIOSIS between microbes, our bodies, the Products we consume, and even the buildings we inhabit. Intelligent buildings are emerging and mobile and transportable houses are envisioned
Benefits derivable from this new Industrial Revolution are many and still evolving because of the apparently infinite possibilities:
• It will help raise global income levels and improve the quality of lives of populations around the World (Africa inclusive!)
• Already ordering a cab, booking flights, buying products, making payments, listening to music, watching a film, or playing a game can now all be done remotely, reducing cost and increasing convenience.
• Supply-side miracle with long-term gains
• Efficiency and Productivity
• Drop in Transportation and communication costs
• Logistics and global supply chains will become more effective and the cost of trade will drop
Open markets and economic growth
Imminent overtaking of capital by talent as the critical factor of production: low skill/low pay; high skill/ high pay dichotomy
Businesses will move from mere digitization (3rd revolution) to Innovation based on the combination of Technologies (4th revolution) to meet new customer expectations and achieve product enhancement in spectacular ways
Collaborative innovation and organizational reformatting will enhance cross-border transactions at minimal costs.
As Physical, digital, and biological Worlds continue to converge in the 4th Industrial Revolution, new technologies and platforms will enable citizens to engage and interrogate Governments and political leaders more intensively.
Greater Challenges will emerge in terms of control of digital infrastructure and the need to have enhanced surveillance systems over cyberspace to preempt possible cyber warfare.
PATHWAY AND PRIORITIES FOR GLOBAL EMERGENCE
As we noted earlier, Africa did not optimize the preceding Industrial revolutions due to several reasons, the key ones I identified earlier in this address. But from the look of things, the 4th Industrial Revolution which is essentially an extension or elongation of the 3rd revolution offers us wonderful and great opportunities to LEAP FROG and claim relevance in the World if only we can get our ACT TOGETHER
- GOOD GOVERNANCE
Africa badly needs a new crop of Leaders who are enlightened, visionary, capable, competent, and with the highest level of Integrity. The Continent has suffered terribly because of the chronic deficit of stock of Good leaders. The greatest Priority of Africa, as we aim to claim a respectable place in this emergent 4th Industrial Revolution, is to “DIGITALIZE” our political leadership selection paradigm.
Borrowing from the Nigerian experience we must find ways to exorcise the following demons:
• Monetization of political selection by Parties
• Vote buying by the Candidates
• Rogue electoral umpire
• Money for Justice Judicial system
In truth, the only way this can happen is again to ‘digitalize’ the whole process from primaries to voting and vote counting. Eliminate human intervention with the process as much as possible. The African Youth who have embraced the digital Revolution Can redesign the system and change the paradigm. There must be an effective DEMAND for Good Governance and ACCOUNTABILITY by the citizens, led digitally by the Youth( as demonstrated in the End-SARS Protests).
- REVOLUTIONIZE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS
The colonial-acquired educational system that prepares students for employment must change to the experiential learning system that prepares them as entrepreneurs, innovators, jobs, and wealth creators. African Nations can turn the current disadvantage of a large young population of uneducated or poorly educated youth by deciding to create skilled manpower with talent. This talent is required all over the globe to power the 4th Industrial Revolution. Luckily the digital infrastructure and costs needed to mass produce Skilled labor are affordable to most African Nations. Less than 50% of the current aid they receive if invested in this kind of education will create a revolution to grow our GDP and make us relevant in the global economy.
- FOCUS ON INVESTMENT DRIVE
Concomitant with the educational revolution, will be a decided focus on investment drive. Africa must deliberately make itself invest-friendly. Countries that want to attract investment must do the following as a minimum
• Tackle insecurity decisively and create a safe business environment
• Enthrone and enforce law and order with grim determination
• Deescalate corruption by adopting Transparency in every Government transaction- use digital frameworks and platforms to conduct all businesses in the Nation( excluding National security issues only)
• Dispense justice quickly and fairly
• Adopt stable investment promotive policies across the board. Validate every new policy or government action on the impact on investment attraction- domestic or foreign
• Offer irresistible incentives to domestic and foreign Investors
• Maintain the highest level of integrity in dealing with investors
Courting Investment is the most important thing African political leaders can do to leapfrog the 4th Industrial Revolution to resolve its lingering poor economic performance and the continued dependence on Aid: Remember: INVESTMENTS CREATE BUSINESSES, PROJECTS, AND PROGRAMS; BUSINESSES, PROJECTS, AND PROGRAMS CREATE JOBS; JOBS CREATE WEALTH; And WEALTH ELIMINATES POVERTY, USHERING PROSPERITY…QED!
- OPTIMIZE OTHER NATURAL ENDOWMENTS
In addition to abundant Human Resources, Africa is blessed with excellent agricultural potentials and mineral resources – solid, liquid, and gaseous resources. It is really a tragedy that a continent so blessed with Gold, Diamond, lithium, Crude oil, and hydrocarbon-based gases will harbor such a high mass of poor people. African Leaders have failed to exploit these natural resources for the good of all their citizens. Indeed the inappropriate and corrupt exploitation of these minerals has led to wars as in DRC or banditry as in Nigeria.
What is called for is to attract investment into these areas through open and competitive bids for mining concessions and open and transparent accounting for the sales of the output, be it oil, gas, or bauxite.
Additionally, the local farmers should be organized together as cooperatives and assisted with funds so they can embark on commercial farming. Following that, private sector investors will be incentivized to build processing plants so that value can be added for richer export earnings. Africa should be able to feed itself and contribute to the global food supply beyond the current scanty export of cocoa, coffee, tea, and rubber, etc. As previously indicated the moment African nations can make their environment investment-friendly, Investors will flock to Mining, Agriculture, Food Processing, Pharmaceuticals, and other light manufacturing for local consumption and export
- CONTINUOUS INVESTMENT IN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT (R&D)
To sustain competitiveness in this age, R& D must complement the educational revolution. This is the era of human talent optimization, using existing material to create new phenomenon, so 24/7 experimentation will be required. Academic research will be superseded by industrial and applied research. Both the Public and Private Sectors must invest in R&D as a creed so that African Nations can be in the forefront of this Revolution where human capital becomes more important than financial capital. First-mover advantage is essential in the ensuing global competitive environment
- RE- ORIENT VALUES AND REBUILD IMAGE
In addition to building a crop of skilled and highly valued manpower, the whole Society must be moved to adopt new values that will enable Africa to sustain the anticipated gains from the 4th Industrial Revolution. Military Men must learn to stay to their duties and stop interfering in Political Governance. The Political class must be reoriented to know that political leadership is service and sacrifice, not for self or a special group( ethnic, religious, cult, sorority, class). Criminals, infidels, ex-convicts, pedophiles, drug peddlers, Money-launderers, and men of low morality must be excluded from holding offices. Leaders must lead by example. Parents, teachers, Public and civil servants, businessmen, and traders must all operate within their codes and any deviation must be corrected firmly. The African youth must be shown that there is dignity in Labour and that Merit works.
The challenge is to ensure that African Nations place themselves where they can earn international respect and relevance through the conduct and behavior of their officials and citizens. No Nation can emerge without a disciplined citizenry. So National ethos must be fully inculcated by all citizens.
Selfishness and self-centeredness and greed must be abolished. Justice, Equity, and fair play must be key virtues that will help to enthrone contentment and good Neighborliness within and among African Nations. Turf wars must seize and leaders in Africa must stop killing their citizens in order to gain power or advantage. Coups and counter-coups are anti-development and out of fashion and Such acts can never allow any Nation to emerge economically or socially.
It may be difficult for Africa to compete in Military and defense technology and wares, and it may be difficult for African Nations to determine decisions in the United Nations as they do not have veto rights. Africa may never have the financial power of the developed Countries – G7, G21, etc; we may not belong to NATO or have any strong defense pact, but we have human beings who can be turned into Human Talent and Human capital. That is the most important substrate for competing in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Let Europe and America develop the hardware but let’s prioritize developing the Software and there is a great chance that we can bridge most of the gaps within a generation- GDP, Employment, income per capita, quality of life, life expectancy, and global rankings.
There has never been a better opportunity than the digital Revolution for Africa to compete. May our leaders wake up and take the bull by the horn. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd industrial revolutions passed us but this 4th revolution must never be allowed to pass us by. Those in Agreement say Amen! God bless and thanks for your attention.
Mazi Dr. Sam I Ohuabunwa OFR, MON, NPOM
CONVENER, THE NEW NIGERIAN GROUP(NNG)