From Nik Ogbulie’s MONEY REPORT in Bali, Indonesia
Obasanjo speaking to Nigerian journalists at the ongoing World Bank/IMF meeting in Bali, Indonesia
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo, on Saturday, berated Nigeria’s Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari, as part of the forces frustrating full blown implementation of the Africa Free Continental Trade Agreement and its economic integration.
Obasanjo who spoke alongside Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, a professor of Economics and Director Centre for Sustainable Development, on the sidelines of the ongoing annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, in Bali, Indonesia, expressed concern that Africa has become the weeping boy of the world in the emerging trade war and protectionism between the United States of America, China, Mexico and the Canada, due to the failure of its leaders to promote economic integration in the face of the technological innovations driving the world into a bipolar economy.
He blamed the Federal Government of Nigeria for being a weak link on the wheel of Africa’s continental economic integration with its failure to sign the agreement several months after the Africa Union agreed to kick-start the process again in Kigali, Rwanda.
“Africa may not be one country but we can be one market. But even as a leader on the continent, Nigeria has been too weak to sign the African Free Continental Trade Agreement (AFCTA)”, the former president lamented.
Nigeria is one of several African countries that is yet to formally endorse the African Free Continental Free Trade Agreement due rising opposition from various stakeholders over its implications on the domestic economy.
But according to Nigeria’s former helmsman, Africa can only survive the raging war between America, Canada, Mexico and China by collaborating to create a thriving economic and financial integration system within the continent.
He said “ Unilateralism which the United States of America is pursuing at present will not work. But with unity and stronger economic integration, Africa can help its members manage the trade war spearheaded by the United States.”
Obasanjo noted that US insistence on protectionism has however turned Beijing into the epicenter of global trade with Nigeria and the rest of Africa now looking to South in search of new trading partners.
He regretted that most of his innovations in areas of economic reform and education have been reversed by his predecessors, leading to serious retrogression in the several sectors of the nation’s life.
Commenting on the low level of education among children in sub-Saharan Africa, Obasanjo said that most African leaders have shown very little commitment to the education of the African child, leading to high incidence in the number of out of school children and low enrollments in primary and secondary schools across the continent.
He also blamed the resurgence of Boko Haram in the North East on low level of primary and secondary education, stressing however that he expected to see a critical mass of African leaders who would commit more funds to educate more African children in the years ahead.
Earlier, the Director of Centre for Sustainable Development and Professor of Economics, Jeffery Sachs, who launched a $1billion Education Trust Fund for African Children, stressed the need to train more children in relevant skills who would takeover the economy of the continent and move it in the right direction.
According to him Africa faces severe development challenges and would require a corps of technologically educated people to pull its estimated two billion population out of poverty,.
He said ” we are moving towards a bipolar world, where US, China and India are all feeling strong about protectionism. There is also a digital revolution, which is working in Africa’s advantages. There is therefore the need to grow the best of engineers, and technologists to handle the revolution that would take African out of poverty.
In his opening remarks, Chairman of Afrexim Bank Prof Benedict Orama, said the 2018 Babacar N’diaye lecture titled ‘Global Power Disequilibrium, Trade Wars and Implication for Africa’, was held to recognise the contribution of the former President of the African Development Bank, who laid the foundation for stronger Africa’s economic growth.
He said “the greatest problem in Africa is the neglect of Africa by Africans,” assuring that the bank would support efforts by the leaders of the continent to restructure its economy and education infrastructure in the years ahead.