If We Don’t Tackle Problem Of The Poor, Our Economies Cannot Be Where They Ought To Be, Says VP Osinbajo
The Buhari administration’s focus on uplifting the poor in society through its Social Investment Programmes is to ensure that more Nigerians are empowered to improve their lives and also contribute more to the nation’s economy, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Speaking during the 90th birthday of Chief Olu Akinkugbe and the 5th anniversary of the Olu Akinkugbe Business Law in Africa Fellowship conference, at Lagos Business School on Thursday, Prof. Osinbajo stated that the problems of the poor in society must be addressed to help economic growth.
The Vice President also highlighted the success of the Federal Government’s social investment policies as pointers to why economic models should also focus on uplifting the poor in society.
He said, “A lot of our ideas in our social investment policies, are micro credit loans to market women and petty traders and all of that are borrowed heavily from the Indian model. A lot of the programmes that we are working on today; the Conditional Cash Transfers that we give to the poorest in society are based on many of these models. But these models are the products of a legal framework, they’re a product of a way of thinking about dissolving the problems of the poor.
“And we if we do not dissolve the problem of the poor, no matter how fancy our economic models or policies are, the vast majority of our people will be poor, consumer spending will be low, and generally speaking our economies cannot be where they ought to be, because the vast majority are so far behind.”
Speaking further at the event, the Vice President noted that the rule of law remains the most potent weapon for socio-economic revolution because the success of African economies and commerce will depend largely on the enforcement of laws and regulations. He further stated that it was time for Africa to rethink and re-engineer its jurisprudence to achieve this.
While pointing to a “threshold of the Africa century,” The Vice President described the continent as “clearly the last frontier for virgin economic opportunities, adding that, “it is also the continent whose success or failure would define human history in this century.”
He said, “Our enormous challenges ranging from how to provide opportunities for millions of young men and women, to extreme poverty, illiteracy and disease, to desertification resulting in famines and conflicts over land and water. All of these challenges clearly will define how the future of the world itself will shape up in the coming decades. Simply because Africa has the population and continues to increase in that population day by day.”
Prof. Osinbajo added that “commerce and economic development cannot thrive where the majority are desperately poor, illiterate and exposed to diseases all the time.”
“The country’s effective market, any country’s effective market, GDP, and human development indices depend on the standard of living of its people. The law and administration of justice can change the bleak narratives on poverty,” he said.
Calling on African countries to build capacity to negotiate better trade agreements as either individual countries or as an economic bloc, Prof. Osinbajo said, “We are confronted with trade agreement, proposals, the WTO rounds, the Economic Partnership Agreements between the European Union and ourselves, between the Caribbean and Pacific Group of States etc. More recently, our own Continental Free trade agreements, which our keynote speaker has already dealt with very extensively and in detail.
“In all of these engagements, African countries usually lack the capacity and skills required to do the best deals. But a bad or disadvantageous trade agreement could mean disaster for local businesses. Our economic and business research institutions can offer us crucial guidance, and perhaps easily demonstrate to us where we already share common attributes or exhibit fundamental differences, prompting closer scrutiny or encouraging brisk concurrence, as may be appropriate.
“We need the capacity to undertake complex economic studies of diverse African situations and present alternative or comparative perspectives, which could form the basis for more confident negotiations.”
Felicitating with Chief Akinkugbe on his 90th birthday, the Vice President described him as a quintessential Nigerian business icon with a legacy of ethical conduct.
Prof. Osinbajo said, “For more than four decades, going on to five, he has occupied leading positions on the business landscape in Nigeria, inspiring generations of entrepreneurs and corporate executives. And there are strong parallels to be drawn between his business investments and this Fellowship. The Olu Akinkugbe Business Law in Africa Fellowship is, itself, an investment in knowledge and scholarship, in people, and in the future of Africa. And it is an investment that I believe is certain to yield tremendous benefits.”
Also speaking at the event, Akinkugbe described the Vice President as one that gives Nigerians hope for the future of the country.
“It is often not the case that you have people with complete understanding of the problems that we face in the country. He (VP) has intervened in the different struggles in this country. May God help you to continue to give your best to Nigeria,” Akinkugbe said.
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