African governments have been advised to look in the direction of China in their search for solutions to the continent’s economic problems. Former Governor of Anambra State Mr. Peter Obi, gave the advice while delivering a keynote speech at the three-day 2018 African SME Roundtable Forum concluded on Saturday in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
He drew attention to the fact that only 35 years ago, Africa boasted better economic indices than China. “Thirty-five years ago, Africa was doing better than China per capita, but the reverse is now the case,” Obi lamented, reeling out figures to buttress his point.
He noted that while Africa has regressed over the past three decades, China has gone on to become one of the best economies in the world. The secret, he said, lies in China’s massive investment in education and skill acquisition programmes, as well as solid support for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs).
“If Africa is to be turned around, it will be done through SMEs. That is the engine of growth, even in developed countries,” said the former Governor, who since after leaving office in 2014 has devoted his time to the promotion of education across the continent and imparting of knowledge through speaking engagement in various parts of the world.
Citing the global trend, Obi advised Nigeria and the rest of Africa to aggressively pursue “knowledge economy” as against the preoccupation with “baggage economy”, which he described as being old fashioned. He warned that oil cannot save Nigeria or any other African country, pointing out that global firms such as Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, “which sell knowledge”, are making more money than a country like Nigeria which depends heavily on oil revenue.
“Don’t think that oil is going to save Nigeria or any other African country. If it could do that, it would have saved Venezuela,” Obi warned
He also condemned the public sector’s penchant of “borrowing money without saving to pay back,” warning: “That is anarchy. The youths will pay for it tomorrow.” He also condemned multiple taxation, blaming it on the fact that “government has not realised the importance of SMEs.”
The former Governor, himself a successful business man before he ventured into politics, shared success secrets and spoke of how he was able to save money as two-time Governor of Anambra State by drastically cutting the cost of governance and partnering with development agencies such as the Bank of Industry and international development partners.
He advised African youths not to lose hope but to remain positive and see SMEs as something they can use to deliver the continent out of poverty and even change the world for the better. He noted that from the discussions, it was evident that there are large opportunities in Africa. But “young people must invest wisely for them to create wealth and job for others. You must also manage your cost. Unless it is for business purposes, spend from your surplus and not from the money you use to do business,” he advised.
The Roundtable drew economic experts from various parts of Africa, among them Ambassador Joseph Habineza, former Rwandan High Commissioner to Nigeria; Dr. Kheswar Jankee, Ambassador, Republic of Mauritius to Germany; Rose Mboya, Head of Intellectual Property, Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI); Victor Grange Mehile, former Minister of Agriculture, Republic of Equatorial Guinea; and Alhaji Babale Girei, former Managing Director of Nigeria’s Bank of Agriculture and pioneer President of the World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises.