African leaders should address widening inequality — WAIFEM Boss

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The Director General, West Africa Institute for Financial and Economic Management, (WAIFEM), Akpan Ekpo has advised African leaders to address the issues of rising unemployment, rising poverty, widening inequality and deterioration in the provision of social services to its citizens.

In his opening remarks at the fifth anniversary lecture of the Realnews Magazine Publications Limited in Lagos, Ekpo said after almost 60 years of attaining political independence, the leadership in Africa in the past 20 years had not shown any positive sign of moving towards economic independence.

 He said that currently, almost all the countries in Africa depend on the export of commodities (agriculture and/or minerals), and thus, remain backward and underdeveloped.

“Because the African leadership is busy developing underdevelopment, its role in the global sphere is albeit marginal. If the African continent especially Sub-Sahara Africa has a strong dynamic economy, its citizens would be respected globally. The perception that Africa is rising is not only a misnomer but an illusion. How can Africa be rising yet poverty is rising, and inequality is widening despite its rich human and mineral resources? How can Africa be rising yet thousands of Africans try every day to cross to Europe in search of a better life, with hundreds drowning in the seas of Europe,” he said.

Ekpo, who is the chairman of the occasion, said the theme of the lecture: ‘African Leadership in A Turbulent Era’ is very timely and relevant given the present global situation.

According to him, the world has never experienced so much uncertainty since the end of the Second World War. He noted that there had been tensions since then particularly with the rivalry of the then two super powers – the former Soviet Union and the United States.

“At the end of the cold war, observers had thought that the world would become a better place for all citizens despite the inherent ideological debate. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the unipolar system headed by the USA became exposed to its inconsistent policies at the global level. It was common knowledge that even with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the latter was and still very powerful militarily.

“Nonetheless, the possession of nuclear arsenals by countries was relatively subdued. The wars in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan and the resulting outcomes such as the rise of ISIS, among others truncated the erstwhile fragile global peace.

“Today, the global players in Europe and USA are involved in containing ISIS, spread of nuclear arsenals, tensions in Yemen, war in Syria with the aim of perhaps preventing a third world war.

“The planned exit of Britain from the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as the President of the USA have sent shocks to the global environment. It seems that there is a return to nationalism signaling an end to neo-liberalism within the context of globalization.

“The point to ponder with is: Did globalisation benefit African countries? Did African economies practice neo-liberalism, no matter how defined? In all the issues described above, what were the positions of African leaders? Did such positions matter?”

On the economic front, Ekpo said the global economy was still recovering sluggishly from the 2008/9 great recession. He stated that African economies were affected either directly or indirectly through a client status.

“However, the impact of the global economic recession on the African economies was not that severe. What has been the position of African leaders in this turbulent world?

“Is it just siddon look ? The African Union which should represent the collective voice of Africa do make pronouncements from time to time on the global situation, but one wonders whether such statements are taken seriously by European and American leaders,” he added.

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