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UNDP: Africa must stop nurturing poverty and pursue prosperity

Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa, made the call during a panel discussion at the maiden edition of the Global Africa Forum (GAF) held in New York

Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa, has made a passionate appeal to African leaders and Global Africa to stop accepting programmes designed to get African countries to nurture poverty and rather embrace efforts aimed at the prosperity of the African continent.

Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa, made the call in her contribution during a panel discussion at the maiden edition of the Global Africa Forum (GAF) jointly organised by the Africa Prosperity Network (APN) and the Africa-America Institute (AAI) on Thursday September 21st, 2023, on the margins of the 78th UN General Assembly in New York City, under the theme: Mobilising Global Africa Investment to Boost Intra-African Trade.

Prosperity over poverty

“In one country where I worked, one of the three pillars of our work was a unit called Poverty. I remember cringing as an African when I saw that. It kind of hits you.

Why are we making Africa centre of poverty? Some of you who have worked in the financial sector will remember the famous PRSPs (Poverty Reduction Strategies), and what that has done to Africa is that we have continued to nurture poverty. We have continued to create a lot of poverty,” Ms Eziakonwa said during the panel discussion.

“So, I don’t actually think the system is designed to help eradicate poverty in Africa. That’s why we talk about poverty reduction. The system still needs a place with poverty so we can play our charity roles. In UNDP, we transformed all poverty leaders in the last 10 years into inclusive growth and sustainability.

“This is a journey for an international development agency that sees the future. And I think sometimes we (Africans) are very much a part of the whole problem.

“Having something called Africa’s Prosperity Dialogues, is the beginning of that simple mindset shift, and it has to be led by Africans,” the Assistant Secretary General of UNDP added.

Why invest in Africa

In her submission, Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa told her audience that there should not be a reason for them to invest in Africa because there is every reason for them to invest in the continent.

Answering a rhetorical question; “So, why should the diaspora invest in Africa?” Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa said, “Because I don’t think there should be no reason. I cannot give you a reason. You are African. You are because Africa is.”

“You know, it’s interesting; I have lived outside my country for at least 30 years. And now, I can consider myself diasporan. But when I establish my foundations, I went to support primary, secondary, and university education in my country. That country invested in me. I competed for a scholarship in that country and won it, based on the education that we often admire.

“It was Nigerian professors, Nigerian lecturers, who trained and invested in me and made me competitive globally. Sometimes, you hear words like, “we have the most brilliant Africans outside; they need to return home and give back.” You are brilliant because your brilliance comes from the continent. So, you must invest because you’ve got to give back. You owe it to the continent,” Ms Eziakonwa said.

“Secondly, you have to invest because it is in your interest for Africa to be prosperous. If Africa is not prosperous, you are not. I know it because I feel it every day when I walk the streets of New York. The good news I get from Africa enriches me. The bad news I get from Africa diminishes me.

“So, you must invest in Africa’s prosperity or you will be diminished. Another compelling reason for the diaspora to invest in the continent is that Africa is the future. If you don’t invest, you’ll be left out. It’s as simple as that. It’s where the future of development will be determined. You need to get in now or you will be too late. Others will occupy the space,” she added.

Global Africa

Mr. Yofi Grant, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Ghana Investment Promotions Centre (GIPC), in his contribution on another panel noted that Ghana in 2022, attracted about 4.8 billion dollars in remittances to the country.

Mr. Yofi Grant, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Ghana Investment Promotions Centre (GIPC), speaking during the panel discussion

Global Africa, to this end, according to Mr Grant, have a significant role to play towards the transformation of the continent and it is incumbent on African leaders to create the enabling environment to attract direct investment from the diaspora

“Last year, the Ghanaian diaspora remitted approximately 4.8 billion dollars into the country’s economy. That is much more than we (Ghana) borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and much more than we want to collect in revenues. So that’s quite significant.” Mr Grant said.

“It’s very important for the transformation of the African continent to embrace the diaspora (Global Africa). If Americans, not African Americans, spend three trillion a year. Just take 10% of it to the continent of Africa. Can you imagine the transformation that it will bring about,” he added.

Reporting by Wilberforce Asare in Accra

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