By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief & Emmanuel Elebeke
Former Ghanaian President, Mr. John Mahama, yesterday, said African leaders must be bold and take the destiny of the region into the hands of Africans.
He spoke on “Challenges of Governance and Development in Africa,” at a lecture organized by the Department of State Service, for its Officers Course 10 participants, in Abuja.
His words, “African destiny lies in the hands of Africans. We cannot expect that anybody will come from anywhere to develop our continent and nations for us. We must take our destinies into our own hands. And it is possible to do
“Today, Africa is the most dynamic continent when you come to telecommunications, especially when it comes to mobile telecommunication. We have the fastest growing broadband access than any other part o the world.
“Today mobile money developed in Kenya has become the model for the rest of the world and is being copied in East Asia and other parts of the world, spreading across the countries.
“What we did in telecom, we can do in energy. Today everybody has phone allowing people to communicate.
Spread Energy throughout Africa
“We can do same in energy by putting in place the appropriate policy to enable power supply spread across the continent. There is no way we can develop and catch with the rest of the world if we do not have power because we need power to establish those businesses and build capacity, and we cannot compete if we use power from expensive sources.
“Nigeria should produce petroleum and export to the rest of Africa. This is not a development paradigm that the developed nations enthused about,
“And the earlier we work on our continental security and put our interest above external interest, no matter the consequences, the sooner we realize the benefits as a continent.
“Personalization of power may have an allure of its own, but no one rules forever. The best way to guarantee development of our generation and descendants is through institutional values .“
Although the former president admitted that African leaders could leverage the high population in the region to grow the economy, he warned against a population growth rate that could outstrip food production, which he warned would be catastrophic
He said, “Africa must take advantage of opportunities to control its population growth. A time will come when population will exceed the food production. We must seek more resources to build schools, hospitals to outpace the growing population.”
The ex-president also warned against geographical inequalities, as according to him, those excluded from resources and left in poverty would be easy targets for recruitment into various forms of criminality.
What Leaders must do
“One of the sacrifice African leaders must make is to spread the fruits geographically in a way every part of the country experience that spread.
“We can only do this if we decentralize and put power in the hands of our people. Let them take their destiny in their hands and bequeath a system that will ensure resources of the nation are spread to all part and level. We must work for equity in spreading resources of our nations so that everybody will feel they have a stake in the survival of our states,” he said.
On election disputes, he said, “It looks as if nobody loses an election in Africa. It is good that someone win but there can be only one winner in every election contest. Somebody must be prepared to lose. It is as much as winning as it is about losing. You must be magnanimous when you win and you must be gracious when you lose.
“Unfortunately, we have not learnt to lose. We want to win at all cost.
“At least, we have developed a civil approach in pursuing our grievances by going to court. But at the same time we must exercise caution in dragging the court into election process.”
On intra-African trade , Ex-President Mahama said, “Why is it that Africa still puts more impediments into its way by preventing trade between ourselves? Looking at the economies of the world, there have been key drivers of these economies. Japan is critical in South East Asia in the process that put them in the strategic position they are. I believe that in our part of the world, there are countries that are capable to do that. In Southern African region, South Africa as a country is doing that by investing in Zambia, Zimbawe, Ghana and Nigeria.
“I believe in West Africa, Nigeria has a central responsibility in the region. It cannot shelve that responsibility because it is not only the largest economy in West Africa; it is the second largest economy in Africa.
“If Nigeria gets its economy right, and accelerate its economy and impacts in the economy of West African trade in the sub region, it will drive other 14 West African countries.
“Until we retool ourselves, we will not benefit from the critical mass that we need to develop. All our trade channels are channeled externally. Most of our trade directions tilt towards Europe.Total trade among African countries is about 11 percent, the lowest compared with other regions of the world.”
What we need to do
“We need to take away those barriers, artificially placed by colonial masters. Even if we maintain those barriers created for political purposes, our countries need to open up those borders for economic purposes, he said.”