ALTHOUGH recent official statistics in Nigeria showed that over 100 million citizens have slipped under the poverty line in the country, World Bank Vice President, Oby Ezekwesili, yesterday painted a bright picture of Africa as a continent, insisting that global economic indicators “tell us that Africa is irresistibly and irreversibly on the rise”.
Ezekwesili spoke in Abeokuta, Ogun State, at the launch of “Feed Africa Programme (FAP)”, an initiative of the Centre for Human Security (CHS) of the Olusegun Obasanjo’s Presidential Library (OOPL), which was held as part of activities to mark former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s 75th birthday.
She told her audience, which included Obasanjo, governors, ministers, academics and traditional rulers: “In essence, it is true that Africa is rising and even more true, that poverty is falling. These are important reasons to remain optimistic though challenges remain.”
However, Ezekwesili painted a bleak picture of food security in Africa, disclosing that hunger is threatening the continent.
Her words: “The issue of food security can at best be summarised as one of fragile gains and renewed risks. With global food prices at historically high levels and expected to remain so, sub-Sahara African countries are exposed to new risks.
“For example, as a consequence of failed rains and poor domestic production in the main 2011 crop, the United Nations (UN) warns of a likely food crisis impacting more than 2.9 million people in Chad and Mali and about six million in Niger alone. This crisis is projected to spread to Burkina Faso, Senegal and northern parts of Nigeria and Cameroun.”
Ezekwesili also stated that sharing the proceeds of crude oil sale among the three tiers of government in Nigeria would not move the country forward.
She said the country would only be transformed if such funds are channelled towards meaningful projects that would have positive impacts on the life of the people.
Meanwhile, former Governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, has felicitated with Obasanjo who celebrated his 75th birthday yesterday.
Daniel in a statement by his Media Assistant, Mr. Adegbenro Adebanjo, described Obasanjo as a foremost patriot whose commitment to the Nigerian project over the years had been “outstanding”.
Also, Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke, has described Obasanjo as “the father of modern Nigeria”.
Imoke stated this in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media/Chief Press Secretary, Omini Oden, as he joined others to congratulate Obasanjo on his 75th birthday celebrations.
Meanwhile, Delta State has been chosen to pilot the FAP as former President Obasanjo yesterday launched a scheme to battle malnutrition and ensure food security in Africa.
Speaking at the formal launch of FAP yesterday in Abeokuta, Obasanjo said Delta State would host the pilot scheme given the state’s pedigree in agricultural programme.
Speaking further on Africa’s economic growth, Ezekwesili stated: “Barring a serious downturn worldwide, Africa’s growth for 2012 and 2013 is estimated at 5.3 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively. This signifies progress when compared to the pre-crisis average of five per cent. What is interesting is that countries like Ghana, Ethiopia and Republic of Congo are amongst the fastest-growing economies in the world.
“At the same time, the continent is increasingly becoming an attractive destination for private capital. Not only have we witnessed an upward trend in private capital flows-closing at $23 billion in 2011, we are also seeing remittance at stronger levels with current estimates at about $23 billion.”
According to Ezekwesili, “these signs of progress are reflecting positively on the poverty numbers. The World Bank’s latest poverty numbers, for the first time since 1981, show that less than half of African population (47 per cent) lives below $1.25 a day. Nine million fewer people are living below $1.25 a day in 2008 than 2005”. .