Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja and Funmi Ogundare in Lagos
A member of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Charles Soludo, yesterday called for a fundamental strategy to redesign the country for an effective transition to a viable economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Soludo, who was a guest on ARISE News Channel programme, The Morning Show, aired by the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, said the country could not afford to be left behind as a result of the pandemic.
According to him, value and opportunities should be created in the agriculture, technology and manufacturing sectors.
He said: “It all depends on what you do in response to the COVID-19. If people think of it as a binary or sequential thing that we first of all finish with the pandemic and then come back to deal with the economy, there will be no opportunity and it will not augur well by not taking advantage of this opportunity.
“It all depends on what we strategically do today. China today has opportunistically positioned themselves, while the world is locking down; they were raking in hundreds of billions of dollars. China ejected positively about $2.5 billion when everybody seems to be on recession. African countries should opportunistically position themselves and think differently. How do we tackle the pandemic given our local realities in such a manner that we can also position ourselves to the advantage of the rest of the world?
“For instance, it all depends on what we do. What will happen to remittances and tourism? With COVID-19, Africa will almost lose a lot. All these will have consequences as well or how quickly we recover.”
Asked if Africa is prepared for the digital economy in terms of capacity and infrastructure, he said: “One thing is sure; Africa must deal with the orchestrated conversation against the 5G technology. Technology is the language of the future; it is the future and Africa will continue to be a land of opportunities. Investments are warranted and countries that have got the enabling environment and regulatory ease of doing business will obviously make it.”
The former CBN governor described Africa as a land of opportunities if the right strategies are deployed.
“Our potentials are quite huge; there will be a creative distraction; there are huge opportunities for value addition; it’s a virgin land as it were. I want to believe that over 400 companies make annual revenue in excess of one billion pounds in a year. The future is here whether it is in terms of solid minerals sector, agriculture, technology, and manufacturing, especially. It is the place to be with the right strategies,” he added.
He urged African countries to pump money into their economies to cushion the effect of rising inflation.
Asked if African countries can afford lockdown, Soludo said: “How do you get people to eat because there is a link between nutrition and health? With this, we need to fill the missing link because there are so many people that cannot afford to feed. It means there are many Africans who are in need – about 1.3 billion people. And about two to five per cent can afford the lockdown. There are people who are malnourished with immune system down, there are thousands dying everyday.
“People are dying in thousands as a consequence of the lockdown. There are people also dying of malaria, other diseases and infections in a year. What is going on as regards the other aspect of people dying of malnutrition, hunger and they have no money to treat the ailment?
“There is probably more thousands dying of these that we don’t have the statistics. In Africa, with the demographics nature of the Coronavirus, the people who are dying are the elderly and those with underlying illness. The WHO statistics is showing that over 80 per cent of the asymptomatic or the milder will get over it in anyway. So it is not so much about the number of infections.
“Globally, till today, there are more people dying from malaria in a year in Nigeria than Coronavirus has killed in the entire world. In the entire Africa, there have been 1,400 that have died of Coronavirus but everyday people die out of every other diseases and we haven’t locked down because of that.”