President Muhammadu Buhari has said despite having the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria is experiencing conflicts and irregular migration because of lack of social and economic inclusion.
The president stated this Saturday during his remarks at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa holding at the Dead Sea, in Amman, Jordan.
Mr Buhari said the world “has completely changed” in the last 10 years with significant shifts on many fronts such as technology, population and migration, geopolitics and climate change.
“For some nations, these trends have had positive impacts. But of course, we have also seen the negative and destructive outcomes of these trends in other countries.
“It is my view, that no region of the world has felt the full impact of these dramatic shifts and shocks like the Middle East and Africa – North and Sub-Sahara.
“On one hand, our region is blessed with a very young, vibrant, enterprising and dynamic population. We also have valuable natural resources that are the envy of many nations.
“These assets and endowments contributed to our region experiencing some of the highest economic growth rates in the world.
“On the other hand however, we have also been hosts to some of the deadliest conflicts in recent history. The deaths, damage and destruction caused by terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram over the last ten years will take decades to repair,” he said.
Mr Buhari said most of these terrorist organisations have been significantly degraded.
He said the world came together to achieve this, adding, “we are faced with the task of rebuilding”.
The Nigerian president said “It is at this point that we must ask ourselves how we, as a region, got to this point”.
The answer, at least in the case of Nigeria, he said, is the lack of social and economic inclusion.
He said as Nigeria celebrated being the largest economy in Africa and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Nigerians were at the same time migrating in droves “through harsh desert conditions and across treacherous seas to seek what they believe would be a better life in Europe”.
“I strongly believe that the lack of social and economic inclusion was the root cause of many challenges we are experiencing.
“Today, our population is 190 million people. By 2050, it is estimated that we will hit 390 million, making us the third most populous country in the world. This means we must start working now to ensure this population is productively engaged,” he said.
What we are doing
Mr Buhari also told the forum what his government is doing about the identified challenges.
He said the government had in the last four years, focused on security while implementing ‘inclusive’ policies.
He said significant gains had been made in fighting Boko Haram terrorists. He said the government had been able to recapture all territories held by Boko Haram in 2014, while also liberating thousands of Nigerians held against their will.
“Today, I am pleased to say no territory in the Federal Republic of Nigeria is held or controlled by Boko Haram.
“We are extremely grateful to the many countries that have stood with Nigeria to confront this global scourge and in particular, the Kingdom of Jordan under the leadership of His Majesty, the King,” he said.
Mr Buhari also said the economic diversification and social inclusion policies initiated by his administration are also yielding positive results.
He said Nigeria has now returned to the path of growth and the country is now making gains in the ease of doing business indices.
The President said a key driver for growth, the agricultural sector, has seen “innovative policies that have empowered millions of rural citizens”.
“In the spirit of “Building New Platforms of Cooperation”, we partnered with the Kingdom of Morocco to domesticate Fertiliser production in Nigeria and revive over two million tons of abandoned Fertiliser blending plant capacity.
“The outcome is we created tens of thousands of jobs in agriculture, logistics, manufacturing and retail sectors. We are able to achieve moderate growth. But it was inclusive,” he said.
Mr Buhari said Nigeria is now at a new dawn and embarking on a new development trajectory.
He said his government is determined to industrialise Nigeria leveraging its comparative advantage.
“We recognise the private sector as the engine of growth and a veritable partner in our economic agenda. The Middle East is a natural partner.
“Africa and the Middle East must therefore focus on policies that will deliver shared economic prosperity for all our citizens.
“On trade and investments for example, we can do more. Africa represents only five per cent of Jordan’s trade with the world. But we have the resources, the people and the markets to do more.
“Opportunities exist in key job creating sectors such as Agriculture, Health, Tourism, ICT, Infrastructure as well as Textile and garmenting to mention a few.
“Our new, inclusive and diversified Nigeria is definitely open for business. Our population, resources, policies and programs make it the most attractive investment destination in Africa.
“As friends and allies, we must therefore cooperate and leverage on our relative strengths. We must remain open to “Building New Platforms of Cooperation,” Mr Buhari added.