The African Business Roundtable is the global voice of the private sector. We address the United Nations (UN) on private sector affairs, African Union and the rest. Our job, is to bring awareness to the private sector and civil societies to understand that they need to partner with the public sector, in order to ensure that developmental effort of government takes place. What we need to do is to ensure that the private sector leadership in developmental effort is delivered. That is what the African Business Roundtable does. My mandate is the whole of Africa, but our global reach is everywhere. As I told you, we worked with the UN, G8 and so on. Any time, there is a G8 meeting, the African Business Roundtable is around to represent the interest of the private sector.
How do you address the challenges of low level participation of the private sector in most of African economies?
Yes, the challenges are many; and this calls for the need to really scale up. But, we have done a lot. It has never been like that. We ensure that, regionally, we have got understanding with the regional organisation like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).That is why you see that ABR has got an office in that organisation. Our headquarters is in Johannesburg, South Africa. And we ensure that apart from our regional meetings, we also work in partnership with the UN agencies like United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).With this instructive relationship with them, these agencies are all out to work with us. For example, Mr Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the UN, directed all the UN agencies in the world to work with ABR on anything to do with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa in order to scale the poverty level. We believe that, the way to challenge poverty is to create wealth by ensuring that we address education, health and agriculture; by informing the general society what they need to do. Because they need to understand that education is central to that. And, once you educate people, they understand and look in, and give you the real result required.
But the MDGs target set to achieve in 2015 in Nigeria are already mired with problems, making that target nearly impossible to achieve. Is there any synergy between ABR and government towards achieving the MDGs?
Well, it is a very challenging thing. What we expect is a well loaded programme that the ABR would like to do. But there are many other stakeholders- government, civil society,chambers of commerce, trade unions, educationists; and they all have to understand that they have to speak with one voice. That voice means development. For us today, the developed nations have spoken about meltdown. We, in ABR, are talking about build up. They are two different things, meltdown or build up. We are already down. Ours is to build up. Because, we have not even arrived at the position that we came down and we did not pick up. So, it is important for us to understand that there is an opportunity not to waste this crisis unfolding themselves within the context of economic development. That is the situation.
How can Nigeria build up while the developed economies are crumbling?
That is simple. Everything in this world starts from the land, including the human beings themselves. In the scriptures, we know that we are created from the land. God has given Africa an expanse of land, lakes, rivers, forests, minerals; the one we know now and the ones we even don’t know. All this, given a climate that is really ideal for anything, it is for us to create wealth out of the resources given to us. We have to believe in Africa, because it is ours.
Government is central to development, at least, by providing the enabling environment, such as power, infrastructure, among others. Are you satisfied with what the Nigerian government is doing in that regard?