I am delighted to join you this morning at the 25th Nigerian Economic Summit. Since 1993, public and private sector leaders have used this platform to deliberate on key issues of national development.
I commend and congratulate all stakeholders, from the public and private sectors, for sustaining this partnership.
The elections have come and gone. Our country, once again, has shown the world that we can choose our leaders in a peaceful and orderly manner. Apart from a few pockets of unrest, the majority of voters exercised their civic rights without hindrance.
Furthermore, we also saw an increase in the number of aggrieved candidates, and supporters, who took their concerns and grievances to the courts as opposed to the streets. This is how it should be.
Ladies and Gentlemen, what this clearly shows is that our democracy is maturing.
During the elections, almost all candidates proposed their vision for the economy and for the country. Our party, the All Progressive Congress, put before the country policies that focus on delivering prosperity to all Nigerians through;
eliminating corrupt practices in public service;
supporting sectors that will create jobs, and
promoting socially-focused interventions to support the poorest and most vulnerable among us.
These areas are all interconnected and are equally important in creating a prosperous society for all.
Today, many mistake prosperity with wealth. They are not necessarily the same.
Experts and analysts explain economic trends by making references to indicators of wealth. Wealth, however, in its simplistic form, is money or other assets. In recent years, global events have shown that when a society and its leaders are driven and motivated by these alone, the ultimate outcome is a divided state of severe inequalities.
But a prosperous society is one where the majority of its citizens have an acceptable standard of living and a decent quality of life.
Nigeria is a country with close to 200 million people living in 36 states and the FCT. A significant proportion of Nigeria’s prosperity today is concentrated in the hands of a few people living primarily in 4 or 5 states and the FCT. Some of the most prosperous Nigerians are here in this room.
This leaves the remaining 31 States with close to 150 million people in a state of expectancy and hope for a better opportunity to thrive. This, in the most basic form, drives the migratory and security trends we are seeing today both in Nigeria and across the region.
In recent weeks, I have been to;
Niger Republic to attend the ECOWAS summit;
Japan with fellow African leaders to attend the Tokyo International Conference on African Development; and
the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
South Africa on a State visit to exchange ideas on the common themes we share as the two largest economies in Africa;
What was very clear at these meetings, and numerous others I have been privileged to attend over the years is the increased consensus by leaders that to address population growth, security and corruption matters in developing economies, our policies and programs must focus on promoting inclusivity and collective prosperity.
This shift implies that the concept of having competitive free markets that focus on wealth creation alone will be replaced by those that propagate the creation of inclusive markets that provide citizens with opportunities that will lead to peaceful and prosperous lives.
Recently, in a book about the financial crisis written by three leading US policymakers who are advocates and true believers in the power of free markets, the authors also highlighted the need for the invisible hand of the market to work side by side with the visible hand of government to protect businesses and create opportunities for citizens.
Our economic policies in the last four years focused on the need to uplift the poor and the disadvantaged and encourage inclusivity.
This year’s economic summit focuses on what Nigeria would be in the year 2050 when many studies estimate our population will rise to over 400 million people.
As a government, our view is to equip our citizens with the means to seize any opportunities that may arise. This means we continue investments in education, health care, infrastructure, security and strengthen and entrench the rule of law.
I am informed that this year’s Summit has identified key job-creating sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, ICT, creative industry and the extractive industry as focus sectors. I am also told that your deliberations will focus on unlocking capital through our financial services sector to actualize the opportunities in these sectors.
In your deliberations, I would request that your proposals are productive, inventive and innovative keeping in mind that Nigeria’s unique challenges can only be solved by made in Nigeria solutions.
As a government, we very much look forward to our continued collaboration with the private sector in designing and implementing developmental projects that will keep Nigeria on track for sustained, inclusive and prosperity driven growth.
It is now my pleasure to declare the 25th Nigerian Economic Summit open and I wish you very fruitful, robust and productive deliberations.
Thank you and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.