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World Bank is Africa’s biggest friend, Ezekwesili

By Clara NWACHUKWU, London
World Bank’s Vice-President for the Africa Region,  Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili,  has defended the role of international institutions and their policies, which have often been criticized as worsening African economies.

For Nigeria’s current financial sector reforms to meet set targets, she said it must be focus specific such that fiscal policies and monetary policies are complementary to each other.

She said, “The financial sector is the backbone of the private sector in any economy, so you  need to have the financial sector able to provide the needed financing for the real sector.

“For it to be able to do that, it’s got to be a financial sector that is very sound in corporate governance and having the capacity to inspire confidence and therefore mobilise the domestic resources as well as private capital flows from abroad.”

Ezekwesili  insisted that the World Bank  has, in fact, been  Africa’s biggest friend in its growth policies.
She said, “Frankly speaking, the World Bank, for instance, has been a very good friend to Africa in a number of areas of policy.

Some of the policies in the kind of changes and in the kind of improvements you have seen in Africa’s growth performance have been the very important macro economic reforms that the Bank has worked with the continent to make happen. These are fundamental reforms that countries like China and India embarked upon and set the pace for their growth.

Africa is setting the stage for its own growth, and we at the World Bank are proud to support this process of Africa taking mastery of its own macro economic choices as well as embarking on important sector-specific reforms that will enable it grow and enable it create jobs for the people.

The bank chief  who spoke on the sidelines of the 2010 Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards, which held on Thursday at the Landmark Hotel, London,  told our reporter, who was one of the three nominees in the Best Business News Story category of the award that to have positive effects, the ongoing reforms in Nigeria must continue and be sustained.

With regard to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reforms, which have come under heavy criticisms lately, Mrs. Ezekwesili noted that globally, financial reforms can be “very difficult even in the easiest of environments.”

Having started in the right direction with the macro prudential elements, she said that CBN must go beyond this, such that “The fiscal activities of government are very complementary of the monetary policies and the monetary policies too complement the fiscals and are able to pool access to finance for the real sector.”

For this to happen, she argued that the Nigerian economy, which is solely dependent on petro_dollars must go beyond the oil sector, and diversify to other sectors, particularly agriculture.

Mrs Ezekwesili, who was the keynote speaker at this year’s awards, had earlier told participants that “Africa offers you the highest return on investment compared to anywhere else in the world,” adding, “For those who have not dared; it is simply a bit of not understanding that risk is no longer African.”

She, however, regretted that foreign investors in African economies have played up more on the risks than on the return on investments.

“What I find surprising is that often businesses that do well in Africa never are ambassadors of Africa. In one king of an amazing desire, often they actually play up the inadequacies of the business environment in Africa,” she said.

Speaking on the awards, Mr Paul Walsh, the Chief Executive Officer, Diageo Plc, said the Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards, now in its seventh edition, is a recognition of “national and international media in reporting about the African business environment.”

The British Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for International Development, Mr Stephen O’Brien, noted that the media plays a very important role in the growth and development of Africa.

“The media is the most persuasive voice of all, especially for investments. The success story of Africa needs accurate reporting so that investors can make accurate investment risks.”

There were altogether 12 categories of the 2010 Diageo awards, in which Nigeria’s Businessday Newspapers emerged the Media of the Year, based on the decision of a panel of eight judges, which included, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, the Executive President, African Business Roundtable and Chairman, NEPAD Business Group.


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