By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Zambia- Vice president, Yemi Osinbajo has said that Africa, as a continent, must invest in education and technology to overcome poverty. The Vice President made the remark while participating in the commissioning of the $420 million Dangote Cement’s plant in Zambia on Tuesday.
He said: “Africa unfortunately remains the poorest continent in the world. The implications are illiteracy, poor health, and low income per capita. Consequently, despite our large populations, our markets are not deep. Most cannot afford goods and services.”
Osinbajo who observed that the problem cuts across the continent however advocated that the only solution is for governments to substantially invest in human capacity development even as he stated the need for African economic integration.
“We simply must spend money on the people. We must spend more on education, technology and healthcare. We must invest in technology infrastructure to enable our young and bright boys and girls hone their skills in the competitive world of technology. We must provide benefits for the disabled poor, the elderly poor and the otherwise vulnerable. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind.
“With 54 countries and well over a billion people, and economic bloc cooperating through enabling trade agreements, collaborative tariff regimes, multilateral trade concessions and agreements will open up the fastest growing economy in the world. Enough has been said about Africa’s Economic integration; it is time to act,” he said.
The Vice President who was accompanied to the country by Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole also hailed the wind of democracy blowing across the continent, saying it could ensure political and economic stability, adding that there was a big correlation between development and the stability engendered by free choice of leadership.
He said “ the rule of law, protection of the right to private property and respect for the sanctity of contract are institutional pillars of liberal democracies that today guarantees an environment where commerce, industry and professional practice can thrive and bring the much needed jobs to millions of our people.’’
Osinbajo identified the Zambia’s Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement as one that offers incentives and safeguards investments against any future challenges in legislation.
The legislative device “is forward looking and creative as it offers comfort and confidence especially to foreign businesses undertaking major long term investments in Zambia.’’
He thanked Zambian President Edgar Lungu who received him at the event for providing the enabling environment and about half a billion dollars in a single enterprise in the country and also the ingenuity, hard work and resourcefulness of Dangote group.
Earlier at a courtesy visit to the Zambian President and his deputy, Inonge Wina, at the Zambia Presidential State House in Lusaka, the Vice President expressed President Muhammadu Buhari’s satisfaction with the Nigerian investments in Zambia and what they mean for future cooperation.
In his address, President Lungu hailed the courage of the Dangote group to invest in his country and for being the most diversified African investor.
He said his administration would seek to expand the trade and investment relationship with Nigeria and called on other Nigerian companies to emulate the Dangote group by investing in his country as his administration was poised to provide incentives.
Lungu said that with the massive constructions going on in the country, the demand for cement rose while the new cement plant had already with its production reduced the high cost of the commodity.
He said his administration would explore the use of cement in road construction against bitumen which had been expensive and difficult to get.
The President called for community support to enable the investment to thrive and noted that the company’s policies would benefit them and other citizens.
Also speaking, President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote said that the project, the 6th integrated plant commissioned outside Nigeria which has the capacity to produce 1.5 million tons of cement annually was the group’s plan to pursue massive investments of Africans in Africa.
According to him, the group would in few days commission 400 trucks for the evacuation of the product which will create thousands of jobs.
Dangote also announced plans to create a total of 16 cement plants across Africa to produce at least 80 million tonnes of cement and address the infrastructure needs of the continent, half of which would be produced in Nigeria.
He said the company had set aside $500,000 to support community development in Ndola adding that plans were on to immediately set up schools, hospitals and scholarship grants to the host community as part of its corporate social responsibility.