By Kayode Fayemi
The first part of this piece published yesterday focused on equipping young people with digital skills to prepare them for technology-enabled jobs.
IT means governments and the private sector must collaborate to identify the most critical jobs, and then prepare our workforce for those jobs. But the biggest reason to support the growth in broadband infrastructure is to ensure nobody is left behind.
If we have learnt one thing from COVID-19, it is that virtualisation is here to stay; this includes remote learning, work and even social engagements. This means that broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. There have been many suggestions that even when this virus is finally in our past, the world as we’ve known it has changed permanently. To stay ahead of the times, we have to review our ways of doing things. For example, we have to ensure a skilled and healthy workforce is developed.
Developing a skilled workforce these days means preparing our youth for the future of work. From digital skills training to technical and vocational training, we must equip our young people with the required skills to take up jobs in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
I will now touch on land reforms, where states are the dominant organisers of land. As Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, I can confirm we have identified the reform of land management across states as a critical deliverable for 2021, and many states are preparing to deploy GIS, and ensure at least 50 per cent of land and properties in urban areas are registered and geo-tagged.
Reform of land management
Such land reform, if followed by the appropriate legislation by mortgage and foreclosure laws, which has been enacted in a number of states, including Ekiti, will support the real estate industry and help to drive mortgages. By doing this, we will support the continued recovery of the real estate sector, one of the few to show encouraging signs of growth.
While I am confident that state governors will rise to the occasion, we must look beyond our individual states and start to drive regional growth across neighbouring states to benefit from economies of scale, and regional integration. For example, security, which is a major constraint to economic activity, can only be resolved if states work together, share intelligence, and adopt a common approach to this problem. We will continue to encourage states to seek collaborative solutions to such problems, so the solutions can be effective and sustainable.
We will also continue to engage with the Federal Government and its institutions, to ensure that states are an integral part of developing and implementing national economic plans. Only last week, we received a brief of the Presidential Economic Advisory Committee on its poverty reduction plan for Nigeria. We will study the plan in detail and share insight from our various sub-nationals that will enhance the plan, and ensure we also actively participate in its implementation.
We adopted a similar approach with the Economic Sustainability Plan, and the collaborative effort adopted has given more impetus to the plan, evidenced by its rapid implementation across states. One example of this is how multiple states have provided land to Family Homes Funds, and also delivered its workforce as guaranteed off-takers when the houses are built.
Without the active participation of states, such an exciting plan to improve the housing stock in Nigeria would have a reduced chance of success. We must remember that a rising tide lifts all boats. As sub-nationals we must jointly and severally create an environment that makes it easier to do business, and as a result, attract domestic and international investors.
We have invited the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, NIPC, to partner with us on this, and the Book of States publication recently released by NIPC, is only a first step, which showcases the comparative advantages and investment opportunities across the 36 states.
We will deepen this by using peer lessons to adopt proven models of investment promotion, and ensure that no part of the country is left behind. With the adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA, it is now more important that we focus on both national and sub-national business reforms. This is why we will also work with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, PEBCEC, to monitor and advise states on how to make their jurisdictions more competitive.
As I have said at different fora, many might argue that none of the actions we take at the subnational and even national levels to revive our economy will succeed with a high level of insecurity; and I agree. However, I will repeat that we need to emerge from this crisis with a plan to create jobs and put food on the tables of our people, I repeat this knowing that by focusing on job creation and poverty reduction, we will reduce the lack of opportunity, which remains a big incentive for crime. Where unscrupulous characters insist on crime, we must be ready to tackle them with well-trained and appropriately remunerated security agencies.
I believe we are at an inflexion point as a nation, and that with brave, courageous and emphatic leadership, we will emerge from this period stronger and better prepared for a future of endless possibilities. As William Shakespeare wrote, “there is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” It is an important phrase for us to consider, as we are now navigating such a tide. But it is also important to remember how Shakespeare closed this famous passage from Julius Caesar by writing, “on such a full sea are we now afloat; and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
I thank Vanguard Newspapers for inviting me to this discourse, and giving me an opportunity to share my thoughts with such a distinguished audience.