June 17, 2024


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Nigeria’s Emir Sanusi urges Africa to put education and the poor at the centre of development

One of Nigeria’s foremost traditional rulers has challenged Africans and development experts to rethink development financing to reach the poorest communities on the continent, to give them access to markets, education and healthcare.

“Development needs to impact those at the bottom of the pyramid,” Emir Sanusi II, the monarch of the northern Nigerian city of Kano said in a keynote at the 21st Eminent Speakers Lecture Series of the African Development Institute.

“And as Africans and policy makers, our mindset, our attitude and our approach to development needs to change,” said Sanusi, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

For Sanusi, education and healthcare must be at the top of Africa’s development agenda, far and above investment in physical infrastructure, to better deal with issues like what he called the continent’s “looming demographic disaster”.

“If you ask me whether the African Development Bank Group should invest in roads and railways in Kano, or invest in education, I would choose the latter,” the Emir said. “I would choose training the people so that they can become Engineers and build their own roads in future…I would train the girl child who would grow up to address the issues of contraception and control population growth.”

He urged policy makers and multilateral finance institutions working in Africa to place vulnerable populations threatened by extreme poverty, social and economic inequality at the centre of their planning. Their projects, programs, policy and capacity support initiatives must also address poor nutrition, communities threatened by desertification, and reversing the scourge of underinvestment in social services like healthcare, housing and education.

Emir Sanusi II delivered his lecture titled “Perspective on Development in Africa” to a packed audience of international development experts, diplomats, academics, Ivorian and international media and students at the Babacar N’diaye Auditorium in the African Development Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday, October 29.  

“Africans must learn to think for themselves…We must learn to do development in ways that meet each country and each community at their levels of development. We must build roads that link poor farmers to the markets. We must integrate development within the socio-cultural and political realities of Africa,” Emir Sanusi added.

Emir Sanusi II was elected and confirmed as the 14th Emir of the ancient city of Kano in July 2014. Prior to his coronation, he was a banker, rising to become Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria between 2009 and 2014. Widely recognized for his contributions to risk management in Nigerian banking, he continues to devote his time, material and intellectual resources to strategic thought leadership and formulating a new ethos for Africa’s political, military and business elite.

He reiterated his pro-people, pro-development views during yesterday’s Eminent Speakers Lecture, which could easily have been a masterclass MBA session on the social anthropology of development in Africa.

He called for increased investments in “soft infrastructure” whilst applauding the Banks current level of investments in hard infrastructure such as roads, ports, railways and power.

“There are many parts of Africa where basic needs are yet to be met, so development financing should be tailored to meet the basic needs of the poor – those who live under a Dollar a day, and often die daily, because they lack access to basic amenities,” he said.

In his Welcome Address, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank said the Executive Directors and Management of the Bank were honored by the visit of the renowned monarch to the Bank to deliver the Eminent Speakers Lecture. Adesina lauded the eminent speaker’s achievements in the fields of economics and public policy and reminded the audience of the Emir’s achievements as a former Central Bank Governor of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Celestin Monga, Chief Economist and Vice President for Economic Governance and Knowledge Management of the African Development Bank, announced that the Eminent Speakers Lecture Series is one of the most significant initiatives of the African Development Institute, the knowledge promotion and capacity development department of the foremost pan-African development institution.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Charles Boamah, Senior Vice President of the Bank underscored the essence of the Emir’s presentation. “His Royal Highness has urged us all not to forget perhaps the important tenet of development financing, that development is first and foremost about the people. This is something to always remember.”

Speaking on the long-term outcomes of the Eminent Speakers Lecture Series, Professor Kevin Chika Urama, Senior Director of the African Development Institute said: “The Emir of Kano has clearly set the stage for the much-needed technical assistance and capacity building for inclusive development in Africa…His Royal Highness has given us food for thought. Let us rise to the challenge and build Africa’s capacity for inclusive development, without which the global sustainable development goals will not be accomplished.”

Eminent Speakers Lecture Series
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