Saturday 8 April 2017

Full text of Fashion and business icon, Alakija’s Keynote Address at Harvard University.

Mrs Folorunso A;akija spoke during African Development Conference 2017. Date: Friday, 31st March, 2017.
Venue:  Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government Institute of Politics Theme: Imagining New Frontiers for Collaboration. Topic: Africa-The Renaissance of a New Continent via Collaborative Efforts of Member states
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 There is an African Proverb that says,
“If you want to go FAST go alone, but if you want to go FAR, go together”.

Also, Henry Ford once said,

“Coming together is a beginning Keeping together is progress Working together is success.”

In other words, if we want to see the Africa of our dreams, I mean the Africa that you and I will be proud of bequeathing to our children and future generations, all of us must pitch in and do our part. This laudable transformation quest can not be undertaken by a few African States acting independently or in weak organised partnerships.

Every jurisdiction needs to be consumed with the passion for a better tomorrow; contributing resources, especially in areas where there is glaring comparative
advantage; and, participating in active dialogues, such as what is happening today and tomorrow during this conference.

I feel highly honoured to be here and I wish to thank the organisers for the invitation to be the opening keynote speaker at this African Development Conference 2017. I am particularly delighted that the focus of these discourses moves away from merely highligthing the many challenges of the African Continent. I sincerely look forward to an epoch making weekend of many ideas and solutions, leapfrogging Africa and bringing about a truly


meaningful African Development for her citizens in particular and mankind in general.

I will be speaking this evening on what I have titled “Africa- The Renaissance of a New Continent via Collaborative Efforts of Member states”. I shall review where we are coming from and where we are now post- independence. I will also suggest how best to collaborate to move our continent forward and conclude by highlighting the efforts of some of Africa’s change makers.

I remember in the early days of Pan-Africanism, the Founding Fathers of the movement such as: Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Ahmed Sekou Toure (Guinea), collaborated with their allies in the Western World such as Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Dr. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (better known as W.E.B. Du Bois), and others to fight for our political freedom as a continent. It is time for us to re-enact that same Pan-African spirit again, this time it should be directed at tackling the myriads of developmental issues that are facing our resource rich continent.

However, Africa post colonization has not really fared better than its contemporaries in other climes and continents. Two major reasons that can be attributed to the slow pace at which the continent has been moving are:

• Corruption •   Governance and Human rights issues

I will look into 5 areas where I believe we can collaborate to build a formidable continent.

1. Corruption

Corruption in both our public and private establishments have proved to be an albatross to the development of the African Continent and Individual Member States. A situation that is fueled by greed and an inordinate passion to acquire more than one needs has led to individuals or organisations engaging in nefarious activities to further their own agenda at the expense of the majority of the people.



•    According to Transparency International, out of 100 most corrupt countries in the world, there are 39 counties of African Origin.

•    President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria declared that “if you don’t kill corruption, it will kill you”.

How do we Collaborate?

•    The AU and other bodies like Transparency International should ensure accountability from Heads of Governments to entrench Anti- Corruption practices in their individual countries and sanctions should be meted out on any member or individual found to err. There should not be any sacred cows or untouchables. This will send a strong signal that such behaviour will no longer be tolerated.

•    Full restitution should be encouraged while trade by barter should be removed.

•    Civil societies in individual countries must also rise to demand accountability from their Government.

International Collaboration

•    We cannot prosecute this agenda further if we still have Countries and Institutions who assist corrupt officials who have stolen public funds to keep these monies in their banks and further their economies. There has been a clamour by many African Countries for the repatriation of stolen monies by corrupt leaders. I am using this medium to lend my voice to those requests. We need these monies back so we can move Africa forward.

•    The United Nations should also, as a matter of urgency, compel Nations keeping these monies to release them. They should not limit their role to trying corrupt leaders. Though this is applauded, we certainly need our monies back. I believe that most countries will no longer need financial aid if their stolen funds can be repatriated to them to run their economy.


•    We can also have collaboration among civil societies across African Nations working together to present the continents case on repatriation of funds before the United Nations.

2. Governance and Human Rights Abuse


•    One of the main objectives of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was “to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid.”

•    When the primary objective of the OAU was achieved, it was time to speed up economic and political integration in the continent and this paved the way for the birth of the African Union (AU) which was established on 9th September, 1999

•    The vision of the AU is that of “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.”

•    I commend the African Union for entrenching the democratization process in the Gambia recently. It is imperative that we stand together as a people to ensure that the excesses of Heads of Government and

•    Two instruments adopted by the OAU to promote Human and People’s

Rights in the Continent are:

•    The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Nairobi


•    The Grand Bay Declaration and Plan of Action on Human


•    In 2000, the Union established the fundamental principles for the

promotion of Democracy and Good Governance in the Continent.

Collaboration Suggestions


Human Right abuses are frowned at, rejected and maybe even sanctioned.

•    The AU should ensure that there is strict adherence to all the instruments that promote Human Rights in the continent and any Member State/Government that flouts this principle should be decisively dealt with without fear or favour.

3. Health

Health is wealth. We can only talk of taking giant strides as a continent when our people are strong, healthy and vibrant both in body, mind and soul. Many lives are lost daily to preventable sicknesses and diseases.


•    Africa just survived the worst Ebola crisis in history that ravaged 6 states in West Africa, namely Nigeria, Sudan, Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Mali. It was indeed a great horror as there were about 28,000 cases and over 11,000 deaths. It is in such circumstances that our connectedness and the grave vulnerabilities that we are exposed to by our neighbours’ deficiencies and weaknesses is highlighted.

•    According to the report by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, Sub-Saharan

Africa, is home to nearly 70% of people living with HIV.

•    Cost of access to medical care is high in most African countries in terms

of drugs and equipment.

•    Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest Doctor to Patient ratio in the world.

Collaboration Suggestions

•    We can collaborate by sharing knowledge on sickness and treatments

that have worked in a region to help a sister country experiencing same

e.g. Nigeria assisted Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the

management and treatment of Ebola victims by sending Doctors to

those countries. I have no data to predict the number of fatalities that

could have resulted if we had not been our brother’s keeper or had


Member States not aided the Government of those countries most

affected. I can only safely state that the outcome would have been

worse, and the number of deaths would have been far greater.

•    Governments can pull resources together in the research of drugs and

inventions that could help in the diagnosis, treatments and cure of

diseases that are common to them.

International Collaboration

•    Collaborative assistance could also come from outside the continent

and from non-Africans. Someone may say this has always been the case

and that we are not aliens when it comes to receiving aids. However, I

am not talking about financial resources only, but ideas and inventions

such as India’s Manu Prakash’s foldscope and paperfuge.

o The Foldscope is a low-cost paper microscope that does the same job as the conventional microscope but costs less than $1 to build while the paperfuge is a 20- cent invention that could help in the diagnosis of malaria, HIV and other diseases around the world.

4. Poor or lack of Infrastructure

There are many African countries that suffer from poor infrastructure such as good rail and road networks, access to potable water and power. In fact, most of the infrastructures that are taken for granted in the Developed Countries are still luxuries in most African Countries.


•    30 African countries face persistent energy blackouts.

•    When such breakthrough items become readily available, one can

expect that some of today’s obstacles and intimidating challenges

would have either been better managed, or successfully controlled. The

desire to find a cost-effective way to deal with malaria is a global good,

and Africa should readily embrace such kindness whenever it is

uncovered. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The

Dangote and Bill & Melinda Gate’s Foundation collaboration is a typical



•    Less than 5 percent of Agricultural land is irrigated. •  Africa’s largest Infrastructural deficit are found in power and roads.

Collaboration Suggestions

•    Neighbouring countries or regions can come together to build regional railways to ensure easy and cheaper means of transportation of people, goods and services across boundaries. E.g. the ECOWAS countries can pull funds together to do such across West Africa.

•    African Governments can consider domestic sources of capital through Public-Private Partnerships.

•    Governments and policy makers can also encourage Foreign Direct Investments into their economy by creating a conducive environment to attract business owners to invest in building infrastructure and fund such projects that will positively impact the lives of their nationals. This is because Africa does not need aid but needs partnerships.

•    Collaboration fund between rich African countries to take up the expenses of poor African Countries in providing infrastructure to ensure that the common good is pursued. (This would be a once and for all investment by the richer states with conditions that the poorer states facilitate continuous maintenance).

•    It is high time African countries change their mindset and move away from protectionism to Africanism, from egocentrism to allocentrism.

5. Education and Technology

•    According to a World Bank Report on Educational Quality and National Growth 2007, access to education is one of the highest priorities on the development agenda.

•    Most African Countries are ranked among the Developing Nations of the world today because the educational quality in Developing Countries is much worse than educational quantity, a picture already


quite bleak. Educational quality, measured by what people know, has powerful effects on individual earnings, on the distribution of income, and on economic growth.

So, what are the benefits of Education on National Development?

•    Education raises people’s productivity and creativity and promotes entrepreneurship and technological advancements.

•    It plays a very crucial role in securing economic and social progress and improves income distribution.

•    Education leads to an improvement in the quality of life and leads to broad social benefits to individuals and the society at large.

Collaboration Suggestions

•    In order for Africa to move forward, there is need for African Governments to invest in qualitative education at all levels by partnering with private investors to bring about qualitative education.

Before I round up, let us take a cursory look at some Africans who have been changing their world either in their countries or also across borders.

1. PATRICE MOTSEPE (South African)

Africa's first black billionaire, launched a new private equity firm focused on investing in Africa.

2. MO IBRAHIM (Sudanese)

Mohammed (Mo) Ibrahim’s Foundation is focused on fighting corrupt leadership in Africa. The foundation also publishes the well-known Ibrahim Index of African Governance, which ranks countries by rule of law, economic opportunity and human rights.


3. TONY ELUMELU (Nigerian)

Tony Elumelu, the Initiator of TEEP, launched a $100m Pan-African entrepreneurship initiative, designed to help grow 10,000 start-up and young businesses from across Africa over the next 10 years.

4. STRIVE MASIYIWA(Zimbabwean)

Zimbabwe’s richest man set up a $6.4 million trust for sponsoring at least 40 African undergraduates to Moorehouse College over a four- year period. His Christian charity sponsors scholarships and medical assistance for over 28,000 orphaned Zimbabweans.

5. FRED SWANIKER (South African)

Swaniker co-founded the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg to develop 6000 leaders who are going to transform Africa.

6. ASHIFI GOGO (Ghanian)

Ghanian Ashifi Dogo provides Mobile Product AuthenticationTM (MPATM) solution to verify the authenticity of pharmaceutical products.

7. ALH. ALIKO DANGOTE (Nigerian)

The Dangote Foundation is responsible for contributing over $100 million in charitable funds to several causes in Nigeria and Africa over the past four years.


Mrs Alakija focuses on Widows, their children and Orphans through economic empowerment schemes and scholarships to tertiary levels.

In conclusion, this conference affords us another opportunity to demonstrate the ingenuity and creativity within us to build the Africa of our dreams. It’s about time we throw off the toga of backwardness and underdevelopment and bring forth ideas and workable plans that will give birth to a new Africa, our Africa. One, that is no longer defined by poverty,


disease and political instability, but rather by inventions, scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements, that will make us stand equal to other continents of the world.

As it has been rightly observed, we tend to over estimate what can be done in a year; but we equally underestimate what can be achieved in a decade. Yes, predicting the future can be daunting; it is never an exact science, nor can we plot development on a linear time scale; yet, so much can be done to engender the types of solutions that we crave.

Why am I so positive about Africa’s transformation?

It is because I believe strongly in my heart that it is achievable.

Throughout history, it has always been the case that solutions have often been birthed by stimulated turmoil, some sort of controlled anarchy or organized chaos; bringing on some new sets of eyes to look at an old problem. No idea should be rejected at first, every idea must have its day in court, it should be given a chance to vent its merits and flaunt its capabilities, especially this weekend.

I welcome everyone to this historic event and I say “Let the collaborations begin!”

Thank you.

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