Securing Seat at Table for Africa’s Economic Devt, the Access Group, Aig-Imoukuede Foundation’s Example

The recent news of the Access Bank Group and the Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation’s plan to invest $300 million in expanding the frontiers of Africa’s economy, is a worthy example to other corporate bodies in Nigeria seeking to be part of decision-making in the evolving business and economic realities on the continent, instead of remaining a spectator, because Africans need to solve Africa’s problems, writes Festus Akanbi

In Nigeria and the rest of Africa, the story is of people working for different purposes to confront the myriads of economic challenges facing businesses and the economy.

Unfortunately, the economic landscape in Africa, with Nigeria as a key player, is a picture of contrasts. While growth is projected for Nigeria (estimated at 3.1% in 2024), challenges like high inflation and unemployment persist.

There is no doubt that to build a truly virile economy across Africa, corporate involvement is crucial. This is because corporations can create a stable and empowered environment by investing in infrastructure, promoting good governance practices, and fostering skills development. Economists believe this will not only improve their operations but also unleash the continent’s entrepreneurial energy and resource wealth, creating the groundwork for a prosperous future for everybody.

The Access Group, Aig-Imoukhuede’s Example

This perhaps underscores the level of excitement that has so far greeted the recent initiatives of the Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation and Access Bank Group, which have jointly pledged $300 million over the next 20 years to support African government initiatives with a proven potential to transform national economic performance.

The fund will see the creation of an African-led NGO in partnership with academics, experts, and philanthropists across the globe who are committed to closing the gap between Africa and the rest of the world.

The Chairman of Access Holdings and Co-Founder, of Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, who broke the at the recent Africa CEO Forum 2024 in Kigali, Rwanda, where the theme of this year’s event is ‘At the table or on the menu?’ hit the nail by the head, saying “We can’t wait to be saved, Africans need to solve Africa’s problems. This $300 million commitment reflects this reality.”. At the event, CEOs from across the continent joined to discuss how Africa can demand a seat at the global table, rather than continuing to wait to be invited.

The NGO, according to him, will work with African governments to provide the funding, governance, and talent required to successfully execute game-changing government reform programs, especially in the delivery of digital public infrastructure.

Analysts say there is a serious need for other corporate bodies in Nigeria to follow the example set by Access Group in joining efforts to build a strong African economy for several compelling reasons.

Nigerian businesses are in a pole position to lead intra-African trade growth and rapidly expand their footprint across the continent according to experts and this brings to mind the position of the former President of Ghana, the famous Kwame Nkrumah that“Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs.”

According to the Executive Vice President, Intra-African Trade Bank, Afreximbank,  Mrs. Kanayo Awani, Nkrumah’s statement underlined the position that despite attaining political independence, Africa’s emancipation was far from complete and the quest for economic independence still lies ahead.

“This quest continues and makes it imperative for us to work collectively to find African solutions to the challenges facing our continent,” she said late last year, when making a clarion call for Nigeria to lead the charge of African trade in her opening remarks at the High-Level Business Roadshow in Lagos, Nigeria.

She stressed the need for the Nigerian Public and Private Sector to actively participate, take advantage of these opportunities to grow and expand their business, drive intra-African trade, and support economic integration under the AfCFTA.

Building Prosperous Business Environment

By actively participating in initiatives aimed at fostering economic growth and development across the continent, companies can contribute to the creation of a more stable and prosperous business environment. This, in turn, can lead to increased investment opportunities, job creation, and overall improvement in living standards for individuals and communities.

Collaborative efforts from various corporate entities can also help address common challenges such as infrastructure deficits, skills gaps, and market inefficiencies, paving the way for sustainable growth and shared prosperity.

 It is also said that by working together towards building a strong African economy, companies can not only enhance their competitiveness and sustainability but also play a vital role in unlocking the full potential of the continent and ensuring a brighter future for all stakeholders.

Economic analysts explained that failure to commit resources to the African project could pose significant challenges for Nigeria’s corporate bodies in influencing the flow of the continent’s economy.

“Without active participation and investment in initiatives aimed at driving economic growth and development across Africa, Nigerian companies may miss out on key opportunities to shape regional markets, establish strategic partnerships, and leverage the continent’s vast potential for growth.

“In a rapidly evolving global economy, where competition is fierce and interconnectedness is increasingly vital, companies that neglect the African project risk being sidelined in critical decision-making processes and market developments that could impact their long-term sustainability and competitiveness.

“By not committing resources to the African project, Nigerian corporate bodies may find themselves at a disadvantage in navigating the complexities of the continent’s economic landscape and harnessing the opportunities that a strong and integrated African economy can offer,” argued Mr. Kingsley Chima, a Lagos-based economic analyst.

Impressed by the Access Group and the Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation’s initiatives, analysts said the time had come for Africa to be part of the decision-making and not to continue to be at the receiving end. The development comes at a time when the President of the World Bank, Ajay Banga, warned wealthy countries that it would be short-sighted to “ignore” Africa.  This landmark Africa-led initiative could not have been better timed.

Creating Our Table

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede continued, “We African leaders cannot sit back and watch the 4th Industrial Revolution transform the rest of the world while leaving Africa falling further behind. We have to create our own ‘table’ by using technology to unlock the power of our youth, giving Africa a greater voice in the world. Today’s leaders will determine whether or not we grab this opportunity.”

The availability of digital public infrastructure is a proven and cost-effective way for developing nations to break free of the status quo. It provides citizens with access to the same public goods and services available to citizens of advanced nations. The India Stack has become a shining example of what can be achieved when visionary public and private sector leaders partner for development.

The Access Bank and Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation-inspired NGO will make such partnerships a reality and deliver measurable improvements to the lives of Africans across the continent.

Access Holdings Plc. is a leading multinational financial services group that offers commercial banking, lending, payment, insurance, and asset management services. Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, Access Corporation operates through a network of more than 600 branches and service outlets, spanning three continents, 18 countries, and 49+ million customers. The Corporation employs more than 28,000 people in its operations in Nigeria and is currently listed on the Nigerian Exchange Limited (formerly Nigerian Stock Exchange).

On the other hand, the Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation is a public sector-focused philanthropic organisation founded by Aigboje and Ofovwe Aig-Imoukhuede to improve the lives of Africans through transformed public service delivery and increased access to quality primary healthcare. The Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation accomplishes its mission by supporting the reform initiatives of public sector entities, providing financing, technical support, and capacity-building programmes and resources for the public sector workforce. The Foundation also provides funding and strategic support to drive the work of affiliate organisations such as the Africa Business Coalition for Health (ABC Health), the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PSHAN), the Nigerian Solidarity Support Fund (NSSF), and others.

So instead of waiting for the crumbs, the time has come for Nigeria’s businesses to raise their voice as part of the solutions to the problems on the continent. Experts believe that is the only way to secure a seat at the decision-making table.

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