Excerpts from David Cameron’s speech on Nigeria’s growth prospects at Pan African University, Lagos
“Tell me this: which part of the world has seen its number of democracies increase nearly eight-fold in just two decades? Eastern Europe? No, it’s Africa. Which continent has six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world? Asia? No, it’s Africa. Which country is predicted by some to have the highest average GDP growth in the world over the next 40 years? You might think Brazil, Russia, India or China. No. Think Africa. Think Nigeria.
“The point I want to make today, is this: This can be Africa’s moment. Africa is transforming in a way no-one thought possible 20 years ago, and suddenly a whole new future seems within reach. I have known for a long time about the tremendous energy and ingenuity of the Nigerian people. From the civil activism of the churches of South London to the contribution of Nigerians to British business, law, medicine, sport and music, I have seen the passion and enterprise of Nigerians changing my country for the better. But what I have seen in London I have seen a hundred-fold here today.
“From Eko Atlantic and Balogun Street Market to the biggest port in the most populous country in Africa, you (Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos) are transforming your city. And your fellow Africans are doing the same all over the continent. Today there are unprecedented opportunities to trade and grow, raise living standards and lift billions from poverty. So I urge you: seize these opportunities, grab them, shape them.”
“First on trade, we agreed to double trade between our two countries by 2014 to £8 billion. We agreed to double Nigeria’s power supply by 2015 to address one of the biggest obstacles to Nigeria’s growth. I welcome the president’s leadership role to liberalise trade in West Africa. On my part, I agreed we will support this ultimate goal of free trade.”
The fact that the fastest growing economies are now in Africa is not lost on the West. Expect more platitudes and hobnobbing as Western Capitals and companies re-orient their political and business strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities. The biggest threat to the West in doing business with Africa is of course China. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the UK Prime Minister said in his speech that the West is alarmed by China’s ‘scramble for Africa’ – he stated.
‘If you are going to set up in business, you need to know that you can go to a court confident that a contract will be enforced objectively – including against the government. ‘And you need to know that your assets won’t suddenly be seized by the government. ‘Free societies can provide this stability and confidence.”
The future of Africa is obviously Africa’s to determine. Having the “West” and the “East” take an interest in the continent is a good thing. However, as Nigerians say “Let’s hope this time our people shine their eyes” and as the English would say “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” – Therein lies the battle ground.