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Thursday, 7 April 2016

We Never Complained In 2008, When Oil Prices Fell From 148 To $38 A Barrel - Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was the guest of the World at the Grenoble geopolitical Festival which took place from 16 to 19 March. 

The "Iron Lady", 61, served two governments as Minister of Finance from 2003 to 2006, under President Olusegun Obasanjo, then, from 2011 to 2015, under the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan.

Between these two positions, she was Executive Director of the World Bank. 

It now has a consulting business with Lazard and chairs the board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) based in Geneva, which has fifteen years of vaccination 500 million children. 

This interview is excerpted from her speech in the auditorium of the Festival of Grenoble.

You are among the fifty world leaders in the magazine "Fortune" and among the twenty most influential women in the world, according to "Forbes". What it does when one comes from a modest family Nigeria?

I have trouble seeing me as a world leader, while I appreciate that gives me this way! But when I get up in the morning, I do not think about it, I wonder how to solve the next problem. 

I grew up in a village in southern Nigeria where I grew up to 8 and a half years by my grandmother. My parents were scholarship students in Germany and did not have enough money to take me with them. 

I learned real life, fetching wood, water. At 5, I could cook. This life has given me strength and a strong character. The other experience from my childhood is the Biafran war (1967-1970). My parents lost everything. I knew what it was to have nothing more.

You repeat that you are African-optimistic. How to stay after Ebola, falling commodity prices, the resurgence of Islamic terrorism in West Africa?

Africa through cycles, and when it goes wrong, people get discouraged, they feel like dropping everything. Personally, I am an unrepentant Afro-optimist. Africa has experienced two lost decades, the years 1980 and 1990. 

But then for fifteen years, it has experienced a growth of at least 5%. The number of conflicts has declined during this period. 

It was not a coincidence, it showed that good policies are bearing fruit. 

On several fronts, Africa has shown that it can do better than what was expected of her. Including in terms of poverty reduction and human development. 

All is not rosy. The growth was not enough shared, it has not created enough jobs. Now you enter a down cycle, it does what it laments, saying that it was written and that Africa is a basket case? I believe instead that we should learn from what has worked well, and continue.

What African success stories feed your optimism?

There is no perfect country. Everyone has had success in some areas. 

In terms of growth, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that it would be 3.4% worldwide in 2016, and 4% in sub-Saharan Africa. 

I pause: growth, this is not a dirty word. This is not a sufficient condition for the poor disappear, but without it, poverty may increase. There are countries on the continent that are much more than the average: Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Senegal and the Ivory Coast, for example.

Other countries have had success primarily political. Ghana, where the alternation was made without objection or violence, has shown maturity. Nigeria, where one predicted a crisis in elections in 2015, while President I served very elegantly conceded defeat.

There are also regional specificities. To the east and south of the continent, governments have begun to raise the logistical barriers to trade through agreements and infrastructure. 

To the west, countries have stood together against security threats and violations of democratic rules. We need every part of Africa to be inspired by recipes from the other.

Further development will require a lot of money. Where will it come in this bear market? On Lend African countries? Funds promised during the COP21?

Financing is one of the most important points. Let me first recall that development is now funded largely by Africans themselves. 

There are more than twelve countries [of 54] in which the external development assistance represents 40% of the budget or more. 

The assistance of developed countries will decrease, it will move toward migrants and refugees. 

There are also scourges that Africa is not responsible but which it is the first victim, such as global warming. 

The rest of the world should help the continent, but I think it will not do enough. And that's a good thing! Instead of lamenting, losing their time begging, African countries need to find more local resources. 

The IMF believes they can on average raise taxes to 4% of their GDP. We will need technical help to increase tax resources and gaps that multinationals use to hide their income. Furthermore, ten countries have a pension fund system that hold a total $ 380 billion [335.5 billion euros]. These funds must be invested in development.

Will Africa be more selfish? Taxing imports more to develop domestic trade?

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