Want to help Africa?
As the first female Finance Minister in Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala attacks corruption to make the country more desirable for investment and jobs. As a managing director of the World Bank, she worked for change in all of Africa.
We know the negative images of Africa — famine and disease, conflict and corruption. But, says Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, there’s another, less-told story happening in many African nations: one of reform, economic growth and business opportunity.
There’s an Africa that you don’t hear about very much. And sometimes I’m puzzled, and I ask myself why. This is the Africa that is changing, that Chris alluded to. This is the Africa of opportunity. This is the Africa where people want to take charge of their own futures and their own destinies. And this is the Africa where people are looking for partnerships to do this.
The second thing I want to talk about is the will for reform. Africans, after — they’re tired, we’re tired of being the subject of everybody’s charity and care. We are grateful, but we know that we can take charge of our own destinies if we have the will to reform. And what is happening in many African countries now is a realization that no one can do it but us. We have to do it. We can invite partners who can support us, but we have to start. We have to reform our economies, change our leadership, become more democratic, be more open to change and to information.
What we started to do was to realize that we had to take charge and reform ourselves. And with the support of a leader who was willing, at the time, to do the reforms, we put forward a comprehensive reform program, which we developed ourselves. Not the International Monetary Fund. Not the World Bank, where I worked for 21 years and rose to be a vice president. No one can do it for you. You have to do it for yourself.
The best way to help Africans today is to help them to stand on their own feet. And the best way to do that is by helping create jobs. There’s no issue with fighting malaria and putting money in that and saving children’s lives. That’s not what I’m saying. That is fine. But imagine the impact on a family: if the parents can be employed and make sure that their children go to school, that they can buy the drugs to fight the disease themselves. If we can invest in places where you yourselves make money whilst creating jobs and helping people stand on their own feet, isn’t that a wonderful opportunity? Isn’t that the way to go? And I want to say that some of the best people to invest in on the continent are the women.
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