Dakar International Forum – on Peace and Security in Africa
18 November 2019
Keynote Speech by Tony O. Elumelu, CON
Let me start by congratulating and commending my brother, President of Senegal, President Macky Sall for this very, very positive and productive forum to discuss peace and security.
I speak as a private sector person who invests in many African countries and I know that when there is no peace and security, there can never be business. And when there’s no business to a large extent you will not have development.
It is therefore in everyone’s interest, especially the business sector, to see that there’s peace and security in countries especially on the African continent.
We know, and we say, that poverty anywhere is a threat to mankind everywhere. What manifests itself in what we call security of breakdown or security of terrorism or extremism is actually deep-seated in poverty, is deeply, deeply rooted in poverty, in joblessness, and so with due respect, we can have one hundred and one seminars like this but unless and until we begin to address these issues of poverty, joblessness amongst our young ones, they will continue to allow themselves to be brainwashed by people who see no future, they will continue to engage in extremism.
So for us as private sector and for government, and for the development world, it is incumbent, compelling, important, that we all come together to find a solution to this—the root cause solution to this, which is how do we get our young ones employed, how do we get our young ones busy, how do we make sure that they don’t lend themselves to this extremism that we talk about today.
In the private sector, we believe, and we have come up with this philosophy of Africapitalism which is a call on the private sector to invest long-term in key sectors of the African economy that will help us to create social wealth and economic prosperity.
Prosperity and extremism go in opposite directions. We need to make sure, -and I was talking with the president before we walked in here and he was telling me about the rail system he was building 160 km/hr that will be commissioned next month, that’s an investment infrastructure that will help to create more prosperity for everyone. Such investments help to stop and stem instability, security issues that we have. So, for me, I preach everywhere that there are 3 critical things we must do:
- We must emphasise entrepreneurship. We must create economic hope for our young ones, we must support them. We must invest in them and their future. We must make them believe that there’s a reason to live.
- We must pursue inclusive growth. Every growth or development program on our continent should be such that it is total and all-inclusive, that helps ultimately to create jobs for our people.
- We must embrace and include also our female folk in the development agenda of the continent.
As simple as these things sound, they can help us fundamentally, in the long run, in winning the war and not the battle.
We talk everyday about more weaponry, attacks, how to deal with insurgency, it is so critical and important to do so, but what will make it sustainable in the long run is that investment we make in our people, in our young people, in our women folk in making sure that growth is all inclusive—these are things that will help.
And for us, we don’t just talk about this. We don’t just preach it, we try to also make it happen.
At the Tony Elumelu Foundation, we keep helping young Africans, empowering them, give them seed capital, train them for 12 weeks and we are beginning to see how people from, especially the very difficult environment and communities, how their successes is beginning to translate to successes for communities and how their successes is beginning to catalyse and encourage others to live a different kind of life
Recently working with the UNDP, the Tony Elumelu Foundation and UNDP, we’ve announced a programme to help empower 100,000 young Africans especially those in the Sahel region. Activities and interventions like this will help to bring economic hope to people in this part of the world and they will become less involved in extremism.
So, in a nutshell, there is a lot we all can do–private sector, government, development partners—in making sure that we focus on winning the war on terrorism. That we make sure we stem the migration of our young people through harsh conditions, wanting to cross the Mediterranean in search of hope, when indeed we have more opportunities and resources in our continent.
We need to work together to ensure that extremism is totally, totally annihilated in Africa. It is possible but we need to work together to achieve this.
Again, I want to commend and thank His Excellency, President Macky Sall for convening this event and for seeking view points from all—development partners, African business people and also government—so that collectively we can forge a long lasting situation that will help us deal with this issue in Africa.
Q: Tony, just another quick question for you I think everybody here will agree that wherever in the world you see extremism, be it in Africa or the Middle East, it is usually preceded by poverty and unemployment. So, my question to you is: 50 years from now, or a hundred years from now, what sort of difference do you hope your foundation would have made when it comes to securing a more stable continent?
A: To us, we define success, actually, in the lives we are able to transform, in the lives that we touch, in the communities we help to transform, and that is why all across Africa, especially in distressed communities and areas, we do our best to support the young ones and entrepreneurs in such places.
To us, until we all work together to eradicate poverty on our continent, until we get our females fully engrained and involved in economic activities on the continent, until we make sure that our young ones are not jobless, the journey continues. We would continue to do this by engaging government through advocacy, by engaging with our development partners as we have done now with United Nations Development Programme, as we have done with International Red Cross where they are also supporting for the first time—you’d think that Red Cross, the way they operated before was to provide relief post event, but now the Red Cross working with TEF is now being proactive in supporting entrepreneurs, providing non-refundable seed capital for them in distressed communities like in the Niger delta, like in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria with a view to making sure that we create entrepreneurs and involve more people in what’s happening.
To us, the next 50 years, 100 years we want to see a developed Africa that embraces these 3 philosophies of
1. Prioritising our young ones to the point that they’ll have jobs,
2. That the growth is inclusive
3. That our women are involved
And that, an Africa where there wouldn’t be security challenges again, that can only come when we create jobs, when we support these teeming young Africans.
And I believe that is the new paradigm, when we go for G7, or G20 or UN sessions we should keep preaching that in the 21st century, at a time like this, there’s a more sustainable way of dealing with insecurity in Africa that whilst deal with security issues that confronts us today through force, we need to win the minds and hearts of our people, we need to win the long-term war by making sure that they are more involved and prioritised in economic activities Thank you.