MANAGING Director of the World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said that for Nigeria to boost its economy, the ongoing general elections must be credible.
Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian and former Minister of Finance who spoke to journalists at the weekend at the end of the Spring meetings of the World Bank Group in Washington DC, said free and fair elections “would be economically beneficial“ for Nigeria.
Besides, the First Deputy Managing Director, Mr. John Lipsky, also said many developing countries like Nigeria and others in the sub-Saharan Africa are in general “recovering, clearly, from the aftermath of the crisis of 2008-2009.” He said for example this year, some African countries already earned a forecast of five per cent growth rate.
Noting that credible polls are imperative in Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala added that economically now, investors are more interested in Nigeria and the African continent generally, but they are waiting for good elections and results that will enhance their ability to go ahead with the investment.
The World Bank chief who was herself once speculated to have interest in higher office in Nigeria after serving as Finance and Foreign Affairs Minister in the Obasanjo presidency, was hopeful that the Nigerian government and African countries can focus more on rural development.
According to her, “rural development should be made a priority so as to link agriculture to jobs that are off-farm,” stating that this will lead to food security.
Okonjo-Iweala praised the “good policies that were put in place,” in some African countries that have managed food prices and bring “ so many good news to the continent,“ including increased outputs from farmer. She disclosed that the World Bank had supported the continent with $ 1.5 billion in that area.
Regarding Nigeria, she observed that agriculture has been doing relatively well and that has been a big bonus to the country. “I think we need to change the way we do agriculture. We must modernise the approach to agriculture,“ she said.
The World Bank MD stated that the Nigerian government “should look for alternative electricity solution for some small villages so as to enable the youths practice modern agriculture there.” Okonjo-Iweala said Nigeria needs “to think of agriculture in a modern way and how we can support the young people coming out to really invest themselves in a sector that can provide so much employment.“
Furthermore she said government should figure out “how do we give and equip these young people with modern tools not just farming equipment, and access to infrastructures. Electricity and water should be in the place where they are living. They must have access to mobile phones where they are staying to keep them connected to modern technology. This will improve agriculture. It will add value and store what they produce.”
At another press encounter Sunday night, Lipsky noted that the World Bank is “gratified to see that many of the developing countries in general are recovering, clearly, from the aftermath of the crisis of 2008-2009.”
According to him, “we all know that the only way out of poverty for the citizens (low-income citizens of developing countries) is through sustained rapid growth. We are happy to see that our forecasts, for example, for sub-Saharan Africa for 2011 is growth of around five per cent. Not as fast as the 6.5 per cent growth average in the years just before the crisis, but showing clear signs of recovery.”
He also expressed concern, like Okonjo-Iweala, about the rise in food prices, adding that fuel prices also threaten the progress in some of African countries.
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