Olumayowa Okediran, a Nigerian socio-economic and political commentator, nonprofit consultant, and entrepreneur, shared with the Atlas Network team a sneak peek into his upcoming talks about bringing prosperity to Africa, to be held on March 2 in Boston and on March 1 at Trendsetters in New York City.
Transparency and government accountability
Corruption is a problem that many African states contend with, and its negative impact is devastating for the lives of average Africans. Nigeria is the 136th least corrupt nation out of 175 countries, according to the “Corruption Perceptions Index 2015,” as reported by non-governmental organization Transparency International, and many other African countries also rank poorly on the index. This abysmal level of corruption helps to illegally concentrate wealth in the hands of a few government cronies at the expense of law-abiding citizens. The good news is that a new generation of young people is standing up to demand more accountability and transparency, using innovative methods to demand change. African Students For Liberty leaders are at the forefront of the campaign to demand transparency and accountability.
Smaller government and ease of doing business
Improving the ease of doing business is intricately linked with reducing the size of government. Although a few African governments promote entrepreneurship as a means of reducing poverty by creating funds for youth to start businesses, they are hypocritical in their approach because their methods only redistribute taxpayer funds and continue the cycle of poverty, while simultaneously stifling entrepreneurship. It is not enough to devote taxpayer funds to entrepreneurial youth if their efforts will be faced by a wall of regulatory bureaucracy. Many African countries rank poorly in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” index, which is mostly attributable to unnecessary government regulations and layers of bureaucracy. Entrepreneurship can only thrive in an environment that encourages innovation, reduces government, and lowers taxes.
Freedom of movement and mobility rights
Africa needs to undertake a serious review of its immigration policies. Most of Africa’s countries have low per-capita income levels and small populations, which result in small markets with few opportunities. Most sub-Saharan economies are not only small and poor, but 15 are also landlocked, an important contributing factor in their high trade transaction costs. People in these countries desperately need the opportunities that international trade and travel can provide, yet their mobility rights are exceptionally poor. Despite the many intergovernmental organizations set up to improve regional economic integration, such as the Economic Community of West African States, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and many others, travel and migration is still difficult. Tanzania, for instance, recently increased levies against foreign workers in selected professions, in a bid to keep them out. If Africa is going address its abysmal levels of intra-continental trade, the governments of African countries must first reform their immigration policies.
Okediran’s articles and views on politics and economics have appeared in many prominent international newspapers, and have been translated into French, Spanish, and Portuguese. In 2013, he founded African Students For Liberty and is currently the African programs manager for Students for Liberty. He has spoken at dozens of universities and conferences around the world, and is a co-author of the book Why Liberty: Your Life, Your Choices, Your Future. Okediran is a graduate of Atlas Network’s Think Tank MBA program.