By Jude Atupulazi
The division among Igbo people and their leaders is worrying the Director General of World Trade Organization, WTO, Dr Ngozi Okojo-Iweala. Speaking in a Keynote Address at the recent Southeast Summit on Security and Economy in Owerri, Imo State, September 27, Iweala urged Southeast stakeholders to foster joint leadership to tackle the challenges bedeviling the region collectively.
The theme of the two-day summit was ”South East Beyond 2023, Time for a Reset”.
Okonjo-Iweala said, ‘We no longer have solidarity; instead, we are fragmented as a people and that has made us forget how to support each other. If our big problem is ourselves, it means that the solution also lies in our hands.’
The WTO chief underscored the need for the region to improve its internally generated revenue, reduce borrowing and improve capital expenditures.
‘Governors, state legislatures and local government chairmen must continuously ask themselves, ”are we using our FAC allocation wisely, transparently and effectively?”
‘Can we generate more revenue internally, and how do we do it while motivating our productive sectors and factors? Are we taking on too much debt? Are we even spending the amount borrowed effectively?’
Okonjo-Iweala advised the region to seize the opportunity of privatisation in the electricity sector to consider solar and gas solutions to improve power supply.
‘I want to suggest that we convene a Southeast investment forum, not for people from outside the region or abroad, but for our own Igbo business people. In this forum, we should examine what is blocking greater investment in the South-East Region and what we can do to block these leakages,’ Okonjo-Iweala explained.
The WTO boss emphasized the need for the region to consider diversifying and attracting investments in the supply chain of pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, labour-intensive industries and digital technology.
She also advised the stakeholders to take advantage of the benefits of digital trade for micro, small and medium enterprises, online education, health and accounting services.
She urged the region to draw from its diaspora resources to build on the health sector.
‘I am sure the Southeast governors, coming together, can do some financial engineering and find a way to float a Southeast diaspora bond or fund to capture some loans and tenured to financing some development priorities,’ she noted.