La Zone de libre-échange continentale africaine (ZLEAC) couvrira un marché de 1,2 milliard de personnes et un produit intérieur brut (PIB) de 2,5 billions de dollars, dans les 55 États membres de l’Union africaine. En termes de nombre de pays participants, l’AfCFTA sera la plus grande zone de libre-échange du monde depuis la création de l’Organisation mondiale du commerce. Quel a été le rôle du Sénégal dans cet accord commercial monumental?
Le Sénégal a été à sa place et a bien tenu son rang, pour l’avènement de cet acte historique, confirmant ainsi, notre engagement à la réalisation de l’intégration africaine. La Zone de Libre Echange Continentale donnera, comme je l’ai rappelé lors du sommet de Niamey, un nouvel élan au commerce intra-africain en termes d’opportunités d’affaires et d’investissements pour le secteur privé et de création d’emplois pour la jeunesse africaine. Déjà, lors du Forum régional de Dakar sur la ZLECAf-Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre, le Gouvernement du Sénégal, en relation avec la Commission économique pour l’Afrique (CEA), la Commission de l’Union Afrique et l’Union Européenne, a travaillé à la création d’un espace de dialogue régional et multi-acteurs autour de l’ensemble des enjeux liés à la mise en œuvre de la zone dans les Etats francophones de la CEDEAO et la CEEAC. Je dois saluer le leadership du Président Paul Kagamé du Rwanda dans la conduite de l’important dossier de réforme de l’Union Africaine pour qu’elle réponde mieux à ses missions. De même, le Président Mahamadou Issoufou du Niger a su mener avec succès, les négociations pour la création de la Zone de libre Echange Continentale Africaine qui donne un nouvel élan à l’objectif d’intégration africaine par le commerce de l’investissement et dont le lancement a eu lieu au début du mois de juillet de cette année. Aujourd’hui il convient d’aller de l’avant dans la mise en œuvre de cet Accord et ses protocoles additionnels et dans ce cadre, le Sénégal ne sera pas en reste.
Vous avez été réélu en mars 2019. Toutes nos félicitations ! Trois mois se sont écoulés depuis votre réélection. A votre avis, dans quel état se trouve actuellement le Sénégal et à quoi le peuple sénégalais peut-il s’attendre dans les cinq prochaines années?
Ma réélection dès le premier tour avec plus de 58 % des suffrages exprimés, le 24 février 2019 porte l’empreinte d’un bilan riche de réalisations à l’échelle du territoire national que les Sénégalais ont positivement sanctionné. Elle est également l’expression d’un espoir, d’un appel à consolider la transformation du Sénégal et à amplifier les bonnes performances réalisées entre 2012 et 2019. Sept ans durant, nous avons travaillé à redresser notre pays, à restaurer les équilibres socio-économiques, l’équité territoriale et la justice sociale ; traduisant par là mon ambition d’un Sénégal de tous, un Sénégal pour tous. Aujourd’hui, le Sénégal est dans un meilleur état qu’en 2012, à la faveur de la mise en œuvre du Plan Sénégal Emergent, référentiel unique des politiques publiques. Naturellement, au delà du renforcement des acquis sur le plan de la gouvernance, les réformes et les choix stratégiques mis en œuvre ont pour finalité d’élargir et de renforcer les capacités productives du Sénégal, les accès universels pour les populations en matière d’eau, d’assainissement, d’électrification, de mobilité collective, de santé, d’éducation de sport et de culture. Par ailleurs, dans sa phase II, le Plan Sénégal Emergent est décliné à travers 5 grandes initiatives qui nous permettront de mieux préparer le Sénégal face à l’avenir et qui sont toutes, autant de réponses aux défis de notre époque et aux enjeux d’une modernité humaine. Je veux parler de l’emploi des jeunes Sénégalais à travers la promotion et le développement de l’entreprenariat, de l’économie sociale et solidaire pour l’autonomisation des femmes Sénégalaises, du renforcement du capital humain en perspective des métiers du futur, de la reforestation du territoire pour faire face au changement climatique et améliorer le cadre de vie des Sénégalais, de l’industrialisation avec une plus grande implication du secteur privé national et international en termes d’investissement productifs.
Depuis 2012, vous avez réussi à attirer des milliards de dollars d’investissements, y compris en provenance de la Chine, pour votre Plan Sénégal Emergent avec une croissance annuelle moyenne d’environ 6 % ? Selon vous, quelle est la clé d’une gouvernance efficace ?
C’est le choix de la transparence et ma détermination à promouvoir une culture nouvelle, celle de la gouvernance sobre et vertueuse portée par la lutte contre la corruption et tous les fléaux qui pourraient compromettre l’environnement des affaires. C’est aussi l’illustration de la grande tradition de coopération du Sénégal, marquée par la sécurité des transactions et la stabilité des relations. Ma vision d’un Sénégal émergent est soutenue et partagée par les partenaires qui nous accompagnent dans la réalisation de notre ambition. Elle est déclinée à travers des projets qui renferment toutes les garanties en termes d’exécution diligente, de rentabilité économique et d’utilité sociale. Les réformes de première génération du PSE ont permis de soutenir depuis plus de trois ans, une croissance de plus de 6%. L’efficacité de notre gouvernance, la stabilité de notre système démocratique et l’investissement massif dans le domaine des infrastructures sont de véritables « aimants » pour l’investissement direct étranger, aujourd’hui très diversifié, avec une belle percée de la République Populaire de Chine, qui a choisi de faire du Sénégal, un partenaire de référence, eu égard à ses avantages comparatifs et à sa position géographique.
Quels ont été les plus grands défis à relever pour développer votre vision d’un Sénégal émergent et mettre en œuvre le Plan Sénégal émergent ?
Le premier défi a été celui du consensus. Le PSE l’a relevé en prenant en compte tous les documents stratégiques dont l’objectif était de proposer un cadre logique pour construire le développement du Sénégal et il en a tiré une synthèse riche et utile. Ensuite la bonne gouvernance, une gouvernance à la fois sobre et vertueuse, qui met en avant les intérêts de notre pays. Il fallait aussi, dans le même mouvement, mettre en confiance les Sénégalais sur notre capacité et ma détermination à réformer le Sénégal avec eux, pour lui permettre de renouer avec la productivité et la compétitivité, et de restaurer la confiance les Partenaires techniques et financiers et du secteur privé. Nous avons rationalisé les dépenses publiques en augmentant leur efficacité. Ainsi, au-delà des impératifs économiques, ma vision du Sénégal émergent est portée par des programmes à fort impact social à l’image Programme d’urgence de développement communautaire (PUDC), du programme national de Bourses de sécurité familiale qui a permis à 400.000 ménages de bénéficier d’une allocation trimestrielle de 25.000 FCFA, de la Couverture maladie universelle (CMU), du programme d’urgence de modernisation des axes frontaliers (PUMA). Cette approche territoriale des politiques publique reste, à mon sens, pour le Sénégal et l’Afrique, un modèle de développement pour créer les conditions d’une prospérité économique partagée, d’un épanouissement collectif, et d’une justice sociale aussi bien en milieu rural qu’en milieu urbain. C’est aujourd’hui, une démarche que les sénégalais se sont appropriés et de laquelle ils attendent beaucoup, au regard des demandes impatientes.
Avec la découverte de réserves de pétrole et de gaz au Sénégal, dans quelle mesure le Sénégal est-il préparé à cette nouvelle donne économique qui a le potentiel de générer des revenus pour le pays mais également occasionner des bouleversements de portée sociétale? Avez-vous des inquiétudes?
Le Gouvernement du Sénégal, sous mon impulsion a fait preuve d’anticipation et de diligence en la matière. Aujourd’hui le Sénégal a l’avantage d’avoir pris, bien avant l’annonce des découvertes, les dispositions utiles et pertinentes pour faire du secteur pétrolier, un modèle de référence en matière de gouvernance et de transparence en adhérant sur ma décision, à l’Initiative pour la Transparence dans les Industries Extractives. Au Sénégal, les ressources naturelles appartiennent au peuple et non à l’Etat. Je l’ai fait inscrire dans la Constitution sénégalaise à l’issue du référendum de mars 2016. J’ai également créé un Comité d’orientation stratégique chargé des questions de pétrole et de gaz (COS-Petrogaz) composé de représentants de toutes les institutions de la République, des acteurs du secteur et qui va accueillir des membres de l’opposition et de la société civile. J’ai fait voter une loi sur le contenu local pour permettre aux entreprises nationales de tirer profit de la phase d’exploitation. Le code pétrolier a été revu pour être adapté au nouveau contexte du Sénégal avec de nouvelles dispositions protégeant davantage les intérêts du pays. Les ressources tirées du pétrole et du gaz serviront à financer le développement socio-économique du Sénégal et une part importante de celles-ci sera réservée aux générations futures, dans le cadre d’une loi sur la répartition des revenus. Voilà le cadre d’intégrité et de gouvernance du secteur. J’ai donné au gouvernement du Sénégal toutes les instructions requises pour construire une économie pétrolière performante et un écosystème viable qui prendra appui sur l’Institut National du Pétrole et du gaz que j’ai créé. Les meilleures pratiques sont en train d’être expérimentées et les premiers résultats augurent de belles perspectives pour nous conduire, avant 2035 vers l’émergence. Par ailleurs, je me réjouis grandement de la coopération entre le Sénégal et la République Islamique de Mauritanie. Avec ces découvertes, de part et d’autre de notre frontière, nous avons su, sur la base des relations de bon voisinage et du destin partagé de nos deux peuples, bâtir un partenariat intelligent pour l’exploitation de ces ressources. Tout le monde sait qu’en Afrique, les enjeux liés aux frontières et à l’exploitation des ressources sont des sources essentielles de conflits. Nos deux pays se sont associés, en partenariat avec BP, pour que les ressources à cheval sur cette zone soient un trait d’union de plus, qui s’ajoute aux relations multiformes et multiséculaires qui nous unissent, puisque le Sénégal, la Mauritanie, le Mali et la Guinée exploitent en commun, depuis plusieurs années le bassin du fleuve Sénégal, à travers l’Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du fleuve Sénégal. Il convient de saluer ces exemples de partenariats en Afrique.
Le Sénégal est largement considéré comme une démocratie stable depuis longtemps dans une région en proie à des coups d’État militaires, des guerres civiles et des conflits ethniques. Le Sénégal est considéré comme une “exception” en Afrique de l’Ouest. Pouvez-vous nous dire comment cela a été réalisé ? Qu’est-ce que les autres voisins africains peuvent apprendre de l’expérience démocratique Sénégalaise?
Le Sénégal est une vieille démocratie. Nous votons depuis 1848 sous la période coloniale, notamment au sein des Communes de Gorée, Dakar, Rufisque et Saint-Louis. Le multipartisme intégral est une réalité vivante au Sénégal, avec ses vertus, ses excès et ses outrances. Nous sommes un seul et même peuple. Le Sénégal a connu deux alternances démocratiques pacifiques grâce à la maturité du peuple, dans le calme et la transparence. L’expression démocratique est plurielle ; il n’y a aucune menace sur les libertés individuelles et les Institutions fonctionnent de manière démocratique. Notre expérience s’appuie sur l’acceptation des règles du jeu démocratique, de la compétition électorale et de la qualité de notre système électoral, perfectible certes, mais éprouvé. En plus, le Sénégal est un pays de dialogue et j’ai érigé le dialogue et la concertation en mode de gouvernance afin de prévenir les conflits et tenir tous ensemble, la promesse démocratique.
Senegal features a broad and diverse financial landscape, in which people tend to use a combination of different financial institutions, both formal and informal, digital and non-digital. What is your plan to bridge the financial inclusion gap in Senegal?
Financial inclusion is a political imperative as part of my vision of a Senegal of all and a Senegal for all. It is at the heart of our economic system and from this point of view, there can be no Senegalese excluded from the traditional financing system. Senegal’s development integrates all components of society and more particularly rural populations. And I have chosen to focus on the social and solidarity economy by creating decentralized financing mechanisms that have made it possible to completely change the national economy. Today, in Senegal, we are talking about solidarity economy and innovative financing to support economic activity through the Delegation for the Rapid Entrepreneurship of Women and Youth. Through the combination of the development of digital technologies and access to finance for young people and women, Senegal is winning the battle for its development through entrepreneurship, which is recognized as essential to the dynamics of growth and job creation.
Le Sénégal est caractérisé par un paysage financier large et diversifié, dans lequel les gens ont tendance à utiliser une combinaison de différentes institutions financières, tant formelles qu’informelles, numériques et non numériques. Quel est votre plan pour combler le fossé de l’inclusion financière au Sénégal?
L’inclusion financière est un impératif politique dans le cadre de ma vision d’un Sénégal de tous et d’un Sénégal pour tous. Elle est cœur de notre système économique et de ce point de vue, il ne saurait y avoir de Sénégalaises ou de Sénégalais exclus du système de financements classiques. Le développement du Sénégal intègre toutes les composantes de la société et plus particulièrement les populations rurales. Et j’ai fait le choix de miser sur l’économie sociale et solidaire en créant des mécanismes décentralisés de financement qui ont permis de changer complètement l’économie nationale. Aujourd’hui, on parle au Sénégal d’économie solidaire et de financements innovants pour soutenir l’activité économique à travers la Délégation à l’Entreprenariat Rapide des Femmes et des Jeunes. Grâce la combinaison entre le développement des technologies numériques et l’accès aux financements au profit des jeunes et des femmes, le Sénégal est en train de gagner la bataille de son développement à travers l’entreprenariat qui est reconnu comme étant essentiel à la dynamique de croissance et de création d’emplois.
Comment le Sénégal et le Nigeria peuvent-ils travailler ensemble et développer le commerce, les relations économiques et les investissements dans les routes, les transports, l’agriculture, l’énergie et l’enseignement de haute technologie dans notre sous-région?
L’axe Dakar-Abuja fait partie des articulations majeures du processus d’intégration communautaire. Le renforcement de notre coopération dans tous les domaines et l’intégration de nos grands chantiers d’infrastructures, d’éducation, de santé, d’énergie, entre autres, constituent une nécessité absolue surtout dans la perspective du marché commun africain. La compétitivité de notre sous-région dans le grand ensemble Afrique passe par une convergence de nos priorités et de nos choix économiques.
La France détient un grand pourcentage des réserves nationales de quatorze pays africains depuis 1961 : Bénin, Burkina Faso, Guinée-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Sénégal, Togo, Cameroun, République centrafricaine, Tchad, Congo-Brazzaville, Guinée équatoriale et Gabon. Nombreux sont ceux qui s’en inquiètent. Qu’en pensez-vous?
Nous avons une longue tradition de partenariat avec la France. Et au regard de ces relations historiques, certains ont l’impression qu’elle fait main basse sur l’économie sénégalaise. Ce n’est pas le cas. La France est un partenaire privilégié. Il n’existe pas d’exclusivité française au Sénégal. Notre pays est ouvert à tous les partenariats, pourvu qu’ils soient mutuellement bénéfiques. La Chine, la Turquie, l’Inde, la Malaisie, le Brésil, les Etats Unis d’Amérique sont autant de partenaires avec lesquels nous entretenons une coopération conviviale à la base de certaines de nos réalisations ; sans que cela ne porte préjudice à nos relations avec la France.
Les chefs d’Etat de la CEDEAO ont convenu d’adopter l'”ECO” comme nouvelle monnaie commune à partir de 2020. Certains critiques disent que c’est encore le “CFA” sous un autre nom ! Pouvez-vous dire quels sont les avantages réels de cette nouvelle monnaie pour notre sous-région?
Dans le cadre de la mondialisation les économies africaines sont appelées à connaitre des mutations extrêmement importantes. Dans l’espace de la CEDEAO, la cohabitation de plusieurs monnaies pourrait constituer un frein au développement du commerce intra-pays. Le CFA a une histoire à la fois singulière et particulière, comme trait d’union entre la France et ses ex-colonies d’Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre. Le processus d’intégration régionale peut bien s’accommoder d’une monnaie commune dans le respect des critères de convergence. Il ne s’agit pas de créer une monnaie juste parce qu’il faut le faire. Le CFA, sa parité fixe et sa convertibilité sont des paramètres à prendre en compte pour passer à une monnaie commune dans un espace plus élargi, comme nous le faisons déjà au sein de l’UEMOA avec des politiques hardies pour respecter les critères de convergence et les délais, ce qui me paraît essentiel.
Enfin, quelle est votre vision et votre espoir pour a jeunesse sénégalaise qui constitue la majeure partie de la population ?
Dans le cadre de l’initiative politique dénommée PSE Priorité Jeunesse 2035, j’ai fait le choix d’investir dans l’avenir à travers l’éducation et la formation, l’emploi et l’entreprenariat, la santé et le sport comme facteurs d’inclusion sociale, la créativité, la culture et la citoyenneté. C’est vous dire que la jeunesse sénégalaise constitue une priorité absolue dans le cadre de la mise en œuvre des politiques publiques. A ce titre, l’éducation, la formation professionnelle et l’emploi sont les marqueurs de ma politique en direction de la jeunesse. Entre 2012 et 2018, l’Administration publique et le secteur privé ont su créer plus de 491.000 emplois, hors secteur agricole et hors secteur informel.
Conscient des opportunités qu’offre l’auto-entrepreneuriat à la fois dans la lutte contre le chômage et le sous-emploi, j’ai créé en décembre 2017, la Délégation générale à l’entrepreneuriat rapide des femmes et des jeunes (Der/fj) doté d’un budget de 30 milliards F CFA. La DER a pour mission d’aider les femmes et les jeunes de 20 à 40 ans à trouver des financements sur l’ensemble du territoire national, pour leur permettre d’accéder à un emploi décent et durable.
Par ailleurs, dans le cadre de l’employabilité des jeunes, je compte mettre en œuvre, dans les deux prochaines années, un programme de 80 milliards FCFA pour favoriser leur insertion professionnelle à travers le renforcement de l’offre d’infrastructures de formation à travers la mise à niveau et la construction de lycées techniques et professionnels, la mise en place de cluster, de formation professionnelle et la construction de centres de formation aux métiers.
Dans cette même dynamique, je n’oublie pas les jeunes sénégalais engagés dans l’apprentissage non formel avec un programme de 20 milliards. Il s’agit de leur octroyer des bourses pour les aider dans leur formation. Mon ambition est d’assurer, à moyen terme, la formation de 100.000 jeunes sénégalais pour doter nos entreprises de ressources humaines de qualité, aptes à les accompagner dans leurs programmes d’investissement et de création d’emplois.
Et dans la perspective de l’exploitation du pétrole et du gaz, les jeunes sénégalais seront au cœur du développement du contenu local. Sans compter la mise en place d’un fonds intergénérationnel pour prendre en charge les préoccupations liées aux besoins des jeunes.
Mary Dinah founded M.A.D Hospitality, a hospitality consulting firm with particular focus on the management of boutique hotels and service excellence training. The company has since grown and diversified into corporate hotel bookings with international clients that include Fortune 500 companies and more recently the luxury private residences where Naomi Campbell and Roberto Cavalli stayed while visiting Lagos. In this interview with Lehle Balde overlooking the Lagos Lagoon reminiscent of Seattle waterline, the Harvard graduate and founder of Job Link Foundation talked about her new venture as the CEO of Seattle Residences, Luxury Apartments in Victoria Island, Lagos. Excerpts:How did you get started in the hospitality business?I have been in hospitality for 18 years, and that has been many years in hospitality for me. I’m quite lucky that I started young. I started at the age of 17 with the Hilton in London. I was the Conference and Banqueting Operator, helping with large meetings and conferences. Hilton is the largest conference and banqueting hotel in Europe, their conferences sits about 3,000 people, we were having really big banquets and awards.It’s a big stage to start on. I studied computer science at the University of Nottingham, and immediately after that I did a Masters in Hotel Management. In between the two, I worked with Four Seasons in London, on an internship for four months, after I finished the masters, I joined the Marriot Hotel Group, which offered a fast track to general management and most of my career has been with Marriot.I worked in the front office, food, and beverage and I was a chef for some time. In any hotel, you will immerse yourself with foods and beverages; you can’t do without it, from the menus, menu engineering, work with the chefs, during events. I was a breakfast chef, pastry chef, and then I worked with housekeeping. To be able to be a general manager of a hotel, you have to work everywhere. After that, I focused more on sales and marketing and moved to Marriot head office team for sales in central London.Shortly after that, I went to Harvard to study entrepreneurship, which pushed me to set up a management company called MAD, which is the hospitality business I have now run for about 10 years. At MAD Hospitality, we do a global distribution system, which is more focused on the technology type of hospitality. MAD Hospitality partners with some of the big names in the industry: we partnered Saver to be their representative in sub-Saharan Africa, so the clients would never see us, but when they book our hotel in Nigeria we are behind it, and then we get fees from it.We did a lot with BOA, and also the local banks like First Bank and a couple of other companies, and then we manage hotels, like the Panel Apartment in Abuja, Lagoon Quest in Lagos, Golf and Spa in Abuja, Harold Park Golf Club in Abuja.I am now the CEO of Seattle Residence. The first time I came here to visit I just thought it was stunning and beautiful and perfectly in line in terms of what we do at MAD. I thought it was perfect because I’ve worked with executive apartments before, which is what this is: luxury, extended stay, serviced apartments. There are normal apartments, but you can rent them on a nightly rate or a yearly rate, like three months, six months, it’s funny that they say short-stay because it’s actually long-stay for hotels. It’s important to know what the differences are between nightly guest and people that stay for longer in serviced apartments; the housekeeping is different, the attention to detail is different, the service and the whole feel is more homely, it is genuinely a home away from home. To the extent that we don’t even say “home away from home”, we say “your Lagos home”. It’s where you call home in the city.It’s usually for people that travel a lot either local or international, people who want the opportunity to come and go as they please and know that everything is sorted for them, and even at their request, we can even clean their apartment daily while they are away and keep it exactly how they want it.
How do you see Seattle Residences contributing to Nigeria’s tourism? How are you able to impact the tourism industry?
In terms of what we bring to tourism, one of the reasons I moved back to Nigeria is because I wanted to make an impact on the hospitality and tourism industry in Nigeria. I had all this experience quite young, I moved back about seven years ago, but I’m still very much in London, we are working with our hotel groups here, it’s my country, Nigeria, and I want to make a key the difference, a key contribution to the industry.The industry is still very young, very much in its infant stage. In 2010, we only had about four internationally branded hotels in Nigeria. I moved back to Nigeria, I joined the 4 Points as their head of marketing for all the Starward Hotel in Nigeria, so that’s 4 Points Lagos, Sheraton Ikeja, Sheraton Abuja, Le Meridien Port Harcourt, Le Meridien Akwa-Ibom, which is a golf resort, so I was shuffling through the five, and reporting to our head office for Africa, which is in Brussels.The marketing hub for Europe, Africa, the Middle East, which is the London Park Lane, so I was shuffling between the two, and it was a perfect job for me because I could perfectly connect everything that I was learning and what the company was doing in Europe with what they were doing here, and I was employed to bridge the gap and make sure that marketing concepts and promotion are exactly the same as what they do everywhere else in the world, that was what I did on that role.I took a break from managing my own company to take on that role, now after three years, I went back to manage my hospitality company and we are managing various hotels. I think it was a necessary role for me because I learned a lot, and it put me in good stead to do everything that I’m doing now.Going back to what we want to bring to the industry, we want to show a world class property, we do a lot of service excellence training, for me, the service quality in Lagos, Nigeria is not as it should be.I think that Nigerians are very hospitable, some of the most hospitable people in the world, and it comes naturally, we are very community-based, very family oriented, even in my language in Yoruba, when people are eating, they say in Yoruba “e wa jeun” (come and eat), they say “you meet me well, come and join,” and when you say no, they say bring a fork.They are very hospitable, you have your family around, it is all-normal and that’s how the culture is. It is not that way in other cultures, neighbours don’t just smile at each other just because they are neighbours; they just walk past.Some cultures are very conservative and they all keep to themselves, mind their business, and even siblings don’t necessary live together, even parents, when they are older, are moved into homes, as opposed to our culture where you move them to your home. I think we are very hospitable, but we somehow haven’t learned fully how to make it work, how to commercialise that hospitality, and so that is what I want to bring into the Nigerian culture, to show that we are hospitable, we are happy, smiley, friendly and warm, we are very social, we like to host, we like to welcome people it’s who we are and I want to make sure that we showcase who we are.The trainings that I do is to bring it out of them, it is not to teach them anything new because it comes naturally to them, it’s to encourage them to keep that attitude when they work in the hospitality industry, to work with it, and be able to welcome people the way they would in their own homes.
One of the issues people complain about a lot in the hospitality industry is Service. What brings the difference in how you train your staff?
There is a very big difference. Almost all of the excellence training service that I’ve heard about in Nigeria is classroom based, and I do mine differently. It’s always on the job because service is a verb, it’s a doing word. When you give service, it’s an action, an act or a facial expression or a smile. It’s something that you do, it’s not cognitive and it’s not academic as something might be in other industries.In hospitality, it’s very much action, so I don’t see the point in people sitting down and telling them this is how you should greet a guest, I would rather go to the front office and sit with them and say just continue, act like I’m not here and when they greet the guest and the guest goes, I say OK that was good, but you know the guest was holding a baby, did you ask if she needs a cot or it’s a businessman and he was holding a suit, did you ask him if he needs an ironing service, does he need a car to work.The anticipatory service, the things that you look out for to think beyond what they’ve asked you to try and help them put together the things they’ve not even expressed, by the time they express it, it’s already a complain, or at least they are prompting you to do something. They would rather that you plan for them and ask them what they would want, based on cues that they’ve already given, the things that they need. That goes into going the extra mile for the guest, going into anticipating their needs goes into making their stay more memorable, more comfortable.Hospitality goes as far back as biblical days; I’m a Christian and the bible talks about being warm to strangers in your community. For me, in terms of growing up in the church, every time they talk about hospitality in the Bible, there are so many stories about people welcoming others.
What is your favourite story about hospitality in the Bible?There is a story about a man that welcomed a person into his home, and so doing welcomes an angel, and that angel then turns his life around. And the concept of it is, you never know who you welcome into your door or city, but there are many stories about being kind to strangers.I’ve thought about this for many years and I realised that travel comes with its own stress, no matter how luxurious the hotel, no matter how warm your smile, for me I’m not so interested in Economy, first-class, business-class or private jet. I can sit anywhere because everyone is still going through a travel process and it’s not the most pleasant of things, even if you sit in first-class, it’s all nice and all but there is the cabin pressure.I did a module in a course in school on travel catering and what it takes to get them food on a plane, the air has to be sucked out so the food can stay fresh, that’s why when they bring it, it’s all packed in the foil. It takes a lot to get it on the plane and it has to wait for possible overnight for the flight, for you to open it and it’s still fresh. It’s never perfect, it’s never restaurant quality, and it’s getting better with technology.Everything about travel, from the airport to the car pick-up, comes with its own stress and it’s very growling. It is important that we go the extra mile for everyone you see that checks-in especially if they come from abroad, they are going through a lot already even if they flew first-class or enter a limousine and they open the car door, it’s a whole journey and they might have been on the road for 12 hours before you see them, you don’t know what they’ve been through, who they left at home.The hotel that I started with at the Marriot, we had people who lived in New York and worked in London, every Monday they were in London and every Friday they flew out. It’s a lot deeper than people think, and how people write letters and say this whole trip for me was problematic and difficult, I just got a divorced, or I just moved home, I just had a baby, or I just got this job, reading those letters, and they mention how good the hotel service was or mention other people’s name or even your name and when your name is mentioned, you get employee of the month.Those early days in hospitality, I realised this is so much more than just my passion for hospitality and it has a lot to do with real impact in people’s lives and people’s lives are much better because of me. When you individualize it, you realize that your job is so much more than you. I would liken it to the work that nurses do, it’s far more than just that, the experience with people, sleeping in hospitals, being admitted or just visiting for the day, it’s such a crucial time in their life and they will always look back to the caregivers, so we are caregivers as well.I see hospitality within hotels as that service, people argue sometimes that it’s different because it’s expensive, and it’s 5-star. It’s so much more than just giving luxury, the champagne, the tea, the $1000 suite and things like that, but when you go beneath the surface we are caregivers, whether it’s in the hospital, or in a home, or a luxury hotel, it’s the same thing, we see the same people, just at different times of their lives and the care that we give them is just as crucial as anyone else.So, that type of mentality and concept is embedded in the training that I give to the staff and I think that that’s what makes the service here different, and I think that because I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about the team and our service, and everything from the security.The rest of the directors and I spend a lot of time training the security staff members, standing with them outside not in the classroom. We always have a classroom training for maybe 2 hours to discuss, where we share some videos, presentations, the rest of the one-week training is hands-on training and I think that’s what makes the big difference.Also, the type of properties that we manage: I’m very lucky to have fantastic owners, they really understand hospitality, they shared the vision that they wanted to create, it was spot-on the type of company and hospitality service that I wanted to put together and provide, so it’s a perfect team from the start.So, when I explain we need to employ a certain number of people, they say go ahead, or we need to invest this much in training, they say go ahead. Their attention to detail and their understanding of it is far deeper than all the previous owners, I’ve worked with, from the quality of the hand towels to the scent of the candles and all of the equipment that we put in our wellness centres, everything has to be world-class. All of the equipment at the gym, our interior design option is the best, we appreciate indigenous, so we always look for the best indigenous companies. If for any reason we can’t find it, then we go abroad. They want local luxury. It’s a Nigerian hotel and we want Nigerians to have it at the best, but at the same time, we don’t discriminate.We have a lady from Senegal as our restaurant manager, the front office manager is from the Philippines, and our lifestyle manager is from India. I think I am GM or CEO of the top hotels in Nigeria that is Nigerian; all of the other GMs are foreign. Sheraton came to Nigeria in 1985 and they’ve never had a Nigerian GM, so it is great to say that I am the first lady to not only become the GM & CEO of the management company but also heading the whole operations; it shows that Nigerians can do it, you just need to get the right Nigerians and support them to do it.
How would you say the government is supporting Nigeria’s tourism business? What’s your take on the government efforts to improve tourism in Nigeria?
At the moment, we are in-between governments, we have our new Governor-elect, and I’ve met with him several times. He, in particular, wants to focus on tourism, which is refreshing. I was an ambassador of tourism for about two years and we were able to do some projects on beach renovations.I also did a lot of consulting in terms of the service industry, hotels, customer service, and hospitality. With Sanwo-Olu coming in, I think he is going to put a lot of focus on it and prioritise it to the extent of what the budget will allow. He is trying to make some moves in tourism, and I’m sure that we’ll work together. He is interested with projects that come with their own funding, and for me, that’s as much as you can expect from the government.In that regard, they’ve been very supportive, however but the budget is not always adequate. If you have a proposal and you take it to the Ministry of Tourism, if you have your own funding, they would almost always help you execute it and give a letter that they are endorsing it. Unfortunately, you can’t really ask for more than that.I think the problem we have a lot of times in Nigeria is that people expect the government to be a bank, so their focus is to meet government for money, but my own focus is to create money from private sector, banks or international lenders and then go to the government to partner.So, what they can contribute can to do a large-scale training in security for instance: in terms of venue (because they have a lot of training centres) in that sense, they are always very supportive. Funding not so much, because they don’t really have it and there are so many issues with corruption and things like that, so I even prefer that they just support, and put their logo on your project, it goes a long way.I think that in the new administration, Sanwo-Olu is going to be even more supportive and more open-minded because he has had a lot of exposure, and for tourism, and that is what you need. You need an experienced leader to say this isn’t the way things should be.It is basic, maybe I will speak to him about this, for example, Lagos’ nightlife. We have a very buzzing nightlife. London has a great nightlife, but Lagos is different, the weather is warm and we need more security at night. There is no reason why we can’t have one policeman every 100 metres between Adeola Odeku and Akin Adesola.There was a time streets were not lit and it was dark, the street lighting was not consistent, and if it’s not lit up, it’s a security hazard. But now, 24 hours a day, there is light everywhere; you will never find Adeola Odeku without light even at 4am. So, the next thing we need now is security all around, and if we have that, we can convince all the tourists that they can go clubbing and come back at 5am. I know it’s not something they can do in Surulere, Ajegunle, etc. but at least in these areas where you have all the nightclubs.
Naomi Campbell, Edward Eningful, Robert Cavalli and Andre Leon Tally all stayed at the Seattle Residences in May. What was it like?
It was really exciting to have them stay at Seattle Residences. It was amazing to house all of the big fashion people. They were all very happy with their experience here at Seattle and Lagos in general. Naomi Campbell made a very creative video essentially marketing Nigeria from the fashion shows, the beaches, Seattle Residences and the Lagos vibe. It is important for people to see the various sides of Lagos. Lagos is a dynamic city with luxurious experiences and we want people to see this side of Lagos too.Apart from hospitality, you have a foundation called JobLink, what does the Foundation do?JobLink is one of Nigeria’s fastest growing human resource development companies with its headquarters at 8 Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. The company has a network of over 200,000 jobseekers from all states in Nigeria and over 500 top companies as clients. Job-Link continues to focus on its main objective of reducing the unemployment rate in Nigeria by connecting candidates to jobs in diverse industries. To date, over 10,000 job seekers have been connected with employers.In addition to recruitment services, Job-Link specializes in human capital development. Our employability training are designed to ensure all candidates have the soft skills required to excel at interviews and keep the jobs we connect them with. Certificates of attendance are given at the end of the training, which candidates can add to their resumes and profiles to boost their chances of attracting employers. More than 2,000 people have been trained at our 150-seater training centre in Ikoyi with very encouraging success stories.
What advice do you have for young women navigating their professional lives?
My advice to young women is simply ‘Go for it’. The sky is the limit. Women in this culture are too concerned about their reputation and what other people think. A lot of people hold themselves back because of what they think people will say, the fear of being judged for being too assertive and out there. My advice is to stay focused on your objectives. Men in Nigeria are the ones closing all the deals and that is how they get ahead. Women need to believe in their abilities and go after what they want unapologetically.
Uzoma Dozie is known as a banker, tech-savvy investor and a gender and financial inclusion advocate. With the recently concluded Diamond and Access Bank merger, many are wondering what’s next for the former Diamond Bank CEO. In this interview with Lehlé Baldé, he talks about what’s next for his career.
(Lehlé Baldé) : Your father was fondly known as PGD recently turned 80. Happy belated birthday to him. Can you tell us about some of the biggest business lessons you have learned from your father?
(Uzoma Dozie) : He has a few great phrases and one of them was when he started Diamond Bank. He would say, “This is not a SPRINT, this is a long RACE, so whatever we do, we are trying to make sure it’s sustainable into the future.” It wasn’t about quick profits, it was about building something that would last, so whatever we did, we knew it had to be sustainable.
The second is about contentment and not being too greedy: regardless of whatever the situation is, you should be confident and comfortable. Being comfortable and being content is a good platform for you to take the next step.
There was a time we worked together in the same office, I was in financial control and he was the CEO of the company. One day I rushed up into his office and I was complaining about something; and he said to me, “sit down, Uzoma, everything you’ve told me now, I already know, if only you can help me and tell me what the problems are and offer a solution.” That was a learning point for me. Being solution-oriented is something that he really passed on to me, that’s how Diamond Bank started, looking for a solution.
(Lehlé Baldé) : Many were taken aback with the announcement of Diamond Bank and Access Bank merger. Now that the merger process has finally been completed, what are your thoughts on the process and will you be taking up any role in the newly consolidated bank?
(Uzoma Dozie) :People would be surprised because I would say we were the leading retail bank driving financial inclusion, and new innovation and technology to create a customer experience, and so, people will ask if you are making this statement, then why are you now merging with another bank, is the bank distressed? Is there a problem? I’d like to take people back. Our objective was always to go beyond banking. We are trying to create a platform for our customers to access the market, and when you think of it, with the Diamond Bank and Access Bank merger, we are trying to create access (no pun intended), for our 17 million customers. With this merger, we are giving our customers access to the market in both a local and global sense. Access Bank has done well in creating and setting-up a footprint in areas following the trade route, so imagine your customer accessing a much wider trade route that extends beyond Nigeria, for export, and also the import of raw materials whether it’s in London, in Asia or Dubai.
We are following our ‘beyond banking’ ethos and thinking about financial inclusion and how to bridge the gap. It creates a one-stop shop for everyone, as we are still following that same status of going beyond banking, providing access for our customers and prioritizing financial inclusion. Access Bank has existing relationships with Airtel and Diamond Bank has an existing relationship with MTN. These companies are spread across Africa and for us, the dream is being able to connect people not just from city to city but from village to village across the continent.
Connecting someone from a village in Nigeria to a village in Zambia, for example. Regarding my role, once the merger was successfully completed, I stepped down from my role as CEO.
(Lehlé Baldé) : You mentioned INNOVATION, you are obviously very passionate about TECH. You have a track record for leveraging tech to drive processes and people. Where would you say your passion for tech came from?
(Uzoma Dozie) : Tech is an enabler. Personally, tech helps me connect with people. When I was CEO of Diamond Bank, having the ability to talk to anybody in the organization empowered me; so instead of relying on people, I can actually connect directly and vice versa (people also can connect directly to me), and technology enables that open-door policy which is required for creativity and innovation.
Why is technology important, especially in Nigeria? There is no other way to include people without technology. Without technology, there is no inclusion; no inclusion for health, social or financial benefit. Before Diamond Bank turned 25, it took us 20 years to acquire 4 million customers in 300 locations, and in the following 5 years, we tripled that number just by using technology. Nobody came in person into Diamond Bank anymore, and they opened their account online by themselves. We took banking to the marketplace, created new opportunities, and that’s the beauty of technology. People talk about technology taking jobs, but on the contrary, we created new jobs, new opportunities, a new type of banker and we would never have been able to do so without technology. Financial inclusion is about scaling; scaling could even be cost-effective, and the only way to do that is a DIGITAL DRIVEN MOBILE strategy.
(Lehlé Baldé) : Diamond bank was a driver in the Financial Inclusion space when you were CEO, what were the biggest challenges you faced in implementing financial inclusion as a core focus?
(Uzoma Dozie) : The biggest blockage was people because you have to convince people to change and see where the future is. The mindset we adopted was that we were going to take from our existing capital and invest in financial inclusion because we needed to invest in the future, which is the excluded populations. We came up with a Beta proposition which targeted excluded populations and linked opening accounts an financial literacy for them. We opened about five hundred thousand accounts and we discovered that being financially excluded doesn’t mean you are poor, it just means that institutions have not provided an enabling ecosystem for them to be comfortable, to trust, to be convenient.
The second is REGULATION, the regulatory system has actually come a long way from the mindset of 5 years ago and we realized that without social inclusion, there is no economic prosperity because you are going to have bottlenecks. We need a new breed of people who will shift the paradigm from leadership to see that we have to take this risk, and the risk isn’t as precarious as it seems if you consider that the banking industry, as we know it, is long gone and it’s highly concentrated in terms of exposure. Less than 500 businesses count for over 80% of the exposure, which is highly concentrated. We need to diversify and build that capacity of the ecosystem. That’s where I see a lot of bottlenecks because the people that actually adopt technology and change how they do things are actually at the bottom of the pyramid. This is why technology is going to be an enabler in driving financial inclusion because there is no alternative, so when I look at what we did with the Beta proposition, we were just replacing one financial institution with another. One that provided certainty, one that provided more trust and the ability to save and transform lives.
(Lehlé Baldé) : There’s a growing number of Fintechs, how do you think Fintechs will change banking in the next 10 years?
(Uzoma Dozie) :It’s already changing it, that why we adopted a ‘beyond banking’ philosophy: it is not just about providing banking services, it’s about doing more for the customers. If we were just providing banking services to customers, that means we only know a fraction of his daily life, a fraction of what the customer does, and that’s why we implemented a mobile-first strategy. We designed our mobile app as one that is easy to use. Our competition was always going to be CASH, how fast can you make a payment or achieve an outcome with your mobile phone versus CASH. Your competition is always going to be cash. Part of it is also education, financial literacy and record keeping. If all records are there for you, when you want to borrow money from me, I don’t have to ask a lot of questions, I can actually see it, and create a profile for you.
(Lehlé Baldé) : Another thing Diamond bank was known for is that it’s a gender equal workplace, a bank where women occupied many top positions. How important is it to empower women in the workplace?
(Uzoma Dozie) : Nigeria is 50% women, Nigeria is also 50% Muslim and Christian, so if you don’t have a deliberate strategy to include everyone, if you are only providing solutions with male-led bankers, it means that you miss out half the population; so it has to be deliberate. We live in a society where men are supposed to wash cars and women wash the dishes, and we have to change that mindset. It’s about inclusion, it’s about ensuring we capture as much data to provide the right solutions for people. If women feel like they have an environment in which they can choose and decide whether they want to pursue a career only or pursue a career and a family, then there is longevity for them in that organization and it also leads to greater participation from women in the workplace.
(Lehlé Baldé) : Your show ‘TechTalks’ interviews some of Nigeria’s top tech entrepreneurs. In your opinion, what does the future hold for tech in Nigeria?
(Uzoma Dozie) : We have a lot of Fintech companies in Nigeria, my concern is always, once it gets to a critical scale, I hope that they would have put in what it takes to go through that phase, that is where they now become like an Access Bank, for example, whereby you have all the managerial issues, regulatory issues and how you put that structure in place to manage it. The Fintechs are making a lot of impact, people like Paystack, Flutterwave, are doing a lot of things that are actually making other players sit up and take note – both financial and non-financial organizations. The other concern is investment. Fintechs are filling important market gaps and collaboration as well as open systems are going to be key in the sustainability of these Fintechs. The CBN has come up with a great KYC (Know Your Customer) system, where KYC level one does not need anything to just open a bank account, and truly that’s how we opened 10 million accounts. Now if you want to reduce BVN (Biometric Registration) at that KYC level, they are just going to destroy the whole system and it’s not about just the regulatory bodies coming together and saying they want to achieve XYZ% this year, so how do you work together to do that? Bringing it from Tax laws that would now reverse any good work that any bank has done, especially when you have over 17 million unbanked small businesses, that’s where the engine of growth is in Nigeria. The opportunity to employ just one more person, if 17 million businesses do so, that accounts for 17 million employed people. The focus should be on SMEs.
(Lehlé Baldé) : How will you use your wealth of experience as the former CEO of Africa’s fastest growing retail bank and the platform that you stand on, to impact lives going forward? What’s next for you, what do you have in the works?
(Uzoma Dozie) : Inclusion is very key, and I think there is a lot of profit, both financial and non-financial, in investing in that space and building solutions in the financial inclusion space. Diamond Bank started by identifying a segment of the population that nobody wanted to bank because they thought it was too expensive due to their lack of literacy in technology. There is no economic prosperity without social inclusion. My plan is to create a platform that helps the disenfranchised segment and there are quite a few financially and socially excluded groups in Nigeria. People are socially excluded because they are not financially literate and also because they don’t trust financial institutions. The plan is to build a platform that goes beyond banking and incorporates solutions to some of the bottlenecks. A financial platform, a payment system, one that is focused on small businesses, focused on women because research shows if you look at the adopters of technology, women and youth make up a high portion of that segment. I want to go beyond a transaction, connecting to an outcome. People want to be happy, people want to feel safe. We need to start getting comfortable with things that are futuristic; future intelligence, blockchain, virtual reality, robotics, AI; those are the things that will help us include millions of people in a cost-effective manner. truly, you can’t do it any other way, you can’t use people. I want to play a role in building that platform, and I love competition. When we first started the retail game, we spoke to a CEO who said there was no business in retail banking here, but today, there is no bank in Nigeria that does not have a sale/retail strategy, because of that where the opportunity is. A corporate client can access money how they like, and they can even lend banks money.
(Lehlé Baldé) : What does Uzoma Dozie do in his spare time?
(Uzoma Dozie) : Now that I have spare time, what I try to do is play golf, I play tennis, read and I do a lot of photography. I have taken a lot of pictures I need to process, so I’m going to do that and take more pictures.
(Lehlé Baldé) : What do you photograph?
(Uzoma Dozie) : People, places, things, situations and I want to now dive into moving pictures. I also think that is what the future is too. People don’t read anymore, so if you want to connect to people, you need to do it virtually and it cannot be too long, as people no longer have the time. Anything more than 5 minutes is a waste of time. So, if you can do a brief movie indication in 1 or 2 minutes and teach people without actually interfering with their lives, you create a visual connection with them.
Using visual to tell a story makes a great impact, and that’s what we did at Diamond Bank; that’s where the leadership comes from.
(Lehlé Baldé) :As a tech enthusiast, what are some of the apps on your phone that you use every day?
(Uzoma Dozie) : Other than writing, I take a lot of pictures, If you go through my pictures, you will see what my day was like, and you can visualize it as well. I have my pictures in sections, I have my money folder, I have a social folder, then I have my office folder, then there is information in everything I find interesting), there is a whole folder for golf, and for media and photography as well.
(Lehlé Baldé) : Are you an iOS or Android user?
(Uzoma Dozie) : Six years back, I was completely 120% an iOS person, even if I saw a faster innovation coming from Google, it was innovation that wasn’t practical every day, so it was nice to have Apple that focused on what you need to have; very simple. Then I began to feel trapped, old system, not able to access the new innovations millennials try, and our business moved as we tried to do more things on mobile – we wanted to make sure we knew what our customers were using, like then Blackberry, then google, then iOS, we now have to start focusing on the apps, the system that people were comfortable using, because it was cost effective, which was Google, so I bought a Google phone. I moved out of the iOS ecosystem so I will actually be able to build an open platform. And if it’s not an open platform, I’m not interested. So now I use the iPhone for my personal lifestyle, photography and creative because that’s what they are good at. So for me, it’s iOS for my lifestyle and google for my business.
(Lehlé Baldé) : You seem to have a signature style, you wear all black. Can we expect to see any pop of color this summer?
(Uzoma Dozie) : I just can’t go wrong with black, there might be black with a hint of something, but essentially, my colour palette reveals my love of black; black is beautiful. Many colour pops that do creep into my signature style might reflect the essence of Nigeria.
Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth in this interview with Lehlé Baldé speaks on the Commonwealth’s commitment to foster trade, economic co-operation, investment in human capital amongst African countries of the Commonwealth.
In October of last year, you concluded a successful meeting in Brussels with your counterparts at the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, Patrick Gomes. The leaders agreed to accelerate joint action on matters of mutual interest to boost trade and economic cooperation. Can you talk to some of the ways business owners on the African continent will start to feel the effects of this?
The Commonwealth and the ACP have worked jointly together over more than 10 years to support governments to get the policy environment for trade right. We have worked to ensure African businesses are front and centre of concerns of policymakers as they formulate, negotiation and implement trade policy. We are now at an inflection point in our cooperation, and with all the changes in the Continent we are now working together to see how best we can support private sector development in Africa in the future.
You believe and advocate for free and open trade, as well as the importance of multilateral trading systems. In your view, what are the benefits to the Africa continental free trade agreement?
Africa is continuing to show its openness to trade both at the continental and regional level- initiatives such as the CFTA as well as the fact that the regional communities continue to push for deepening of trade shows that Africa remains open. Integration is a journey and what is heartening is that as challenges arise, the continent is looking for solutions to solve them.The Commonwealth continues to speak up against protectionism – 2018 CHOGM Communique.The Commonwealth is also combating protectionism through practical initiatives, such as the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda, where provides a platform for members to share experiences and best practices in physical (infrastructure), digital (digital economy), regulatory (ease of doing business), Business to business and supply side (agriculture) connectivity. These look at some of the pressing priorities for Africa- whether it be the need for digital infrastructure to take advantage of digitisation to best lessons on how to create value addition in agriculture.
The CFTA represents a watershed moment because in this time when protectionism is on the rise it signals to the world that Africa is, and continues to be, open. But beyond the symbolic importance it also marks an important landmark on the continent’s development journey as intra-Continental trade is absolutely important to the Continent’s development ambitions. In October, Commonwealth Trade Ministers will meet and they can be expected to continue to push for trade openness.
You have said that a lack of investment in human capital leads to productivity losses in future which constrain the growth and economic transformation of a country. How do we keep governments of developing countries accountable to invest in human capital as the key to unlocking economic potential?
Investment in human capital promotes growth and helps ensure the benefits of economic growth are distributed more equitably. The quality and quantity of education, in particular, has powerful effects on the distribution of income and on economic growth (World Bank, 2007). Each year of schooling boosts long-run growth by 0.58 percentage points. GDP per capita tends to be higher in countries with higher levels of human capital development.
Between 10% and 30% of observed differences in GDP per capita across countries can be attributed to cross-country differences in human capital.
There is a strong correlation between high scores on the World Bank’s human capital index (HCI, 2018) and higher real GDP per capita (see Figure 3.3 in World Bank World Development Report 2019) – the top 3 highest scoring countries on the HCI (Singapore, Korea, Japan) are also among the countries with the highest per capita GDP. In turn, countries with the lowest scores on the HCI also generally have low GDP per capita (e.g. Liberia, Niger, Mali, Mozambique). The positive effects of human capital on growth tend to be strongest in countries where there are better economic opportunities and stronger institutions.
There is evidence of a positive correlation between human capital and the overall level of adoption of advanced technologies (World Bank, 2019). This suggests human capital will continue to be a key factor driving growth in the digital economy. A lack of investment in human capital will lead to productivity losses in the future, constraining growth and economic transformation. The World Bank World Development Report 2019 forecasts that countries with the lowest human capital investments today will have work forces that are only one-third to half as productive as they would be if they received high-quality education and health services.
Your colleagues from the Commonwealth, were on the ground in Nigeria to observe the February presidential election. What are your thoughts on the recently concluded Nigerian 2019 elections?
Across Commonwealth Africa, particularly in Nigeria, we are seeing increased participation in political processes by young people, women, and ordinary citizens. We are also seeing strengthened independent institutions and legal frameworks, including constitutional reforms. One of the conclusions of the 2018 Mo Ibrahim Index on African Governance was that African governance remains on a moderate upward trajectory in spite of variations across countries. Commonwealth countries continue to do well in that index: the top seven, and in fact the top two are from our membership.