“The average global tenure for a Finance Minister is two years…I made it seven very tough years!”- Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, talks China, climate and corruption

On December 5th 2018

Development Reimagined convened the inaugural event of the ‘DR Lens On: Global Development & China’ series at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), featuring the esteemed and accomplished Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Finance Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and former Managing Director of the World Bank.

The event focused on “China’s Role in Financing African Development” and critically examined the constellation of development finance options available to Africans. Moderated by Emily Feng, Correspondent with the Financial Times, the event kicked off by discussing the landscape of financing in Africa and the role of China. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala began by creating awareness about Africa’s infrastructure financing deficit. She told the audience, “2/3 of the infrastructure that Africa needs is yet to be built.”

On the topic of China’s role in financing Africa’s development, Dr. Ngozi stated “let’s not make a Christmas tree of our relationship with China”. She stressed the importance of tapping into Africa’s own internal financing potential before looking at external financiers like China. She spoke about the large size of some African countries pension funds – notably South Africa and Nigeria and the role they could play in financing Africa’s development. Furthermore, she stressed the need to revamp tax policy to capture the financial power of the informal economy. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala told the captivated audience, which included several African Ambassadors to China, that African countries needed to adopt savvy policies and leverage technology to formalize the economy. She shared examples of entrepreneurship programs that the government of Nigeria held that serve dual purposes of supporting entrepreneurship while also bringing young entrepreneurs into the formal economy.

With the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) kicking off in Poland this month, Dr. Ngozi discussed the many challenges faced by African countries to combating and mitigating climate change. “Africa did not contribute to many of the challenges posed by climate change but is struggling with the biggest impacts.” She highlighted the opportunity that Africa’s infrastructure gap provides – as the infrastructure deficit gives Africa a chance to build greener, low carbon and more sustainable infrastructure than exists in the already developed parts of the world.

Lastly, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala spoke candidly about her new book ‘Fighting Corruption is Dangerous’,providing insights on the challenges of directing and managing large financial flows in African countries. She spoke about the personal trials she faced in her fight against corruption. She stated, “they were trying to kill me. And if they couldn’t kill me, they wanted to destroy my reputation so I couldn’t function.” Dr. Okonjo-Iweala emphasize that self-awareness, strong set of values and principles and an ironclad reputation are important elements when trying to tackle corruption, which she stressed is ‘corrosive to development’. She ended with a call to action to the Africans in the room, ‘We as Africans should stand tall because we have so much to be proud of…Each African should pledge that they will not be part of any corrupt deal – it starts with us.”

Over 75 guests including 5 Ambassadors joined in the event to share their insights and opinions during a lively Q&A session.The meeting was held under Chatham House rules, to encourage frank discussion, and translation was provided from English to French and to Chinese.

The event was co-hosted with AFRI-CAN, a network of independent thinkers from African republics and members of the African diaspora communities that aims to design a strong community that is empowered by sharing resources with members bound together by a shared heritage. The President and co-founder of AFRI-CAN: Dr Bright Ohene gave closing remarks and stressed the need for collaboration among Africans to achieve the continent’s goals.

The event concluded with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala signing a number of books for event participants and engaging with participants.

Development Reimagined is thankful to the AIIB for hosting our inaugural DR Lens On: Global Development & China event, and for working with us to make it a success.

Looking forward and in a bid to create a forum for the freshest development ideas in the world, Development Reimagined will continue to curate a season of panel events that strike a balance between addressing current events and advocating for development challenges in a timely manner.

The next event will he hosted early in 2019, and will focus on the ‘Future of Food’.  To sponsor or participate in our next event, contact us at: interns@developmentreimagined.com

View all photos at: https://crimson.pixieset.com/g/inauguraldrlensonglobaldevelopmentandchina/ 

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