Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, chief trade negotiator and director general, Nigerian office for Trade Negotiations, NOTN, is also the chairman of the Negotiating Forum for the CFTA Negotiations and its Technical Working Group on Trade in Services. Prior to this appointment, Osakwe served in the World Trade Organisation, WTO, for 19 years as a member of senior management, including as director of the Divisions of Accessions. Before working at the WTO, he was a Nigerian Foreign Service Officer. He was educated at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, University of Oxford, and New York University, NYU, from where he obtained his PhD. He has published extensively on trade policy, negotiations, structural reforms, the rule of law and good governance and co-edited books on WTO Accessions and the rules-based multilateral trading system. Osakwe speaks exclusively with Maureen Chigbo, editor of Realnews on migration, economic and security on the margins of the Atlantic Dialogues conference organized by the OCP Policy Center of Morocco with the theme: “Africa in the Atlantic: Time for Action”. The event held in Marrakesh, Morocco, from December 13 to 15. According to Osakwe, the fate that befell 26 young Nigerian women who died in the Mediterranean Sea was sad, adding that Nigeria will take all necessary measures to prevent illegal migration. Excerpts
Realnews: Can you talk about migration and the effect its having on Nigeria and West Africa in general?
Osakwe: Well, it’s a very broad question but essentially there are economic, security and social aspects to migration. Nigeria in terms of the ECOWAS protocol is committed to a free movement of services within our sub-region. Within the African Union, all across Africa, as you already know that Nigeria is chairing the process for establishment of a single market on trade and services and goods in the continent because we believe that freer movement of peoples and freer movement of goods, merchandise will improve the welfare and prosperity of Nigerians and of Africans. Now with regards to illegal migration, of course, Nigeria will take all necessary measures to prevent illegal migration. The situation in Libya is also of deep concern for the Nigerian government and as you know the president has directed urgent steps to bring back Nigerians who were victimized and are victims of the illegal movement of persons, of slave trading and of the illegal trafficking in persons. There are economically beneficial aspects of migration. And on the illegal aspects of migration, we have also as a country, as a government taking a strong position against that.
Realnews: What are these economic benefits and disadvantages of migration?
Osakwe: There economic aspects of migration in numerous diagnostic studies. Number one, migration brings in talents, expertise in particular areas that contributes to a GDP growth of our country Secondly, as we have found out in economic history and it’s been the case of Nigeria also, even for unskilled migration, the migrants who come are able to take on niche jobs that the locals including Nigerians are not ready to do. But the sum, net effect is that migrant labour contribute to growth; to specialized services. Migrants pay tax and contribute to a social welfare arrangements both in Nigeria and elsewhere. One other thing to bear in mind is that what we have found out in term of studies and in life experiences is that the greater the number of multi-racial composition of any economy, the more that economy is exposed to influences, skills that help that country to respond not just in a resilient way but in term of contributions basically to growth. Migrant also pay taxes as you know. So the net effect of migrants in terms of those who are highly talented, specialized and highly qualified, they bring skills that contribute to growth. They contribute to supporting national services. They bring in good experiences and they share these talents across the board.
Realnews: From the statistic given at the conference, 80 percent of migrants are within Africa, 20 percent are the ones going outside Africa. But it’s seen as a crisis. Why?
Osakwe: Because it’s combined with population pressures, particularly in Africa. Currently you have 1.2 billion Africans approximate at 2 billion accounting for 13 percent of the global population. By 2050, the projection is that Africa will account for about 36 percent of the global population. Extrapolate for Nigeria, we currently have about anything from 180 million to 190 million population. At this point in time, the estimate is that by 2050 or there about you will have 450 million Nigerians. Third in the countries with highest population after China, India will be Nigeria and United States will follow. So the reason the crisis is described and talked about is because of the population pressures and because the possibility of securing a demographic dividend will depend on number of jobs that will be created to cope with this increase in population and combine as reflected in migratory pressures into Europe and North America and to Asia and to Latin America as well.
Realnews: Why is there a tendency for people to look at Europe’s reaction to the migration crisis as if they are the ones creating it?
Osakwe: Primarily because of the tragedies; because of the thousands of Africans that are dying on tragic Mediterranean crossing to Europe.
Realnews: Recently, 26 Nigerian young women from Nigeria perished at the Mediterranean Sea. What is our government doing about stopping this kind of migration.
Osakwe: Well several things. There is a responsibility for government. But also there is a responsibility for you and the media. There is responsibility for all branches of government and there is a responsibility for all Nigerians. And so, responding to these tragedies of Mediterranean crossings will depend on the following. 1) What President Muhammadu Buhari is currently doing to create an enabling environment for business. This was one of the major priorities of President Buhari and successes being modest are being registered. As you know in November, in the recently released ranking of the World Bank on the ease of doing business Nigeria moved up by 24 places. Nobody is celebrating this. We simply have acknowledged it as evidence that Nigeria is moving in the right direction. But the scale of the challenges that we have to deal at home is massive. To answer your question: Number one is to improve the enabling environment for business so that more jobs will be created for Nigerians so that more opportunities are created and Nigerians will find it a better prospect to remain in Nigeria or in the zone in sub region of West Africa rather than go looking for Eldorado that does not exist outside of Nigeria. Secondly, there is need to change the narrative and here you in the media can help. We are here in Marrakech at this meeting and it is important to restructure the narrative for Nigerians that we must double our effort to improve on our domestic economic policy, social and economic conditions in Nigeria. The work to be done is at home. The opportunity to be maximized is at home. Our educational institutions were seriously degraded. The leadership question should revolve around appropriate re-allocation of resources for development of human capital. So there is work across the board. While there is role and duty for government, it is not just the government. It is also about the people and the civil society including the media in Nigeria.
Realnews: You talked about the tragic situation in Libya. Nigerians being held in the slave camp refused to come home even when the government provided the means for them to be evacuated. According to them, they would rather die in Libya than come back home to where they don’t have hope or even a job. How do you react to this?
Osakwe: It’s sad. Double tragic. But we as civil servants and representatives of government must continue to make the case to them that what they need to do is at home. We who have lived abroad in many different countries over a long period must continue to explain to Nigerians that individuals like me made a choice to comeback because that Eldorado, the opportunity, the solutions are home. They are not outside Nigeria. We have to convince them. We have to do it persuasively. We have to do it steadily. We have to do it with integrity and demonstrate it in the way we live as individual Nigerian.
Realnews: Is there any other information you would like to give to young people in Nigeria who still want to leave the country in search of Eldorado outside the country?
Osakwe: We have to build a better partnership between the government and ordinary Nigerians. Over many years, over many administrations, governments were stripped of any credibility. I believe that the evidence shows that the Buhari government has reintroduced a moral fibre to the conduct and management of government. There is more work to be done. But we also have to recognize that it has to be a partnership. And that the civil society and the media have a huge responsibility to hold the government all the three branches to critical scrutiny every moment in time.
– Dec. 18, 2017 @ 17:42 GMT |