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A RAY OF HOPE FOR THE POOR IN AFRICA – AS ALIKO DANGOTE PLEDGES HUGE GIVING – Plans to Part With 50 per cent of his Wealth

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A critical appraisal of the plight of Africa indicates that it is still a developing continent with harsh economic conditions. Warren Buffet, a foremost American philanthropist is quoted as remarking that ‘’If you are the luckiest one per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.’’ It is for this reason that some of the wealthiest people in the United States like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are championing the implementation of the ‘’Giving Pledge’’ a huge and ambitious philanthropic gesture that divests them of a sizeable chunk of their wealth. Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote, the richest Africa has pledged to emulate his American friends:  Bill and Melinda Gates, who through their Foundation devote as much funds to global health as the World Health Organization. In the case of Warren Buffett, he has programmed it that “More than 99% of his wealth will go to philanthropy during his lifetime or at death. He not only committed himself to this ideal but also convinced more than 40 of U.S. billionaires to take his “giving pledge,” by committing at least 50% of their total wealth to charity. The top three people on the list of heavy givers in the United States — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett — had $290 billion combined.

THE PLIGHT OF THE DEVELOPING WORLD: One of the most touted agenda in the international community in the last two decades is globalization. It deals basically with attempts to correct the perceived imbalances between the developed and the developing world, and inequalities between the rich and the poor, which have continued to widen; occurrences considered to be very dangerous for humanity. Therefore, the whole world, through international, regional and multilateral organizations has stepped up efforts at bridging the widening gap through a systematic programme of action. The plan attacks the scourge of poverty, and emphasizes the crucial significance of education, encourages the introduction and usage of scientific and communication dimensions, and also confronts frontally, the scourge of poverty. World leaders realize the fact that It is apparent that efforts at globalization, and the re-engineering process for the emergence of a sound polity, the world over, cannot be complete, without due regard and attention for the closing of the embarrassing gaps in the polity.

THE CRITICAL NEED FOR INTERVENTION: A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Kingsley Moghalu  (2014) a paper points out that ‘’Africa’s share of world trade is a minute 3 per cent, with less than 4 per cent of global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows going to the continent. With a combined GDP of S1.6 trillion, the combined GDP of the continent’s 54 countries is just about that of Brazil. The GDP of the entire sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, is just about equal to that of Belgium or that of metropolitan Chicago. All the electricity produced in sub-Saharan Africa, half of which is, in fact produced by South Africa, is equivalent to that of Spain which has 20 times fewer people than Africa.  Moghalu argues further that  that ‘’Economic globalization has, in fact, hurt Africa more than it has helped the continent, contrary to the received wisdom. The gains for African countries from opening up to international economic forces without adequate internal preparation have been limited and far outweighed by the adverse of the continent’s engagement with economic globalization. ‘’Economic policies enunciated by the Bretton Woods institutions in the 1980 and 1990s led to lost decades of development opportunities and outcomes.

THE INGREDIENTS: Such is the importance attached to the issue under reference that two former Secretaries-General of the United Nations: Kofi Annan and Boutrus Boutrus-Ghali, both Africans; have argued independently, that without peace, there can be no development; and without sustainable development, there can be no durable peace.

THE WAY FORWARD: It is evident that there is a huge need to adopt measures for redistribution of income that would encourage the rich to part with their money. The pangs of hunger are felt across the strata of the society. Pastor Enoch Adeboye in his comments asserted that: Social stratification based on financial status is more pronounced than any other type of stratification in modern society. ‘’The rich are associated with wealth, power and fame; while the poor are associated with suffering, obscurity and lack. The rich has many friends, associates and family members. He is an independent fellow who can afford to pay his or her bills and also contribute to the development of the society. The poor, on the other hand has few or no friends or associates. He can hardly pay his bills not to talk of contributing to the development of the community. And he goes ahead to assert that ‘’God is personally interested in the cause of the poor.’’

DUTIES OF A MAN OF WEALTH: Andrew Carnegie, in his postulations contained in his book: The ‘Gospel of Wealth’ (1889) Andrew Carnegie argued that very wealthy men like him had a responsibility to use their wealth for the greater good of society. First, to set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer, and strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community—the man of wealth thus becoming the mere agent and trustee for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves. Andrew Carnegie sold his steel company, Carnegie Steel, to J.P. Morgan for $480 million in 1901. According to the Carnegie Corporation, Carnegie’s personal peak wealth was about US$380 million, or around $309 billion by today’s standard.

GETTING THE RICH TO BUY INTO THE ALIKO DANGOTE AGENDA:   By 1910, Carnegie had given away $180,000,000 of his   fortune. Carnegie later created the Carnegie Corporation of New York in November, 1911, and transferred to it the bulk of his remaining fortune, US$125,000,000, “to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge among the people of the United States.”  Good governance connotes accountability and responsiveness.  Governments must provide for the security and welfare of the citizenry. This, in fact, is the primary responsibility of Government. This responsibility, of course, includes creating an enabling environment for the populace to live for the accomplishment of their legitimate objectives, including the creation of job opportunities for the sustainable development of ‘’man and his environment.’’ Having set the agenda in motion, how many of his colleagues will Dangote be able to convince about his giving agenda? Will these potential givers trust the society to part with excess income?

CHANGING OUR MINDSET & PREFERENCES:   We have cultures and values that require radical review to discard those that  are not in tune with the realities of this age.  It is evident that most of us in the elite and political classes operate the principles of selfishness instead of selflessness and so save wealth for our unborn generations.  In the words of Elder Felix Ohiwerei, we are talking about change in Nigeria, but the first and most important change we need is a change of heart. ‘’Take away the carnal aspect of our lives, take away the heart of stone and replace it with the heart of flesh, one that looks up to God, that seeks to please Him, knowing that He is the Creator, the only one who can guide us and that all good things come from Him’’. We also need to part with our love for the celebration of ignorance with display of flamboyant lifestyles deepen and widen equitable resource distribution for our societies to flourish.

GOOD NAME NO LONGER MATTERS: Our preferences and wrong priorities require an urgent attention. Regrettably, those who  have  successfully cornered  a  substantial part of the society’s wealth have always  engaged in wanton profligacy and demonstration ofaffluence, a development  that the younger generation has imbibed   leading to a feverish struggle for acquisition ofwealth at all costs by the old and the young, male and female. Here lies thevery salient factor that produced armed robbers in a nation that used to place great premium on family values, morality and good name. So many things have gone wrong in the past few decades. We need to do away with those wild functions and parties staged at home abroad where even foreign currencies are abused and pasted on foreheads of celebrants as if people are possessed.  We surely need to do a rethink. Ownership of houses locked up in all major capitals of the world appears senseless except people live inside or they are there for economic purposes.

POLITICAL & ECONOMIC STABILITY — STARTING FROM THE TOP:  There is indeed a ray of hope with Aliko Dangote’s promise as he is capable of encouraging his friends in the privileged class to buy into the arrangement. But it might not be too easy initially, given our orientation.  Good governance is our best hope against these challenges.  Governance entails choices. It demands a visionary leadership that will set enlightened priorities and redeploy resources and retain skilled talent. Compassionate and committed leaders can and must create the policies and invest the necessary resources in infrastructure and services, empowering people to improve their conditions and safeguard their children’s lives. The conspirators against progress include the lack of economic development, leading to poverty, wars, disease and corruption campaign (Chisano)This for redistribution of income must start from the top, through leadership by example that must show commitment to the elimination of all avenues for wastages through vibrant and workable policies. Why for instance do people prefer to keep their legitimate and illegitimate funds abroad?

PEOPLE-CENTRED ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: The answer lies in political and economic stability. There is also the issue of greed by people who wish to provide for their children and generations yet unborn. If government decides to embrace a low profile policy today, people would be convinced to follow. In a paper presented to President Bill Clinton in 1996, the Committee on Reelection asserted that: “By leaving people in poverty, at risk of their lives due to lack of basic living essentials, we have stepped across the boundary of civilization. We have conceded that these people do not matter, are not important. Allowing them to starve to death, freeze to death, die from deprivation, or simply shooting them, is in the end exactly the same thing. Inflicting or allowing poverty on a group of people or an entire country is a formula for disaster.”  Government and the private sector must collaborate to lift people out of poverty. The United Nations defines poverty as   a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having. Today, more than 780 million people live below the international poverty line. More than 11% of the world population is living in extreme poverty and struggling to  fulfill the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation, to name a few.

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