At AU summit, Osinbajo tasks African leaders on poverty, inequality

By Wahab Akanji, Abuja

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called on African leaders to address the problems of poverty and inequality in their respective countries.Osinbajo gave the charge at a side event hosted by the President of Ghana, Mr. John Mahama on Africa and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the ongoing African Union meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.

The vice president who is the leader of the Nigerian delegation to the summit told the participants at the event that the whole idea of the SDGs is about addressing inequality and poverty.

In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, on Saturday, the Vice President said something has to be done urgently concerning the problems, citing the example of the N500 billion social investment programme of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency.

“In Nigeria, in the current budget cycle we have the largest social protection programme in the history of the country. It’s a N500B programme-(worth over $2.5B as at the time budget was signed.

“Basically we are looking at lifting many out of poverty, of course many are farmiliar with the size of the Nigerian state and we have close to hundred and ten million people who are poor and about two-tenth are in extreme poverty.

“So it is a very huge problem and part of what we are trying to do is to look at how not just to empower people but also to ensure that what they are given is sustainable.

“For the women, we are doing a programme, micro-credit programme for a million market women and artisans.

“All would be given facilities, training facilities as well to enable them to be able to do some work for themselves and to continue to be able to live.

“And we think that giving this micro-credit loan to women is to make sure that they handle money better and do a much better work on the whole.

“So l think that with what we ve’ done already, we have seen that they are certainly going to work,” he added.

On the Conditional Cash Transfer, he said: “Again we are handing these to women. We are giving (this to) another million, to the poorest of the poor.

“In determining who the poorest is, we had problems on that, but we have very good assistance from the World Bank and the Bill Gates Foundation. They helped in trying to map the really poor.

“We had to get inside the communities looking for the poorest of the poor with the small sum of money which is about N5000 (which is roughly about $25 dollars or there about) which is a sum of money that would be given to the poorest every month, which may enable them feed themselves and find something that they may do and on the condition that they send their children to school and participate in immunisation.

“So we are really excited about some of the works we are trying to do around the SDGs and we are hopeful that we’ll be able to get the Social Protection Programme working.” He said

According to him, the Nigerian government recently appointed a Senior Special Assistant on SDGs with a full SDG Implementation office, which is fully equipped.

“And we hope to be able to carry out all of the proposals we made and effect them within the shortest possible time,” he said.

The main summit meeting of the AU holds on Sunday, July 17, when over 30 African leaders at the level of presidents, vice presidents, and prime ministers are expected, besides foreign minister-level representations.

Other events on Saturday included a close-door retreat of the AU leaders discussing the financing options for the union going forward.


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