The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mrs Theresa May, has painted a grim picture of economic inequality in Nigeria and many other countries in Africa. May, who is visiting Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa this week, made the comment in Cape Town, South Africa on Tuesday. The Prime Minister said many individual Nigerians were enjoying the fruits of “a resurgent economy.”
She, however, stated that 87 million Nigerians were living below $1.90 a day, making Nigeria “home to more very poor people than any other nation in the world.”. The Prime Minister paid tributes to two great Africans: the late President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, and a former secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, who died this month.
May said, “The life stories of these two great men encapsulate the ebbs and flows of history. They demonstrate just how much can be achieved over the course of a lifetime. But also that progress can never be taken for granted – the fight to secure our gains is constant.
“It was in the aftermath of this devastation that the United Nations, the organisation that half a century later Annan would go on to lead, was founded. And despite false starts and mistakes along the way, global institutions and co-operation established in this period have delivered great gains for development.
“It was at the same time, that independence movements of a generation of new nations, took on a renewed urgency. People across the world won the right to self-determination, constitutions were written and countries were born.” According to her, the embrace of free markets and free trade has acted as the greatest agent of collective human progress the world has ever seen.
She stated that in countries that had successfully embraced properly regulated market economies, life expectancy had increased and infant mortality fallen. “Absolute poverty has shrunk and disposable income grown. Access to education has widened, and rates of illiteracy plummeted. And innovators have developed technology that transformed lives,” she added.
May said wars and state-based conflicts had declined and replaced by new threats. She stated that in the past five years, terrorists had killed around 20,000 people in Africa. The Prime Minister stated that Africa had made remarkable progress. “In 2018, five of the world’s fastest-growing economies are African. The continent’s total GDP could well double between 2015 and 2030. By 2050, a quarter of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s consumers will live here,” she stated.
Explaining inequality in Africa, the Prime Minister stated, “For example, much of Nigeria is thriving, with many individuals enjoying the fruits of a resurgent economy. Yet 87 million Nigerians live on less than $1.90 a day, making it home to more very poor people than any other nation in the world.
“Achieving not just growth but inclusive growth is a challenge faced by governments in the UK, Europe, North America and beyond. And as African economies become more successful, it is an issue that is being confronted here too.”
May said that as a Prime Minister “who believes both in free markets and in nations and businesses acting in line with well-established rules and principles of conduct, I want to demonstrate to young Africans that their brightest future lies in a free and thriving private sector. “One driven and underpinned by transparency, high standards, the rule of law and fairness. Only in such circumstances can innovation truly be rewarded, the potential of individuals unleashed, and societies provided with the opportunities they want, need and deserve.”
Explaining her presence in Africa, she said, “This week I am visiting three countries, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, that I regard as key partners in achieving this goal. With thriving democracies, strong international ties, including through the Commonwealth, and fast-changing economies, they are typical of 21st century Africa; an Africa very different to the stereotypes that dominated previous centuries, and that some people still believe even today.”