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Okonjo-Iweala 'We're lazy on diversification of economy,' Ex-minister says

Okonjo-Iweala said Dubai did not achieve true diversification until after more than 30 years.

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Former minister of finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said that the way African leaders talk about diversification of economy is lazy, saying it is a project that cannot he actualised within four years.

Speaking in an interview with  Africa CEO forum, she said Dubai did not achieve true diversification until after over 30 years.

“We need to look at the area of diversification. We ask ourselves, all the time, we talk about diversification, but I think we are a little bit lazy in the way we talk about it,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

“Diversification cannot happen over four years. Look at Dubai; it took Dubai more than three decades. Now all of us are rushing there to go and do business, to go for medical check up, to go and enjoy ourselves.

“They didn’t do this overnight, they began to think about it years ago, and it took them three decades. So African countries must get serious and say now, what are the logistics? What is the infrastructure?

“What do we need and how do we concretely start one sector at a time to diversify so that we can have an economy that is less dependent.”

The former minister noted that it is very crucial for African countries to begin to specialise and improve on industrialisation and not just be talking about diversification.

She said: “The next question is industrialisation and trade. How do we attract more manufacturing into our countries and also specialise in our trade. The trade among us is so little, anywhere from 12 to 16 percent, has not been growing much over the years.

“We are all producing the same thing, so quite apart from the logistical problems that confront trade,  we have to ask ourselves, are we going to sell each other the same trade? The answer is no.

“Our trade will never grow as long as we don’t specialise among ourselves, and that means that some of us have to get into manufacturing, we have to industrialise more, so that we can send different goods to different countries."

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Okonjo-Iweala stressed that the area African nations need to deeply and creatively think about is industrialization.

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