L-R: Mr Sina Thorpe, Council Member, NIPR; Mr Niyi Onifade, MD/CEO Heirs Life Assurance: Mrs Comfort Obot Nwankwo, Chairman, NIPR Lagos and Conference Convener, Mr Olabamiji Adeleye, Lead Consultant, Addefort Limited at the 9th Lagos PR Stakeholders’ Conference on Leadership and Poverty Eradication on Thursday August 18, 2022.
The Founder and Chairman, Heirs Holdings, Mr Tony Elumelu has urged governments and relevant corporate organizations to partner with the Tony Elumelu Foundation to eradicate poverty in the country.
Elumelu disclosed this on Thursday while delivering a keynote address at the 9th Lagos Public Relations Stakeholders’ Conference
themed: “Conversations on Leadership and Poverty Eradication”.
He noted that poverty remains the greatest enemy of humanity. “Apart from breeding hunger, poverty also opens up a flood of crime and conflicts.”
Elumelu who was represented by Mr Niyi Onifade, MD/CEO, Heirs Life, explained that everyone need to be involved in the fight against poverty in the country.
“As corporate citizens, we have a moral obligation to lead the fight against this enemy. But it is not a one-man’s fight, or for the government alone. It is a fight that must be owned and fought by every single one of us.
According to him, the government alone cannot provide all the economic and social needs of a country.”
He highlighted four critical areas that will significantly impact our push towards poverty alleviation in Nigeria; these include Positioning SMEs to thrive, Leadership, Governance and Structure, Promoting Financial Literacy and Inclusion and Tackling Unemployment.
On SMEs, he explained that “Government must create an environment and structure to enable capital flow freely across the country. The best way to do this is to incentivize the free movement of capital through the growth and development of small business enterprises.”
“SMEs are the lifeblood of any economy, and countries that prioritise the success of SMEs position themselves for wealth creation. For instance, the development of countries like China, Germany, France, and others can be attributed to the success of their SMEs.
“Available data show that SMEs in Nigeria contribute up to 48% of national GDP. SMEs account for 96% of businesses, and provide 84% of employment. In a country of over 200 million people with 40% of the population classified as youths below the age of 35 years, SMEs can create meaningful employment opportunities that will stall the alarming talent drain across the country. SMEs have the capacity to create opportunities for people to feed themselves and care for their families.”
He noted that the success of any country is a testament to its leadership and its governance structure. “To drive financial inclusion, regulators and our leaders have a key role to play. Restrictive policies should be relaxed to encourage more people, especially rural dwellers, access financial services.
Regulatory requirements should be flexible and favourable to financial providers, which would then allow them create more value-adding products and services for people.
“More importantly, our leadership must create rules and regulations that encourage growth and not stifle creativity. Poverty alleviation must consist of deliberate programmes that reach the grassroots, and dogged commitment to implementing and tracking the plans, must not be the same as usual.”
On the need to for promotion of financial literacy and inclusion, he explained that, “Financial inclusion and social welfare programmes have been identified globally as panacea for poverty eradication.
“When people have access to financial services such as credits, loans, savings, life insurance, and others, they can fend for themselves and run sustainable businesses that would create a ripple effect in the country’s GDP.
He noted that access to these financial tools remains limited in Nigeria. “We are still one of the top three unbanked countries in the world with 40% of our population living without access to financial services.
“In terms of access to life insurance which could guarantee financial security for people and their loved ones, the insurance penetration rate is way below 2% in our country.
“This therefore exposes a larger share of our population to risks, and even creates a huge class of people who remain dependent on the small percentage that seem to be well-off.
On how can we change the position, “We need to promote financial literacy and equip our people with the knowledge of personal financial management skills such as saving, investing, borrowing, budgeting, and life insurance protection. Nigerians should understand that developing these skills will help them live a better quality of life; a life of self-reliance and financial independence.
Also, access to financial services should not be a privilege. A typical example is life insurance. Contrary to popular opinion, low-income households need life insurance products more.
He concluded that we cannot successfully eradicate poverty without directly tackling unemployment.
“Statistics show that the unemployment rate in Nigeria has increased from 27.1% in the second quarter of 2020 to an estimated 33% in 2022. This is alarming!
“Unemployment is undoubtedly a root cause of poverty. When people have no jobs, they get hungry and angry. They also become easy tools for criminal activities.
He noted that over 15,000 young African entrepreneurs have benefitted directly from the Elumelu Foundation, through the provision of a $5,000 non-refundable seed capital, alongside business training, mentorship, and market access to these young African entrepreneurs.
“There must be active collaboration amongst private sector leaders, government leaders, industry leaders, and the media, if we must drive financial inclusion, empower people with knowledge and resources, and put sustainable measures in place to dramatically reduce the rate of poverty in our communities.
“Nigeria has all it takes to succeed. What we need is execution and an unflinching optimism that very soon, Nigeria will become an industry powerhouse, poised right at the centre of the world.
Other speakers at the event include; Prof Umar Garbar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, Nigerian Communications Commission; Mr Segun Ajayi-Kadir, Director General, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN); Sheila Ojei, Director Strategy, Funding and Stakeholders Management, LSETF; The Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Lagos State, Mrs Cecilia Bolaji Dada and Dr Oluseye Ajuwon, Economist and Consultant, University of Lagos.