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By: Segun Lawal

President of France, Mr. Emmanuel Macron’s historic visit to the home of the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, New Afrika shrine in Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos on Tuesday night was as colorful as it was enlightening.

The French President, in an event at the shrine to inaugurate the African Cultural Season 2020 with the theme, ‘Celebration of African Culture’ expressed his delight to be back to the Afrika Shrine, having last been there in 2002, saying, he still held fond memories of the place.

 Speaking at the event, Macron pointed that The Afrika Shrine was an iconic centre for the propagation of African culture, strength and music.

 “I discovered Nigeria and a lot of my friends are here. I discovered Nigeria and I discovered Lagos and I discovered the shrine. This place is an iconic place and it is a place where the best of music is given. I have to say my main memories about this place are friends, proud people, proud of their culture, proud of their art and music. I have a very different view of Africa than a lot of other people in Europe,” he said.

Stressing the need for Africa and Europe, especially France to build a new commonality, Macron added that “this new commonality was not based on what was important for Europeans but for Africa, their culture, how they built and promoted.

“Being here, I do recognize their culture and respect their views. This place is important for Africa and their culture and that is why I am here.”

He also disclosed plans to host the African Cultural Season 2020 in France, which he said, would be about promoting African culture in Europe, adding that the event was going to be for Africa and by African artistes.

“It will include people with fashion, African movies, new generation of artistes will be coming from Africa and it will be organized by them to show Europe and France” the real culture of Africa.

“The event will be financed by African leaders. It will not be sponsored by France or European businesses, but by African businesses, it is brand new. This season is a unique one and it will be the new face of Africa in Europe organize by Africans, providing what you like and what you have here,” he said.

At the official unveiling of Alliance Francaise, a French Cultural Centre in Lagos on Wednesday, Macron said the development was part of the measures to scale up the relationship between France and Nigeria, while also specifically offering the commitment of the government and people of France to development of infrastructural projects in Lagos.

“Thanks very much for being here; thanks very much for making this possible and to Mr Governor, we spoke yesterday and this morning together in the car. Going to shrine together yesterday and going to French Alliance now. It’s much more quite, much more calm and reasonable but at the end of the day, I think both of us (Governor Ambode and I) did share the same views that we can do tremendous things together.

“Your State – Lagos, is one of the main challenges of not just Nigeria but the whole of Africa. I mean this huge city, there is tremendous challenge about how to make people living together in peace, in a better place and I want France to be part of this story and I do want my country and my people being part of this experience. It means belonging same values, sharing cultures, languages, literatures, music, movies, building together projects, having common economic projects and so on, and this eco system will be not just possible but stronger staying in this place,” Macron said.

Earlier, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode while welcoming President Macron to the State, expressed optimism that the historic visit will go a long way to break any barriers between Nigeria and France as well as foster greater collaboration for economic, social and cultural growth.

The Governor said the State Government was delighted to host Macron, a well respected global leader, adding that it would also signal a new era between both countries, especially for Lagos where talents in the arts and creative industry abound.

“On behalf of the government and good people of Lagos State, I welcome His Excellency, President Emmanuel Macron, President of France, to the commercial and cultural capital of Nigeria and indeed West Africa.

“We are delighted and honoured to be hosting a President of one of the world’s Super Powers; a permanent member of the United Nation’s Security Council with veto rights, a prominent member of the G8 and the World Trade Organisation and a champion of Global Climate Change.

The Governor said he was particularly delighted that Macron’s visit to Lagos began on a cultural and entertainment note, adding that the French Cultural Centre and Alliance Française based in the State had always been an asset to its cultural landscape in the same way that Trace Television had also become an invaluable addition to its music and entertainment sphere.

Governor Ambode said he was very optimistic Macron’s visit and activities would boost the State’s quest to become the culture and entertainment capital of Africa, just as he said that the State Government would seek to establish collaborations with France and play an integral part of the Year 2020 African Cultural Season in Paris as envisioned by President Macron.

“With the exceptional characteristics of our State as the most populous, vibrant and indeed the fifth richest economy on the African continent, Lagos is the undeniable destination for business and pleasure in Africa. The new Lagos experience is being enhanced daily as we continue to create an enduring infrastructural and security architecture for the business of tourism and cultural arts to thrive. This also creates a platform for our local talents to feel a sense of belonging and encouragement.

“Mr. President, this momentous State Visit shall signal the dawn of a new era between France and Nigeria especially for the myriad of talents that have made Lagos their home,” the Governor said.

He said Macron’s emergence as the President of France has inspired many youths in Nigeria, who constitute 60 percent of the country’s population, adding that Lagos was providing avenues for youths to explore their creativity and talents.

There were also Art Exhibition, Fashion Show, display of Nollywood scenes, presentation of a painting of Fela to Macron by Governor Ambode as well as pencil frame artwork of Macron done by 11-old old Kareem Olamilekan drawn within two hours.

On hand with refreshing renditions were , music artistes, Yemi Alade, Charlotte Dipanda from Kenya, sterling performances by dance group, Footprints of David and a spectacular performance by Femi Kuti culminating the event.

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OGUN LCDAs ASSURED OF ADEQUATE FUNDING

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The Ogun State government has reiterated its commitment to always make adequate provision for the sustainability of the newly created 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) through prompt payment of both Local Government staff and Primary School teachers salaries, arrears among others.
The State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, through the Press Officer, Ministry Of Local Government And Chieftancy, Mrs. Oluwaseun Boye gave this reassurance while wrapping up the Treasury Board meeting on year 2019 budget, at the Obas’ complex conference hall in Abeokuta.
The Governor said apart from adequate welfare for local government staffers,  priority has also be given to the provision of basic infrastructure, which has helped in opening up the local communities to investors, noting that all on-going road projects would be completed before the end of this administration.
 He boasted that no state in the south west could match up with his administration in terms of infrastructural development, saying, ‘’gradually, we are getting there, I challenge any state that has done up to half of what we have done in Ogun state to come out”.
 Presenting his ministry’s 2019 budget proposal, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Chief Jide Ojuko commended the government for prompt payment of Local government staff’s salaries as and when due, noting that, with the help of state government, all challenges encountered during the migration from 20 Local Governments to 57  Councils, were surmounted.
  On achievement, he noted that additional 40 monarchs and 2,706 village chiefs (Baales) were installed in the last three and half years, pointing out that the upgrading of Vigilante Service of Ogun State (VSO) to So-Safe Corps, had contributed to the peace and tranquillity been experienced in the State.
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Real Estate Reform Key to Propelling Economic Growth & Alleviating Poverty in Nigeria….Andrew Nevin

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As one of the keynote speakers at the 4th annual West Africa Property Investment Summit, Dr. Andrew Nevin, Partner and Chief Economist for PwC Nigeria shared high level insights ahead of the region’s leading property investment conference taking place on 15 & 16 November at the Eko Hotel, Lagos. Featuring more than 90 speakers and 500 delegates from over 200 companies, #WAPI2018 will set the agenda for West Africa’s real estate’s executives.

As a respected regional and global authority on Nigeria and West Africa, Dr. Nevin’s presentation is titled: THE GLOBAL VIEW ON GEOPOLITICS, OIL & MACRO-ECONOMICS: How are these impacting investment in West African Real Estate?

In an increasingly volatile world (Trump, China, Turkey and more), emerging markets have been significantly impacted. But the question which Dr. Nevin, will help Nigeria’s executives answer is how volatility, government policy and oil will impact investment and development in Nigeria?

Why is Real Estate fundamental to growing an economy?

Real estate makes up 60% of the world’s global assets and in developed countries, real estate buttresses the financial sector, enabling for the creation of asset backed loans and securities. Nigeria’s real estate system cannot work without a proper land registry; banks cannot lend against a property without evidence of ownership. The current land titling system is onerous and excludes many people from formal ownership. Based on these facts, real estate is one of the most critical sectors that if reformed will propel growth and alleviate poverty in Nigeria.

Global volatility and the local Real Estate Market?

Foreign exchange and inflation have stabilized in Nigeria amid emerging market pressures. However, crude reliance continues to leave Nigeria vulnerable to external shocks. This creates persistent uncertainty for investors in Nigeria, which is affecting all sectors in the economy, including real estate.

In urban areas, commercial real estate occupancy has declined as a result of low demand in an underperforming economy. Consequently, office rent has declined by 20% over the last 3 years in the high-end market [1], while co-working spaces are becoming more popular, consistent with the growing number of tech start-ups and entrepreneurs.

In the premium residential market, demand has shifted to less expensive semi-detached houses and apartments. There is also persistently huge demand for affordable housing in Nigeria. Nigeria’s population is set to exceed 250 million people by 2030 (roughly 50 million households), and by 2025, our housing deficit will be approximately 20 million [2]. We are not building enough houses for people to live in.

Global volatility has increased the oil price, which has benefitted the immediate public sector coffers, but is this a good thing? Some have argued that a lower oil price will drive economic reform, but won’t $70 – $80 oil keep reform at bay?

The economy is benefitting from rising oil prices. The reality is that Nigeria requires capital to invest in critical sectors and fund long-term structural changes. Over the last three years, we have seen government debt grow from 12% of GDP in 2015 to 20% in 2017. A further indication of the high demand for government revenue is the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), which was implemented to grow tax revenue.

Failure to diversify the economy is a result of bad policies and poor implementation of good policies. Oil prices have fluctuated since the first quarter of 2016 (over 2 years ago) and we still have not achieved a diversified economy. There is no reason to believe that persistently low prices in the future will make this happen.

How have macro-development factors impacted the real estate sector – has there been less transactions, or investment, and has Nigeria bucked the trend?

The real estate sector has not seen positive growth since the start of the recession in 2016. The sector continues to lag behind overall growth, recording a growth rate of -3.88% in the second quarter 2018. Nevertheless, this is an improvement from the -9.4% growth of the preceding quarter.

The tight monetary environment – high interest rates and currency restrictions – are huge contributors to the slow growth in the real estate sector. Heavy government borrowing has crowded out the private sector, making it difficult to investors to finance the capital-intensive projects of the real estate sector. This issue reinforces the need for the government to undertake structural reforms that will improve capital stock and business environment.

If we look further ahead to 2019 – what are the major concerns going to be?

The 2019 elections will revolve around the economy. There is growing frustration over slow growth, high unemployment, low liquidity and poor infrastructure. Foreign investors who

have low confidence in the economy are also keeping close watch. Thus, the election outcome will have some effect on Nigeria’s economic health in the short run.

Over the last year, the ease of doing business has risen 25 places to rank 145 out of 190 countries, however, the absence of major reforms in infrastructure, power and land ownership will ultimately stifle advancements in improving the business environment in the long run.

Where do you see the investment case for Nigeria and the region in the next 12-18 months, and do you think we are about to see a continued growth curve?

In the absence of sweeping structural reforms, Nigeria will continue to experience slow growth through 2022. The critical takeaway here is that income per capita will decline each year over the next five years as population growth exceeds GDP growth, if no action is taken. Investor confidence will be largely determined by the elections and the ongoing security situation in Nigeria.

To register for West Africa’s largest real estate event, visit www.WAPISummit.com/register as seats are limited.

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CNN names U.S. Government Exchange Alumna in Top 10 Heroes List

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Cable News  Network (CNN), has named a 2017 alumna of the United States government-sponsored International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), Ms. Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin, as one of the  Top 10 CNN Heroes of the Year.

Ajayi-Akinfolarin’s organization, Pearls Africa Foundation, which she founded in 2012, assists girls from underserved communities in Nigeria gain relevant technological skills to transform their lives. The beneficiaries get training in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python  and Scratch and visit tech companies to reinforce their  learning and broaden their horizons.

Her GirlsCoding project has reached more than 400 beneficiaries, including girls from orphanages and correctional homes, in addition to young women fleeing the violence perpetrated by Boko Haram. The GirlsCoding project is being supported by the U.S. Consulate General Lagos.

In 2017,
Ajayi-Akinfolarin also founded Lady Labs Innovation Hub, a  female-focused tech centre which caters specifically to the technological needs  of female university students enrolled in the STEM fields of study and female entrepreneurs.

The graduate of  the University of Lagos participated in a three-week IVLP  exchange program focusing on “Education and Activism for Young Women.” The International Visitors Leadership Program is the U.S. State Department’s premier professional exchange  program.

CNN described
the 10 finalists as “remarkable trailblazers who have  truly changed the world.” Each Top 10 CNN Hero will be awarded $10,000 and the CNN Hero of the Year will receive an additional $100,000. The honorees will also receive free
capacity-building training from the Annenberg Foundation, a leading supporter of nonprofits worldwide.

To vote and select the CNN Hero of the Year, visit: CNNHeroes.com

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