Full Speech: Deputy Finance Minister Wolokolie Addresses African Achievers Awards International Colloquium

Dr. Samora P.Z. Wolokolie

Delivered at the African Achievers Awards International Colloquium

Homerton College, University of Cambridge

Topic“Mobilizing Diaspora Investment for Sustainable Development in Africa”.

Lord Simon Woolley, Master of Homerton College, Cambridge University,

Cllr. Susan Fajana Thomas, Chairperson, African Achievers Awards,

Dr. Nana konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, Former First Lady of Ghana,

Prof. Chris Imafidon, Chair of 2021 Awards Planning Committee

Fellow Honorees

Other dignitaries

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am overwhelmed and exceedingly elated to have been selected to receive the African Achievers Award. This honor is of immense importance to me, my family and my country. I am very much honored to have my work and contribution to public service recognized in this way by the African Achievers Awards International Colloquium.

This accomplishment is not something that I did alone. There are many others who deserve to share in this award. I would like to thank His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia for the trust and confidence reposed in me as demonstrated in his appointment of me as Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

While my previous work in the private sector can also be credited for this milestone achievement, it is the work that I do at the Ministry of Finance that has brought visibility to my public service credentials.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the patience and sacrifices of my beloved wife, Christine Wolokolie. Throughout my academic and professional sojourn, Christine has been a reliable and supportive partner. While she is not here due to circumstances beyond her control, I would like to publicly recognize her tireless efforts in serving as a reliable pillar of our family. Finally, I would like to thank and recognize all of my friends, relatives and professional colleagues for their support, criticisms and commendations.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen: When I received the communication bearing my nomination as one of the honorees for the African Achievers Award, I felt humbled and elated. Humbled that individuals and organizations, far and near, have taken note of my contribution to public service. Let me hasten to say that this award is a huge deal for me and my family. My presence here in Cambridge today (flying in from Liberia) is a clear manifestation of the importance that I attach to this award. I want to therefore recognize and thank the organizers of this unique occasion.

Per the protocol, I have been tasked with addressing you on the topic “Mobilizing Diaspora Investment for Sustainable Development in Africa”.

African diaspora has traditionally been recognized as a source of significant resource flow to countries of origin through remittances. They can therefore be considered significant social investors in African development in their own right. There is a hugeopportunity for governments, financial institutions and the private sector to harness and scale up these diaspora investments for sustainable economic growth in areas of emerging markets by deploying policies and frameworks that encourage and target diaspora investors. Diaspora interventions come with the specific spice of bringing in innovations and potential for significant outcomes. Focusing on diaspora investors could yield significant results for Africa’s emerging markets and help achieve the Sustainable  Development Goals (SDGs).

An increasingly vital source of funding is annual diaspora savings which can be transferred from workers living abroad to recipients in countries of origin. Remittances and direct investment by Africans in the diaspora are today among the highest sources of foreign exchange in recipient countries. As multinational firms become more reserved and cautious in making investment decisions in many African countries, investment by diaspora Africans in their home countries will go a long way in giving a boost to economies in Africa.

Remittances represent the largest share of diaspora savings transferred to countries of origin, with remittance flows to sub-saharan African countries estimated to have been approximately $33 billion dollars in 2016, according to the World Bank.

Diaspora Bonds on the other hand are sovereign debt instruments sold by governments to their diaspora populations. These bonds are a significant financing instrument that can be used to attract financing for investment projects in Africa. Like most bonds, the value of diaspora bonds will increase over time and attract bondholders as long as they are secured and reliable and easily redeemeble. When properly deployed, Diaspora bonds can be an attractive source of resources for investment activities in Africa.

Among many African countries, long term diaspora investment potential remains untapped and under utilized. There is a need for African governments and private institutions to tap into the opportunities that diaspora investment provides. By doing so, governments would avoid taking on high interest bearing loans, which ultimately becomes a burden for future generations.

It is important to note that African diaspora populations are growing, as are their savings. Yet, and until recently, African countries have made little progress in attracting these savings. This is an area of huge potential, and it would behoove African countries to trim their attention to attracting diaspora investment.

While much has been said about the huge and untapped resources and opportunities associated with diaspora africans, I would now speak briefly on factors that could hamper or discourage diaspora investment in Africa. High on the list is the absence of security. No investor or serious investor for that matter would gamble his savings and invest in an environment that is politically unstable. Rule of law is a key consideration for investment decision making. Another key consideration is the availability of basic services, mainly reliable sources of power (electricity), functional infrastructures, and strong democratic tenants. A relatively stable environment is an attractive consideration for investment decision making. African governments must therefore provide the enabling environment to attract diaspora investments.

In addition to a stable environment, governments must also take deliberate actions, mainly through policy decisions to incentivize diasporans to invest in their home countries. For example, tax rates must not be prohibitive. The business climate must be welcoming and not restrictive and cumbersome. Deliberate policy actions aimed at attracting investment by diasporan Africans should be considered in the grand scheme of things.

Finally, barriers to diaspora investment according to UNCTAD and the Commonwealth foundation include; lack of knowledge of the country of

investment (among 2nd, 3rd generation migrants), fears of corruption, perceived political instability, fears of bureaucracy, lack of partners in the country of origin, among others. These unfavorable thoughts make diaspora investors adopt a conservative pattern channeling funds to informal sectors through extended family and social networks rather than through formalized enterprise structures.

All of us, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and ordinary citizens must collectively work together to attract diaspora investment. This is an area of immense potential and prospects for capital infusion. With the right political climate, appropriate investment policies and rule of law, host countries in Africa stand a greater chance of attracting diaspora investment.

Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.