In his inaugural address to the 78th United Nations General Assembly, Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu delivered a compelling speech that resonated with a global audience. President Tinubu’s words not only called for Africa to transcend the limitations of foreign exploitation but also highlighted the continent’s potential for prosperity, democratic growth, and its role in combating climate change. This article seeks expounds the key points raised in his speech and emphasise the urgency of addressing these issues to unlock Africa’s boundless potential.
President Tinubu began his speech by reflecting on the aftermath of World War II, when nations came together to rebuild war-torn societies. The United Nations was established as a symbol of hope and unity, and this spirit of global solidarity was instrumental in aiding nations’ recovery. President Tinubu drew a parallel between this historical moment and Africa’s current predicament, emphasising that Africa, too, requires the same level of commitment and partnership to overcome its challenges and realise its potential.
One of the central themes of President Tinubu’s address was the importance of seeing African development as a priority for the international community. He stressed that Africa’s economic structures have been skewed, hindering development, industrial expansion, job creation, and equitable wealth distribution. President Tinubu shared his own efforts to foster economic growth and investor confidence in Nigeria by implementing crucial reforms, such as removing fuel subsidies and addressing exchange rate issues. He also extended a welcoming hand to international partners who are willing to engage in mutually beneficial economic collaborations with Africa.
Additionally,President Tinubu emphasised the significance of democratic governance as the best way to ensure the sovereign will and well-being of the people. He denounced military coups and any civilian political arrangement that perpetuates injustice. The wave of democratic movements across Africa, according to him, is a call for solutions to long-standing problems rather than a desire for coups. He also expressed his commitment to negotiating with military leaders in Niger to restore democratic governance, highlighting the need to address political and economic challenges in the nation.
The president addressed the protracted battle against violent extremists in the African region, highlighting the inhumane commerce that thrives amid turmoil. He emphasised the importance of eliminating extremist groups in Africa and called upon the international community to strengthen its commitment to halting the flow of arms and violent individuals into West Africa.
Furthermore, President Tinubu touched upon the issue of securing mineral-rich areas in Africa and preventing exploitation. He cited examples of countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo suffering from resource exploitation despite a strong UN presence. He also raised concerns about illegal mining and the diversion of funds meant for development into violent enterprises. He called on member nations to collaborate with Africa to deter their firms and nationals from exploiting the continent’s riches.
Addressing climate change
The President highlighted the severe impact of climate change on Africa, including desert encroachment, coastal flooding, and inland flooding. He stressed the need for African nations to fight climate change on their own terms, aligning climate initiatives with economic development efforts. President Tinubu shared examples of initiatives in Nigeria, such as the Green Wall project and forest preservation efforts, which simultaneously address climate change and economic development. He also called upon established economies to invest in Africa’s preferred climate initiatives, demonstrating global solidarity in tackling this critical issue.
Africa’s Bright Future
In his closing remarks, President Tinubu reaffirmed Nigeria’s commitment to the principles of peace, security, human rights, and development. He emphasised Africa’s abundant resources, industrious people, and the need to break free from the constraints of the past. President Tinubu called upon the world to walk with Africa as true friends and partners, recognising that Africa is not a problem to be avoided or pitied but rather the key to the world’s future.
In conclusion, President Tinubu’s address at the United Nations General Assembly serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of supporting Africa in its quest to overcome limitations, realise its potential, and contribute significantly to global development and progress. The world must heed this call to action and work collaboratively to ensure that Africa unleashes its full potentials in the interest of global prosperity.
See the full speech below:
FULL TEXT: President Tinubu’s Address At UN General Assembly
STATEMENT DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, BOLA AHMED TINUBU, GCFR PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE GENERAL DEBATE OF THE 78TH SESSION OF UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, 18TH SEPTEMBER 2023
Heads of State and Government, Secretary-General,
Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the people of Nigeria, I congratulate you on your well-deserved election as President of this Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
We commend your predecessor, His Excellency, Mr. Csaba Korosi for his able stewardship of the Assembly.
We also commend His Excellency, Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, for his work seeking to forge solutions to humanity’s common challenges.
This is my first address before the General Assembly. Permit me to say a few words on behalf of Nigeria, on behalf of Africa, regarding this year’s theme.
Many proclamations have been made, yet our troubles remain close at hand. Failures in good governance have hindered Africa. But broken promises, unfair treatment and outright exploitation from abroad have also exacted a heavy toll on our ability to progress.
Given this long history, if this year’s theme is to mean anything at all, it must mean something special and particular to Africa.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, nations gathered in an attempt to rebuild their war- torn societies. A new global system was born and this great body, the United Nations, was established as a symbol and protector of the aspirations and finest ideals of humankind.
Nations saw that it was in their own interests to help others exit the rubble and wasteland of war. Reliable and significant assistance allowed countries emaciated by war to grow into strong and productive societies.
The period was a highwater mark for trust in global institutions and the belief that humanity had learned the necessary lessons to move forward in global solidarity and harmony.
Today and for several decades, Africa has been asking for the same level of political commitment and devotion of resource that described the Marshall Plan.
We realize that underlying conditions and causes of the economic challenges facing today’s Africa are significantly different from those of post war Europe.
We are not asking for identical programs and actions. What we seek is an equally firm commitment to partnership. We seek enhanced international cooperation with African nations to achieve the 2030 agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.
There are five important points I want to highlight.
First, if this year’s theme is to have any impact at all, global institutions, other nations and their private sector actors must see African development as a priority, not just for Africa but in their interests as well.
Due to both longstanding internal and external factors, Nigeria’s and Africa’s economic structures have been skewed to impede development, industrial expansion, job creation, and the equitable distribution of wealth.
If Nigeria is to fulfil its duty to its people and the rest of Africa, we must create jobs and the belief in a better future for our people.
We must also lead by example.
To foster economic growth and investor confidence in Nigeria, I removed the costly and corrupt fuel subsidy while also discarding a noxious exchange rate system in my first days in office. Other growth and job oriented reforms are in the wings.
I am mindful of the transient hardship that reform can cause. However, it is necessary to go through this phase in order to establish a foundation for durable growth and investment to build the economy our people deserve.
We welcome partnerships with those who do not mind seeing Nigeria and Africa assume larger roles in the global community.
The question is not whether Nigeria is open for business. The question is how much of the world is truly open to doing business with Nigeria and Africa in an equal, mutually beneficial manner.
Direct investment in critical industries, opening their ports to a wider range and larger quantity of African exports and meaningful debt relief are important aspects of the cooperation we seek.
Second, we must affirm democratic governance as the best guarantor of the sovereign will and well-being of the people. Military coups are wrong, as is any tilted civilian political arrangement that perpetuates injustice.
The wave crossing parts of Africa does not demonstrate favour towards coups. It is a demand for solutions to perennial problems.
Regarding Niger, we are negotiating with the military leaders. As Chairman of ECOWAS, I seek to help re-establish democratic governance in a manner that addresses the political and economic challenges confronting that nation, including the violent extremists who seek to foment instability in our region. I extend a hand of friendship to all who genuinely support this mission.
This brings me to my third crucial point. Our entire region is locked in protracted battle against violent extremists. In the turmoil, a dark channel of inhumane commerce has formed. Along the route, everything is for sale. Men, women and children are seen as chattel.
Yet, thousands risk the Sahara’s hot sand and the Mediterranean’s cold depths in search of a better life. At the same time, mercenaries and extremists with their lethal weapons and vile ideologies invade our region from the north.
This harmful traffic undermines the peace and stability of an entire region. African nations will improve our economies so that our people do not risk their lives to sweep the floors and streets of other nations. We also shall devote ourselves to disbanding extremist groups on our turf.
Yet, to fully corral this threat, the international community must strengthen its commitment to arrest the flow of arms and violent people into West Africa.
The fourth important aspect of global trust and solidarity is to secure the continent’s mineral rich areas from pilfering and conflict. Many such areas have become catacombs of misery and exploitation. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has suffered this for decades, despite the strong UN presence there. The world economy owes the DRC much but gives her very little.
The mayhem visited on resource rich areas does not respect national boundaries. Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, CAR, the list grows.
The problems also knocks Nigeria’s door.
Foreign entities abetted by local criminals who aspire to be petty warlords have drafted thousands of people into servitude to illegally mine gold and other resources. Billions of dollars meant to improve the nation now fuel violent enterprises. If left unchecked, they will threaten peace and place national security at grave risk.
Given the extent of this injustice and the high stakes involved, many Africans are asking whether this phenomenon is by accident or by design.
Member nations must reply by working with us to deter their firms and nationals from this 21st century pillage of the continent’s riches.
Fifth, climate change severely impacts Nigeria and Africa. Northern Nigeria is hounded by desert encroachment on once arable land. Our south is pounded by the rising tide of coastal flooding and erosion. In the middle, the rainy season brings floods that kill and displace multitudes.
As I lament deaths at home, I also lament the grave loss of life in Morocco and Libya. The Nigerian people are with you.
African nations will fight climate change but must do so on our own terms. To achieve the needed popular consensus, this campaign must accord with overall economic efforts.
In Nigeria, we shall build political consensus by highlighting remedial actions which also promote economic good. Projects such as a Green Wall to stop desert encroachment, halting the destruction of our forests by mass production and distribution of gas burning stoves, and providing employment in local water management and irrigation projects are examples of efforts that equally advance both economic and climate change objectives.
Continental efforts regarding climate change will register important victories if established economies were more forthcoming with public and private sector investment for Africa’s preferred initiatives.
Again, this would go far in demonstrating that global solidarity is real and working.
As I close, let me emphasize that Nigeria’s objectives accord with the guiding principles of this world body: peace, security, human rights and development.
In fundamental ways, nature has been kind to Africa, giving abundant land, resources and creative and industrious people. Yet, man has too often been unkind to his fellow man and this sad tendency has brought sustained hardship to Africa’s doorstep.
To keep faith with the tenets of this world body and the theme of this year’s Assembly, the poverty of nations must end. The pillage of one nation’s resources by the overreach of firms and people of stronger nations must end. The will of the people must be respected. This beauty, generous and forgiving planet must be protected.
As for Africa, we seek to be neither appendage nor patron. We do not wish to replace old shackles with new ones.
Instead, we hope to walk the rich African soil and live under the magnificent African sky free of the wrongs of the past and clear of their associated encumbrances. We desire a prosperous, vibrant democratic living space for our people.
To the rest of the world, I say walk with us as true friends and partners. Africa is not a problem to be avoided nor is it to be pitied. Africa is nothing less than the key to the world’s future.