Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), delivered a keynote address at the South-East Summit on Security and Economy in Owerri. She urged stakeholders in the region to unite and address the challenges facing them collectively, emphasizing the need for solidarity and support among the people. The summit’s theme, ‘South East Beyond 2023, Time for a Reset’, highlighted the importance of joint efforts in shaping the region’s future.
Ms. Okonjo-Iweala stressed the significance of improving internally generated revenue, reducing borrowing, and enhancing capital expenditures in the region. She encouraged governors, state legislatures, and local government chairs to evaluate the allocation and utilization of funds, considering transparency and effectiveness. Additionally, she urged the exploration of alternative power solutions, such as solar and gas, to improve the electricity sector.
To promote investment and economic growth within the region, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala proposed the organization of a South-East investment forum specifically for Igbo business people. This forum would address barriers to investment and identify strategies to maximize potential opportunities. Diversification and attracting investments in pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, labor-intensive industries, and digital technology were also highlighted as crucial steps for economic development.
Furthermore, the benefits of digital trade for micro, small, and medium enterprises, online education, health, and accounting services were emphasized. Ms. Okonjo-Iweala encouraged stakeholders to leverage digital platforms to enhance these sectors and capitalize on their potential.
Drawing from the resources of the diaspora, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala suggested the establishment of a South-East diaspora bond or fund to support development priorities. By utilizing financial engineering, the region could secure loans and financing to advance the health sector and other critical areas.