The Chairman, First Bank of Nigeria, Ibukun Awosika, says Nigeria can earn a lot of foreign exchange from the movement of its citizens to other countries.
Awosika said this on Wednesday at the 2019 edition of The Platform, a forum for national discourse organised by the Covenant Christian Centre, Lagos.
She said, “Our easily and obviously celebrated asset is our population. We are so many. By 2050, we are going to be the third largest country in the world, after China and India. We are probably going to be around 400 million people.
“It’s good for numbers, but it’s not the population that is the real asset; it is how we handle that population and turn it into a real asset.”
She said the country could turn its huge population into an asset by investing in the people and turning them into problem solvers.
She said, “When people solve problems in Nigeria, they will earn income from every part of the world for Nigeria. We have bright minds, which is why Nigerians proffer solutions in other environments where they are nurtured.
“All we have to do is decide that our population is going to be an asset. Nigerians are migrating. We are many. There are many nations that need people, so we can turn migration to a policy. We can turn our population into income-earning asset.
“We can be deliberate about identifying the parts of the world that need specific skills and because we have a lot of young minds, we can retrain and prepare them for those skills.”
Opening the session with the theme, “The Drivers, Enablers and Obstacles to Our Growth,” The Platform’s Convener and Senior Pastor of the Covenant Christian Centre, Poju Oyemade, said the initiative was aimed at discussing ideas that would propel economic growth for the country.
“We believe that if certain progressive ideas enter into public consciousness, they would eventually become public policies,” he said.
Also speaking at the programme, a former aide to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, Mr Olusegun Adeniyi, identified oil as the main obstacle to Nigeria’s economic growth.
He said it was time the country began to make a transition from oil to other sources of generating income.
He said, “We do not need to burn down our oil fields, but what I suggest is that we need to begin to make the transition from oil by stopping the habit of using its earnings to fund recurrent expenditure.”
Other speakers at the event included the Managing Partner, Sahel Consulting, Mrs Ndidi Nwuneli, who canvassed the development of the agricultural sector, Sarah Lacy, an American journalist and author, who spoke on harnessing technology for economic growth. and Dr Anil Gupta, an expert in Strategy, Globalisation and Emerging Markets, who urged entrepreneurs to embrace innovation for economic growth.