Obasanjo Stresses Need For Intraregional Trade - City Press

It is not often that an icon such as our former first lady, Mam’ Graça Machel, would personally rush off to get a copy of a book signed, but that is what she did on Wednesday at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, where former president of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo was speaking on his latest book, Making Africa Work.

Obasanjo co-authored the book with Greg Mills, director of the Joburg-based Brenthurst Foundation; US political scientist Jeffrey Herbst and Dickie Davis, a special adviser at the Brenthurst Foundation and managing director of Nant Enterprises.

Participating in a panel discussion on the book’s proposed solutions for the continent’s economic woes, Obasanjo explained why it was relevant and why it should be used as a guide to help empower African nations.

In between the sipping of tea and coffee, and snacking on the breakfast canapés laid out in the auditorium foyer, guests listened attentively to Obasanjo and the panel, often nodding approvingly.

“I had the challenge of leading a state. The book looks at how we can deal with good governance and how peace and security are fundamental to getting things right in a country,” Obasanjo said.

During the question-and-answer session, an audience member posed various questions but Obasanjo had his heart set on the economic integration of the continent.

He lamented the slow pace at which African leaders and business were moving towards growing intraregional trade and focusing on the economic exchange between countries of the same region or economic zone.

He criticised South Africa for not playing a leading role, saying it was failing Africa in many ways: “South Africa and Nigeria have extra responsibilities to play as the leading African countries. We need to get it right.”

However, the morning was not all about politics. Blues singer Robin Auld performed his new single Mama Afrika, to much applause.

By rushing to get first in line to talk to Obasanjo, Mam’ Machel dismayed some attendees, who were waiting to get a photo opportunity with her. However, once her book was signed and she had chatted to Obasanjo, she gave them her undivided attention.

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© The Brenthurst Foundation 2017.