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Robert Bosch Academy: My fellowship will evaluate the quality of Africa’s politics and political class – Ezekwesili

What is the Fellowship about?

The Robert Bosch Academy offers international opinion leaders, decision-makers, and experts a residency for several months in Berlin.

The Robert Bosch Academy provides fellows with the intellectual and physical space to pursue individual research and outreach activities on international topics beyond their normal professional commitments.

Former Vice President of the World Bank’s Africa division and Nigerian Minister of Education Obiageli Ezekwesili, an economic policy expert and a former candidate for the office of the President of Nigeria in the 2019 elections in this interview with the Robert Bosh Academy speaks about how she intends to spend her time in Germany.

What will you be working on as a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy?

I will work on a mix of academic and experiential activities to produce a deeper understanding of the nexus between the quality of politics and the economic progress or decline of nations. I will probe the effect that the poor quality of politics in a country has on governance, sound economic policies, growth, development, and slow poverty decline in Africa generally and Nigeria in particular. The academic component will be complimented with practical learning from my interactions in the German political and economic ecosystems.

What are you trying to achieve? How will that idea or project be continued after your fellowship?

My fellowship will study, diagnose, and evaluate the quality of Africa’s politics and political class in order to enable it to innovate through the #FixPolitics initiative. The objective of the initiative is to identify and implement solutions addressing the root causes in Africa’s political economy that are chiefly responsible for the slow pace of the continent’s economic development and very poor standard of living. Simply put, the findings from my fellowship program will be used to design a structural-change agenda for the politics and polity of Nigeria in particular.

Evidence from several academic research and studies already broadly show that politics and the economy are strongly correlated. Nowhere has this become more obvious than in Africa and in especially my country, Nigeria.

My hypothesis is that of all the many determinants of the nation-building process, it is the prevalent nature of politics, political incentives, and institutions in a country that either accelerate, stagnate or regress the prosperity of a country and its citizens. Whenever politics consistently trumps economics, societies tend to severely entrench poverty and that appears to explain why Africa remains stuck in the development process.

I therefore intend to use analytics, case study, study groups, simulation and experimentation to verify this and then design the outlines of the #FixPolitics vision that will be implemented over the next three years. The aim is to be deliberate and intentional in increasing the chances of good governance, sound economic policies, growth and development that will materially reduce poverty and create the pathway for the emergence of a prosperous Africa. The gamut of knowledge generated from my fellowship will be shared on the #FixPoliticsDotOrg platform to help build a continent-wide momentum that will help innovate Africa’s politics. A #RescuePlan shall ultimately emerge from this for our countries and continent.

What are you expecting to learn during your fellowship? Which insights will help you to develop your project?

Today, the poverty impact of Africa’s slow path to development is that almost 450 million people live below the global poverty line and account for more than 70 percent of the world’s poorest people. Poor economic performance of large population countries like Nigeria, which despite their huge endowment of natural and human resources struggle to grow sufficiently enough to rapidly reduce poverty quicker calls for serious research focus. The experiential component of my fellowship will focus on learning from the experience of Germany, which successfully rebuilt its politics, polity and institutions from ground zero at the end of the Second World War in 1945. The strong and exceptionally stable political context that enabled Germany build a solid economy which is the world’s fourth largest and Europe’s biggest presents a matter of academic and practical curiosity that I wish to interrogate. There is much useful insight to be gained in learning how Germany has managed a stable political environment and persistently bucked several global and regional economic crises thereby delivering enviable standard of living for most Germans.

Why did you accept the invitation to stay as Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy?

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