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We are focused on human rights & huge gender disparity in Nigeria: Prof. Uzodike

Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike is Executive Director, AfriHeritage which is an international think tank headquartered in Nigeria. In addition to several developmental issues in the region, he is very much concerned on gender disparity and human rights violations. "Globally, states perform better as they empower women and reduce the disparity between them and men. In Nigeria (and many other countries), biological differences often combine with objective conditions and socially determined ideas to shape opportunities available to males and females. This is despite the fact that such societies are actually worse off for the lack of inclusion," said Prof. Uzodike. Read the full interview. 

We are focused on human rights & huge gender disparity in Nigeria: Prof. Uzodike
Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, Executive Director, AfriHeritage  Image Credit: AfriHeritage

Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike is a political scientist with early educational training in Nigeria and higher studies in USA. He has over 15 years of managerial and 28 years of academic experience including academic leadership roles in the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is presently Executive Director of the African Heritage Institution (also known as AfriHeritage), an international think-tank incorporated in Nigeria in 2000, with primary focus on public policy advocacy, social and economic research, capacity building and networking.

In an interaction with Devdiscourse for it's initiative Devdiscourse Connect, he shares the achievements and future plans of AfriHeritage from the perspectie of development and also its role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 set up by the United Nations for Nigeria and the region. The edited excerpts:

What are the main areas of operation of your organization?

AfriHeritage is a non-profit, non-partisan international think-tank that focuses primarily on evidence-informed public policy advocacy, social and economic research, training/capacity building, and networking. To do those, our operational activities cover two-key program areas with broad thematic areas - Applied Economics and Agriculture and Governance, Politics & Peace.

How, according to you, your organization is contributing to achieving any one or more SDGs?

The actual work of the African Heritage Institution is aligned, fortuitously, to most of the SDGs. Our Vision anticipates "a renascent Africa that is democratic, prosperous and a major player in the global economy" while our Mission points to our commitment "to provide intellectual leadership in helping Nigeria and Africa think through the emerging economic renaissance."

Consequently, our activities over the past five years or so have touched on each of the SDGs with the exceptions of SDG 11, SDG 13, and SDG 14. Such activities have been carried out through directed researches, policy dialogues, policy briefs, or advocacy activities. For example, more recently, AfriHeritage has tackled issues such as Education and its importance in fostering social transformation and national development. Specifically, on 22 March of 2018, AfriHeritage tabled Education as the subject of the Big Ideas Podium, its national flagship platform, which features notable personalities as keynote speakers. The Podium platform focusses on public policy debates with the principal objective of identifying and addressing crucial issues for transformative governance and development in Nigeria and across Africa.

So far, what are the main achievements of your organization in line to the SDGs set up by the United Nations for the year 2030?

Beyond our (still ongoing) work on education, which continues to resonate in private and public discourses on how best to address issues of skills shortages and human capital development in Nigeria, AfriHeritage has been a major catalyst in elevating the issue of energy from being merely a matter of public frustration and resignation to a central subject about the degree and nature of government commitment to productivity, industrialization and transformative development. For example, for our June 2017 edition of the Big Ideas Podium, AfriHeritage featured Professor Barth Nnaji, a former Minister of Power in Nigeria.Speaking on "Electricity: Key Ingredient for Nigeria's Economic Development and Unity," Nnaji provided a well thought-out assessment of the disorganized electricity situation in Nigeria -- with special attention to the highly regimented and poorly incentivized value-chain.

Armed with the Communiqué, AfriHeritage took-up a strategic advocacy campaign by prompting media and civil society groups to engage the government and other stakeholders in the power sector towards introducing policies and legislations that would tackle the myriad challenges that helped to retard the sector. The Nigerian government responded through Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Power (at a corporate event on power sector hosted by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries). Fashola announced that his Ministry would: unveil a new electricity regulation that would boost meter supply to all customers; open-up the market to more players in the electricity supply chain; strengthen local meter suppliers and incentivize its manufacturing and licensing to bridge the metering gap; and put in place a range of initiatives to improve the quantity and quality of electricity supplies.

It is also worth underscoring that despite improved availability of meters, prices remain high, and unmetered customers are still highly vulnerable to estimated and highly punitive charges. Nevertheless, there have been noteworthy improvements in the quality and quantity of electricity supplies in many parts of the country; and the Presidency has voiced publicly its commitment to clearly stated targets for achieving further improvements in the next few years.

What are the recent initiatives your organization has made in line to the SDGs?

Our most recent initiatives have focused on Human Rights and the huge gender disparity in Nigeria. We took a dim view of the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report that shows Nigeria actually regressing in the effort to eliminate the gap between men and women with respect to the numerical (statistical) differences between them.

Already quite high to start with, the idea that the disparities across a wide range of social, intellectual, cultural, political, or economic achievements, and the associated attitudes and indicators (including opportunities, possessions and standings), were worse for Nigeria in 2018 as compared to 2017, raised a red flag. AfriHeritage felt that there was no room for backward movement on the matter. Globally, states perform better as they empower women and reduce the disparity between them and men. In Nigeria (and many other countries), biological differences often combine with objective conditions and socially determined ideas to shape opportunities available to males and females. This is despite the fact that such societies are actually worse off for the lack of inclusion. As part of the advocacy on the issues related to Gender Equality (SDG 5), the AfriHeritage organised a tweet chat on April 26, 2019 and subsequently took up it in the Big Ideas Podium for the May and September, 2019 editions.

For sure it is an uphill battle in Nigeria but our hope certainly is to sustain these human rights and gender disparity initiatives – if we have funding support for the work. Truly, much remains to be done with respect to mainstreaming gender equality and equity in Nigeria. However, it is work that must be done and I believe that the African Heritage Institution is well placed and duty-bound to find ways to continue with it.

What is your strategy for further expansion of your organization at national, international/ global level?

Currently, we are strategizing and working to strengthen existing linkages/networks while also identifying or developing new ones. This is quite important for us locally in Nigeria as well as regionally in Africa, and globally. Partnerships across each of those levels will go a long way in bridging spaces, focal areas, capacities and strengths. It will also assist with strategizing and collaborating for greater impact.

However, the biggest hurdle is often linked to funding. The strong partnerships or collaboration typically require funding support, especially with regard to planning, long term activities, and collective objectives and initiatives. Oftentimes, agreements become moribund as they become musty and unoiled.

Where do you want to see AfriHeritage by 2030?

Our key goal is that the African Heritage Institution will become a critical and important actor in efforts not only to shape African national and regional agendas, but also to mediate debates and policies on sociopolitical and economic issues that affect Nigeria and the African continent.

Thank you!

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