Photograph — Aureus

From launching an agro-industrial project in Sinematiali, Cote d’Ivoire to approving loans to boost local food production in the hinterlands of Nigeria, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is devoted to aiding agricultural production and resilience on the African continent. The agricultural sector in Africa harbours tremendous potential, and investment is needed to maximize it. Hence, the bank is assuming a leading catalytic role in supporting the industry that remains cardinal to the African economy.

In a recent interactive session, the DG of the Nigeria Country Office for the AfDB, Mr Lamin Barrow, briefed stakeholders on the bank’s operations and flagship initiatives in Nigeria. Two major flagship programmes of the bank in Nigeria are the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs) Program and its investment in a digital and creative enterprise known as i-DICE.

The SAPZ programme entails the rehabilitation or development of infrastructure and provision of ancillary services to set up agro-industrial hubs and agricultural transformation centres, develop strong agro linkages with small-scale farmers, and aggregation centres in rural areas with high agricultural potential. The 1st phase of the initiative, with financing worth $538 million, would service seven states (Cross River, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Ogun, and Oyo) and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of the federation. The SAPZ programme would benefit 1.5 million households and create 400,000 direct jobs and up to 1.6 million indirect jobs. 

The i-DICE initiative is a $618 million initiative to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the digital technology and creative industries to support the government’s job creation efforts, especially for young people. The programme would stimulate investments in 226 technology and creative startups and provide non-financial services to 450 digital technology and small and medium-scale enterprises to create over 6 million jobs directly or indirectly. 

Barrow foregrounded the AfDB places utmost importance on the role of youths and women and has rolled out several initiatives to mainstream gender equality and tap their talents in support of the development programs of African countries. “Women and youths play a major role in Nigeria’s socio-economic development and are crucial in driving innovation and entrepreneurship to unlock opportunities in various sectors, including agribusiness industry and digital economy,” he said.

Hence, the bank is supporting infrastructure development and promoting social inclusion through agribusiness and skills development. The AfDB finances public and private sector development and investment projects. This support is delivered through diverse instruments like loan grants and equity participation, specifically for small and medium-scale enterprises. Currently, the bank portfolio in Nigeria comprises 53 operations, with a total commitment value of $5.5 billion fairly and evenly distributed across major sectors. 

The bank has eight active lines of credit in Nigeria valued at $1.1 billion. The interventions have supported over 20,500 micro and SMEs in Nigeria. Over 440,000 jobs have also been created and sustained for women and youths. 

Speaking at the session, Ms Malado Kaba, Director of the Gender, Women and Civil Society Department of the AfDB pointed out that the bank has also launched Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA). AFAWA is a pan-African initiative to bridge the $42 billion financing gap women face on the continent.

The bank’s activities and initiatives in Nigeria and the continent are framed by an agenda strategy hinged on three pillars. The first is providing access to finance and markets to unlock the $ 5 billion in financing for women by 2026. The second pillar is employability and job creation through skills enhancement. And the final pillar is increasing women’s access to social services through infrastructural development. 

“We are currently partnering with FCMB to provide $285,000 in technical assistance to support the growth of SMEs in the country. We also have a budget of $1.14 billion to promote gender equality and benefit women. The project should nurture women-led startups in the technology and creative industries and promote gender equality, climate change adaptation and resilience,” she said. 

As of 2015, the continent imported about $35 billion worth of food. This number could be up to 110 billion by 2025 if not halted. Tabi Karikari, Chief Agro-Industry Officer, African Development Bank Group, described this as “importing poverty and exporting wealth,” 

He revealed some ongoing activities aimed at enhancing agricultural production on the continent. For instance, the Potato Value Chain Development project in Plateau state, Nigeria and some other agricultural transformation projects have enhanced the production of specific commodities like potato, rice, and maize in some selected states. 

Notably, in July, the AfDB approved a $134 million loan for National Agriculture Growth Scheme – Agro Pocket program in Nigeria to scale up food production and boost livelihood resilience. The fund will help increase the production of cereals and oil grains by 7 million tonnes to 35 million tonnes. It will also increase average cereal yields from 1.42 tonnes to 2 tonnes per hectare from September 2022 to December 2023 implementation period. The program aligns with the Bank’s African Emergency Food Production Facility and will support Nigeria’s efforts to mitigate the impacts of the war in Ukraine

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