AFDB targeting creation of 400,000 jobs in Nigeria- Official

African Development Bank (AfDB) said it is targeting the creation of 400,000 jobs through the establishment of Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs) across the country.

Its Director-General, Nigeria Country Department, Lamin Barrow, who spoke at the Agribusiness & Food Security Summit organised by Vanguard Newspapers in Lagos yesterday, noted that being government-enabled and private sector- led, Phase 1 of the SAPZ Programme will mobilise significant investments in the agro-industrial hubs and agricultural transformation centres.

“It will impact some 1.5 million households as direct beneficiaries, with a target to create 400,000 direct jobs and up to 1.6 million indirect jobs. The bank and other co-financiers – International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) – have approved $538 million to finance the first phase of the programme in seven states and the Federal Capital Territory. The programme will support the Nigeria’s efforts to raise agricultural productivity, promote investments, create wealth and jobs, and transform the rural areas from being zones of misery into zones of economic prosperity,” he said.

He said the bank is supporting Nigeria to implement bold policy measures to drive the transformation of agriculture and foster economic diversification through the development of SAPZs. The zones, he added, will be enabled with infrastructure and logistics to support private sector food and agri-business companies to process and add value to agricultural commodities close to the areas of production.

Barrow spoke on the need to support the government and farmers to increase self-sufficiency in wheat production.

“We are living in challenging times. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that threatens to disrupt the supply of 20-30 per cent of the country’s annual wheat imports of 5.6 million MT, Nigeria was already facing high food price inflation in recent times. The COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant socio-economic impacts have pushed millions of people into poverty. Global warming and extreme weather conditions continue to intensify, and the droughts experienced in 2020 have weakened food security and nutritional status in the country.

“For Africa to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth, we must boost food security and transform the agricultural sector. That is why the African Development Bank launched its Feed Africa Strategy in 2016 in response to the widening gap in food self-sufficiency in Africa, and to contribute to efforts to end hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty, and increase Africa’s share of the global commodity value chains. Feed Africa takes a value chain approach to transforming the agriculture sector of African countries.

“Productivity is one of the major drivers of profitability in agricultural commodity value chains. Hence, the Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT), one of the flagships of Feed Africa, seeks to double farm level productivity for nine strategic crops by deploying food production technologies to 40 million farmers. TAAT has made remarkable progress since it was launched in 2018,” he said.

He noted that TAAT helped Ethiopia to produce more than 80,000MT of certified seeds of four heat tolerant wheat varieties planted on 400,000 Ha of irrigated lowland fields in the 2021/2022 wheat season. Yields of wheat have increased from 1.5MT/Ha to 4MT/Ha on average in Ethiopia’s lowlands. The rapid expansion of wheat production into the lowlands helped Ethiopia increase wheat production by 1 million tons in 2020/2021, thereby reducing more than 50 per cent of Ethiopia’s wheat imports.

“Interestingly, these same heat tolerant varieties were introduced to Nigeria in 2013, but we achieved 114,000 Ha instead of 1.5 million Ha potential in areas where wheat can be grown. I am therefore pleased that with support from the African Development Bank, Nigeria has now established a National Wheat Innovation Platform that brings together farmers, seed companies, millers, and other key stakeholders to prepare and implement a National Wheat Strategy,” he said.

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