African Development Bank (AfDB) says plans are underway for the rapid roll-out of the first phase of special agro-industrial processing zones (SAPZ) in Nigeria.’
Akinwunmi Adesina, AfDB president, said this on Tuesday when he received four Nigerian governors and the chief executive officer of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) in Abidjan.
According to a statement issued by AfDB, the governors affirmed all parties’ joint commitment and acknowledged that the SAPZ program was one that would be used to transform agriculture quickly and at scale across Nigeria.
AfDB set up the flagship SAPZs programme to support inclusive and sustainable agro-industrial development on the continent.
The governors at the meeting include Dapo Abiodun of Ogun state, Seyi Makinde of Oyo state, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai of Kaduna state and Hope Uzodinma of Imo state as well as Uche Orji, NSIA managing director as well as Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar, minister for agriculture, who attended the meeting by video link from Abuja.
Adesina said it was expedient that plans be made after co-financing and approving of a $210m loan for agro-industrial processing zones in Kano, Oyo, Kaduna, Imo, Cross River, Ogun and Kwara state.
“The special agro-industrial processing zones will be game-changers for agriculture in Nigeria. They will provide world-class infrastructure to support food businesses to locate close to zones of production, develop competitive value chains supported by logistic systems that will drive food processing and value addition,” Adesina said.
“The SAPZs will help create massive wealth and jobs in rural areas and turn rural areas away from being zones of economic misery to zones of economic prosperity.”
President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to preside over a ceremony in February to officially launch the first phase of the SAPZ programme in Nigeria. The presidents of the African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and International Fund for Agricultural Development and various investors are also expected to be present.
On his part, El-Rufai, who spoke on behalf of Buhari, expressed great enthusiasm for the SAPZs program and urged his peers to take advantage of its value for development and growth.
“We are committed to the SAPZs program, all of us as governors, and I speak also on behalf of the President of Nigeria,” El-Rufai said.
Governor Abiodun extolled the many pluses of their states as investment hubs.
“This promises to be a very successful and transformational initiative, for Ogun State and the country. This initiative is an important step toward reducing unemployment, a challenge that we face in Ogun State with the growing number of educated young people that are completing their studies with no jobs. There is a nexus between unemployment and insecurity,” Abiodun said.
The NSIA managing director stressed that agriculture was a key focus area of his agency.
“The NSIA pledges to work with governors to ensure that procurement is done professionally and on time. The National Sovereign Investment Authority, owned 52% by states, and 48% by the federal government, would play a key role in the rollout of the programme,” Orji said.
The Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones project has attracted significant interest from private sector food and agro-businesses in Nigeria. (TheCable)