The President of the African Development Bank Group, (AfDB) Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has stated that the bank and its partners were targeting $1 billion in financing to expand the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) programme in Nigeria.
He said the programme was designed to promote increased productivity, value addition and market access through government-enabled and private sector-driven investments to develop strategic commodity value chains.
Stressing that the scheme would support up to 25 of the country’s 36 states, Adesina disclosed that the SAPZ programme was launched in Nigeria in October 2022.
A statement from the bank stated that Adesina spoke in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire when he met with a delegation of North-western state governors led by the Katsina State Governor, Mallam Dikko Radda.
Other persons on the entourage were: Dr. Nasiru Idris of Kebbi State; Alhaji Umar Namadi of Jigawa and Zamfara’s Dr Dauda Lawal.
Deputy Governors Aminu Abdussalam from Kano; Dr Hadiza Balarabe representing Kaduna and Idris Gobir of Sokoto were also present.
The AfDB boss urged the governors to collaboratively and promptly select agricultural hubs to host the proposed schemes.
“These zones will benefit local farmers and create jobs throughout the value chains. They will provide unprecedented opportunities to transform commodities into high-value products, reduce waste and post-harvest losses, boost incomes, increase profits, and plough money back into your rural economies,” he said.
Noting the zone’s endowments in livestock, particularly cattle, Adesina also underscored the area’s potential for meat processing.
He added: “I would like us to have a substantive conversation about establishing beef processing zones in the North-west zone.
“The AfDB group remains resolute and committed to supporting the Nigerian government to mitigate the impacts of the high food and energy prices prevailing in the country.
“Food price inflation stands today at 33 per cent, and it accounts for 65 per cent of the consumer price index. By providing the North-west—whose development is critical for Nigeria—with affordable renewable energy that will power our planned special agro-industrial processing zones, we would have gone a long way in taming inflation in Nigeria.”
The AfDB president remarked that the bank had financed several projects in the North-west zone, including the $85 million Zaria Water Supply and Sanitation Project, which provides water to 650,000 people and sanitation services to 350,000 others.
He added that two of the states from the zone, Kano and Kaduna, were part of phase one of the SAPZ programme.
He revealed that the National Agriculture Growth Scheme (NAGS) also received $134 million in budget support funding under the bank’s Africa Emergency Food Production Facility.
According to him, the scheme is targeting increased wheat and rice production during the 2023 dry season and through the 2024 wet season in five states. He said earlier that the scheme would help reduce some of the country’s current $3 billion expenditure on wheat imports.
In his remarks, Radda commended Adesina’s leadership of the AfDB and for serving as a good ambassador for Nigeria and Africa.
He said the North-west governors decided to adopt a coordinated approach in collaborating with the bank to implement agriculture and power projects that would drive the zone’s development and improve livelihoods.
“We have commonalities in people, approaches, culture, tradition, topography, rainfall and climate,” he stressed.
Radda said the lack of irrigation infrastructure was among the key challenges in the zone, leading to low yields, post-harvest losses due to poor storage facilities, youth unemployment and underemployment.
For his part, the Jigawa state governor, Namadi said his administration was prioritising strategic partnerships that advance rural infrastructure, farm mechanisation and climate-smart agriculture.
Representing Kaduna state, the deputy governor, Balarabe said: “We are optimistic that the special agro-industrial processing zones will assist us in overcoming many challenges, just as it will propel us to achieve food self-sufficiency, job and wealth creation, and subsequently boost economic growth, especially the rural economy.”
Also speaking, Zamfara state’s Lawal stated, “Ours is an agrarian economy. We have abundant lands for agriculture and have the largest dam in the country.”
He noted that with sufficient water and land resources, the state can produce enough to feed Nigeria, particularly in rice and wheat.
Lawal said being home to the largest dam in the country and having significant mineral deposits, including gold and lithium, Zamfara can make rapid gains in eradicating poverty and creating wealth for its population.
Besides, the governor of Kebbi state, Idris, stressed the centrality of agriculture to the state’s fortunes, noting that nearly 70 per cent of the population is reliant on agriculture.