By Chioma Obinagwam
Senior Nigerian government officials and key investors have endorsed the African Development Bank’s Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) initiative, describing it as a pathway to Africa’s agricultural revolution.
SAPZs are designed to concentrate agro-processing activities within areas of high agricultural potential in order to increase productivity and competitiveness. The initiative will provide millions of youth and rural men and women with employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Speaking at an investment forum held Tuesday at the Bank’s office in Abuja, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, said the country was eager to work with the Bank to develop SAPZs.
“I can’t thank the African Development Bank and all the investors gathered here today enough.
“We need to make agriculture work again. It is with initiatives like this that we can truly create wealth and employment for our teeming youth population,” Ogbeh said.
The investment forum was an opportunity to secure the commitment of key agribusiness companies and banks in the planning, investment and implementation of priority SAPZs in Nigeria.
Key participants included top government officials and big industry players, including the Dangote Group, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Flour Mills of Nigeria, Olam International, the Nigeria Private Sector Alliance (NiPSA), the International Labour Organization (ILO), commercial and development banks, the United Nations Industrial Organization (UNIDO), and the Cocoa Association of Nigeria.
Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, Special Adviser on Industrialization to the African Development Bank President, said the initiative could boost the gross domestic product (GDP) of rural regions and bridge the rural-urban divide.
“Nigeria currently trails in the supply of quality agro-processing products. Nigeria must take advantage of the opportunities in this sector to create non-oil sector jobs and raise its GDP,” he said.
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