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Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, completed a three-day official visit to Nigeria on Wednesday, reaffirming the Bank's strong partnership with one of his biggest shareholders and clients, as the country struggles with the impact of an economic recession.
"We are not fair-weather friends. We will stand by Nigeria," Adesina told his interlocutors. He also reassured the country that Nigeria is "not falling apart". The budget deficit remains modest; and the debt is not out of control. "Nigeria is not in a debt crisis," Adesina told the stakeholders he met during his visit.
The Bank Chief met with President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, and Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele. He also met with the Government's economic team, and representatives of the private sector, as well as donors and young entrepreneurs.
Adesina commended the authorities for the bold steps taken to deal with the crisis, notably the devaluation of the local currency, the Naira, and the removal of subsidies on petroleum products. He noted that Nigeria's problem is one of revenue concentration, not lack of diversification. He stressed the need for the Government to create incentives in the non-oil sector to spur manufacturing and industry, and boost investment by the private sector and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in order to reap the dividends of devaluation. "Nigeria needs to incentivize its way out of the recession," he repeated.
Meanwhile, the Bank will do its part. The Bank is putting in place including a US $1-billion budget support operation in the coming weeks. The operation will be discussed by the Bank's Board of Directors in October. The Bank will also provide US $300 million for youth employment in agribusiness, through the ENABLE Youth programme. The goal is to create 1,000 youth entrepreneurs in agribusiness in each of the 36 states, with an expected additional 185,000 jobs created.
In the agricultural sector, the Bank will provide US $200 million to the Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Program, which builds on the first phase (US $150 million), with the goal of supporting infrastructure and production and agro-industrial zones for processing and value addition to agricultural produce, for domestic and export markets. In addition, the Bank will provide US $300 million for the Abuja Infrastructure Project for integrated infrastructure (water, sanitation, roads and electricity) for four satellite towns in the capital region.
Overall, the Bank's portfolio in Nigeria is projected to increase from the current US $4.6 billion to US $10 billion by 2019. Of this, the private sector is expected to receive US $6.9 billion, while the public sector will get US $2.1 billion, excluding the budget support of US $1 billion planned for 2016.
The Bank will also provide US $250 million for the North East Integrated Infrastructure Development Program to assist with the rehabilitation of the northeastern parts of the country in support of President Buhari's efforts for economic recovery in the zone. Adesina announced a US $1-million emergency grant to assist Internally Displaced Persons in northeastern Nigeria suffering from hunger, malnutrition and disease highlighted in the presentation of the economic team.
Adesina visited the "Agripreneurs training centre" at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Abuja, and reiterated his commitment to supporting the emergence of a new generation of entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector. He praised the young "agripreneurs" for their leadership and passion.
"There is no reason for Africa to spend US $35 billion importing food when the continent could feed itself, " Adesina told the young entrepreneurs, adding that Africa needs to compete for the business of food, instead of exporting jobs elsewhere.