Why FG should expedite AfDB ‘s SAPZ takeoff

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By Omodele Adigun

The rapid rollout of the first phase of the Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) programme of African Development Bank(AfDB) to support inclusive and sustainable agro-industrial development in countries across Africa has been clogged  in Nigeria. This was even as stakeholders are calling on the Federal Government to see reasons for its quick takeoff.

Last December, the AfDB’s board of directors approved a $160-million loan to get the programme off the ground in seven states and the  Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

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Additional co-financing for its first phase will come from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) in the amount of $150 million. The Nigerian government is expected to provide about $18.05 million toward the program’s rollout and implementation.

The project is a mega cluster-based infrastructure venture  to aggregate farmers, processors and retailers to connect agricultural production to the market.

According to Dr Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB President, who was once Nigeria’s  former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, “the special agro-industrial processing zones will be game-changers for agriculture in Nigeria.

They will provide world-class infrastructure to support food agribusinesses close to zones of production, develop competitive value chains, supported by logistic systems that will drive food processing and value addition.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.”

AfDB also  identified sites for the SAPZs across Nigeria’s six geo-political zones to ensure they  spread evenly across the country. Following this,  the  first Phase of the project was to be  implemented in seven states: Cross River, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Ogun, Oyo and FCT.

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Early this year, while playing host to four governors and the CEO of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) at the AfDB’s Abidjan head office, to discuss the rapid rollout of the first phase of the SAPZ program in the four states, Adesina explained  that AfDB set up the flagship SAPZ programme to support inclusive and sustainable agro-industrial development in countries across the continent.

He reiterated  AfDB’s commitment to Nigerian agriculture, which he said had the potential to be a powerhouse in food provision.

“Today is a very unique day for Nigeria at the African Development Bank. I must express how proud I am of the Federal Government, the executive governors, the ministries, and government agencies, for how this has all come together,” Adesina said

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The four governors  at the meeting with the AfDB President and the NSIA Managing Director, Uche Orji, were Dapo Abiodun of Ogun state, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai of Kaduna State and Hope Uzodinma of Imo State

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Expressing great enthusiasm for the SAPZ program and enjoining his peers to take advantage of its value for development growth, Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State said: “We are committed to the SAPZ programme, all of us as governors, and I speak also on behalf of the President of Nigeria.”

Governor Abiodun of Ogun State said: “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.”

Adesina commended the governors for the enthusiastic manner in which they had embraced the program, enjoined them to continue to be the brilliant chief marketing officers for their states and to share their ideas about how to attract private sector investment.

He also urged the Nigeria Sovereign Authority to develop a roadmap for the governors to follow in rolling out the initiative. “I want this to work at scale in Nigeria. We need to standardise and avoid being bureaucratic,” he said.

NSIA managing director, Uche Orji, stressed that agriculture was a key focus area of his agency. He said: “The NSIA pledges to work with governors to ensure that procurement is done professionally and on time.” He said the National Sovereign Investment Authority, owned 52 per cent by states, and 48 per cent by the  Federal Government, would play a key role in the rollout of the program. So far, the SAPZs project has already attracted significant interest from private sector food and agro-businesses in Nigeria. Investments of at least $1 billion are expected in these zones by the private sector.

Orji signed a letter of intent committing the agency to provide strategic assistance in procuring transaction advisory firms and other companies to implement world-class infrastructure in the hubs.

President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to preside over a ceremony  last February to officially launch the first phase of the SAPZ programme in Nigeria. AfDB president and IFAD, and other  investors are also expected to be present. But the launch is still on hold as  IsDB and the Subsidiary Loan Agreement (SLA) with the SAPZ states, under active supervision of the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF), is  still  pending as there has been no approval from  Federal Executive Council (FEC).It was learnt that the Ministry as arrowhead, was not making enough efforts to prepare the memo for the proposed loan agreement with the donor banks for FEC for ratification.

The inability of the  minister to obtain a FEC approval has hampered the  plan to launch the project. But as Nigeria continues to footdrag, Mozambique, which   got approval for SAPZ two months after Nigeria has kicked off the programme.

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