The Federal and State governments have given their overwhelming support for an initiative to create Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ).

SAPZ is a public-private partnership aimed at developing priority value chains through developing infrastructure in rural areas, with a focus on finishing and transforming raw materials and commodities.

At a high-level briefing session, Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning Dr. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, who hosted the meeting, reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to put in place enabling policies and incentives to attract private sector investment in the Zones, to ensure successful implementation.

“The Federal government is committed to successfully implementing the programme to increase agricultural production, reduce poverty, and scale up job creation across the country,” Ahmed said.

The participants include representatives of the African Development Bank Group, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB). They all provided progress updates on the scheme, following their consultations with key stakeholders within the public and private sectors.

Director-General of the African Development Bank’s Nigeria Country Department, Lamin Barrow said the zones would be rolled out in 18 African countries, including Nigeria.

The SAPZ programme consists of four mutually reinforcing components – infrastructure development and agro-industrial hubs management; agriculture productivity and production; policy and institutional development; and programme coordination and management.

“The Bank and its development partners are mobilizing $520 million to co-finance the first phase of the program in Nigeria, be implemented in phases across six geo-political zones,” Barrow said.

According to Ahmed, all 36 States in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory would be eligible to participate in the SAPZ programme. In addition to the Federal Capital Territory and 7 states – Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Imo, Cross River, Ogun and Oyo – participating in Phase 1, several other states have indicated interest in the SAPZ programme. These include Bauchi, Lagos, Niger, Jigawa, Ekiti, Lagos, Taraba, Benue, Sokoto, Ondo, Nasarawa, Gombe and Kogi.

Also speaking, Prof. Oyebanji Oyeleran-Oyeyinka, Senior Adviser on Industrialisation to the President of the African Development Bank, described the zone model as an explicit industrialization strategy to transform poor rural spaces into zones of prosperity, stem rural-urban migration, end human insecurity induced by herder-farmers clashes, and provide employment to Nigerian youth.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Richard Adebayo, commended the strategic initiative of the African Development Bank and its partners.

“Strong private sector participation will ensure that the project aligns with the Federal Government’s industrialization agenda.”

On his part,  African Development Bank Group’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Beth Dunford, said SAPZs, which have worked in other countries will create jobs, develop skills, and facilitate agricultural value chains development in Nigeria.

“Private sector investment is critical to the success of the SAPZs, as well as having the right policies in place. Action is needed now. The African Development Bank is ready to accelerate this action.”

Speaking, IFAD’s Associate Vice President for Programme Management, Donald Brown said, the flagship project will enable relationship with the African Development Bank to another level.

“Our relationship started 43 years ago, and since then we have worked together on 52 projects. But I think the Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones are the biggest and most high-profile project that IFAD and the Bank will work on together.”

Solomon Quaynor, African Development Bank’s Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, said the quality of industrial policies and design will influence the quality of private sector operators that can be attracted into the Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones.

Ougfaly Badji, IsDB’s Senior Agricultural Economist said the zones would enable producers, processors, and the entire agricultural value chain in Nigeria, to become more functional and profitable.

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