Okwe Obi, Abuja
The United States Agency for International Development, (USAID) has disclosed plans to invest $60 million to boost agriculture in Nigeria and across West Africa.
Speaking at the launch of the West Africa trade and Investment hub in Abuja yesterday, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, said the project would improve the overall business operations and enhance capacity to tap into export markets with the U. S and other international companies.
According to her, in five years, the trade hub “will administer $60 million in co-investment funds to attract private sector investment of $300 million in the region.
“The trade hub will increase economic growth across West Africa with more focus on Nigeria through a market based approach that will help companies to expand business operations and create jobs that build on the talents of the growing youth population.
“Nigeria has oppourtunities for private sector investment, hence the trade hub will unlock this potential and improve ways of doing business in the agriculture sector as well as facilitate access to private capital.”
She stressed that the project will complement the efforts of the Federal Government by co-investing with established private sector entities and other partners by expanding the program targeting the creation of 40,000 new jobs in Nigeria and West Africa by 2025.
On his part, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID Africa Bureau, Cheryl Anderson, remarked that the project would empower the private sector to play a more robust role in maximising oppourtunities for Nigerian and American businesses.
Anderson added that Nigeria, especially among West African nation’s has tremendous potential to mobilise private sector growth as a strategy for sustained economic growth.
“With the help of small holder farms operating in Nigeria’s heartland, business are already benefitting from partnerships with the U.S ‘feed the future’ initiative to develop value chains and promote more inclusive growth in the agriculture sector,” he said.
He added that USAID, through the hub will introduce and scale up new cutting edge technologies developed by American companies to increase production and improve harvest and post harvest processes to reduce Nigeria’s dependency on imports of staple crops.
Minister of Trade and Investment,Mariam Katagum, said the project is a welcome development as it is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s mandate of diversification, as it aims at increasing agricultural production as well as profitability for small scale farmers.
“We commend the USAID for prioritising programs that cover micro, small and medium enterprises. We are without doubt that this project will be impactful in creating employment and developing the non oil sector of the economy,” she said.