BusinessDay

Nigeria gets AfDB’s $600m to fund digital, creative enterprises next year- Osinbajo

Nigeria is to receive $600 million from the African Development Bank (AFDB) in 2022 to fund digital and creative enterprises as part of efforts to create jobs and boost employment in the country, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo disclosed at the weekend.

This is coming as the Federal Government continues to build a more resilient and competitive economy in partnership with the private sector to drive the success of Nigeria’s new National Development Plan.

Osinbajo spoke at the 2021 Presidential Policy Dialogue of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).

The efforts, he said “resulted in the conceptualisation of the $600 million investment in Digital and Creative Enterprises programme (i-DICE) with the African Development Bank which we hope will become operational early in 2022,”

The vice president, while also highlighting the importance of the private sector in driving Nigeria’s economy on the path of sustainable growth and job creation, noted that “the private sector on which so much depends and so well represented here, will rise up to help Nigeria achieve these noble objectives by working closely with the government.”

According to him, the collaboration of both the government and the private sector “must promote productivity and value addition and move away from the despair of managing limited resources to producing and creating more in a competitive and sustainable manner.”

Osinbajo further stated that through the new National Development Plan, the Federal Government is placing particular focus on job creation, value addition, and promotion of a business-friendly environment.

Explaining how the collaboration will be implemented, the VP stated that the plan “envisages an investment commitment of N348 trillion over the plan period of which it is expected that government at all levels will come up with about N49.7 trillion or about 14 percent, while the private sector is expected to invest N298 trillion or about 86 percent.”

In addition, the Federal Government has continued to take deliberate steps to encourage the private sector in improving the country’s business environment, by enabling more speedy transactions and removing bureaucratic obstacles.

“For instance, the very first Executive Order issued by this government, EO 001 was on promoting transparency and efficiency in the business environment. Executive Order 003 promoting support for local content in public procurement had a similar objective in mind,” Osinbajo recalled.

Read also: AfDB’s $60m financing for FHFL to assist mortgage loans, create jobs

He assured that when fully implemented, the National Development Plan’s strategy of becoming a value-adding economy would help create more jobs.

According to him “the strategic objectives of the Medium-Term Plan include establishing a strong foundation for a diversified economy, investing in critical infrastructure, enabling human capital development and improving governance and strengthening security. The implementation of the plan is expected to be supported by a range of measures of fiscal, monetary, and trade measures, including reformation of subsidy regimes and a better functioning foreign exchange market.

“In terms of strategic direction, increasing productivity is the cornerstone. In practical terms, this means focusing on value addition as the guiding principle for all sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, solid minerals, digital services, tourism, hospitality, sports, and entertainment. In agriculture, for example, equal attention is given to primary production as well as other aspects of the value chain such as storage, transportation, processing, marketing, and exports.”

Osinbajo added that the government worked closely with the private sector to ensure Nigeria benefits greatly from the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).

In the same vein, he noted that the private sector “must contribute to the articulation of the National Trade Strategy, provide support to our negotiators in AfCFTA processes while taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by this free trade area.”

He added: “This government has always emphasised that the private sector has a key role to play in our efforts to build a more resilient and competitive economy. Private companies are engaged in design, construction, logistics and financial components of national infrastructural projects just as we are fully conscious that good infrastructure is vital to enable the private sector to be efficient and competitive.

“As things stand, negotiations on the Rules of Origin which are very important for boosting local production are at about 87.65 percent complete with outstanding work of about 10 percent on textiles and 2 percent relating to automobiles. In services, 41 countries have made offers but which are still to be verified. The phase 2 negotiations on investment, intellectual property, competition are at early stages while talks on women and youth in trade and digital trade are yet to start.”

The VP also highlighted the infrastructure development drive of President Buhari’s administration, including the Abuja-Kaduna railway, Lagos-Ibadan railway, and other major projects nearing completion such as the 2nd Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Expressway, and the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline.

According to him, “the country’s infrastructure will improve further when InfraCo, the N15 trillion infrastructure fund being set up in partnership with the private sector, fully takes off”

Speaking further on the government’s proactive steps in mitigating the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, the VP noted the far-reaching impact of the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) which helped Nigeria exit recession faster than most countries at the height of the global pandemic.

He also stated how the ESP helped in saving and creating jobs, with millions of Nigerians as beneficiaries of ESP components such as the MSMEs Survival Fund.

“The resulting Economic Sustainability Plan emphasised rapid health interventions, keeping businesses going, creating and protecting jobs, boosting local production and providing social protection for the most vulnerable sections of society.

“The ESP also included a suite of macroeconomic policies including fiscal grants, tax breaks, regulatory forbearance to banks as well as reduced interest and moratorium on CBN intervention facilities amongst other things.

“These interventions paid off as we had a very short recession and we are now seeing a rebound in economic activity with GDP growth of 5.01 percent in the second quarter of this year and 4.03 percent in the third quarter.”

Osinbajo also stated the Federal Government’s interventions in reducing the country’s youth unemployment gap through job initiatives.

These include the N-Power scheme (where up to 1.5 million young Nigerians were recruited over two cohorts), and the Jubilee Fellows Programme – in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, the European Union, and other partners – a one-year work placement scheme for 20,000 young Nigerians set to kick-off in January 2022.

He observed that “while this was a scratch on the surface as well over two million young people enter into the workforce every year, there is no doubt that the Nigeria private sector has to thrive in order to create the number and kinds of jobs that we need but it is also important for the Nigerian youth to acquire the skills and knowledge of the workplace.”

This is a major reason why the government is ramping up its efforts to prepare Nigeria’s economy for the future by diversifying the economy, as well as creating a more enabling environment for the digital and creative sectors to thrive, the VP added.

“For instance, the big six technology companies – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and now Tesla, account for up to half of the value of the NASDAQ 100 and had nearly $1trillion in revenues in 2019. By contrast, Nigerian GDP in 2019 was just about $450 billion. What this shows is that as a nation, we have to embrace technology and learn to use it for our own developmental purposes.

“This is one of the reasons why the Advisory Group on Technology and Creativity which brings together public and private stakeholders articulated the need to strengthen the ecosystem of support to the digital and creative sectors.

The VP added that even as the country adopts measures to cope with the fall-out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it also has “to factor in the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change and the relentless march of the digital economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

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