Nigeria needs intentional policies and bankable projects to attract needed funding for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This was a major submission by stakeholders who spoke in Abuja on Thursday at the Businessday Breakfast Meeting, which was organised in partnership with Bridge Synergy, with participants from different fields discussing how to catalyse funding for high-impact social projects.
Edu Okeke, managing director of Azura Power West Africa, said that Nigeria has over the years failed to develop bankable projects that are capable of attracting available finance.
According to Okeke, what is now needed is for governments at all levels to first of all consider environmental assessment and the general impact on citizens when deciding on developmental projects.
The United Nations recently announced that Nigeria has a funding gap of $10 billion per annum to meet the SDGs by 2030.
Speaking during a panel session at the meeting, Okeke argued that projects are the same all around the world, but that “what is happening today is that to carry out a project that should have cost $1 billion, when you start thinking of environmental assessment and impact of project on people that might be affected, the cost might now be increased to $1.2 billion”.
He said: “So that is what SDG is trying to do: take into consideration all other factors including environmental, people and others. And in doing that, project cost might be higher than what it should be and now when you think of financing, I must confess that as a country, that is where we are missing it. There is a lot of finance out there for the SDG projects; why are we not attracting them?
“Because we are not going to go out there and say we need money for SDG. The project must be bankable, first of all. And that’s where as a country we are missing it, having bankable projects.
“It is not for the government to think of themselves as the financier of SDG projects. What the government needs to do is to put policies in place for companies to consider the SDGs in their project financing and attract the necessary financing to execute those projects. For example, how are we going to attract financing in Nigeria where investors cannot take out their monies because of foreign exchange shortage?”
In his goodwill message, Kashifu Abdullahi, director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency, said that in catalysing funding for the SDGs, there is also a need to focus on digital public infrastructure, especially with the global move to a digital age, where data has become the currency of the digital economy.
He said: “Today, all of us use digital devices and services, maybe 60 to 70 percent of what we do on a daily basis, from our personal lives to business and our transactions are powered by all these digital devices. For example, I set my mobile phone to wake me up in the morning. I use it to read news, to do my prayers, to do bank transactions, shop online, to navigate my ways to places I don’t know.
“This is giving us power, and also is exacerbating the divide between those who have and those who don’t have. Therefore, if we really want to achieve the SDGs, we need to increase this digital inclusion.
“We need to bridge the divide in terms of connectivity in terms of skills in terms of knowledge, because those who have access to these devices are becoming more empowered than those who don’t.”
He said that to achieve President Tinubu’s mandate on inclusive economic growth, productivity and prosperity for all, there is a need to promote digital empowerment.
Abdullahi said: “We want to create prosperity for all; we need to focus on the digital economy. That’s why at our ministry, we launched our strategic blueprint to position Nigeria to become a global talent net exporter by 2027.
“We have launched some initiatives like 3 million tech talent training; we are also positioning ourselves to be among the top 25 percentile when it comes to emerging technologies like AI, robotics, and so on. And also we have launched a research grant in that area, and we need more partners. We need the private sector also to be part of it because it is not only the government’s responsibility.”
Terseer Ugbor, a member of the House of Representatives, highlighted the need to put in place relevant structures that ensure a safe environment for citizens, since environmental sustainability is a major component of the SDGs.
For him, it has become imperative for governments at all levels to carry out environmental assessments and respect the social impacts of what they do as much as they consider the economic impacts.
He said: “So this means all our policies and all our projects have long-term economic values and are properly funded in a way that delivers proper impact on the largest number of people.
“And on the social pillar, we need to be sure we are looking at equalities amongst people; we are looking at social rights of our people in a way that everybody has equal access to the factors of production and has equal access to the economic productivity that Nigeria hopes to provide for its people and of course, the environment which is very key in this whole discussion.
“The 17 SDGs are how we can capitalise investments, and how we can decide on projects that have the largest possible impact on people and can reduce poverty as much as possible in a sustainable manner.
“We need to come together as a group, as a team and as a people to look at these investments and decide on which investments we think would be best for our people, and different communities in the country.”
He said the National Assembly recently formed the Committee on SDGs and now has a committee in states and local governments, and that there are plans to promote policies and regulations that ensure federal funding for SDGs.
“And we are going to be making proposals and recommendations to the federal government to ensure that funding for social projects are properly executed at the state level and at the local government level, and do not just stop at the federal level without a trickle-down effect.”
Frank Aigbogun, publisher of BusinessDay Media Limited, had earlier emphasised the organisation’s commitment to deliberate actions and partnerships geared towards moving Nigeria forward.
“We pride ourselves in taking interest in working together with other partners in our country to bring about the development that we all crave. There is hope for Nigeria. If we all work together and give it our very best, change can come very quickly. So let’s not lose hope on Nigeria but instead let’s persevere, let’s work together and let’s take Nigeria to the place that we all desire,” he said.
In her remarks, Ure Utah, founder of Bridge Synergy, said the conference was centred on securing financial support for innovative social impact initiatives with the aim of bridging the annual financial gap of $10 billion by introducing development partners to appropriate SDG initiatives in Nigeria.
Dasuki Arabi, director general of Bureau for Public Service Reforms, said the government has prioritised improvement in the quality of infrastructure services across the country.
According to him, by investing in high-impact projects in Nigeria, the government aims to address issues such as power inequality, education, health care, clean energy, and environmental sustainability.