The African Development Bank (AfDB) has kicked off a feasibility study to explore the potential of electricity cooperative business models in Nigeria and Ethiopia.
The effort is part of the Bank's goal of achieving universal electricity access across Africa by 2025, having realised that power shortages diminishes the region's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth between two to four per cent per year, holding back job creation and poverty reduction efforts.
The study, funded by the South-South Cooperation Trust Fund, would be conducted by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) International over three months and NRECA would consider regulatory, legal, technical and socio-economic factors that impacts the creation of electric cooperatives in the two nations.
Electricity cooperatives are tax-exempt businesses set up and owned by the consumers who benefit from the services provided in generation, transmission and/or distribution.
They are used in many parts of the world to provide last mile connections to rural areas through grid extensions and cooperative enterprises, and where successful, they also improve rural electrification, while creating sustainable businesses.
The Director, Power System Development, AfDB, Batchi Baldeh, was quoted to have said at the kick-off meeting that the study aligned with the Bank's New Deal for Energy in Africa.
"This study is timely and aligned with the Bank's New Deal for Energy in Africa. We look forward to working with NRECA International to execute the study, and to leverage its extensive experience in electricity cooperative business models to pave the way for the implementation of transformational projects across Africa" Baldeh said.
He stated that the cooperatives rely on strong partnerships among governments, rural/local communities and development partners for implementation and success.
He also said: "We selected Nigeria and Ethiopia following dialogue with their respective ministers of energy during the Bank's Africa's Energy Market Place held in July 2018, where they expressed their governments' commitment to improve rural access through established models.
"We rely on this cooperation to explore this innovative model of delivering our High 5 to light up and power Africa."
Baldeh, added that the findings of the study would be delivered in May this year, assuring that they would inform the viability of plans to pilot the model in the selected countries.
FG Harps on New Digital Identity Ecosystem
The federal government has reiterated the importance of the newly launched Digital Identity Ecosystem programme, insisting that it will help facilitate the collection of citizens' biometric data nationwide within the shortest time possible.
The Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the agency charged with the mandate to manage the national identity database in Nigeria, Aliyu Aziz, gave the explanation in Abuja recently, during a reform seminar organised by the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR).
"The purpose of the ecosystem approach is to leverage existing capabilities and enrolment facilities of government agencies, partners and private sector organisations in Nigeria, as opposed to building new ones," Aziz explained.
This, he said would involve coordinated efforts of all enrolment partners, including all government agencies involved in biometric data collection as well as partners and companies in the private sector to be licensed by NIMC.
In his presentation titled "Reinventing Nigeria's Digital Identity Ecosystem," Aziz said with the approval by the Federal Executive Council of the National Roadmap on Identity Development in Nigeria, the NIMC Regulations 2017, ISO Certified and upgraded backend in place, "it's now time to commence the implementation of the mandatory usage of the National Identification Number (NIN)."
The new digital identity ecosystem is a federal government-led initiative to collect biometric data nationwide in one-go by leveraging existing ecosystem of all government agencies including federal, state, local governments and the private sector.
Aziz, said the ecosystem approach of enrolment would constitute "trusted partners," and a "pay-per-play model" to facilitate successful enrolments and fast-track the process nationwide.
"NIMC will facilitate collecting of identity data (biometric and demographic data) by also ensuring that partners collect data and are paid per successful enrolment. NIMC stores data and uses same to offer a Unique ID to the citizens and legal residents," he said.
Emphasising the importance of the digital identity ecosystem, Aziz said: "As the federal government agenda, we are all enjoined to work together as one Government (though many agencies) to achieve the ID objectives and bequeath a sustainable and credible system of identity to our nation and generations to come."
According to him, "There is a strong correlation between identification and reforms, both are central in realising effective delivery of important government services to the people."
With the effective commencement on January 1, 2019, of the mandatory usage of the NIN, all persons must, according to Section 27 of the NIMC Act 2007, present their NIN for every transaction, such as application for, and issuance of a passport; opening of individual and or personal bank account; purchase of insurance policies, among others.
Agency Moves to Boost Acceptance of Nigeria's Export Products
James Emejo in Abuja
The Director-General, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Isegbe, has said it is currently leading the federal government's drive to stem the tide of rejection of some Nigerian agricultural produce in foreign markets largely due to quality defects.
He said as the agency saddled with the responsibility to promote export of agricultural produce, NAQS was determined to reverse the situation where the country loses huge revenue, servicing narrow export market options.
He added that given the need to empower farmers, off-takers and exporters to comply with the standards of the export market, the agency was implementing a programme of backward integration for better export products.
Speaking at a maiden media parley with agricultural correspondents, since his assumption of officers, he said the inability of stakeholders across the value chain to meet the relevant sanitary and phytosanitary requirements applicable in the destination countries constituted the most serious impediment to the country's participation in foreign trade.
Isegbe said: "This is because many countries prohibit the import of produce with mycotoxin contamination, high pesticide residue, microbial contamination, sloppy packaging and labelling.
"It is our goal to make Nigerian agricultural produce acceptable everywhere in the world. That way, we will earn more foreign exchange from more destination countries.
According to him, the ongoing intervention code-named "Export Improvement Initiative," is tailored to ensure that all relevant activities performed from the fields where the prospective export crops are cultivated up to the point of shipment are consistent with the standard conditions and protocols.
He said NAQS had been interfacing with stakeholders to educate and train them on export quality criteria for agricultural produce as part of the measure to boost agricultural exports.
He noted that the highlights of its enlightenment campaigns are the instruction of stakeholders on global Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and the formation of self-regulating associations among the different commodity producer constituencies.
"Through this strategy, NAQS is addressing the fundamental inhibitors of agricultural export and widening the scope for participation of everyday Nigerians in the export business," he said.
He said the efforts of the service had achieved positive results in monetary terms for the country among others.
The DG said: "I am glad to report that NAQS efforts in mainstreaming best practices are yielding great rewards. Due to increased knowledge and adaptation to guidelines, Nigeria was able to export 1,983 containers of Hibiscus to Mexico, within the first 9 months of 2017. The country earned $35 million US dollars in the self-same period.
"Our mission is to catalyse the harnessing of the export potentials of Nigerian agricultural resources. We recently conducted a crop pest survey on pigeon pea, sorghum and groundnut.
"The result of our pigeon pea survey has paved a way for Nigeria to penetrate the $100 billion worth pigeon pea market of India. In the same vein, our crop pest survey on sorghum has opened the door for Nigeria to export forage sorghum to China.
"A local company is expected to ship out the first batch of its consignment in the first quarter of this year.
"Furthermore, we are working assiduously to expand our export frontiers. In addition to the traditional agro-export items, we have identified underutilised but high premium emerging agro-commodities such as sesame, soya bean, cinnamon, pigeon pea, sugar cane, honey and snail that will revolutionise Nigeria's non-oil export business as we know it."
According to him: "The exploitation of Nigeria's comparative advantage in many agricultural commodities will proliferate opportunities for wealth creation.
"If the country produces as much as she can produce and exports as much as her natural endowment allows, we will create thousands of jobs, improve livelihoods of families and place the foreign revenue from the agriculture sector on the upward trajectory."
He added: "The world is transitioning to a post-oil civilisation. Climate change has leapfrogged to the top of national security problems all over the world. Nations are aggressively modernising their infrastructure to run on renewable energy and reshaping their economy to be competitive in the evolving green economy.
"Nigeria cannot afford to be behind the curve. There is no future in remaining dependent on a soon-to-be redundant resource. We have to reinvent agriculture as an engine of wealth creation."