Infrastructure, agricultural-processing zones, air cargo facilities, and a knowledge hub are four critical areas that need support from the African Development Bank to help transform the Southern Nigerian state of Ekiti.
The request for the Bank's support was made by a Nigerian delegation led by Ekiti Governor John Olukayode Fayemi at a meeting, chaired by the Bank's President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, attended by senior Bank officials.
In attendance were Senior Vice President Charles Boamah; Jennifer Blanke, Vice-President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development; Khaled Sherif, Vice President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery Vice President; Bajabulile Tshabalala, Vice President for Finance, and Celestin Monga, the bank's chief economist and its vice president for Economic Governance & Knowledge Management.
"Ekiti presents a lot of opportunities for investment and our agenda revolves around infrastructure development and agribusiness in order to create jobs and improve the livelihood of our people," said Governor Fayemi, who also chairs the Nigerian Governors' Forum with representatives from 36 States.
"We see a lot of synergies in what we are doing and the Bank's High 5 agenda," he added.
Agriculture provides income and employment for up to 75% of residents of Ekiti State, located in Southwest of Nigeria with a population of 2.3 million. It is rich in untapped natural mineral resources including casserole, columbite and tantalite.
Dr. Adesina pledged the Bank's commitment to support Nigeria. Banji Oyelaran Oyeyinka, Special Advisor to the President of the Bank on Industrialization gave an overview of Special Agro-Processing Zones and the potential to generate sustainable income and job creation for the youth.
"We as a Bank stand solidly behind any initiative that aims to create jobs and improve the life of the people," said Adesina.
A member of the delegation Dr. Temitope Aroge was cited as a role model for Africa's youth and the "new face of agriculture." A medical doctor, Aroge has transitioned into agriculture and is today a successful agripreneur, producing 6,000 metric tons of processed cassava a year.
"You need to use your comparative advantage. We need thousands of Aroges. If we believe in our youth, then we need to invest in them," Adesina urged.
On ICT and Africa's potential to transform into a digital hub, Vice president Blanke shared the Bank's work in the area, namely the Coding for Employment program, launched in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation. The initiative aims at training Africa's next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs.
The Bank has invested $41 million in Afe Babalola University in Ekiti state, known for its world-class biomedical center where "only last week, doctors carried out open-heart surgery," Governor Fayemi said.
In his concluding remarks, Adesina urged the Nigerian government to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area deal, which he said can become an industrial powerhouse and take advantage of the benefits of the $3.3 trillion market. "Nigeria can put itself in a striking position by taking advantage of this huge market," Adesina noted.
Since 1971, the Bank invested about $52 million in the Ekiti State in the areas of social and human capital development, agriculture and multi-sectoral development in Ekiti State.