National Planning Minister, Shamsudeen Usman
By Kunle Akogun
To sustain its efforts at diversifying the economy, the Federal Government has held a high level consultation with a group of companies from Belgium and Israel, on the possibility of introducing bio-fuel technology in Nigeria through algae farming.
THISDAY checks revealed that top executives of foreign companies, Actiview Solutions of Belgium led by Arie Taitler and Dan Zaum, as well as Univerve Ltd of Israel, led by Ohad Zuckerman, met recently with top FG officials led by the Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, and his Agriculture counterpart, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina.
Although details of their discussion could not be obtained before publication, it was gathered that the main agenda of the meeting dwelt on the possibility of transforming Nigeria into one of the global suppliers of bio-fuel, animal feeds and food supplements that would be produced by the massive cultivation of algae in the country.
To start with, the foreign companies are seeking the government's approval to establish a Microalgae-to-Bio-fuel Technology Demonstration and Educational Centre in Badagry, Lagos State.
The centre, according to the foreign experts, would be the basis of establishing commercial microalgae farming as a source of raw materials for bio-fuels and fishmeal as well as additional various products.
UniVerve’s CEO, Zuckerman, told THISDAY that “the final location of the project, which requires at least 400 hectares of land, will be decided based on specific local condition of water, soil and climate”.
He said the algae to bio-fuel technology, which is currently being tested in the US and Israel, is “a new technology that can galvanise Nigeria’s agricultural sector in much the same way as the mobile phone technology has driven the nation’s telecommunication sector”.
On his part, the Managing Director of Actiview Solutions, Taitler, explained that the bio-fuel technology project was a timely intervention in the FG’s bid to upgrade the nation’s economy to rank among one of the 20 world’s biggest by the year 2020, adding that the project would position Nigeria as a regional hub for algae cultivation.
He said Actiview has already secured the endorsement of the African Development Bank and the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries as development partners for the proposed algae-biofuel project.
The Israeli expert stated further that algae farming (algaeculture) “is a worthy element in the overall efforts of the Nigerian Government in re-establishing basic infrastructure and in reviving the agriculture activities, resulting in transforming the agricultural sector into a leading industry in Nigeria”.
Some of the other benefits of the project, according to Zuckerman, include: high return on investment through dividends of commercialization to be executed through either a PPP or dividends-without-equity participation; potential for being the only centre in West Africa and returns from training and technical support fees; integrated agriculture through states participation; as well as massive employment opportunities for the nation’s huge army of unemployed.