Delay Hampers FG-AfDB Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones’ Launch
A mega cluster-based infrastructure project of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs), designed to connect farmers, processors and retailers to ensure agricultural products get to the market, has yet to get the nod of the Federal Government, thus preventing its implementation.
THISDAY checks revealed that the SAPZs project had already reached high-level engagements involving Nigeria’s finance minister, Zainab Ahmed.
“The special agro-industrial processing zones will be game-changers for agriculture in Nigeria,” AfDB President Akinwunmi Adesina had said in January about the programme. “They will provide world-class infrastructure to support food businesses to locate close to zones of production and develop competitive value chains supported by logistic systems that will drive food processing and value addition.
The programme is expected to support inclusive and sustainable agro-industrial development in Nigeria in four broad areas.
The SAPZs four components include supporting the development of climate-adapted infrastructure for agro-industrial hubs (AIHs), improving agricultural productivity and enterprise development to enhance agricultural value chains and job creation in the SAPZ catchment areas, supporting agro-industrial zone policy and institutional development, and programme coordination and management.
The first phase of the SAPZs programme, if approved, would be implemented in seven states (Cross River, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Ogun, and Oyo) and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with project sites mapped out by AfDB.
Though $520 million had been raised by AfDB and its partners to co-finance SAPZs, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had yet to approve it, it was gathered. There are concerns the finance minister has not demonstrated commitment to the project as the seven states concerned, including the FCT.
Specifically, it was gathered that the finance ministry had been dawdling on preparing a memo regarding the loan agreement with the donor banks (AfDB, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the Islamic Development Bank) for FEC’s ratification, stalling the launch of the project.
Adesina and the other banks’ top guns are expected at the launch, including investors. Southern African nation Mozambique had received a $47.09 million grant for a similar project for the first phase of the Pemba-Lichinga Integrated Development Corridor, a Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone.
Agricultural and economic experts noted that SAPZs complemented the Federal Government’s National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Plan and the National Livestock Transformation Plan and would want the finance minister to expedite action on the first phase of the AfDB project.