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AfDB urges African countries to finance large scale youth-led businesses

Eyewitness reporter

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has called on governments and private sectors in Africa to grow, finance and support large scale youth-led businesses in the continent.

President of the AfDB, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, said this at a virtual High-Level Roundtable on Scaling up Financing for Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Africa from Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on Monday.

The webinar was tagged the “Rationale for the Creation of Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks”.

The AfDB had approved its Job for Youth in Africa Strategy to help create 25 million direct and indirect jobs and empower 50 million youth over a 10-year period.

The strategy is aimed at reducing barriers to youth innovation and entrepreneurship and addresses the issues of social and economic insecurity.

This is with the aim of preventing illegal migration, terrorism and political instability among African youths.

The bank also established a multi-donor Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Trust Fund, funded with 40 million dollars by Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Italy and the UK.

Adesina said that the capacities and entrepreneurial drive of the youth in Africa needed to be unleashed to create jobs, noting that the youth must be supported to go beyond job seeking.

“We must grow, finance and support large scale successes of youth-led businesses in Africa.

“Existing financial institutions have failed to meet the needs of this rapidly growing population of the continent.

“This is due to lack of appropriate financing instruments; archaic credit risk assessments; focus on collaterals which the youth do not have; and lack of long-term financing horizon.

“That can deploy different types of financing instruments, from debt, equity, quasi-equity and guarantees over the life cycle of the businesses of the youth.”

Adesina said the continent had several programmes directed at improving the skills of the youth by countries, supported by bilateral and multilateral finance institutions.

He noted that though such programmes might have helped to impart some skills to support entrepreneurship, the youth still faced financing challenges to turn their ideas into viable businesses.

“It is time to put the capital of Africa at risk on behalf of the youth

“It is time to create new financial ecosystems that are able to support the businesses of the youth, grow them, and unlock the latent demand for financing by millions of the youth.

“This will help to turn Africa’s demographic asset into an economic asset for Africa and for that, we must nurture the businesses of young people.

“We must tackle market failures and missing institutions that prevent the youth entrepreneurs from reaching their potential,” he said.

He noted that by developing a new financial ecosystem around the youth, that was systemic, scalable and sustainable, Africa would create youth-based wealth and jobs across the continent.

Also in her address, Ms Arancha Laya, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Spain, said Africa’s demographic dividends would only come about when the youth were gainfully employed.

Laya noted that entrepreneurship was recognised as a driver for economic growth but pointed out that there were too many hurdles to intra-African trade.

“Spain, therefore, welcomes the AfDB Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Initiative geared towards unlocking entrepreneurship and promoting the growth of businesses of the youth.

“This will be a key instrument to spur youth-led innovations and business ventures and at the same time create quality and decent jobs and turn Africa’s youth demographic advantage into a clear and strong asset for the continent.

“In this endeavour, I believe it will be crucial to give youth access to appropriate financing mechanisms, capacity building and implementing legal and institutional reforms to address the barriers that young people face in accessing financial corporate markets,” she said.

The minister further suggested a focus on reviewing the criteria for client risk; facilitating easier access to savings and credits; insistence on financial education, access to information and the creation of support networks for young entrepreneurship.

She further suggested the advancement of the African Continental Free Trade Area, “and we proceed with removing red tape to doing business in Africa”.

“We need to act now, we need to do it right. This is what Spain has proposed to do with its Focus Africa 2023 strategy; focus on youth entrepreneurship and unlock all its potentials.”

Participants held discussions on the bank’s early-stage proposal for Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks, with a focus on its rationale and resource requirements.

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Fidelity Bank boosts local rice production with N34bn

Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, Managing Director/CEO, Fidelity Bank Plc,

Fidelity Bank has facilitated the disbursement of over N34 Billion in direct credit to players in the Nigerian rice value chain.

The bank’s interventions in recent years have helped to unlock spontaneous financing opportunities for a large swathe of paddy rice farmers with significant contributions to the expansion of national paddy rice output.

Only recently, the bank part-financed the construction of a 400 metric tons per day mega rice mill in Kano state owned by the Gerawa Group of Companies.

Commenting on the development, Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, Managing Director/CEO, Fidelity Bank Plc, said, “Through our interventions in the rice space, we have created a positive impact in rural communities by way of farmer empowerment and employment generation. This is also in alignment with the business sustainability imperative of our banking business.”

Shedding light on the bank’s activities further down the value chain, Mrs. Onyeali-Ikpe stated that the bank directly financed the construction and installation of several integrated rice mills across different geo-political zones in Nigeria. These rice mills have a combined rice milling capacity in excess of 500,000 MT per annum.

Recognizing the importance of the last mile traders in the value chain, she noted, “We have also provided low-cost funds to rice traders to purchase rice from indigenous rice millers for sale to the final consumers. This has helped in stabilizing the prices of locally produced rice.”

Whilst stressing the importance of imbibing sustainability practices, Mrs. Onyeali-Ikpe points out that the bank has modeled effective social and environmental sustainability frameworks into its agribusiness deal structuring workflow to address social and environmental sustainability requirements.

This, she said, follows the CBN’s Sustainable Banking Principles and Sector Guideline, IFC Performance Standards and Equator Principles.

The bank’s activities have continued to receive recognition by operators, funding partners and all other actors in the agribusiness space.

At the Bankers’ Committee meeting of December 2019, for instance, Fidelity Bank was awarded 2nd position in Sustainable Agriculture Transaction of the year.

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Stakeholders express concerns over continued closure of land borders

President Buhari
—- say action hurting economy
Agitated stakeholders in the maritime industry have expressed concern over the continued closure of some border stations in the country.
According to them, this action is already affecting the ease of doing business in the country, as many enterprises have shut down, throwing thousands of people out of jobs.
It could be recalled that while the Seme border has reopened, the Idiroko border is yet to be opened, among others land borders that were opened by the Federal government after the prolonged closure.
However, the disturbed stakeholders believed that the border closure has not achieved its aim, especially, as the rate of smuggling of prohibited items has increased, unlike when the border was open.

They argued that the Federal Government only opened its borders with Benin, Cameroun, Chad and Niger in December 2020 for the movement of people while the movement of goods remained blocked.

The stakeholders warned that if the borders are not fully opened, the economy would be negatively affected with impacts on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as many African countries may blacklist Nigeria this year 2022.

President of the Association of National Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tony Nwabunike, said more than 3,000 businesses have closed, with over 300,000 jobs lost due to the closure of some land borders to trading activities.

According to him, the reduction in trans-border trade contributes to the weakness of the naira.

Nwabunike claimed that keeping the borders closed where there are no security issues is a sign of non-compliance with the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) treaties, of which Nigeria is a signatory.

“And as a country, we should not be signing treaties and agreements we won’t comply with, because compliance concerns all of us.

“Nigeria, her agencies and private business operators all have a responsibility to be compliant. Let us all build a culture of National integrity on all fronts at home and in the eyes of the global trading community,” he said.

The ANLCA president urged the Federal Government to reopen all approved borders, particularly, in the Southwest and other areas with less threat of insurgency, to allow trading activities to resume with its accompanying benefits of economic growth and job creation.

A lecturer at the Nigeria Maritime University (NMU), Okerenkoko, Charles Okorefe, said while Nigeria continues to shut its borders to trading activities, the Port of Lome currently records 30 percent higher cargo throughput than Lagos ports, as investors and importers prefer to do business in other neighbouring countries.

Okorefe, who is also the author of ABC of Shipping and ports operation in Nigeria, said such imports end up in the Nigerian market despite the continued border closure, which he said has multiplied smuggling.

“This act of “protectionism” itself negates the spirit behind AfCFTA.

“So, going forward for 2022 and to enhance our presence in the comity of African trading nations, the Federal Government must eat the humble pie by reopening our closed borders. It is hurting our economy,” he said.
A maritime consultant, Olayemi Abass, pointed out that while the government’s prime targets were agricultural produce, finished goods and petroleum products, there is no data to support that the border closure has helped the local industries, especially in terms of import substitution.

“We cannot continue to take extreme measures, which hurt genuine businessmen and run counter to the letter and spirit of treaties and agreements signed by Nigeria.

“There is a need for concrete inter-agency dialogue with the Organised Private Sector to have a short, medium and long term plan to ensure proper cross border trade facilitation, which will engender security of life and property, improve the ease of doing business and our economy,” he stated.

A former Assistant Controller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Baritor Kpagih, said the border closure has been counter-productive to its aim, especially, as smuggling still persists in Nigeria despite the presence of customs officials.

He said the Benin Republic records a high import volume of parboiled rice cargoes, which are sent to Nigeria for consumption.

He questioned why the 41 import prohibited items flood the Nigerian market despite the presence of the special border patrol.

Kpagih stressed that the border closure is contrary to the ECOWAS trade law and could hurt Nigeria in AfCFTA, suggesting that there should be an urgent reopening of the closure, which has outlived its usefulness.

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