The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced its plans to invest $60m to boost trade and investment activities across the West African sub-region, with a major focus on Nigeria.
Mary Beth Leonard, U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, speaking at the launch of the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub in Abuja, said that the project was aimed at improving the overall business operations and enhance the capacity to tap into export markets to expand business with the U.S and other international companies.
“The trade hub will increase economic growth across West Africa with more focus on Nigeria through a market-based approach that will improve companies to expand business operations and create jobs that build on the talents of the growing youth population,” she said.
“Nigeria represents a land of opportunity for private sector investments, hence the trade hub will unlock this potential and improve ways of doing business in the agricultural sector as well as facilitate access to private capital.”
She explained that the trade hub over five years will administer $60 million in co-investment funds to attract private sector investment of $300 million in the region.
Speaking further, Beth said that the project will complement the efforts of the government by co-investing with established private sector entities and other partners by expanding the programme targeting the creation of 40,000 new jobs in Nigeria and West Africa by 2025.
Cheryl Anderson, senior deputy assistant administrator, USAID Africa Bureau, in his remarks, said that the project was aimed at empowering the private sector to play a more robust role in maximizing opportunities for Nigerian and American businesses.
Anderson further said that Nigeria, especially among wealthier Africa nations, has the tremendous potential to mobilise private sector development as a strategy for sustained economic growth.
“With the help of smallholder farms operating in Nigerian heartland, businesses are already benefitting from partnerships with the U.S feed the future initiative to develop value chain and promote more inclusive growth in the agriculture sector,” he noted.
He added that USAID through the hub would introduce and scale up new cutting-edge technologies developed by American companies to increase production and improve harvest and post-harvest processes to reduce Nigeria dependency on imports of staple crops.
Yesuf Ibrahim, representing the minister of state for Trade and Investment, Mariam Katagum, said that the project was a welcome development as it is in line with President Buhari’s mandate of economic diversification, as it aims at increasing agricultural production as well as profitability for the small holder farmers.
“We commend the USAID for prioritizing programmes that covers micro, small and medium enterprises. We are without doubt that this project will be impactful in creating employment and developing the nonoil sector of the economy.”
He added that the trade hub would boost the country’s ability to meet the demand of both the local and international markets.