The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has earmarked $60 million in co-investment grant funds for trade and investment hub activity to promote the Nigerian economy.
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, disclosed this at the official launch of the West African Trade and Hub on Tuesday in Abuja.
She said that the activity, which would last over the next five years, would help to attract private sector investment of an estimated $300 million.
The envoy said this would bring about improved business operations and capacity of private firms to tap into export markets, strengthen and create linkages between West African business, U.S. and international companies.
She said the U.S. supported trade hubs in Africa and has successfully spearheaded private sector development.
“For every dollar of public money spent in trade programmes in Africa, we estimate the hubs leverage of nine dollars investment.
“For over 360 million West Africans, the immense potential of their countries” economies have been hindered by roadblocks to investment.
“Forces that should be creating the future have been hobbled by the lack of established business networks and the challenges faced by entrepreneurs,” she said.
Ms Leonard said the new trade and investment hub would work across the region to overcome these obstacles through a market-based approach that would catalyse economic growth and raise household incomes.
She said the hub would attract private finance and investment, forge links among businesses, strengthen the agricultural and trade sectors.
The diplomat added that the hub would focus on West African nations including Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria, while Nigeria would serve as the hub’s centre.
She said the activities of the hub would amplify the commitment to strong private sector partnerships to promote market driven approaches.
“These partnerships support Nigeria’s efforts to expand its economy through a focus on non-oil based sectors with high growth potential, notably the agriculture sector.
“Nigeria is uniquely positioned to rapidly transform its economy by expanding the agricultural sector and increasing both the productivity and the profit of small holder farmers,” she said.
She explained that the trade hub would create 40,000 new jobs in agriculture, apparel and other industries with at least 50 per cent dedicated to women.
The ambassador said the trade hub would also work to unlock potentials and generate growth by advocating a more business-friendly regulatory environment, especially in the agriculture sector.
Also speaking, the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, promised that the ministry would work closely with USAID to ensure that many women and children benefited from the hub.
Mrs Tallen said every investment that engages women has a multiplier effect, adding that investing in women was investing in the country and the world at large.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Nanono, said greater investments in agriculture would lead to diversification of the Nigerian economy.
Mr Nanono was represented by the Director Special Duties, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development, Uyisola Omisore.
He said agriculture remains fundamental to economic growth, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.
The minister said investment in agriculture would lead many Nigerian youth out of poverty and create more jobs.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, called on entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunities offered by USAID/Nigeria to achieve their dreams.
Mr Adebayo, who was represented by the Director of Trade, Yusuf Ibrahim, said the ministry was committed to providing the right policies, enabling environment for trade and investment to thrive in the country.