Heneiken Lokpobiri, Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, said on Thursday that the African Development Bank (AfDB) is proposing to offer $300 million loan to Nigeria for the development of Youth in Agriculture Project.
Lokpobiri, who revealed this in Abuja at the ENABLE Youth Programme in African Agriculture championed by AfDB in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), said Nigeria has begun discussions with the bank in working out the modalities for the loan which would be given to youths in agriculture.
He observed that the biggest challenge confronting the youth in agriculture is availability and affordability of funds or loans.
He decried the high interest rates charged by commercial banks in Nigeria as well as their lackadaisical attitude to providing loans to those who wish to take agriculture as a business.
The minister called for a single digit interest rate for agri-business in Nigeria, adding that the current outrageous interest rates charged by banks in the country are not sustainable.
Lokpobiri also announced that the training of youth in agriculture would commence in 36 states of the federation and Abuja soon, adding that the Federal Government was committed to replacing the aging farming population with active, vibrant and educated youths who would take agriculture as a business, rather than a development programme.
Also speaking, the president of the AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said agricultural sector has become the place for all Africa governments to embrace, adding that Africa must become the global powerhouse in food production.
Adesina, who was the immediate Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said Africa spends over $35 billion annually in the importation of food, warning that if the status quo is maintained in the continent about $110 billion would be spent in importing food in the next ten years.
He called on African governments to investment massively in infrastructural development to attract the youth to agriculture, adding that Africa must change the labour composition in the continent.
He explained that the overall goal of the ENABLE Youth Programme was to contribute to job creation, food security, nutrition and rural income generation and improved livelihoods for youths in both urban and rural areas.
The president of AfDB said $12.5 billion has been earmarked by the bank to support enterprise and job creation for youths and women, adding that 1.25 million agri-business jobs would be created in the next five years.
Adesina said 250,000 agribusiness enterprises would be created in Africa, noting that 6,400 unemployed university and polytechnic graduates would be trained per year in each state under the programme.
It would be recalled that the ENABLE (Empowering Novel Agri-Business –Led Employment) Youth Programme in Africa aims to develop the next generation of African entrepreneurs in agriculture.
The programme ensures that young entrepreneurs approach agriculture purely as a business, with the central objective of establishing viable and profitable enterprises.
The programme spans the entire agriculture value chain such as research and information services, production, including in key commodities and staples, livestock and aquaculture, processing and value addition, among others.