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AFDB to set up $500m digital program in Nigeria to boost entrepreneurship

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The President of  African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has said AfDB is currently working on a $500 million program, Digital Nigeria, which is being designed to help further transform Nigeria’s digital competitiveness and build on the incredible entrepreneurship of Nigeria’s youth.

He disclosed this during the Convocation Lecture at the American University of Nigeria, on Saturday.

According to him, the Bank is also exploring the establishment of Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks — financial institutions for young people, run by first-rate young bankers and financial experts, to drive youth-wealth creation.

“Nigerians deserve wealth, not poverty.

“For all the abundant wealth of natural resources, Nigeria’s poverty situation is unacceptable.

“Today, sadly, there are ways too many poor people in Nigeria. The Government is implementing bold social programs to reduce the number of poor, through interventionist programs, but the fact of the matter is poverty is not just about money. There is the poverty of health, and yet we know that health is wealth.

Speaking further, he explained that the future of Nigeria depends on what it does today with its dynamic youth population. This demographic advantage must be turned into a first-rate and well-trained workforce, for Nigeria, for the region, and for the world.

“But 38.5% of Nigeria’s youth are unemployed. Lacking skills, economic opportunities, they are discouraged, angry and restless, as they look at a future that does not give them hope.”

“We should prioritize investments in the youth: in upskilling them for the jobs of the future, not the jobs of the past; by moving away from so-called youth empowerment to youth investment; to opening up the social and political space to the youth to air their views and become a positive force for national development; and for ensuring that that we create youth-based wealth.”

He noted that from the East to the West, from the North to the South, there must be a sea change in economic, financial, and business opportunities for young Nigerians.

“The old must give way to the new. And there must be a corresponding generational transfer of power and wealth to the youth. The popular folk talk should no longer be “the young shall grow”, it should, rather, be: “the young have arrived”.

He further explained that the young shoots are springing up in Nigeria. Today, Lagos has its own Silicon Valley. Yabacon Valley has emerged as one of the leading tech hubs in Africa with between 400 and 700 active start-ups worth over $2 billion, second only to Cape Town.

Andela, a global technology start-up based in Yabacon Valley, recently attracted $24 million in funding from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The $200 million investment by Stripe (a Silicon Valley firm) in the local payments company Paystack, and $400 million into three Fintech companies in just one week in 2019 signals the huge potentials of  Nigeria to attract global digital commerce and financial services.

He stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed the weaknesses of Nigeria’s health care systems. From diagnostic and testing centers, access to vaccines, and hospital infrastructure, the health care systems were overwhelmed.

“I commend the spirited efforts of the Federal and State governments, and the private sector, in mobilizing resources to tackle the pandemic.

“The African Development Bank provided $288.5 million to support the efforts of the Nigerian government in responding to the pandemic.

“But we must go further. Nigeria must manufacture vaccines locally.

“There is a lot to change to secure the health of the population.

“Less than 5% of the population have access to insurance with the National Health Insurance Service. Over 90% of Nigerians have no health insurance.

“Nigeria should build a comprehensive health care defense system, to secure its population against the impacts of the current pandemic and future pandemics. There must be equal opportunities for all. Health is wealth. We must ensure that all have access to health care, regardless of the levels of income.”

“And we must strongly support medical doctors, physicians, nurses, and medical technologists, and remunerate them accordingly. They form the core of the health care system. We cannot have a situation where 56% of Nigeria’s medical doctors are working outside of Nigeria.”

“We need to stem the tide by prioritizing the health of the people, and incentivizing professionals in the health care system, from rural health clinics to the surgeons and physicians in secondary and tertiary health systems,” he said.

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