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Economic Summit: PIND, MADE put N’Delta devt in focus

Economic Summit: PIND, MADE put N’Delta devt in focus

UGO AMADI
The Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) and the Market Development Project in the Niger Delta (MADE), on October 11, 2017, partnered with the Nigerian Economic Summit’s Sustainability Policy Commission to sponsor a breakout session at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja themed “Low Carbon Investment Opportunities for Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) in Niger Delta Communities”.

This year’s edition of the annual Nigerian Economic Summit themed “Opportunities, Productivity, and Employment: Actualizing the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan”, was a direct response to the Nigerian government’s plan to strengthen and diversify the Nigerian economy. The expectation was that the ten policy breakout sessions will generate short, medium and long-term plans that address the challenges on economic inclusion, access to capital, legislation, skills building, and local production.

This edition also marks the first time that the Nigerian Economic Summit will hold a session on Niger Delta development, which is important for several reasons. Firstly, it is noted that nearly 32 million Nigerians representing over 40 different ethnic groups live in the Niger Delta. Again, even though the oil-rich region is the source of 75% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings, over 70% of the population in the region live on an average of less than US$ 2 a day and are beset by diverse development challenges. Furthermore, the region’s importance has typically centered on oil but the sector provides only 0.01% of Nigeria’s total jobs. Agriculture, while still hampered by low productivity and land-based conflicts in the Niger Delta, remains a key sector for unlocking growth for both the region and the whole country, employing approximately 45% of the workforce.

“It is no coincidence that this panel is happening this year, following one of the worst economic recessions that Nigeria has seen,” said PIND’s Deputy Executive Director Mr. Tunji Idowu. “The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to put us back onto the path of sustained economic growth presents a unique opportunity for non-oil sector development in the Niger Delta that both tackles youth restiveness and employment. We can only ensure the sustainability of the Nigerian economy by focusing on sectors with high-growth potential. That is why agriculture is so important, ” he noted.

Present were representatives from energy companies such as Oando; Royal Dutch Shell’s All On; agribusiness firms like Syngenta and Olam; the German development organization, Heinrich Boell Foundation; and States and Federal government representatives from Rural Electrification Agency, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), the Presidency and Ministry of Environment, among many others.Dr. Princewill Ekanim, Director of Special Duties at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), spoke on the Commission’s work and willingness to partner with private sector on notable projects.

Eze Wakanma, Union Bank’s Unit Head of Corporate Agriculture also discussed plans to improve farmers’ access to improved technologies and set up Agricultural Finance Centers and locally-based agency banks in farming communities.Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) and Country Chair Mr. Osagie Okunbor praised the session and the organizers following the discussions. “I have been listening in on the different group sessions, and was very impressed with the quality of the recommendations. This was top notch, and I give credit to PIND and MADE for organizing this worthwhile session, ” he stated.“What this event has further crystallized for me is that the problem of access to energy will have to be fixed with solutions that are homegrown,” says Sola Abulu, External Relations Communications Manager for Shell Petroleum. “It is all about innovation and coming together to deliver value.” This event also brought the opportunity for participants to form partnerships. Among the outcomes of this session, NDDC and Union Bank agreed to work together on agricultural development in the Niger Delta.

Niger Delta-focused organizations at the session expressed pleasure at the outcome of the event and hoped that it will begin a larger effort to mainstream the region into the national conversation on economic diversification. According to Fidelis Ekom, Advocacy Manager for MADE, “The Niger Delta is crucial to Nigeria’s development, and not just because of oil. Partnerships like ours with PIND and now NESG are important because no organization can address the development challenges facing the Niger Delta alone.”The Nigerian Economic Summit will harmonize all the action plans drawn up in different sections and share them with all private and public-sector stakeholders. It is expected that the Federal Government will review and adopt the plans as part of policy guidance towards improvements in diversification of the Nigerian economy.

“The Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND), also known as PIND, is a Nigerian Non-Profit organization that was established in 2010 with initial funding of 50million USD from Chevron Corporation as a regional strategy for addressing deep-rooted socio-economic problems in the Niger Delta rather than symptoms, by growing networks of international and local partners to collaborate in developing and implementing new solutions and reducing dependence on a single economic source in the region.”

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