Viewpoint: President Muhammadu Buhari
Despite the struggles that we may face in the future, it will be necessary to accelerate our economic recovery, promote social inclusion and strengthen the fundamentals of sectors across the economy. Many young Nigerians excel in spheres including sport, entertainment, ICT and commerce, and are globally recognised as high achievers. The government is committed to actively engaging with the creative energies of our young people. This will in turn create opportunities in segments such as financial technology, agriculture, entertainment, business process outsourcing and start-ups.
This administration implemented a series of interventions designed to both create jobs and support the entrepreneurial drive of the younger generations. The focus of these initiatives has been on revamping the economy through a national diversification agenda in a manner that supports the wider goal of food self-sufficiency. Interventions led by the government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to drive economic growth over the past six years have mostly targeted the agriculture, services, infrastructure, power and health care sectors.
In agriculture, for example, the Anchor Borrowers Programme resulted in a significant decline in the country’s large food import bill, from $2.2bn in 2014 to $5.9m at the end of 2018. The rice import bill alone dropped from $1bn a year to $18.5m. This initiative supported local production of rice, maize, cotton and cassava. The government financed 2.5m smallholder farmers cultivating about 3.2m ha of farmland across the country, and created 10m direct and indirect jobs. In manufacturing the CBN and Bank of Industry’s N200bn ($534m) facility financed the establishment and operation of 60 new industrial centres across the country, creating an estimated 890,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Moreover, the CBN’s N50bn ($133.5m) Textile Sector Intervention Facility increased capacity utilisation of ginneries from 30% to nearly 90%. Another priority has been rebuilding Nigeria’s infrastructure base and, in the process, transforming the country through the rehabilitation, modernisation and expansion of rail, air, sea and road transport networks in both rural and urban areas.
The reforms we put in place in the power sector have not only increased the efficiency of the grid, but also significantly expanded the electricity generation and distribution capacity for use in homes and factories. Meanwhile, the government implemented several measures to overcome fiscal constraints. In addition to the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative – which aims to boost fiscal revenue from 6% to 15% of GDP by 2023 – we are leveraging technology and automation, as well as more effectively monitoring independently generated revenue.
As of the end of 2020 the Development Bank of Nigeria had disbursed N324bn ($865.1m) in loans to more than 136,000 micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises through 40 participating financial institutions. Importantly, 57% of these beneficiaries were women and 27% were youth. We are able to execute these programmes while at the same time accelerating infrastructure development through sensible and transparent borrowing, improved capital inflows, increased revenue through a wider tax base and the prudent management of investment proceeds in the sovereign wealth fund. Our efforts are aimed at addressing revenue leakages and redirecting resources to the poor and vulnerable.
The target of lifting 100m Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years remains our goal, notwithstanding Covid-19. The Nigerian people have shown not only resilience in the face of adversity, but also the ability to recover from setbacks, a generosity of spirit when we resolve our differences and a readiness to invest in a country built on the diversity of its people. These attributes give me hope for the country’s future.