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ENDING POVERTY, IGNORANCE & DISEASE: — ‘Agriculture is the most important business in the world,’ Akinwumi Adesina.

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There is certainly no one out there who is not profoundly concerned about the present state of the world following the effects of Coronavirus that has for several months refused to be neutralized and is threatening human existence. The pandemic has forced governments and development institutions, particularly multilateral organizations back to the drawing table to reconfigure the global economy. The United Nations  Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has at different points since the outbreak of the pandemic called for solidarity with warnings of an imminent global recession  of record dimensions. Why is it more critical in Africa than other continents? “The International Labour Organization (ILO) reported last May that the global workforce will be hit with the equivalent of the loss of more than 300 million jobs”,  adding that millions of children risk missing life-saving vaccines and that those officially living in poverty could rise by around 500 million – “the first increase in three decades”.

The whole world is in a crucial period, engaged in the search for viable solutions to an issue has pushed troublesome matters like terrorism, armaments, disarmaments and related issues to the back row.  COVID-19 is more recognized as terror than conventional terrorists who themselves, must now be afraid of the unseen killer.  WHO has revealed that ‘’Coronavirus is 10 times deadlier than the 2009 flu pandemic with alarming acceleration in other countries. The education of 1.4 billion children had been affected as of 10 April 2020. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared coronavirus ‘’a common enemy’’ in a Statement, and announced the UN’s policy of ‘’prioritizing the most vulnerable – children in conflict situations; child refugees and displaced persons; children living with disabilities, and ‘’commitment to building back better by using the recovery from COVID-19 to pursue a more sustainable and inclusive economy and society in line with the Sustainable Development Goals’’

 TIME FOR REAL ACTION: UN Secretary-General Guterres commented that ‘’ We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is spreading human suffering, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives and acknowledged steps were taken by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – $12.3 billion in emergency financing; the World Bank, with $160 billion of extra financing; and the G20 leading economies, which have agreed to suspend debt service payments for the poorest countries but added, “even this is not enough”.   It is important that African Union’s 2020 theme: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development” be respected and armed groups declare unilateral ceasefires.  The UN Secretary-General’s speeches have been emotion-laden. Not less is expected with the possibility of the world losing as much as 3.4 trillion U.S. dollars in income by the end of this year. Elsewhere, Guterres (2020) stated pointedly that ‘’this is, above all, a human crisis that calls for solidarity.  Our human family is stressed and the social fabric is being torn.  People are suffering, sick and scared.  Current responses at the country level will not address the global scale and complexity of the crisis. This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies.   We must recognize that the poorest countries and most vulnerable — especially women — will be the hardest hit. My central message is clear:  We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.  We cannot resort to the usual tools in such unusual times. (Guterres, 2020)

VANQUISHING POVERTY, IGNORANCE & DISEASE: Kofi Annan (2001) asserted that: ‘’We thus inherit from the twentieth century the political, as well as the scientific and technological power, which — if only we have the will to use them — give us the chance to vanquish poverty, ignorance and disease. In the twenty-first century I believe the mission of the United Nations will be defined by a new, more profound, awareness of the sanctity and dignity of every human life, regardless of race or religion. This will require us to look beyond the framework of States, and beneath the surface of nations or communities. We must focus, as never before, on improving the conditions of the individual men and women who give the State or nation its richness and character.’’

TIME FOR ACTION — LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS IN NIGERIA AS A COMMON AGENDA Mitigating the effects of COVID-19 is not a task that should be shouldered by government alone. It is our common mission that must be pursued with every vigour and dedication across various segments of the society. Government is in place to create an enabling environment.

It is important for all Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora to take concerted steps to support measures put in place by government and private sector concerns to mitigate the effects COVID-19, especially on the vulnerable population. The Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan 2020 has been produced by a presidential committee led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in response to the health and economic challenges foisted on the country by the pandemic. The committee alerted that ‘’Unemployment rate which was 23.1% (or 20.9m people) at the end of 2018 is expected to rise to 33.6% (or 39.4 million people) at the end of 2020 if urgent steps are not taken. ‘’The major problem with unemployment of a very large youth population is the hopelessness that gives rise to criminal activities and anti-social behaviour, which can ultimately create potential recruits into the ranks of insurgents. ‘’Even for those able to earn a living, the situation is dire.’’

 SENSITIZATION CAMPAIGN: The very grim picture simply calls for greater concern by every Nigerian. It is for this reason that TERRIFIC HEADLINES decided to embark on a sensitization campaign to educate and invite attention to steps envisaged in critical sub-sectors of our national life. The truth is this matter requires cooperation and solidarity. The private and public sectors must devise ways and means of cooperating to defeat the pandemic. Therefore, synergy is required and its outcomes must be monitored periodically. It is good to engage in campaigns for development. In doing this strategically, let us consider the channels suitable for reaching the target audience, examine the acceptability of programmes as designed, state measurable goals of implementation, gauge effects of campaign periodically to be sure the target audience is receptive and understands messages fed into the media; without which communication does not occur. Attitudinal changes will not occur as a one-off agenda. Campaigns must go beyond simply putting information on websites. It must involve getting the citizenry to be receptive to information channeled into the media, as well as ensuring attitudinal changes.

 AGRICULTURE & AGRIBUSINESS AS ANSWER – AKINWUMI ADESINA This piece is on Agriculture and agribusiness that African Development Bank Group’s president, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has consistently said is ‘’the most important business in the world, as agriculture is at the centre of wealth. The target audience of the campaign must be convinced and made to embrace this position. Similarly, the appropriate implementing agencies have to be linked by platforms to promote understanding, particularly by youth whose orientation must change from attempting to seek fortunes in the United Kingdom and the Americas and other major capitals of the world. Why must youths create interest?  Africa’s agricultural business will be worth $1 trillion by 2030. There would be a higher need to feed the expected continent’s increased population that is estimated to hit 2.5 billion by 2050, double its current 1.2 billion. The size of food and agriculture in Africa will rise to $1 trillion by 2030. The population of Africa, now at 1.2 billion, will double to 2.5 billion by 2050. They all must eat. And only through food and agribusiness can this be achieved.”What Africa does with food will determine the future of food, given that 65% of the arable land left to feed the world is here, Agriculture is the most important profession and business in the world”  He asserts that: entrepreneurial skills development for profitable agriculture and agribusiness enterprises among African youth is now required more than ever before.

GETTING YOUTHS INTERESTED: We must explain to our youths why, according to Adesina “agriculture is the most important profession and business in the world” and get them to embrace measures put in place to develop agriculture and agribusiness.  And we must make sure youths embrace the messages we put across. The African Development Bank is spearheading efforts to feed Africa and was investing $25 billion over a ten-year period to transform the continent’s agriculture sector. What Africa does with food will determine the future of food, given that 65% of the arable land left to feed the world is here, in Africa.  The bank, not too long ago invested close to €680 million to kick off the ENABLE youth programme in six countries – Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Nigeria, Sudan and Zambia. The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB),  approved the ENABLE Youth Nigeria program, and will provide a USD 250 million loan, to contribute to job creation, food security and nutrition, rural income generation and improved livelihoods for youths in both urban and rural areas. The specific objective of the program is to create business opportunities and decent employment for young women and men along priority agricultural value chains of the various enterprises (aquaculture, crops farming, marketing, processing, etc.).

 GOING AFTER THE TARGET AUDIENCE: The programme named above has four components: (i) Enabling environment for youth empowerment, which aims to create an enabling environment nation-wide for decent employment of young unemployed graduates (Greenfields) and a proportion of those already engaged in agribusiness (Brownfield); (ii) Entrepreneurship and agribusiness incubation, will operate in a two-step manner in agribusiness incubation with youth first participating in a two-week agribusiness orientation training (for both Greenfield and Brownfield agripreneurs; and Youth then serve either as interns within existing or newly-formed agripreneurs groups (the Greenfield option) or are attached to an existing agribusinesses (the Brownfield option) in order to obtain additional experience in modern farming and agribusiness operations and management skills to supplement their orientation training at the incubation centers; (iii) Business development and financing, which entails participating youth transiting from agribusiness interns to successful owners of agribusinesses or employees in going concerns. Financial empowerment is critical for effective transition after the 9-month (maximum) agribusiness incubation and placement period, to actually set up a business; and (iv) Programme management and coordination, which entails the day-to-day management based on adequate results measurement framework.

HOW UNEMPLOYED YOUTHS COULD BENEFIT: The program will target a 50:50 male and female participation across the Federation aged 18-35 years.  But what is the level of awareness created and what has been the response? The programme is to be implemented in all the 36 States of the Federation and Federal Capital Territory (FCT). All States plus FCT are eligible to be selected within two years based on readiness. The targeted beneficiaries will be in two categories: The first are unemployed young Nigerian graduates from any field of study who have finished their National Youth Service Corp program (Greenfield). The second are graduate youths who are already successfully engaged in agribusiness, but have no access to commercial loan to grow their businesses (Brownfields). The mainstreaming of gender and environmental issues across the various components would ensure inclusiveness. The program will target a 50:50 male and female participation across the Federation aged 18-35 years. The number of beneficiaries of the program will depend in large part upon the outcome of the agribusiness incubation placement and successful bankable proposals. In general, it is expected that all the youth that have successfully undergone the incubation program and satisfies the relevant criteria will move to the next stage of accessing the loans to set up their agribusinesses or may find employment with the private sector and the rural development community. Most of the loans will be about US$50,000 maximum per business. Agripreneurs can have individual or joint businesses and these must be duly registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission. The target is to reach 1,000 agripreneurs per State who will establish enterprises, as individuals (about 2,000 for both green and brown fields) and as groups of 10 – 50 (creating about 5,500 businesses). The businesses will generate about 185,000 additional jobs. Total direct jobs created by the program would reach as much as 222,000.

TURN TO THE RURAL AREAS: Today, 243 million Africans are malnourished. We’ve got 58 million African children under the age of 5 years old that are stunted, which is the highest rate in the world. You have got 10 million young children in Africa that are obese. So the challenge is to rapidly eliminate food insecurity and malnutrition on the continent to make sure that we eliminate the wasting and the stunting of our children in Africa. We must also turn all of the rural areas of Africa from what I call zones of economic misery to zones of economic prosperity, and that can only happen when we get agriculture working. And so the work ahead of me is to get countries to understand that agriculture is not a way of life, agriculture is not a development activity, agriculture is a straight line business.

LOCAL MATERIALS UTILIZATION – DANGER INHERENT IN MASSIVE FOOD IMPORTATION  It is to be noted that it hurts the economy for raw materials to be taken abroad, refined and manufactured only to be brought back into Africa as finished products. We are paying direly for our carelessness over the decades. Our crude oil refineries collapsed and we have had to depend on the West to refine our products. Thank God Dangote Industries is providing what looks like a hope with its refinery in Lagos. Let’s look back. The whole of Ikeja, Lagos used to be part of the defunct Western region. There was a thriving Ikeja industrial estate. Not anymore as the industries have either collapsed or are running out of Nigeria. In Ibadan, we had at least a Wire and Cable industry as one of the companies under the umbrella of O’dua Investments Co Ltd. There was Cocoa Products Industry, Ede, Ado-Ekiti Textiles Mills,Obelawo Plastics Industry i Osogbo,  the Textiles Mills in Kaduna etc. Volkswagen, Leyland, Peugeot Assembly plants have closed shops. Now, Innosson Motors has come up while COSCHARIS has also put up spirited efforts to stay afloat. The people of Nnewi, Aba, and Okrika are proving that necessity is the mother of invention. This is why we must not relent in encouraging these local businesses. I read Innocent Chukwuma’s reaction in the media and how his company was abandoned in the procurement of vehicles by an arm of government. Chukwuma has every right to feel bad because his company was certainly not protected in the national interest.

PRODUCE WHAT WE EAT – EAT WHAT WE PRODUCE– PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI Africa today produces 75% of cocoa beans in the world, but Africa accounts for only 2% of the €85 billion global chocolate market. Africa produces a lot of cotton but all of it is exported as raw cotton fibre. And the same thing goes for coffee. African countries are in the top 10 major coffee bean producing countries in the world, but we export them abroad as coffee beans. Now taking a look at chocolate, the price of cocoa will always decline, but never the price of chocolate or any derivatives of cocoa. And the price of coffee beans may go down, but not the price people pay at Starbucks for drinking coffee. So what Africa must do is get to the top of the global value chains in the things that it produces, in other words agricultural industrialisation, to add value to everything that Africa produces to be able to be competitive in the global market.

Today, Africa is spending €30 billion a year importing food. If nothing is done, that is going to reach €93.5 billion by 2030. And so, when Africa manages to feed itself, this will be important for the general market and economic stability of African countries, preservation of foreign exchange, transformation of rural areas, and creation of jobs for millions and millions of people. Therefore, agriculture must be at the centre of the economic diversification strategy and wealth creation in Africa. I believe that the future millionaires and billionaires of Africa will come out of the food and agriculture industry – not out of oil and gas sector – because nobody eats oil and gas.(Adesina)

If you take a look at Thailand’s smallholder farmers, they produce the bulk of the rice we eat globally. Smallholders in India are the ones that produce rice and some of the pulses we eat globally. That tells me there is nothing wrong with smallholder farmers. What we must do is make sure that smallholder farmers are provided with the support systems that they need. They need access to finance, information, markets, the best technologies in the world (including mechanisation), and rural infrastructure to transform the rural economy. I think this is where the role of the private and public sector needs to be clear. You need smallholder farmers, medium-scale commercial farms and large-scale farms. The key is being able to connect them all, with the large and medium-scale commercial farms providing access to markets and supporting the infrastructure for farmers. So the role of PPPs here will be making sure, on the private sector side, that private agribusinesses are located in rural areas. The problem in Africa today is that private agribusinesses, especially food processing companies, are all located in urban areas. They are selling very close to the ports where they bring in the raw materials, process them, and send products back. That is not creating any jobs in Africa at all. (SPORE: Sophie Reeve)

FASTEN YOUR BELTS, Therefore, youths, fasten your belts. The future belongs to you; but you must work towards having a glorious future. No one would contest the fact that Nigeria has brains that could easily match those of leaders and rulers of the developed world. It is a good idea for more patriotic involvement of youths in developing the economy. If you plan to embark on an illegal journey abroad, please perish the idea.  The PASTURES ARE NO LONGER GREEN. Many people who plan to travel illegally have wrong opinions that those residing abroad are living in luxury.  If anything, residents of foreign countries would always disclose that there is no cheap money or reward in that society. You must work, and work very hard too, to be able to sustain yourself. Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa. Nigeria is blessed with huge natural and material resources waiting to be tapped.  About 20 million Nigerians live outside the country as world-class professionals. Nigeria is desirous of attracting meaningful investments as a way of promoting economic development, and by implication, the living standard of the citizenry.   A critical appraisal of the present economic situation indicates the need to strengthen the small and medium scale industrial and agro-allied sectors in Nigeria.

OPPORTUNITIES —  STRATEGIC INFLUENCE OF NIGERIA AND ITS HUGE RESOURCES In the past few years, the Federal Government of Nigeria has accordingly introduced far-reaching reforms directed at sanitizing several sectors of the economy. Please find out about these opportunities that could be utilized for the common good.   Indeed, Nigeria is a strategic country in Africa, the engine of the economy of West Africa.  Nigeria plays a leading role in Africa that is widely regarded as the next frontier of the global economy; with emerging success stories, in spite of the huge challenges currently confronting the continent. As a continent with a collective GDP of about US$2 trillion, Africa holds about 14 percent of the world’s population and more than 60 percent of uncultivated arable land. Regrettably, less than 10 percent of arable land in Africa is being utilized for farming, thus leaving huge cultivable arable lands on the vast continent uncultivated. Nigeria’s economy constitutes 76 percent of the economy of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS. Nigeria also holds 30 percent of the economy in sub-Saharan Africa and 21 percent of Africa’s economy.’’ The way Africans have invested in other nations in Africa and even beyond is a good indication of the ability of Nigerians to shoot into prominence.

ADJUSTING THE ECONOMY Africa is widely regarded as the next frontier to drive the global economy, in spite of the multifarious problems currently confronting the continent with emerging success stories. Nigeria is the largest black nation in the world with a huge market and resources waiting to be tapped. Nigeria harbours one-quarter of the population of Africa and has limitless potentials. The Public-Private sector arrangement which places emphasis on the creation of an enabling environment for a sustainable growth of the economy is the current trend of promoting growth in an increasingly Globalized world. Under the arrangement, a coordinated administration at the three tiers is required to create an enabling environment.  It takes dedication, commitment to chosen goals and patriotism to make a success of any endeavour. Susceptibility of the domestic economy to external revenue shocks, when oil prices fall, is making Nigeria look inwards to correct the imbalance in the national economy.

AGRICULTURE & DIVERSIFICATION The economic diversification model that the country that has just been put in place can help absorb fiscal shocks, fend off monetary instability, provide employment for the teeming work-age population, as well as generate more revenue for the citizenry and government to meet their commitments. Without youths showing active interest, these plans might not really provide the desired results. Developing the agriculture sub-sector of the country’s economy is a potent way to adjust and transform the Nigerian society. Beyond this, global agriculture itself is undergoing transformation. Population growth and changing consumption habits have started to drive up demand for food in multiple varieties. Say Akinwumi Adesina, by the year 2050, the world population will reach nine billion. That means additional two billion people would require food in 35 years’ time, compared to now; hence the need for the citizenry to make the appropriate search for opportunities that abound for the development of agriculture. We need to tell and re-tell these stories for maximum effects. In the words of Winston Churchill, The price of greatness is responsibility.”

Let us not scare away prospective investors by grandstanding on religious, ethnic, and tribal issues that are meaningless, but meaningful only to those who profit from tribulations that emerge from dislocations to peace. And we require higher levels of commitment, cooperation, and solidarity, as well as informed hands to push these activities through.

Goodluck Nigeria!