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Nigeria appeals for foreign agriculture investors

Nigeria has called on foreign investors to invest in its large agriculture sector, as it looks to reduce its reliance on imported foods and expand its exports beyond oil.

Nigeria has called on foreign investors to invest in its large agriculture sector, as it looks to reduce its reliance on imported foods and expand its exports beyond oil.

“In our efforts to achieve this goal, the commission will nurture and promote transformational projects put forward by investors – both locally and at international level,” Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) executive secretary Uju Baba said at an agriculture investment forum at the commission’s office in Abuja this month.

The dommission is prioritising investment into what it calls “import-substitution and export-diversification sectors” in order to help boost Nigeria’s capacity to produce food for its population of 173 million, and generate export revenues from outside the volatile oil industry. Agriculture is one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s key priorities since he swept to power in May.

The agricultural sector accounts for over 41 percent of Nigeria’s GDP, and employs about 70 percent of the workforce, Baba said at the forum. “The NIPC is ready and willing to assist and collaborate with relevant stakeholders to actualise and achieve our dream of boosting non-oil exports and reduce imports,” she said.

Sonny Echono, permanent secretary at Nigeria’s Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development, was recently reported as saying that international and local investors are planning to invest $4 billion into the agricultural sector, with France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US having committed to invest some $500 million over the 2013-2016 period.

Despite the ambition, progress in the Nigerian agriculture sector has been slow. US group Cargill has been considering a $100 million investment in cassava processing that would make it the first private sector investor in the Kogi state farming heartland for over a year, but is still in discussions with the government and conducting feasibility studies.

Meanwhile, recent private equity investments have focused on Nigeria’s agricultural import needs rather than production. Tunisia-based AfricInvest earlier this year invested in commodities Elephant Group, one of the country’s largest rice importers and distributors.