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Doing agribusiness in Nigeria

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In 2004, a group of white Zimbabwean farmers, displaced by Robert Mugabe's regime, settled in Nigeria thanks to the Kwara State Government. In 2008, another group of more than 40 Zimbabwean farmerswere welcomed into Nigeria. These commercial farmers were given farming lands, subsidised loans and ongoing upgrade of farming infrastructure, such as irrigation. They have since started commercial farming in several parts of Kwara State in Nigeria. The success story of these farmers is one of the key factors that have encouraged the Government of Nigeria to announce plans to revive agriculture as the bedrock of its economy. Nigeria's new agricultural initiative comes as it tinkers with its Vision 20: 2020 project: to join the top 20 economies in the globe by 2020. The recent global push towards a switch to renewable sources of energy means oil-dependent economies like Nigeria are searching for an alternative economic base considering the volatility of oil revenue. Hence, the government's recent announcement came with approval of almost US$9 billion to be distributed to established local commercial farmers, state governments and foreign commercial farmers ready to set up in the country. Today, more than 100 Zimbabwean farmers displaced by Mugabe regime are now actively engaged in commercial farming in Nigeria. Their success has inspired most state governments to seek for foreign expertise in agribusiness.

Incentives for agribusiness

The agribusiness experts are expected to replicate their technical expertise and make profits from their roles in the revolution of agriculture in Nigeria. The incentives on offer include five-year tax holidays, full ownership, co-financing and land acquisition among other infrastructures. Co-financing options include the 40:30:30 funding formula: new foreign investors provide 40 percent of the total take-off capital needed for investment, the Nigerian government is mandated to provide 30 percent of the capital, while the remaining 30 percent will be sourced from a government-nominated commercial bank in Nigeria. This new co-financing format is designed to minimise capital outlay and encourage foreign investors for a limited time. The World Bank, through the International Donor Agency, will commit an additional US$150 million to the development of commercial agriculture in the states of Cross Rivers, Enugu, Kaduna, Kano and Lagos. The project is expected to spread within five years. Nigeria is the biggest English-speaking consumer market in Africa and the Middle East with a population of more than 150 million people. Of the 910,000 square kilometre land mass, about one-third of the land is arable. This presents Australia, with its expertise in agribusiness, with plenty of opportunities including  investing in a Nigerian presence, down to exporting farming equipment and services. Interested Australian commercial farmers could explore partnership opportunities with nominated state governments. For more information about Nigerian agribusiness opportunities, see www.octoberfirst.com.au. -Frank Aneke is the principal of OctoberFirst Consulting, an investment communication firm specialising in business opportunities in Africa. OctoberFirst is a member of the NSW Business Chamber.

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