Mr Ebrima Faal, a Gambian, was appointed Director-General of the Nigeria Country Office on December 1, 2016. He is a seasoned development expert with diverse global operational experience in banking operations, administration, and strategy, developed over nearly 25 years working at the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He was the Director of the Office of the Senior Vice President of the African Development Bank, where he executed and managed corporate performance, provided oversight for operations across different departments and Vice Presidencies of the Bank, and supported corporate planning and strategy execution. He provided leadership on the design and approval of the AfDB’s new Development and Business Delivery Model as well as the High 5s to accelerate achievement of the Bank’s Ten Year Strategy. In this interview with AnnualMeetings Daily, he speaks on how AfDB is partnering with Nigeria to transform its agricultural sector and achieve the government’s economic diversification vision. Excerpts:
Your office oversees a portfolio of over $5 billion and deals with 36 states of the Nigerian Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. True?
Nigeria is the Bank’s largest shareholder and a very complex country with a federation of 36 states. Each of the states, if taken individually, is larger than many countries in Africa, not just in terms of economic size but also population. So, it is a massive portfolio. In fact, the actual size of the portfolio is a little over $6 billion. Since I came in, I have been assessing the existing portfolio and their performances. And where there is need to make the portfolio more effective and for greater development impact, we have been proactive, in terms of disbursements.
To what extent are the projects in line with the High 5s, the Bank’s development primacies?
AfDB’s lending and our interactions as well as knowledge work are aligned with the five priorities of the Bank’s High 5s. So, I have been assessing the portfolios and their effectiveness, as well as discussing with the Nigerian government and the private sector. The portfolios in terms of size are distributed evenly with 50 percent of our lending to the public sector and the other 50 percent, to the private sector. Since the needs of both sectors are different, this requires close scrutiny. We launched in 2016 the Bank’s new Development and Business Delivery Model, a new path to deliver in the AfDB. So, I am implementing this new business development model as they apply to Nigeria.
How is the AfDB partnering with Nigeria to transform its agricultural sector and achieve the government’s economic diversification vision?
The AfDB is building on the government’s agricultural transformation agenda. We are involved in the Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Programme (ATASP) through interventions in the cultivation of rice, sorghum and cassava value chain in two northern states. The focus is total and we will include other states, going forward. Indeed, we are transiting from just producing agricultural goods to processing agricultural produce. We are developing the value chains with the youths and women involved at the different value chains – growing, harvesting and manufacturing.
What are the efforts to attract young people and women into agriculture?
We are working with the government to promote agriculture as a profitable venture and by so doing, attract young people and women into agriculture. In December last year, the AfDB approved the Empowering Novel Agri-business-Led Employment (ENABLE) programme geared towards attracting young Nigerian graduates, mostly out of work, to the sector. Interestingly, we have some young medical doctors who left the medical profession to take to agriculture.
In what ways is the Bank helping the Nigerian government to create jobs for the country’s growing youth population?
Besides addressing food insecurity and then linking the agriculture sector with industrialization, we are working to tackle unemployment in the country. The Bank’s ENABLE programme in particular targets 36 states of the federation and we believe it will create employment for over 200, 000 people.
How can Nigeria benefit from the ‘Light up and Power Africa’ initiative, one of the pillars of the Bank’s High 5 agenda?
We had fruitful discussions on powering Nigeria with the Minister of Power in Washington DC recently during the Spring Meetings of the IMF/World Bank. Nigeria’s installed generation capacity is quite high; it is about 12,500 megawatts, but the actual consumed is just between 2000 and 4000 megawatts. So, there is a big deficit in terms of power needed for economic activities and manufacturing. The government has unveiled a power sector strategy and they have asked us for support in specific areas including generation and transmission as well as tackling some of the liquidity constraints that are within the system. We have a team of experts coming to with the government and other stakeholders to see how best we can support the government, going forward.
How important is Nigeria to the Bank?
Nigeria is extremely important to the AfDB and it is the Bank’s largest shareholder. Take, for example, Africa’s growth rate three years ago. African countries were growing including Nigeria and South Africa, but with Nigeria going into recession last year and South Africa almost but not quite into recession and the slowing growth in Angola, the African economy was affected because these are the biggest economies on the continent.
The impact of the economic situations in these three countries brought the continent’s growth rate down from about five percent to about 2.2 percent. So, essentially, when Nigeria grows, the rest of the continent follows suit. What we do in Nigeria has impact beyond its borders. That is why we take this portfolio very seriously.