The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, at the weekend, said the state was sustaining investment in large-scale agricultural production and leveraging technology and innovative potential of its youthful population to ensure food security and drive the state’s post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery plan.
Obaseki disclosed this when he joined other world leaders and policymakers, at the 2022 Doha Forum in Qatar, to speak on innovations to solve large-scale economic shocks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and other critical challenges facing the world economy.
The governor was among the panelists at the 20th edition of the Doha Forum with the theme, ‘Transforming for A New Era.’
Other panelists included H E Kandia Kamissoko Camara, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ivory Coast; Charles Murito, Director, Sub Saharan Africa, Government Affairs and Public Policy, Google; Wale Adeosun, Chief Investment Officer, Kuramo Capital Management, and Ken Njoroge, Founder, Cellulant.
Obaseki, who noted that the main effect of COVID-19 in Edo State was the disruption of livelihoods and small businesses, disclosed that the war in Ukraine had further exposed the inadequacies of the global food system.
He noted, “For us in Edo State, we didn’t suffer much from the infections or mortality rate of the COVID-19 because of the very young population we have in Nigeria and Edo State. The infection wasn’t so high and the mortality wasn’t as bad as we get from malaria or other diseases.
“What really affected us was the disruption of livelihoods and with the lockdowns, a lot of small businesses were seriously affected and but the availability of technology as a response sprung up new opportunities for small businesses in particular.
“In terms of our healthcare response, we realized the opportunities for investment in the healthcare space and the participation of the private sector in healthcare delivery. Before now, the bulk of healthcare investment was left to the government, even though the private sector is a key provider of healthcare services.”
Obaseki continued: “For small and medium businesses because they had been drained of capital as a result of the lockdown, it further showed the importance and necessity to reinvest in that segment of the economy. So, small businesses became a viable sector to invest money because most of them began to use technology for service delivery and production.
“This opened an opportunity for other key investments that came out as a result of the COVID-19, which is investments in technology and tech startups.
“As a lot of our young people began to invest and take opportunities in the tech space, we found companies outsourcing work to young people in Nigeria and Edo State, with many of our young people earning in foreign exchange for writing codes and programmes for companies abroad. So, that’s another area we found significant investment.”
On ensuring food security, the governor stated, “The Ukrainian war, for me, has created a real alarm for our food systems. With the increase in food prices, particularly, wheat, staples and grains, and the rise in energy prices, we as a government, have realized that we now have to put in a lot of resources and time in agriculture, and large-scale agricultural projects.
“Fortunately, in Edo State, we have started investment in palm oil and have rolled out programmes where we could bring in serious investment into large scale oil palm production as the trigger for large scale investment in agriculture.”
“So, the opportunities that we see in the next three years is to first secure our food supplies by food production and then utilise technology and focus on smaller businesses,” Obaseki added.
Also, Murito said Africa’s young population, which covers a third of the world’s population, should be empowered to fill the future jobs locally and internationally.
Earlier, Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said Qatar looks forward to exploring ways to partner with Africa and discuss business opportunities that can empower the continent.