Amid worries of an imminent food crisis on the back of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a time the world is still dealing with the socio-economic challenges of covid-19 pandemic, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has urged world leaders and policymakers to urgently ratchet up investment in large scale food production in order to secure food supplies on a global scale.
Obaseki gave the advice at the 2022 edition of the Doha Forum in Qatar, a global platform for dialogue, alongside other world leaders and policy makers on Saturday with the theme: ‘Transforming For A New Era’
Speaking on the outlook for the next three years during the African Business Forum panel session, Obaseki said: “The war in Ukraine for me has created a real alarm for our food systems, with the sort of increase in food prices, particularly wheat, staples and grains and the rise in energy prices.”
However, the Governor sees opportunities in the gloomy economic outlook if governments at various levels could engender huge multi-sectoral investments in large scale agricultural projects.
“The opportunities we see in the next three years are to first secure your food supplies by food production and then utilize technology and focus on small businesses”, he told the high-level panelists that had 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.
On the specific steps taken by his administration to mitigate the impact of covid-19 pandemic, Obaseki outlined how several Edo youths who had been trained at the Edo Innovation Hub on various technology-oriented programmes saw huge employment opportunities during the lockdown to pick online jobs to sustain themselves.
He said: “Lots of younger people began to invest and take opportunities in technology space, we found companies outsourcing work to young people in Nigeria and in a place like Edo State, where young people now began to earn a bit of money in foreign exchange just writing codes and writing programmes for companies abroad, that is another area we saw significant investments.
“What covid-19 did for us in the case of Edo State and Nigeria was not so much the infection and mortality rates, because of a very young population that we have in Nigeria. The infection rates were not as high and the mortality rate was not as bad as we get from Malaria or other diseases.
“What really affected us was the disruption of livelihoods, and with the lockdowns lots of small businesses were seriously affected and the use and availability of technology as a response threw up new opportunities for small businesses in particular.”
He further said: “So what we saw in terms of the health care response was that we realized the opportunities for investments in the health care space and the participation of the private sector in health care delivery.
“Before now the bulk of healthcare investments were left to the government even though the private sector was a key provider of health care services, so we saw testing and diagnostic centers springing up and the need for those services.
“But for small and medium scale businesses, because they had been drained of capital as a result of the lockdown, it just showed the importance and necessity to reinvest in that segment of the economy.
“Small businesses became a viable sector to put money into, because most of them began to use technology for service delivery, for production which then led to the other key investment opportunities that came out as a result of covid-19 which includes investment in technology and technology start-ups.”
On agriculture, he said: “We as a government realized that we must now begin to put a lot of resources and time in agriculture and large scale agricultural projects.
“Fortunately in Edo State we had already started investing in palm oil and had rolled out programmes where we could bring in serious investments into large scale oil palm production as the trigger for large scale investment in agriculture.”
The Doha Forum, the organizers said, “promotes the interchange of ideas and discourse towards policy making and action-oriented recommendation”.
The theme of the 2022 edition according to the organizers was chosen to elicit action-oriented strategies that would help world leaders manage the multi-sectoral challenges arising from covid-19 pandemic.
“As the world recovers from the largest shock to the global economy since the Second World War, leaders and policymakers must come together to develop policy innovations aimed at saving the most lives and avoiding permanent damage,” the organizers added.