Home » Ekiti State to Become a Digital Hub with $80 Million Loan from AfDB

Ekiti State to Become a Digital Hub with $80 Million Loan from AfDB

The project will develop a green technology park and provide ICT training to youth, among other benefits.

by Motoni Olodun

Ekiti State, a southwestern state in Nigeria, is set to become a digital hub with the support of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB). The AfDB has approved an $80 million loan to finance the Ekiti Knowledge Zone project, which aims to promote digital innovation and entrepreneurship in the state.

The Ekiti Knowledge Zone project is a federal government-backed and state-led special economic zone with fiscal incentives to attract private sector investment in the digital technology and knowledge economy value chains, according to a statement from the AfDB. The project will develop a 20-hectare green technology park and provide information and communication technology training to youth, nurture innovation and enhance entrepreneurial skills.

The project also seeks to establish the Ekiti State Innovation Fund to provide pre-seed and early growth stage funding to promote entrepreneurship, innovation, and investment. The fund is expected to mobilize investments into more than 50 seed and early-growth start-ups.

The Ekiti Knowledge Zone was conferred “a free zone” status by the Federal Government under the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority Act in April 2023. It will thus offer various incentives for private investors, including free repatriation of capital, profits and dividends by foreign investors, rent-free land during the construction phase, tax holidays, waivers on import and export duties, and expatriate quotas for companies operating in the zone, according to the statement.

The total project cost is estimated at $94.8 million, with the Ekiti State government providing $14.8 million in counterpart funding. The AfDB’s financing will leverage other development partners’ programmes in the state, the statement said.

The AfDB’s active portfolio in Nigeria comprises 48 operations valued at $4.4 billion, including 24 public sector projects amounting to $2.5 billion and 24 private sector operations valued at $1.9 billion, according to the statement.

The Ekiti Knowledge Zone project is in line with the AfDB’s High 5 priorities, especially “Industrialize Africa” and “Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa”. It is also aligned with the Bank’s Country Strategy Paper 2020-2024 for Nigeria, which focuses on supporting the country’s economic diversification and regional integration.

The project is expected to generate 26,000 jobs, contribute some $14 million annually in net economic benefits, and enhance the state’s competitiveness in the digital economy. It will also support the federal government’s efforts to diversify the economy away from oil dependence and create opportunities for youth and women empowerment.

The Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, expressed his appreciation to the AfDB for its support and partnership. He said the project will transform the state into a knowledge-driven society and a destination of choice for investors and innovators.

The AfDB’s Director General for Nigeria, Mr. Lamin Barrow, said the project will create a conducive environment for collaboration, innovation and technology transfer in the state. He said the project will also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Agenda 2063.

The Ekiti Knowledge Zone project is one of the first service-knowledge business parks approved in Nigeria. It is modeled after India’s Special Economic Zones for technology and biotech, which have been successful in attracting foreign direct investment, creating jobs, and boosting exports.

The project is expected to be completed by 2027.

Source: Business Day

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