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Notes From Osun At 30, OPINION

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Notes from Osun

Notes from Osun at 30,OPINION

On Thursday, September 9, I participated in a Colloquium titled “Osun at 30: Celebrating a Milestone, Building a Prosperous Future”, which as the title indicates was a commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the creation of Osun State. On August 27, 1991, the Babangida administration created nine additional states: Abia, Delta, Enugu, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Osun, Taraba and Yobe, bringing the total number of states in Nigeria to 30. The states were carved out of existing states, Osun for example was part of the old Oyo State, Delta was carved out of the defunct Bendel State, Jigawa used to be part of the old Kano State, Yobe state was carved out of Borno State, Enugu State from Anambra, Taraba state from old Gongola. Kebbi from Sokoto state. Four years earlier, the same Babangida administration created two states: Akwa Ibom and Katsina.

The politics of state creation has been one of the most volatile issues at the heart of the national question in Nigeria. From Gowon who created 12 states in 1967, to General Murtala Muhammed who added seven more states in 1976, General Ibrahim Babangida who increased the number first to 21 and later 30, and General Abacha who added six more states in 1996, giving us the present 36-state structure, the argument has always been anchored on the need to bring government closer to the people at the grassroots level, address the concerns of ethnic minorities who feel marginalized or dominated by numerically stronger neighbours, promote national unity, and ensure a more equitable distribution of national resources. Today, there are still many groups demanding the creation of more states. A cost-benefit analysis shows that states creation may have created more problems than it has solved. It has heightened the politics of difference, disunity and protests about the distribution of resources and advantages. But for me the bigger challenge is the viability or non-viability of the states.

The invitation from Professor Niyi Akinnaso, the moderator of the Colloquium was accompanied with an explanatory note about objectives and expectations. The keynote speaker was identified as Chief Bisi Akande, former Governor of Osun State. Panelists, 10 in all, from the UK, USA and parts of Nigeria were asked to interrogate issues raised in the keynote address and feel free to go beyond Chief Akande’s submissions. The chair of the occasion was His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto. It all looked enticing enough more so as Professor Akinnaso made it clear that the Colloquium will be by both physical and virtual participation. I opted for the latter.

In his keynote address, Chief Bisi Akande, who had been part of the history of the development of Osun State, as a Local Government Councillor in Ila Orangun, Secretary to the Government of Old Oyo State, and as Deputy Governor of Oyo State, and later, Governor of Osun State (1999 – 2003) provided a historical background to the creation of the State. But his central argument was about the concept of “the Optimum Community”, with emphasis on people-oriented development using education: primary and secondary schools in rural and urban centres as catalysts for the creation of optimum communities, even, all-round, development within the state, and the provision of basic infrastructure: potable water supply, electricity and energy, health facilities, housing, agro-allied activities. Chief Akande’s submission was a subtle reminder of the original purpose of state creation in Nigeria as earlier defined and the imperative of people-centred development.

There were echoes in this regard of the concept of “OptiCom” developed by Professor Akin Mabogunje, Africa’s first Professor of Geography and his friend, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, the renowned economist. In the 80s, Mabogunje and Aboyade launched “The Awe Opticom Plan” in a rural community in Oyo State called Awe. Their focus was access to credit. It was an attempt by the two scholars to move beyond classroom theory to demonstrate that there is indeed a connection between theory and praxis, and between ideation, abstractions and quotidian reality. Their key message was that development energies should be redirected in a manner that would result in the empowerment of the people through decentralised governance and poverty reduction initiatives. The Awe Opticom Plan was later adopted for the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure, a rural development framework established in 1986, in which Mabogunje was a major player. It also inspired the establishment of community banks by the Babangida administration. Professor Mabogunje was Executive Chairman of the National Board for Community Banks (1991 -1994). Years later, Professor Mabogunje in his autobiography, A Measure of Grace would state that he felt the Opticom development option met with “minimal success”. But the problem was not with the concept. The problem is with Nigeria itself: our tendency to politicise everything, the lack of continuity in governance, policy somersaults, and endless opportunism about the common good. Chief Bisi Akande did well to remind us all of the value of optimum development for the people’s benefit. Most of the discussants took their cue from his keynote address.

I was in no doubt that Osun State had a lot to celebrate not simply because it emerged as a state, but for its historical significance and enormous resources. Osun is the heartland of Yoruba history, the home of so many landmarks – Ile Ife, the cradle of Yoruba civilization, Osogbo, a cultural epicentre and a global destination for tourism, Ilesa, Ede, Igbajo, Oke Ila, Ila Orangun, Iree – major theatres of war in Yorubaland, especially the Kiriji War (1877 – 1893), and home of iconic legends: Timi Agbale – Olofa Ina of Ede, Ogedengbe Agbogungboro, Ogunmodede of Ilesa. Oduduwa, the eponymous progenitor of the Yoruba race is from Osun State. In more contemporary times, Osun state has also produced some of the most prominent figures in Nigeria in virtually every field of human endeavour: it is the state of Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, General Alani Akinrinade, civil war hero and pro-democracy activist, Chief Bola Ige, Orlando Owoh, Duro Ladipo, Justice Bolarinwa Babalakin, Davido, Christopher Kolade, Femi Fani-Kayode, labour leaders, the Sunmonu brothers. Stepping on every piece of land in Osun State is an imprint on the sands of history.

It is also a state rich in culture: the Osun Osogbo grove, the Erin Ijesha waterfall, the annual Olojo festival in Ile -Ife. There was so much talk about education and the development of the human potential. Osun State is where the Obafemi Awolowo University formerly University of Ife is located. Other institutions of higher learning in the state, many of which were established post-state creation in 1991 include the Osun State College of Education, Ilesa, Osun State Polytechnic, Ila Orangun, Osun State College of Technology, Esa Oke, Osun State University, Adeleke University, Ede, Bowen University, Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Oduduwa University, Redeemers University, Kings University …I pointed out that given the milestones of Osun State in the education sector and its reputation as an incubator of skilled labour, there is no reason why going forward, the state should not continue to invest in human development through education as pointed out by Chief Akande. Incidentally, while the COVID-19 pandemic raged in 2020, the first major genome sequences research in Africa was carried out at the Redeemer’s University in Ede, Osun State by a team led by Professor Christian Happi.

The Colloquium took place at a time in Nigeria when there was great “war” between states and the Federal Government over the collection of Value Added Tax. Revenue sharing has always been a problem in Nigeria. Nobody talks seriously about adding value or the value chain or a serious commitment to GDP growth at sub-national levels, the people just want to share any part of the proverbial national cake be it proceeds from crude oil sale or multiple taxation. Compared to the other states created along with it in 1991, Osun State gets a comparatively low share of Federal Revenue. Internally Generated Revenue in the state may have increased over the years, currently about N13 billion per month, owing perhaps to increased population and economic activity but whereas a State like Akwa Ibom gets more than N34.8 billion, Osun could receive something as low as N1. 7 billion due to deductions at source for inherited loans. While the controversy over fiscal federalism, restructuring and VAT rages on, I argued that there is no reason why a state like Osun, blessed with abundant natural resources should be at the mercy of the politics of the national cake. Beyond its rich agricultural space of over 9, 000 km, Osun is also rich in mineral prospecting potentials: Gold, Kaolin, Talc, Iron Ore, Columbite.

The people of Osun have “riches beneath their feet” including over 15.3 million ounces of minimum gold deposit. But all the resources beneath their feet in Atakunmosa East and West, Ife East, Ifewara, Ibodi, Iperindo have been left at the mercy of illegal and artisanal miners, I said, at great cost to the state. I was aware of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the present Adegoyega Oyetola administration in the state and a company called Badger Mines. I wanted to know the status of the MOU. I also drew attention to tourism as a major revenue earner for the state, post-COVID. The resources are available as low-hanging fruits but they have not been properly harnessed. Nigeria is one of those unlucky countries in the world where the people sit on great wealth that can transform their lives but they are happy doing nothing about it. They talk about it, they quarrel about it, but they lack the motivation to act. Governor Oyetola would be seeking a second term in office in 2022. I wanted him to pay attention to the take-aways from the Colloquium. We had very useful conversations

I had hardly signed out of the event when my phones began to ring. It was Funke Egbemode, Osun State Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation on the line. Before going to Osun to serve her state, Egbemode was Managing Director of the New Telegraph newspaper, and President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. She wanted me to join other participants at the Colloquium and some media stakeholders for a physical inspection of how Governor Oyetola was already addressing some of the concerns raised and the significant progress made. After much persuasion about the security situation in Osun State, I agreed. And so, I spent a part of the weekend in Osun State.

Very early in the morning, we joined the Governor, and some of his key staff, on a journey. I am often reluctant to praise a Governor for constructing roads for his people. It is part of his job to do so. But I saw in Osun state, an unusual level of commitment to infrastructure development. From Alekuwodo in Osogbo, to the Olaiya flyover Bridge at the centre of the town (which the Governor said was prompted by an accident scene that he witnessed and on the spot decided to address the problem), to the newly rehabilitated Osogbo- Kelebe-Iragbiji road, Ada to Igbajo, Ikirun to Eko Ende and other roads in the state, the Oyetola touch was evident. We visited the Osogbo General Hospital, now being reinvented and expanded, and primary healthcare centres across the state that have been revitalized, transformed from being abandoned units into new facilities, which are now being used for COVID-19 vaccination in the communities. The Commissioners of Works and Commerce and the Chief Press Secretary were very detailed in their explanations. We also visited the Dagbulu International Trade Centre/Customs Bonded Terminal, a dry port/free trade zone initiative by the Oyetola Government. Everywhere we went, the Governor was received by crowds chanting “Leekan si, 4 plus 4”. If that was meant to be a road show or show boating, it worked.

For me however, the high point was our visit to the Omoluabi Badger Mines Gold Buying and Refining Centre at Osu. Osu in Osun state is known for its special bean cake – Akara Osu. But today, it has been turned into a gold refinery centre by the Oyetola administration. Osun State has always been known for its vast gold deposits in the Segilola Gold mines, the Ife Schist Belt, Iperindo and the Eastern Ilesha Belt. About 25 years ago, Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola (as he then was) got 17 mining titles from the Obasanjo Federal government – 12 of which are for exploration. For 25 years, the licenses were kept in the files. One month left for the titles to expire, the Oyetola government waded into action. In 2019, it entered into a Joint Venture with Badger Mines. Twenty months later, Badger Mines working on 73 exploration belts, has found gold at between 200 – 300 metres. Badger Mines CEO and his officials took us through the gold refining process. High grade technology at work! And right there in our presence a 25 kg gold bar worth about 120, 000 dollars was produced. We asked all the necessary questions: alignment with the Federal Government, community and regulatory issues, derivation, and security for the gold refinery. I was impressed.

But I was also worried. The moment Osun State begins to talk about its gold refinery, its future elections could become war by another name. Everyone would struggle to lay their hands on the gold. Oyetola, a man of few words and a quiet mien, seemed to be more interested in development, job creation, making sure salaries are paid and his continuous affirmation that he has not borrowed a penny. We asked him to talk about his reported conflict with his predecessor and former boss, Rauf Aregbesola. He refused. He said they are brothers! Oyetola wants a second term of course. But he should be ready to put up a serious fight to achieve that 4 plus 4 ambition. You can’t build a gold refinery and expect your opponents or the Federal Government not to show interest. And that is how politics spoils everything. On our way back to Osogbo, we saw the Osogbo Steel Rolling Mill, now in a decrepit state, overgrown with weeds. We also saw the Nigeria Machine Tools – now a shadow of its former self. The Gold refinery was an indication of new possibilities and a statement about the future of Osun State, but the once flourishing industrial efforts now in ruins are painful reminders of the past.

On my way back to Lagos, I could not but get upset seeing the poor state of the Ibadan-Ife road, a Federal Government road leading to the heartland of the South West, in such terrible condition.

AUTHOR: Reuben Abati

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World Bank suspends Nigerian firm, MD for bribery

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World Bank suspends Nigerian firm, MD for bribery

The World Bank has sanctioned SoftTech IT Solutions and Services Ltd., a Nigerian information technology solutions company, and its Managing Director, Mr Isah Kantigi, for alleged corrupt practices.

The firm, which was involved in the National Social Safety Nets Project, was sanctioned for 50 months while the managing director was sanctioned for 60 months.

This was contained in a statement titled ‘World Bank Group debars SoftTech IT Solutions and Services Ltd. and its managing director’, which was published on the bank’s website on Wednesday.

The statement read in part, “The World Bank Group today announced the 50-month debarment of SoftTech IT Solutions and Services Ltd., an information technology solutions company based in Nigeria, and the 60-month debarment of its managing director, in connection with corrupt practices as part of the National Social Safety Nets Project in Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Poor Nigerians to hit 95.1m in 2022, says World Bank

“The debarments make SoftTech and Mr Isah Kantigi, a Nigerian national, ineligible to participate in projects and operations financed by the World Bank Group.”

The World Bank said the firm and the managing director were sanctioned for improper payments made to certain project officials.

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Why Federal government’s Lagos megacity project failed

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Why Federal government’s Lagos megacity project failed

Experts optimistic about new joint development commission

Years after the plan to transform Lagos-Ogun border towns by the federal authorities failed, experts have given reasons why the initial effort could not see the light of the day.

The former President Olusegun Obasanjo had proposed and inaugurated the Lagos Mega City Region Development Authority, headed by the Prof. Akin Mabogunje, a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, to rescue infrastructural facilities, services and utilities along the corridor through a presidential committee.

The Lagos Mega-City Region covers an area of 153,540 hectares, which is more or less the entirety of Lagos with a continuously expanding built-up area that gulps parts of Ogun State comprising at least, four local government areas of Ado-Odo/Ota, Ifo, Obafemi Owode and Sagamu.

These areas spread through an estimated area of 22, 840 hectares, comprising 15, 640 hectares for non-urban uses, such as, agriculture, conservation/preservation, forest and water supply reserves, recreation, tourism and regional parks, while urban uses in Ogun State accounted for only 7, 200 hectares.

There was plan then to draft legislation on the mega city status of Lagos so that the National Assembly could to pass it into law. Reasons given for the translation of Lagos into a mega-city, according to the Mabogunje’s committee report includes;
• The Mega-City Project came about as a result of the chaotic nature of urban development in Lagos State, which has impacted negatively on Ogun State. This singular factor has become a source of concern for international investors and first-time visitors. Recent statistics by the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), revealed that no less than 60 per cent of total economic activities in the country take place in Lagos State.
• The population pressure in the Mega-City Region has been heightened over the years by inadequate housing provision for the continuous streams of immigrants. The report pointed out that although the Mega-City occupies only 37 per cent of the land area of Lagos State, it accommodates nearly 90 per cent of the total population of the state. The average population density within the region is about 20, 000 persons per square kilometre, compared to the national average of only 1, 308 persons per square kilometre.
• The inadequacy of decent residential accommodation has resulted in the Lagos State section of the mega-city region to record 42 slum areas as at 1985. Latest count has put the number a little over 100. Neighbourhood areas such as Ota, Ibafo, Mowe, Ojodu, Akute and Ogifo were under heavy and intense pressure of physical growth with very few indicators of real infrastructural development- the roads are in the most unmotorable states with little or no drainage facilities.

Experts blamed the failure of the Federal Government driven mega-city to politics and demand for the inclusion of the mega cities in the country.

A member of the presidential committee, Ayo Adediran, a town planner, told The Guardian, “the recommendations were not implemented because of challenges bothering on constitutional provisions in the area of funding and legal status of the Authority. And then politics came in as to what happens to other mega cities in Nigeria, more so with different political parties at the States and Federal levels.”

The President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Olutoyin Ayinde, also attributed the failure to politics. “At that time the governments of Lagos and Ogun operated from different political parties, and the Ogun State governor then, didn’t flow with the drive that Lagos had for the project.

“Constitutionally, there was no provision that made such joint initiative possible, so it couldn’t be appropriated for. Then, some people began to argue that Lagos was not the only Megacity and other cities like Kano and Port Harcourt. The idea got drowned in the middle of all the shenanigans.”

Ayinde explained, “Realising the urban continuum of Lagos and its relative influence on Ogun State, President Obasanjo wanted Ogun State to take advantage of that, although it would have been mutually beneficial to both states.

“Already in the Lagos Metropolitan Master Plan of 1980-2000, parts of Ogun State like Sango Otta had been captured as catchment areas. The Lagos Mega City Region comprised Lagos State and extending in the West as far as Ifo and in the East as far as Mowe in Ogun State.

“In principle, it was a laudable idea, which had three participating entities in Federal Government, Lagos State government and Ogun State government with equity contribution of 40:40:20, respectively. The project would have facilitated distribution of population accompanied by efficient public transportation and other infrastructure and services to make the region sustainable.”

MEANWHILE, a new alliance that will accelerate integration of physical and socio-economic developments of both Lagos and Ogun states is in the offing, with the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of Lagos-Ogun Joint Development Commission by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Governor Dapo Abiodun.

They agreed to a new beginning in bilateral relationship between the neighbouring states on seven key areas of mutual interests, which are expected to boost security, commerce, urbanisation, infrastructure and also solve boundary disputes.

The MoU, Sanwo-Olu said, would enable the two states to mutually tackle issues prevalent in key economic sectors, including transportation, the environment, housing, health, infrastructure and security.

He said: The MoU being signed “is a game changer that will transform the urban agglomeration that exists between Lagos and Ogun States. We are driven by the desire to stimulate socio-economic growth, bridge development gaps and ensure that Lagos’ megacity status is complemented by pervasive infrastructural development even in boundary towns.

“It has become obvious that the best way to accelerate socio-economic development in both states is by embracing a more collaborative approach for growth, development and urban sustainability. Regardless of the challenges, we are determined to build more livable and stable cities. Our goal is to build sustainable urban cities, where the residents of the both states will have a sense of belonging, embrace participatory governance, and recognise their role in achieving solid urban economies.”

The joint commission, Sanwo-Olu pointed out, is a sustainable development agenda under which Lagos and Ogun will combine resources to meet the socio-economic needs of the people and prepare for the future.

He listed areas of partnership to include infrastructural development in boundary cities, revenue and taxation remittances, trade and investment, resolution of boundary disputes; security intelligence sharing, environmental and physical planning, emergency and disaster management, inland waterways management, traffic management and food security.

After signing the MoU, the governor said next step was to establish a joint committee that would implement the terms of the agreement and formally send Bills to Houses of Assembly in both states to generate statutory support for the establishment of the economic integration commission.

Governor Abiodun, on his part, stressed that the initiative will be a success as it is the first time Lagos and Ogun are having a formal, structured framework of bilateral engagement that would be backed by legislation.

The governor said the MoU took cognisance of the development envisioned by the Mabogunje Committee on Redeployment of Lagos Megacity Region Plan submitted to the Federal Government in 2006.

He said the development imperatives needed to be streamlined for the two States to be focused on sustaining common goals and future growth.

Ayinde said: “A joint commission of both states is the way to go and this is in line with world’s best practices. It would help to take care of issues that have to do with peri-urban development. I will be looking forward to some of the projects like the rail system that supports move of people, goods and services as well as management of solid wastes.

“It is also important to identifying the growth poles as stated in the region and see how this can develop to meet contemporary needs and limit unnecessary trips, thus producing a more efficient environment. What is needed to ensure the commission doesn’t fail is commitment. There should be ways of formalising, legalising and institutionalising this initiative, so that it may become a going-concern.”

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UK’s development finance for Africa rises to £2.2b

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UK’s development finance for Africa rises to £2.2b

The United Kingdom (UK) at the weekend reaffirmed its commitments to channelling investments into Africa as Britain’s development finance in Africa exceeded target to hit £2.2 billion by 2021.

At the second UK’s Africa Investment Conference (AIC) at the weekend, UK affirmed that Africa remains the focus for investment over the next five-year strategy period.

The CDC Group, UK’s development finance institution, exceeded its 2020 commitment to invest £2 billion in Africa over the last two years with a closing mark of £2.2 billion by the end of 2021. The growth in Britain’s investments in African businesses came amidst the unprecedented upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CDC is owned by the UK Government and it is regarded as a champion of the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. All proceeds from investments are reinvested to improve the lives of millions of people in Asia and Africa.

To enhance UK-Africa partnerships, UK at the second AIC launched a new ‘Growth Gateway’ – a digital tool to link African and British businesses to UK Government trade, finance and investment services and opportunities.  The service provides practical online support to businesses in Africa that want to export to and invest in the UK, and businesses in the UK that want to export to and invest in Africa, backed up by a team of trade and investment specialists.

The second AIC highlighted Britain’s strategic plan to boost economic cooperation with African nations and enhance UK’s role as the continent’s investment partner of choice for greener, climate-friendly projects.

UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who hosted the one-day virtual event, said the cooperation aimed at further unlocking millions of pounds of new investment, especially in clean energy industries in both the UK and across Africa.

The second AIC highlighted Britain’s strategic plan to boost economic cooperation with African nations and enhance UK’s role as the continent’s investment partner of choice for greener, climate-friendly projects.

UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who hosted the one-day virtual event, said the cooperation aimed at further unlocking millions of pounds of new investment, especially in clean energy industries in both the UK and across Africa.

“There is so much more that the UK and African countries can do together. Growth Gateway will make it easier than ever for African and British businesses to access the support they need to boost two-way trade and investment,” Minister for Africa Vicky Ford said.

Her Majesty’s Acting Trade Commissioner (HMTC) for Africa, Alastair Long, recalled that in 2020, at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, the Prime Minister set out the UK’s ambition to be Africa’s investment partner of choice and it has continued to bring life to this ambition.

“Last year, we launched an online investment deal room to provide a platform for African projects to be showcased to UK investors. The deal room has already published over £350 million of vetted and investable opportunities to date.

“Clean growth is at the heart of the UK’s trade agenda, and with Egypt hosting COP27, today’s Africa Investment Conference will be an opportunity to explore inclusive, sustainable and resilient investment opportunities that can serve to help Africa transition to a cleaner and greener growth trajectory,” Long said.

Chief Executive Officer, CDC, Nick O’Donohoe said the company, which is to be renamed British International Investment (BII) by April 2022, said the rapidly pivoted supports for its portfolio and mitigated the economic fallout of the pandemic in the countries in which it invested.

According to him, the role of development finance institutions such as CDC was vital in supporting vulnerable countries that did not have the financial reserves to protect their economies.

“Moving forward, British International Investment intends to invest between £1.5 and £2 billion per annum between 2022 and 2026 to support the UK government’s Clean Green Initiative and to create productive, sustainable and inclusive economies in Africa, parts of Asia and the Caribbean,” O’Donohoe said.

The CDC made its largest-ever deal in Africa in 2021 in a partnership with DP World worth up to $1.7 billion – to significantly boost the continent’s ability to trade globally by expanding its port capacity. Other key investments include Liquid Telecom, that is building a pan-African fibre-optic network, and in the Global Partnership for Ethiopia, a consortium led by Vodafone to build a new, world class mobile network in Ethiopia.

Investing in clean infrastructure will be central to CDC’s strategy over the next five year period. At least 30 per cent of total investment by value will go into climate finance.

Among the major clean infrastructure investments made in Africa by the company over the last strategy period was a $100 million or £75.5 million commitment to the Nachtigal Hydro Power in Cameroon, $50 million or £36.8 million for the Malindi Solar Project in Kenya, which became operational recently and $50 million or £36.8 million for ACWA Power in South Africa.

Director and Head of Infrastructure Equity, Africa and Pakistan, CDC, Chris Chijiutomi, said clean infrastructure investment for the company will go beyond renewables as clean water provision, forestry and agritech, for example, will become increasingly important moving forward.

According to Chijiutomi , CDC continues to power Africa’s growth as evidenced in its investee company Globeleq which in 2021 succeeded in securing 1.4GW of wind and solar projects in South Africa.

In addition to investing in utility scale projects, CDC will prioritise technology-backed venture capital opportunities in smaller businesses that have the potential to deliver innovative, local solutions to mitigate the impacts caused by the climate crisis.

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