The pothole-ridden roads that connect Lagos, Nigeria’s bustling commercial capital, with Adeniyi Bunmi’s leafy farm in southwestern Ogun state are among the many challenges that the entrepreneur faces.
“You can’t even drive in to an average farm,” said Bunmi, arguing that access to his 150-hectare site, which was a dense forest until it was cleared by bulldozers six years ago, is good compared with that for other rural areas.
The poor transport infrastructure in Africa’s most populous nation is one of the major obstacles in the way of President Muhammadu Buhari’s aim of boosting agriculture and reducing the reliance on oil exports at a time of low crude prices.
The pockmarked route between Lagos and Bunmi’s farm alternates from tarmac to gravel and dirt tracks, making it hard to transport plantain, pineapples and other produce to clients in the city, a bumpy two-hour drive away.
But roads in the southwest are generally better than those in the north, where the infrastructure is far worse.
Africa’s biggest economy and top energy producer has been hammered by low crude prices, since it relies on oil exports for around 70 percent of government revenues. Buhari, who took office in May, has said a strengthened agriculture sector would create jobs and reduce the reliance on costly food imports.
“The petroleum we had depended on for so long will no longer suffice,” he told an agrarian trade body three months after taking office in May. “We campaigned heavily on agriculture, and we are ready to assist as many as want to go into agricultural ventures.”
But five months after Buhari took office, his cabinet is yet to be sworn in, leaving him without an agriculture minister to flesh out policy details.
A proposed $25 billion infrastructure fund to invest in much-needed modernization of road, rail and power networks, announced by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday, is still in the planning stage.
Nigeria has tens of millions of farmers, most of whom work on a subsistence basis and live on less than $2 a day, making the warehouses, electricity access and machinery needed to improve efficiency unattainable.
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