Kalu Seeks Partnership with ITC to Boost Digital Economy , Mulls Establishment of Food Processing Centres in S/East

The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu has indicated the readiness of the parliament to partner with the International Trade Centre (ITC), to boost the digital economy of the most populous African country.

 

He also gave hints of establishment of food processing centres across the 5 states of the South East through Peace In South East Project (PISE-P).

 

Kalu made the disclosures over the weekend while playing host to a delegation from ITC in National Assembly of Nigeria, Abuja.

 

He acknowledged the immense contributions of the Center to the economic development of Nigeria and the entire West African region, saying, “your work is truly commendable”.

 

The Deputy Speaker specifically mentioned the ongoing projects of the organisation in Nigeria and West Africa, which includes, the EU-funded WACOMP program; the GIZ-funded ECOWAS Agricultural Trade (EAT) program; which has helped to boost Nigeria’s agricultural trade capacity and for improved intra-regional agricultural trade, as well as economic resilience and food security; and the upcoming nationwide expansion of IDEAS in 2025, which he believed, will provide invaluable technical assistance to the agri-food e-commerce ecosystem across the country.

 

The Deputy Speaker also told the delegation about existing partnership between PISE-P and the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) in building community digital hubs across some parts of the South East.

 

“We express our keen interest in collaborating with the ITC to leverage this initiative that we are currently building with NigComSat to use the

community digital hubs for local onboarding and training in the IDEAS program’s digitization and e-commerce aspects.

 

“By utilizing the digital hubs established through the PISE-P and NigComSat partnership, we can

provide targeted training and support to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). This collaboration will empower local businesses to thrive in the digital economy and enhance their competitiveness on a global scale”, Kalu said.

 

He however expressed worry that the insecurity in the South-East region has had a devastating impact on businesses and incomes, stressing that, focusing on education, agriculture, and infrastructure development were non-kinetic measures crucial for restoring peace and stimulating development in South East region.

 

“As we look forward to the nationwide expansion of the IDEAS program in 2025, we express a strong interest in the ITC collaborating with PISE-P as a key partner. PISE-P’s work in addressing socio-economic challenges and promoting peace and development aligns perfectly with the goals of the IDEAS program. Together, we can create a more resilient and inclusive digital economy, particularly in regions facing significant challenges.

 

“It is essential to bridge the digital divide to ensure that all Nigerians have access to the opportunities presented by the digital economy. The disparity in digital access between urban and rural areas must be addressed to foster inclusive growth.

 

“We believe that through the combined efforts of the ITC, PISE-P, and the House of Representatives, we can implement effective strategies to provide digital access and literacy to underserved communities, ensuring no one is left behind in this digital transformation journey”, Kalu added.

 

Speaking earlier, the ITC delegation led by Ms Natasha Aniekwu said the agency jointly owned by the world trade organization and UN, aim is to promote trade, specifically across developing economies.

 

Commending the Deputy Speaker on his several interventions to empower local businesses, she informed him of their program focused on making E-commerce more accessible and beneficial for SMEs particularly in disadvantaged areas and the agency’s interest to partner with his office.

 

Aniekwu said, “We are an agency jointly owned by the world trade organization and UN, we are based in Geneva Switzerland and our primary aim really is to promote trade, specifically across developing economies, this means that We work a lot in Africa, in Asia and in the Middle East. In Nigeria we have a project office, currently situated within the ECOWAS commission. Our primary reason for coming is to speak to you about a Nigeria focused program. We ran a pilot of this program for 6 months using Imo state as a pilot location, we got a lot of support from the ministry of trade. The major focus of IDEAs is to make E-commerce more accessible and beneficial for SMEs or business communities particularly in disadvantaged areas or vulnerable locations.”

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