ITF disburses N24bn as allowances

By Favour Nnabugwu



The Director-General of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Mr Joseph Ari, has disclosed that more than N24 billion has been disbursed by the fund as students and supervisors’ training allowances from 2016 to date.

Ari said this on Monday in Jos when the Correspondents’ Chapel of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Plateau council, gave him an award of excellence in leadership and human capital development.

He said that given the fund’s integral role in the training of students of Engineering, Technology and other allied disciplines in tertiary institutions, the ITF had accorded priority attention to the management of the scheme.

Ari assured the public of the fund’s commitment to the prompt payment of students and supervisors’ allowances, “as soon as money is received from the Federal Government”.

He further said that the ITF had automated its business processes in a bid to facilitate business processes within the ITF and with its stakeholders.
He commended the chapel for finding him worthy of the award and dedicated the award to the entire workforce of the ITF for their dedication and resilience.

Earlier, the Correspondents’ Chapel chairman, Mr Gyang Bere, who presented the award to Ari, said that the award was in recognition of the ITF training of thousands of youths with requisite skills for employability and in turn to reduce unemployment. nan.

AfDB”s AFAWA fund for women entrepreneurs hit $1bn

By Favour Nnabugwu




The African Development Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative has reached a landmark $1 billion in approved funding designated for lending to African women entrepreneurs.

This is yet another milestone for the bank following an historic summit last week to tackle the escalating challenges of food security in Africa. The Dakar 2 Africa Food Summit, co-hosted by the Bank and the Government of Senegal, was attended by 34 heads of state and government, more than 70 ministers, farmers’ representatives from the private sector and development partners.

AFAWA was launched in 2015 in Dakar during the first Feed Africa conference (Dakar 1 Africa Food Summit).

Dr. Beth Dunford, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development said: “I am incredibly proud of AFAWA’s financing achievement. AFAWA’s benchmark reminds us that when we invest to grow Africa’s food systems, we must also invest in Africa’s women agripreneurs.”

Women run the majority of Africa’s agricultural sector small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), yet they face significant barriers to accessing finance. Across the continent, African women entrepreneurs face an estimated $42 billion gender financing gap compared to men.

In the last two years, the Bank, through AFAWA, has multiplied the volume of investments toward women-owned small and medium enterprises sevenfold.

“By the end of December 2022, AFAWA-approved lending to women-led small and medium sized enterprises reached $1.051 billion. Of that, $135 million targets women in the agriculture sector,” said Malado Kaba, Director of the Bank’s Gender, Women and Civil Society Department.

“AFAWA’s approved lending reaches across 27 countries, and through 56 financial institutions. Already 4,115 women business owners have benefited from AFAWA financing instruments. This is just the beginning,” she added.

Already, financial barriers to African women ‘agripreneurs’ growing their businesses, are being addressed through AFAWA investment. AFAWA is working to boost the professional and financial capacities of over 200 women cooperatives in the staple crop food sector in Cote d’Ivoire.

This includes training and access to a digital platform connecting women producers to buyers of agricultural products like wholesalers, retailers and consumers across Cote d’Ivoire.

Furthermore, AFAWA is working with Ecobank on the “Financing Climate Resilient Agricultural Practices in Ghana” project. The project mobilized $20 million from the Green Climate Fund, and $5 million from Ecobank Ghana as co-financing, to fill the gap for working capital to farmers.

The AFAWA project aims to provide financing and technical support to 400 women-led, farmer-based associations and women-owned small and medium enterprises, to foster their agriculture productivity and strengthen their climate resilience practices.

To accelerate progress toward unlocking $5 billion in lending for women by 2026, AFAWA has established a Guarantee Mechanism ( which de-risks the women’s market and increases the ability of financial institutions to lend to women business owners.

AFAWA also launched the Women Entrepreneurship Enablers program, which provides up to $250,000 for women’s business associations, incubators, accelerators, women-led cooperatives, and civil society organizations.

The program increases women SMEs readiness to access credit and scale their businesses. The program inducted its first cohort of 10 Enablers ( in July 2022, who are expected to apply skills acquired in the Enablers program to reach more than 15,000 women-led micro and small enterprises. The second call for proposals to the program drew more than 1,200 applicants. The second cohort will be announced later this year.

“In 2023, we will continue to work closely with our partners to accelerate their ability to lend to women-led micro and small enterprises. Ensuring that the enabling environment is inclusive to enhance women’s ability to access financing will be critical. Thus, we will work closely with policymakers to ensure that the right reforms are in place to accelerate women-led small and medium enterprises’ financial access,” said Kaba


TradeMark launches West Africa operations

By Favour Nnabugwu




TradeMark East Africa, one of the world’s leading Aid for Trade organisation, has today rebranded to TradeMark Africa (TMA) and simultaneously officially launched its West Africa operations

. Founded in 2010 in Kenya, today marks TradeMark Africa expansion from its previous core operational area of East Africa and the Horn, to also support countries in West and Southern Africa. TradeMark Africa now has a presence in fourteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA): Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Djibouti, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, and Ghana.

TradeMark Africa has to date made cumulative investments of over $1.3 billion in East Africa and the Horn, to reduce the time and costs of trading across borders, and to improve export competitiveness of African businesses.

These have among other results slashed the time for traders to cross borders – by 70% on average; and for businesses to receive certification – often from many days to a number of hours. Its programmes have contributed to a 16.5% reduction in the total time it takes to transport a container on the Northern Corridor from Kenya’s Mombasa Port to Bujumbura, Burundi.

As part of the pivot to West Africa, TradeMark Africa will support the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), based in Accra, Ghana, to realise its vision of integrating the $3.4 trillion African market.

TradeMark Africa will also work with regional economic communities (RECs) such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to boost regional economic integration and accelerate trade. Further, it will work with Member States to ensure Governments and businesses benefit practically from the opportunities presented by these shifts – in particular along the Lagos-Abidjan corridor. The successful implementation of the AfCFTA is predicted to boost incomes in Africa by $450 billion by 2030.

At the same time, TradeMark Africa announced that its new strategy will build on and scale up on its core strengths, to focus on facilitating development of digital and green trade corridors, to position Africa as a partner of choice for global off takers; as well as promoting inclusive trade that drives down poverty levels and ensures that vulnerable groups are more integrated in trading systems.

TradeMark Africa’s Board Chairman, Amb. Erastus Mwencha said, “As a leading Aid-for-Trade (AfT) Programme, a continental approach gives TMA an important opportunity to expand its impactful programming progressively, while supporting the aspirations of AfCFTA to unleash the immense impact that free trade in high value products, exists in Africa. Our key aim remains trade facilitation, just like we have always done in the last 12 years in the East and Horn of Africa region, where we were founded and have had great milestones in our programmes.”

TradeMark Africa’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. David Beer remarked, “We believe that combining a regional and national approach has always been part of our comparative advantage.

With our expanded scope, we are excited now to harness the critical continental dimension to drive faster growth in trade volumes, and to support linkages between regions. TMA’s focus on reducing the barriers to trade and improving business competitiveness will also be a core element of tackling the trade challenges of the future, as we pivot towards creating green trade corridors and enhancing regional food security.”

Some of TradeMark Africa successes in the last 12 years include the construction and operationalisation of 15 One Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) across East Africa, which have reduced the time taken to cross select borders by up to 89% in some cases. Moreover,

TradeMark Africa has supported the implementation of 60 Single Window Information for Trade (SWIFT) Systems in multiple Government agencies, thus reducing the time and cost of acquiring trade documents, designed the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS) on the Northern Corridor in East Africa,which ensures safety of cargo, and operationalised programmes like Standards, Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS), and reduction of Non-Tariff Barrier (NTBs). It has also supported over 200,000 women cross-border traders and small and medium enterprises.


NEPZA, NEZA, FTZs Chieftains bid DCG Ekekezie farewell

By Favour Nnabugwu





The Nigeria Export Processing Authority (NEPZA) and the Nigeria Economic Zones Association (NEZA) have formally led the free trade zones’ community as well as serving and ex-senior officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to bid Deputy Comptroller-General of customs, Mrs Kathleen Chinwe Ekekezie tumultuous farewell after a 35-year meritorious service.

The event which took place on Saturday at the international Restaurant and Dinner Hall of the Eko Hotel, Lagos was graced by over 400 personalities cutting across the business community, customs, MDAs, families and friends.

DCG KC Ekekezie being given an Excellence Leadership Award by Alh Abdu Fanda Chairman NEPZA board at the event.


Ekekezie, who retired as Deputy Comptroller General in-charge of Excise, Free Trade Zone & Industrial Incentives, was described by Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, Managing Director of NEPZA as a “quintessential achiever.’’
Adesugba, also, Chief Executive Officer of the Authority, said that Ekekezie had combined a number of good virtues to attain the rank of the Deputy Comptroller-General in a heavily competitive and male dominated environment.

The NEPZA boss, explained that Ekekezie was a brilliant officer and administrator whose professional interventions in the management of the affairs of the free trade zones remained palpable and indelible.
“Ekekezie, was a thoroughbred public officer with a proven record of uncommon brilliance and achievements. She has got proven leadership and team building skills.

“She was focused, performance-driven, insightful, innovative, analytical and did develop numerous problem-solving skills over these years. She indeed, brought all these good traits to assist us at the NEPZA board and in the management of the entire free trade zones in Nigeria.

“On behalf of the Authority, management team and staff, I wish her the most peaceful retirement life.’’ Adesugba said.

On his part, Elder Toyin Elegbede, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Economic Zones Association (NEZA) said that retired DCG Ekekezie was loved across all pedestals and that the love, respect and honour for her among the free trade stakeholders remained even more pronounced.

“The association and NEPZA have put this together to celebrate the peaceful retirement of this infrequent Nigerian’’, Elegbede said.

He also said that: “this rare retired customs chief was simply audacious and an exemplary administrator whose footprints on the premises of all the free trade zones shall not be easily erased.’’

A cross section of Managing Directors and Chief Executive Officers of free zones and other personalities also took turns to deliver their goodwill messages.

In her remarks, the celebrant acknowledged the show of love and honour toward her, adding that all the proclaimed achievements she made while in service were ordered by God.

The Achi, Oji-River Enugu State born retired customs chief, further said that it was her commitment to the fear of God that was instrumental for the customs collecting its first `Trillion Naira revenue’ under her watch as an Acting Deputy Comptroller-General (Tariff & Trade) between December 10, 2017 and January 10, 2018.

NEPZA boss commends FG on Segun Awolowo’s appointment

By Favour Nnabugwu





The Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA),  Prof. Adesoji Adesugba has commended the appointment of Mr Olusegun Awolowo as Secretary, of National Action Committee on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

The AfCFTA is one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063 of the African Union. It is a high ambition trade agreement with a comprehensive scope that eliminates barriers to trade in Africa.

You may recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, after months of scrutiny eventually signed the agreement on July 7, 2019 that made Nigeria a member.

Adesugba, therefore, expressed delight to the president’s continued diligent handling of all trade, industry and investment policies of government that pertained to the agreement, adding that the appointment of Awolowo to oversee the national action committee in the local implementation of the agreement was fitting.

The NEPZA Chief Executive Officer, also said that Awolowo would be operating on a familiar ground having served as the Managing Director/CEO of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) for the period of eight years.

He further explained that the bold steps taken by the government so far on the local implementation stage of the agreement were exemplary, adding that it was about time the country’s Free Trade Zones, local investors and industries took advantage of the government’s friendly policy around the agreement.

“Let me at this point congratulate Mr Segun Awolowo for his appointment and to wish him well as he frontally leads the country’s business community to boost their participation in trade on the continent.

“We are also very ecstatic with the uncommon commitment of the government in ensuring that the country takes the lead in trading across Africa. Nothing can be re-assuring to achieve this with the recent inauguration of the Deep-Sea Port located in the Lagos Free Zone by the president.’’ he said

President Buhari appoints Segun Awolowo, Secretary National Action C’ttee on AFCFTA

By Favour Nnabugwu



President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of Mr. Olusegun Awolowo as the Secretary, National Action Committee on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) for a tenure of four (4) years with effect from 19th December, 2022.

The appointment was made known via a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina.

According to the statement, “As Secretary, Mr Awolowo is expected to provide direction to the National Action Committee on the AfCFTA for effective coordination of relevant stakeholders towards the attainment of Nigeria’s strategic national interest.”

Mr Awolowo, a Law graduate from Ogun State University (now Olabisi Onabanjo University), Ago Iwoye, has served as Special Assistant to former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

He also worked with the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Abuja as Secretary for Social Development and Transport from 2007 to 2011.

Mr Awolowo was the Executive Director/CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council between 2013 and 2022, serving two tenures.

FG, Uni-Abuja, ACCI elicits NEPZA over proposed SEZ’s initiative

By Favour Nnabugwu



The Federal Government has said that the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority’s (NEPZA) accelerated initiatives at designating willing Universities as Special Economic Zones was aimed at speedily reconfiguring the country’s academic environment to match with global trends and competitiveness.

The Hon. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo made the remark while playing host to Prof. Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode SAN, former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation and Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, MD/CEO NEPZA in his office on Tuesday in Abuja.

Ademola said that the country’s industrialisation process could become much more prolific and all-encompassing when the country was able to coordinate its universities to also operate as profitable industries through the free zone scheme.

“The MD NEPZA has given a brief background of what this is all about and let me assure you that it is something that the federal government will be interested in.

“It is indeed a unique idea to be able to make the academic institutions have the freedom to breakaway from the over-dependence on government for funding. Once this initiative gains popularity, universities across the country will become centers of not only human capital development but of wealth creation.

“I am delighted with the strong partnership the university of Abuja has created with NEPZA and the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) to pull this project through.

“You have to move fast so that we can get all things sorted out as quickly as possible. I will, however, like to assure you that you have my 100 per cent support.’’ the minister said.

On his part, the VC said that the visit was a follow up to a preliminary technical session held with NEPZA recently, adding that the both parties had worked assiduously in ensuring that the project was realized at the short possible time.

Na’Allah explained that the project required the blessing and support of the minister and the federal government, adding that the designation of the university as a special economic zone would not only put an end to our history of incessant strikes, but would transfer enormous wealth into the hands of all members of the university community.

He said further that the university was endowed with a number of solid minerals at commercial quantities, adding that opening the campus space for external investments using the free zone concept would be a landmark achievement.

“We want the university to become the richest institution in Nigeria. We will open the space for tourism, estate, mining, agriculture, car production plants, dairy farms, light rail services etc. Our proximity to the city and the airport makes movement seamless. This is our thinking, this is our project,’’ the VC said.

Speaking, Kayode also former president of ACCI, and Head of the Technical Committee, expressed delight to be part of the project.
He said that the ACCI had sourced sufficient investors and international financial bodies that had bought into the project.

“We are expected to reconfigure the way the country’s universities are run using the university of Abuja as a pilot scheme.

“We have been to some of the great universities around the world and seen that those institutions have direct influence in the development of their host cities. This is what we want to replicate here.’’ Kayode said.

You may recall that NEPZA and the Ekiti State Government are working on processes to establish the “Knowledge and Technology Special Economic Zone’’ in Ado Ekiti, just as it received an application from the Afe Babalola University Ado Ekiti (ABUA) for a similar project.

The NEPZA boss, therefore, said that the Authority was on the verge of showing how the university and chains of industries could jointly be operated within same location to enhance the country’s industrialisation process.

NEPZA boss describes Princess Anifalaje’s appointment as offshoot of ingenuity, commitment, hard-work

By Favour Nnabugwu




The Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA),  Prof. Adesoji Adesugba has said that the appointment of Princess Abiodun Anifalaje as the new Deputy National Coordinator of the Gemstones Miners and Marketers Association of Nigeria (GMMAN) hinged on ingenuity, commitment and hard-work towards value-addition.

NEPZA in a statement release by the
Head, Corporate Communications, Martins Odeh, Adesugba stated this in his congratulatory message to the Lagos-based business woman on Sunday in Abuja.

The NEPZA boss, himself, a member of the association said that Anifalaje took the business of solid minerals by storm in view of the success she had made of it.

According to him, the association through her professional ingenuity, hard-work and commitment has significantly improved in the overall coordination of members in the mining and processing of precious stones

“It is widely acknowledged in the sector that Princess remains an arrow head in pushing national consciousness toward competitive solid mineral exploration for national growth.

“This is also part of our focus in NEPZA; to galvanise investments in solid mineral by partnering with investors who are willing to key into the country’s free zones scheme with arguably the best incentives in the world’’, he said.

Adesugba also said that the authority was taking inventory of business women like Anifalaje with strong capital base in order to encourage them to establish an `Amazon Free Trade Zone’ for the production of women and children’s items for export.

“The business of Solid Minerals (Gemstones and Metals) such as Gold, Aquamarine, Sapphire, Emerald, Amethyst and Charcoal among others is a good way to start for interested business women and we are committed to ensuring that the processes are made easy for them,’’ the NEPZA boss said.

Adesugba, therefore, said that Anifalaje had indeed distinguished herself within a short period in the sector, adding that her new appointment was well deserved.

NACCIMA President appointed into World Chambers Federation council

By Favour Nnabugwu



The President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Ide John Chinyelu Udeagbala, has been selected to serve as an Ex-Officio member of the Council of the International Chamber of Commerce World Chambers Federation (ICC-WCF), effective from January 2023.

The ICC-WCF is a global forum connecting, leading and inspiring the global network of chambers and their respective business communities. As well as strengthening links among chambers, as a non-political, non-governmental body, WCF is the backbone of the chamber community providing a platform for chamber leaders to communicate and collaborate with each other on matters of mutual interest and facilitating beneficial partnerships.

A statement made available to Vanguard, on Thursday, noted that Udeagbala will be working with Chamber Executives globally in supporting MSMEs in collaboration with ICC and contributing to the strategy to develop and reinforce chamber community. He will be representing Nigeria and indeed Africa at the global level to promote MSME developmen

As president of NACCIMA, Udeagbala has built bridges with chambers across the globe and formed formidable partnerships with Chambers of Commerce in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. He led a delegation of some Nigerian Chambers of Commerce members to the 12th World Chamber Congress (WCC-12) in Dubai where he recommended Global Fund purse to support Chambers across the world to mitigate emergency occurrences such as the effects of COVID 19, flooding and other consequences of Climate Change on businesses

Ide John C. Udeagbala NPOM, KSJI is the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of J. Udeagbala Holdings Nig. Ltd., a holding name for an indigenous conglomerate comprising six subsidiaries that operate as independent enterprises. He won the National Productivity Merit Award (NPOM), in the Business Productivity category, in 1996.

His quest for excellence has earned one of his company’s subsidiaries an award by the Central Bank of Nigeria as the Best SMEIS, 2008. He has also won the Excellence Award by the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB), 2015. He is a past president of the Aba Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ACCIMA) and currently serves on the board of Nigeria Customs Service, Tax Appeal Tribunal and 1st Deputy President of NACCIMA.

FG tasked to allow private sector lead Lekki logistics infrastructure

By Favour Nnabugwu



The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and  stakeholders in Free Trade Zones stakeholder to allow private sector to drive the development of logistics infrastructure for the Lekki business corridor.

Managing Director of NEPZA, Prof Adesoji Adesugba at the 2022 NEPZA Annual Free Trade Zone Meeting on Monday in Lagos.

The annual meeting is an avenue where Zone Managements, Chief Executives Officers of Enterprises in the zones, top management staff of the Authority and free zones stakeholders take stock of the successes and challenges of their operations.

Adesugba, also the Chief Executive Officer of NEPZA, explained that the Lekki part of Lagos was arguably the country’s most profitable economic gateway as it warehoused some of the potentially great free zones that would drastically turnaround the economic fortunes of the country in few years.

The NEPZA boss said the government’s evolvement in the construction of double carriage road along that axis was greatly commendable and acknowledged, but however, noted that the government would save its hard-earned resources if it could completely divest its stake to the private sector for efficiency and profitability.

“I would like to reiterate that the federal government will not want a repeat of the experience of the Apapa Port on the Lekki corridor when the Deep-Sea Port and the Dangote Refinery become operational.

“We are already getting late, but the government could quickly salvage the situation by allowing the private sector to deliver world class multi-facet logistics infrastructure for easy evacuation of goods and services.

“The area requires standard rail infrastructure and double carriage way for heavy duty vehicles servicing all the zones located in that corridor.’’ Adesugba said.

Furthermore, all the participants were in agreement with the NEPZA boss, as according to them, the huge investments that sit on that corridor will not make any significant impact on the economy in the absence of smooth link with the corridor.
Meanwhile, Adesugba expressed delight on the absolute support of the administration of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR that led to the Authority’s recorded success so far.

“Recall that the president at the just concluded 30th Anniversary of the Free Trade Zone in Nigeria and the 7th AEZO meeting publicly attested to the fact that NEPZA and the free zone scheme had positively contributed to the success and achievements of his economic policy.

“We are elated by this commendation and we can only be encouraged to do more to fast track the industrialization process.

“We have with the support of government, the zones’ management, and the staff of the authority, carried out a number of reforms and re-directed our strategy plan, resulting in the several successes we have recorded’’, he said.

The chief executive officer used the occasion to assure management of zones and other stakeholders of NEPZA’s readiness to continually protect their investments, adding that the Authority would assiduously work within its mandate to ensure that investors in the country’s free zone continued to harvest quality returns on their investments.