As Nigeria swims in debt: any hope for the future?

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Shubham Chaudhuri

The World Bank has approved a fresh $700 million loan for Nigeria to enhance adolescent girls’ learning and empowerment. It made this known in a statement published on its website on Friday 22 September 2023. The new loan will provide additional funds for an ongoing project known as the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment.

“The World Bank approved additional financing of $700m for Nigeria to scale up the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment programme, whose goal is to improve secondary education opportunities among girls in targeted states. The additional financing will scale up project activities from the current seven states to eleven additional states and increase the targeted beneficiaries to include out-of-school girls, those who are married, and those who have disabilities,” it said.

The bank noted that Nigeria had more than 12 to 15 million out-of-school children in the school-age group, with many of them in Northern Nigeria. Accordingly, the World Bank added that an estimated one million children were affected by increased insecurity around schools in 2020-2021.

“In the seven AGILE programmes implementing states – Borno, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, and Plateau – the number of girls in secondary schools has increased from about 900,000 to over 1.6 million. Under the programme, over 5,000 classrooms have been renovated, and over 250,000 eligible girls have received scholarships. The AGILE programme has supported the construction and rehabilitation of WASH facilities in secondary schools and the installation of computers and solar panels, making attending school more convenient and conducive for girls and boys. Life skills, systems strengthening, and advocacy are other key aspects of the program which address social norms impeding girls’ education,” it added.

The World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, stated the importance of closing gender gaps by ensuring girls have access to education and skills. “Closing the gender gaps in economic empowerment by ensuring that girls have access to education and skills is key for Nigeria’s development and economic prosperity”, he said.

It will be recalled that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration got a $750 million loan from the World Bank on 9 June 2023, to boost Nigeria’s power sector. Also, the government secured another $500 million loan from the World Bank to help Nigeria drive women’s empowerment, and it was approved on 22 June 2023.

Altogether, Nigeria has taken $1.95bn World Bank loans in 3 months between June and September 2023 under the Tinubu administration.  The loan is financed by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which would provide $449 million, and the International Development Association which would provide $301 million. The Bank said: “Nigeria has the world’s largest absolute electricity access deficit. Lack of access to the electricity grid affects 45 per cent of the population (90 million people), making Nigeria the country with the largest number of people not connected to electricity. As such, Nigeria accounts for 12 per cent of the global access deficit.”

Some days later, the Bank approved a $500 million loan to address women’s economic empowerment issues under the Nigeria for Women Program Scale Up (NFWP-SU).  According to the bank, the loan would help women improve women’s livelihoods, ensure better economic opportunities, education, and health and build women’s communities’ resilience to climate change. The World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, said, “We have seen promising outcomes from the parent NFWP, which has helped to create economic opportunities for thousands of rural women through the Women Affinity Groups. NFWP’s model is helping to improve livelihood opportunities for women, enhancing their capacity to adapt to climate change and participating in local administrations for policymaking related to community empowerment.” Meanwhile, the media has reported how Nigeria’s indebtedness to the World Bank grew from $6.29 billion in 2015 to $13.46 billion in 2022. Also, the country’s public debt stock rose to N87.4 trillion in the second quarter of 2023, putting every Nigerian debt per capita at N396, 376.19. And Nigerians are anxious for an answer from the Federal Government. Is there hope in the future?

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