The African Development Bank’s board of directors have approved a $170 million loan to finance a newly-launched digital and creative enterprises programme in Nigeria.

The investment in Digital and Creative Enterprises Program (i-DICE) is an initiative by the Federal Government of Nigeria to promote investment in digital and creative industries. It targets more than 68 million citizens aged 15 to 35 years who are recognized as leaders of innovative, early-stage, technology-enabled start-ups or as leaders of creative sector micro, small and medium sized enterprises.

The program is also part of the country’s efforts to build back better, greener, and more inclusively, and create more sustainable jobs as the government targets a shift from reliance on fossil fuel industries.

“Governments have a much greater role than just policy making. They need to be innovative and create an enabling environment that includes infrastructure and de-risking to harness private sector investments in key growth sectors,” said the African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, who is also Nigerian.

Bank financing of i-DICE will help the government initiative further consolidate Nigeria’s position as Africa’s leading start-up investment destination and as a youth entrepreneurship hub.

“This program is among the latest series of our operations meant to bolster the implementation of the Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy. Given that tech-enabled enterprises cut across all the economic growth sectors, the program’s focus on the digital sector will deepen Nigeria’s job creation efforts,” said Beth Dunford, Bank Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development.

The initiative will stimulate investments in 226 technology and creative start-ups and provide non-financial services to 451 digital technology and small and medium enterprises. The program is expected to create 6.1 million direct and indirect jobs, of which the Bank’s financing will support the creation of about 850,000 jobs.

The value added to the Nigerian economy connected to the program is estimated at $6.4 billion.

The program will also boost Nigeria’s venture capital market through independently managed funds focusing on digital and creative enterprise. These funds aim to attract an initial capitalization of $433 million in private and public sector financing.

“This program will generate significant economic benefits to Nigeria,” said Lamin Barrow, Director General of the Bank’s Nigeria Country Department.

“The program interventions will help respond to the challenges of youth employment in Nigeria, which could intensify without scalable interventions. I want to recognize the strong country ownership, under the leadership of Vice President Osinbajo,” he added.

The African Development Bank’s active portfolio in Nigeria comprises 57 operations across 30 public and 27 private sector operations, valued at about $4.61 billion.

The i-DICE program is co-financed by the Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB).

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