Lagos, Nigeria – The Nigerian government is hosting the third economic summit in its history and the first since the outbreak of the world’s worst pandemic, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.
Nigeria is hosting a regional meeting of the Economic Council of the African Union, the main grouping of African countries in the region, as well as the meeting of its regional development committee.
“We’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made on the agenda and how we have worked together to deliver the economic agenda, as promised by the president and by all members of the government,” said Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
The economic summit is the first of its kind for the continent, and follows a four-day summit in July that was overshadowed by the Ebola outbreak.
At the start of the conference, Mr Buhariam told delegates that the agenda included a new focus on economic growth, including a priority of building jobs and boosting investment.
In a speech, he promised that the economy would “rise again, stronger and healthier than ever”.
“It will rise once again, to deliver better opportunities and a better life for every Nigerian, with more opportunities for our women, girls and boys to fulfil their dreams, and to secure a better future for our children and grandchildren,” he said.
There will be four sessions, the first with finance ministers and the second with ministers from the five-member regional development group, the Economic and Social Council (ESDC).
The meeting is expected to include discussions on a $4.2bn loan package to finance a new infrastructure programme, a $2.5bn package for infrastructure and other investments and a $1bn loan for a new food safety plan.
Mr Buharia also announced a $3bn plan to provide more jobs for women, including women-only manufacturing, a new national health plan and the creation of 1,000 new jobs for African women.
While the economic summit does not include any action on the Ebola crisis, he said he was looking forward to meeting leaders from the Ebola-hit countries.
A number of African nations have said they would like to participate in the economic forum, but the African nations were not invited to join the meeting.
On Monday, Nigeria’s Finance Minister Nana Njoroob, who was in Lagos with the president, said the conference was not meant to be a political forum.
He said it was “not about political parties” but a forum that would provide opportunities for the African countries to contribute to the agenda.
“We have been asked for our help in building infrastructure and the national health agenda, and we have not hesitated to provide that.
But we need to know that our cooperation is needed on other issues as well,” he told reporters.
Despite the pandemic crisis, Lagos has had relatively good economic conditions, according to the World Bank.
It said the annual GDP growth rate in Nigeria, which has the world’ biggest economy, rose by 6.4% in the year to the end of September.
But, in a separate report, the organisation said there was evidence of the emergence of “a new economic model” in the country, particularly in manufacturing.
Last year, the annual growth rate for Nigeria was 5.7%.
“Despite the Ebola pandemic and other challenges, Nigeria remains a highly mobile and dynamic economy,” it said.
“With a global economy, Nigeria is in a position to absorb the challenge of Ebola and other emerging global challenges.”
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