Kwara State on Tuesday signed two major agreements with the French government on strategic partnership involving the use of an innovation hub for knowledge transfer as well as development of the Lata grazing reserve for large-scale livestock production.
Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq signed the MoU on behalf of the state government, while the French Minister of State for Development, Francophonie and International Partnerships Dr. Chrysoula Zacharopoulou sealed the deal for the French side at a brief ceremony witnessed by several officials in Ilorin, including Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi, French Ambassador to Nigeria Mrs. Emmanuelle Blatmann, EU Ambassador Samuela Isopi, House of Assembly Speaker, Yakubu Danladi Salihu, and many lawmakers-elect, among others.
The MoU signing was followed by a brief inspection of the Dolby Studio-fitted Ilorin Visual Arts Centre, one of AbdulRazaq’s signature projects, which seeks to promote creative industry using cutting edge technology.
The French team was conducted round the Visual Arts Centre by Studio Contra’s Jefferey Ajei, who spoke on the varying facilities installed and the benefits they are meant to serve.
Speaking at the MoU signing, Zacharopoulou said she’s impressed by what she has seen in Kwara, calling the state a hub of human capital development and praising the Governor for his fine initiatives on education, youth empowerment, and gender inclusion policy.
She also said the Kwara State Agricultural Transformation Plan is a big boost for development in the state.
“French President Emanuel Macron is committed to partnerships with Nigeria and particularly Kwara State, which is a major hub for human capital development. We share the same values with Your Excellency. Our president has strong affection for this country and the Nigerian people.
“So, I can feel the energy, creativity, and the potential that this (state) offers. I look forward to discovering them with my visit. But today, agriculture is my main priority.
“In our relations with the African continent, we want to move beyond the state to state relations and develop links and develop ties between people. We want politicians to be involved and develop what is called a people to people relationship. We want to work together. We want to learn from you as you are going to learn from us. This is a big challenge. The challenges are common, and the solutions will be common.
“I am very happy and honoured to sign these important pacts with the governor for agriculture and the cultural industry. The first partnership that we will sign is related to agriculture because France is a major agriculture country. We have major expertise in this field, and we are willing to support all partners to strengthen agricultural production. We know that your country, in particular this region, is confronted with the issue of climate change just like around the world.
“We know that you have a big ambition through your agricultural transformation plan, and this plan could make a major contribution to livestock development, job creation, and living standards. It could also greatly contribute to peaceful coexistence and can also become a model for other states. So, we are delighted to support you on this matter.
“The French Development Agency invests a lot in rural infrastructure in this region. I am very happy with this signing ceremony of Memorandum of Understanding between the government of Kwara State and the French consulting company BRLI, which kicks off partnership in the modernisation of Lata Grazing Reserve.
“This project will strengthen efforts to improve milk and meat production as well as livestock productivity and marketing of these products. It will also improve the quality and quantity of animal feeds and water. It will improve animal health. It will contribute to the improvement of the agricultural output of Kwara State and the lives of its citizens.
“This will lead to a strong synergy between France and Nigeria agribusiness sector in the years to come.
“Our second new partnership is regarding francophonie. French, as I will say, is a language of opportunities. It is a language of culture and business. Those who learn French will get better access to jobs and social mobility. It is also a way to think. I know there are many Nigerians who speak French, and they have opportunities in various sectors such as economy, songs, and diplomacy. Our language creates links for nations of like 88 countries across the world. It also creates opportunities for dialogue and peace that is very important in this region,” she said.
The Governor, for his part, said: “This event shows that doors are open to the world. We are happy to have, for the first time, a high-ranking team led by the Minister visiting the state. This is just the beginning. We will open our doors wider for greater investments and visitations. Ilorin, for the first time, is gracing a jet belonging to the President of France, and this has its symbolic importance.
“We share a lot in common with the ideas of the French leader, Emmanuelle Macron, especially in youth and gender engagement. We truly buy into it, especially at the level of leadership. It is not just to encourage women but to put them in a position of leadership so that they can make the right decision especially in the education development, technology, commercial agriculture and sustainable development goals (SDGs).
“We will continue to push and develop in that manner. Many people did not know that Alliance Francais exists in Ilorin. Like the Minister has said, French is a language of opportunities, and as you can see, all the countries that surround Nigeria all speak French. So that is where opportunities can come to us.
“We also want to take the best advantage of innovation in agriculture to improve the yield in that sector. We want to be competitive in agriculture, technology, and youth. So your visit is really a game changer. You might not know the impact of the Lata Grazing Reserve you are trying to do. Lata was established more than sixty years ago. Not much has been happening there, but with our cooperation now, we will be able to do something big there. The reserve, when developed, will help check the conflicts between farmers and herdsmen.”
The delegation also visited the Innovation Hub and the Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute in Ilorin.