Nigeria is rolling out its first national social-welfare program modeled partly on Brazil’s Bolsa Familia in a bid to boost a weak economy and curb poverty by giving cash to its poorest citizens and ensuring their children go to school.
The government of Africa’s most-populous nation is investing 500 billion naira ($1.5 billion) in the initiative this year and is talking to the World Bank about a $500 million loan, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed said in an interview in the capital, Abuja. Launched in December, the program is initially targeting about 1 million households starting in eight of Nigeria’s 36 states. The government expects that reducing poverty will have a knock-on effect for the rest of the economy, she said.
“It increases money in the hands of people,” Ahmed said. “It means they are contributing towards consumption and an increase in consumption is desirable because it now encourages producers to produce more and as producers produce more it means they are able to employ more people.”
As in Brazil, Nigeria’s plan requires cash-transfer beneficiaries to fulfill two conditions: keep their children in school and immunize them. It also includes providing school meals, short-term job training for graduates, loans at below-market rates to 1.6 million potential entrepreneurs, grants for science and technology students and low-cost housing.
The state will use biometric systems to register beneficiaries, and will make transfers into bank accounts that are opened for families’ caregivers, Ahmed said.
President Muhammad Buhari’s administration seems committed to make it a success, said Esili Eigbe, the head of Nigerian equities at Exotix Capital.
“Other administrations tried to do this before, but not with the kind of determination of Buhari’s administration,” Eigbe said by phone from the commercial capital, Lagos. “The enormous political will and a strong partner in the World Bank shows their determination to do it.” […]