Last year, Nigeria's newly-elected president set forth a seven-step agenda to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals and turn Nigeria into a top-20 industrialized nation by 2020. But this will be no easy task. Nigeria's wealth inequality is among the worst in Africa - a situation illustrated by the contrast between the nation's substantial oil wealth and a poverty rate of around 50%. Nigeria's National Poverty Eradication Program (NAPEP) responded to this challenge in December by launching an ambitious conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, In Care of the Poor (COPE). The COPE program takes an innovative twist on conventional and increasingly popular CCT programs in place around the world. The program not only provides cash transfers, but also skills training and micro-enterprise start-up funds to households in exchange for enrolling and keeping their children in school and providing for their basic health care needs. Even with its community-driven and microfinance elements, what potential does the program have to enhance livelihoods and empower Nigeria's future generations? What hurdles must it overcome in order to succeed? What U.S. partnerships and resources could be mobilized to support the development of the program? Coupled with other poverty eradication initiatives, does COPE hold the promise to meet the President's goals of increasingly access to education, health and food security and providing jobs and micro-credit to the poorest of the poor? And what lessons does this approach offer other countries in their fight against poverty?
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