Ecobank, Vanguard Agribusiness Summit Explores Food Security Through Digitization


Monday, June 07, 2021 / 9:00 AM / Ayomide Oguntoye for WebTV / Header Image Credit: WebTV

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Ecobank of Nigeria in conjunction with Vanguard, recently hosted a virtual agribusiness summit which had as its theme, "Digitizing the Agricultural Value Chain for Unlocking Productivity, Economic Growth and Food Security".

Carol Oyedeji, Executive Director, Ecobank, delivering her opening remarks projected that agricultural technology would be used to solve low productivity within the agriculture food chain.

She believed the role of developmental partners and international agencies in driving funding and investments would be critical across the agricultural sector.

According to her the future is digital and agriculture is not immune to the changes in the innovation age, so new technology exists with the potential to extend the reach of financing and product diversity to small models and MSMEs across all agribusiness value chains.

With the exponential penetration of mobile network to rural areas, she said that mobile solutions leverage on this coverage to help more farmers scale up in their business by improving yields, and connecting them to the market supply chains, thus addressing food security, adaptation and resilience to the climate change.

She recommended that, identified and prioritized value chains must be digitized for Nigeria to unlock her full agricultural potential.

Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria highlighted that the bank has contributed to capacity building and empowerment of farmers and agribusinesses in terms of finance, which is in accordance with the Central Bank's policy.

In terms of access to finance, the Ecobank Nigeria Managing Director mentioned that the bank has set aside N70 bn which is in partnership with NIRSAL for participation in the agricultural sector, Speaking on access to market, he mentioned that the bank is in full support of export and with the AfCFTA, hoped for a larger uptake and participation of the agricultural sector in the export drive of Nigeria, with products such as shea butter, arabic gum, coconut oil, sesame seeds, soya, maize, rice, livestock and poultry. He believed that Nigeria can achieve the status of the largest export powerhouse known for exporting processed agricultural products.

Giving further insight he said with the projection of the agribusiness sector reaching $1trn by 2025, driven by the continent's rapidly growing middle class, therefore the potential of tapping into the historically driven value chain is very significant.

Speaking further he noted that digital agricultural transformation has been described as  the paradigm shift, that will enable agriculture meet and invariably surpass the need of the growing population in Nigeria and Africa at large. 

Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director-General, Partnership for Delivery, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in his keynote address noted that the private sector, governments, developmental organizations and the donor communities are increasingly depending on digital technologies to unleash the potential of rural economies and bridge value chains for enhanced profitability.

He emphasized on the importance for digital education in schools and the need to be introduced early. He stated that the use of digital technology in teaching agriculture in schools should be incorporated in the learning curriculum.

Speaking on policies, he suggested that the government should view the private sector as an important partner that can help with the needed investments including in infrastructure. The government needs to facilitate the process by creating an enabling pro-private sector environment for technologies.

Digital technologies increase speed with which information is shared and provide opportunities, therefore there is a need to make necessary infrastructure investments needed to keep them up.  

Aliyu Abdulhameed, CEO, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) speaking on investments enhancers highlighted four major productivity-enhancing factors to attaining food security; finance capital, equipment capital, technology capital and the human capital.

He pointed out that technology capital presents a pathway to addressing diverse value chain challenges that limit productivity and constrain food security and Nigeria can adopt technology within its agricultural value chains to leverage latent agriculture production potentials and drive productivity.

According to Abdulhameed, to improve productivity and build value chain resilience, Nigeria must provide enabling structures to address underlying factors in adopting suitable agricultural technologies.

Akin Alabi, Co-founder, Corporate Farmers International, in his remarks suggested the need for an agritech hub which will serve as a focal point for agritech activity within the ecosystem.

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