February 14, 2020 / 11.33AM / Bukola Akinyele for WebTV / Header Image Credit: Ecobank
Pan-African financial services group Ecobank has restated its commitment to developing a robust agribusiness value chain in Nigeria.
The Group Chief Executive Officer of Ecobank Transnational International (ETI) Mr. Ade Ayeyemi, disclosed this at the maiden Agribusiness and Food Summit in Lagos, which focused on the theme "Unlocking productivity and investment opportunities across Nigeria's agribusiness value chain" that brought together key stakeholders in the ecosystem.
Mr. Ade Ayeyemi believed that success in the Nigerian agro-industry meant the ability for the sector to feed 200m people and create millions of jobs and business opportunities.
According to him, it also provides the opportunity for the country to be productive as an economy and reduce its demand for foreign exchange for food imports.
He noted that the summit was a platform for thought-leaders and industry experts to explore how to derive value from agri-business.
At the regional level, Mr. Ayeyemi said Ecobank has been working with various governments and businesses within its footprint to provide support in harnessing and mining value from the huge natural resources across the continent.
The Minister of State for Agriculture Alhaji Mustapha Baba Shehuri, who represented the Cabinet Minister Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono in his message, said, "The aim of this summit is indeed very apt as it would contribute on creating a sustainable economy through the development of rural agricultural enterprises. It is gladdening that this forum has brought together small-holders, input dealers, agro-processors, development finance agencies, policymakers and the captains of industries under one roof to discuss the problems and challenges facing the sector, with the view to finding solutions and way forward".
Alhaji Shehuri stressed that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari seeks to position the agricultural sector as a pilot for economic stabilization, diversification and growth in the country. Indeed, the sector is a major contributor to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), contributing about 27 percent to the GDP and the biggest in job creation in the non-oil sector.
The Minister of State, Agriculture, also announced that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is promoting and supporting the development of special agro-industrial processing funds, in collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB) for value addition, import substitution, job creation and developing a viable international market.
He said commitment and support would continue in the areas of promoting foreign and local enterprises to advance the level of credit and investment in agriculture as a veritable step to diversify the economy.
The MD/CEO of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan, said the bank plans to disburse an additional loan of N70bn for practitioners in the industry and across the agricultural value chains within the next two years.
He said this was part of the Ecobank Agriculture Business Finance Scheme designed to grow the sectoral contribution to the economy.
Speaking further, Mr. Akinwuntan said, "For us at Ecobank, we see the convergence of agriculture and financial inclusion in Nigeria. Hence, we are constantly striving to ensure a financial application is available to every Nigerian."
Keynote speaker Dr. Andrew Nevin, the Chief Economist, made a strong case for Nigeria to focus on measuring its achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs and avoid being overly fixated on the Growth Domestic Product, GDP.
According to him, the Agric sector has contributed over 25% to the GDP of Nigeria since 2017and employs nearly half of the total labour force of the country. In terms of estimation, Dr. Nevin said the sector will grow at 3.4% in 2019 from 2.1% in 2018.
He emphasized the need for Nigeria to address productivity in its agribusiness sector as the nationâ€™s food import bill as of 2018 stood at N1.4trn, whereas food exports were N302m representing a deficit of N1.1trn in the period under review.
Nevin reiterated his call for a reform of the land use policy in the country, which will serve as an enabler for boosting agro activities, especially in the area of crop production.
"Nigeria should be producing more food than it is currently doing, and a deliberate initiative such as this should be taken more seriously," Nevin said.
The economist also noted that investments in Agritech companies were vital to achieving innovation and transformation in the sector and acknowledged firms like Farmcrowdy and Agromail, who are both providing immense support to farmers and the development of agribusiness in Nigeria.
The event also featured an exhibition tour with the Minister of State for Agriculture, Alhaji Shehuri, and the MD/CEO of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Akinwuntan, participating.
There was also a robust panel session at the event to discuss unlocking the potentials for increasing agro productivity across the nation.