Experts Tasks FG On Prioritizing Food Security and Developing The Domestic Agric Value Chain

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Thursday,  September 24, 2020 / 5:20 PM / Bukola Akinyele  for WebTV / Header Image Credit: WebTVNG

 

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Experts have tasked the Federal Government of Nigeria to give top priority to developing a robust Agric Value-Chain that can guarantee food security in the country. This was part of the major takeaways from the 2020 Sterling Bank Agric Summit Africa which discussed the theme "Fast Forward Agriculture: Exploiting The Next Revolution".


In his opening remarks, the Technical Adviser to the Honorable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Richard Marc Mbaram, described the summit as an opportunity to engender increased productivity in the agricultural ecosystem. He believed there was a need to accelerate development across all fronts as it relates to agriculture.


The Chairman of Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Asue Ighodalo, giving his remarks said it was important to discuss Agriculture, considering the impact of the disruptions of COVID 19 on the global supply chain that has adversely affected economies.  


Speaking further, the Chairman cited the recent flooding experienced in Kebbi State which is posing a great risk in 2020 especially in the area of rice production.


For him, it was clear that the world has changed significantly and the way people interact and do business has been heavily impacted. He noted that businesses will change to a new normal that maybe revolutionary and need to look into the future.


He advocated for a process that enables the structuring and exploiting of the next agricultural revolution in the country.


According to Ighodalo, a vibrant, sustainable and resilient agricultural sub-sector is vital for Sub Sahara Africa's economic growth. He said, "Agricultural in Africa will grow in leaps and bounds, youth will be employed, manufacturing will be stimulated, technology will be attracted and Nigerian exports will be harnessed.


Asue Ighodalo said it was clear that the focus must be on agriculture as it had the potential to drive inclusive growth, engage unemployed youth and increase Nigeria's chances of becoming a productive economy.


He said the summit was inspired by the World Bank's projection that Agriculture in Africa will exceed $1trn in a decade in terms of obtaining access to adequate capital, electricity, good technology, appropriate seedlings and irrigated land to have value nutritious food.


According to him, the summit was designed to provide solutions to agelong challenges in mitigating the growth of agriculture all over the continent.  


"Our focus is bringing together policymakers, investors, development agencies, and value chain players across the continent to develop a roadmap for achieving the expected $1trn agricultural value chain by 2030".


On why Sterling Bank was hosting the summit the Board Chairman stressed that it was borne out of the belief that the private sector has a critical role to play to support the government of Africa harness agricultural output, eradicate hunger, create jobs and boost manufacturing. 


Delivering the goodwill message, His Royal Highness of Oniru HRM  Gbolahan Lawal commended Sterling Bank for leading the revolution in Agriculture and believed the theme of the event was apt and could not have been discussed at a better time.


He said, in 2020 no economy desirous of widespread and sustainable development can make progress without prioritizing agriculture. His Royal Majesty (HRM) Gbolahan Lawal speaking further stated that the theme for the year summit was a clarion call for stakeholders to intensify efforts and urgently scale up investments, innovation and human capital to make the next industrial revolution one that has a huge impact on the agro sector. 


The monarch believed the involvement of the private sector in Agriculture will also support the government's efforts to create employment opportunities in the country.  He called on stakeholders to collaborate and work on infrastructure development, sustainable livelihoods, environmentally-friendly innovation, tourism and culture of which agric plays a vital role to demonstrate the power of working together to save lives and impact people.


Dr. Martins Fregene the Director, Agriculture and Agro-Industry for the Africa Development Bank provided insight on how to fast forward the agricultural revolution in Nigeria and the African continent in general. He said, agriculture is re-echoing in the boardrooms of Nigeria's leading banks, which is now viewed as a business that attracts investments.


He said the Africa Development Bank (AfDB)during the pandemic announce a  $10bn covid19 rapid response facility to support African countries. Africa should not need food because the estimated 200m uncultivated land which 60% of Africans reside in, means the land must be transformed into a highly productive, profitable and sustainable breadbasket.


Dr. Apollos Nwafor Vice President, Policy & State Capability  Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)  said, Africa has the fastest-growing population globally and by 2050 Africa will have the largest workforce population globally. Food according to him will be a key driver for Africa's growth in the future even as agriculture will be viewed now more as a business.


He also acknowledged that there is a challenge of access to food and agricultural product. According to him, the fourth industrial revolution is looking at innovation and digital technology but there is a need to look into other segments of the Agro value chains. 


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"The Private sector needs to support the government and to invest in people, to strengthen the private sector as the focus is on SMEs that support agriculture in Africa which is the backbone of employment in Africa. We must invest in SMEs headed by women and make it grow and build resilience institutions, and to drive implementation to think about investment plans. He said inclusive transformation agriculture system is possible" Nwafor said.


The summit featured the first, panel session that discussed "The role of Technology and Data in Agriculture" which was moderated by  Seika Gatabaki, Mercy Corps AgriFin, who said the country needs to start a revolution around financial and services that is e-commerce amongst others.


Dr. Lavar Kurma of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said their target was to improve seed varieties that are grown on the continent. IITA was also concerned with crop production issues, and digital innovation to integrate local farmers.


Mr. Micheal Famoroti Chief Economist Stears said what needs to be done is to provide information for farmers, and investors at large. Also, to provide high-level data for investors on what crops to grow and also to market.


Ms. Nneka Eze a Partner at Dalberg said part of their project focused on digital technology and data for agriculture across the continent, and how women can invest in agriculture.


She suggested that technology needs to map and digitize land registration for community-based or individual land ownership.

 

Mr. Ayodeji Balogun, MD/CEO, Afex Commodities Exchange said they were working on solving the issues of access to finance, storage and the challenges they are working on is the market access and the biggest challenges are shared value. He said, in terms of Technology, AFEX is working on technology for inclusive Agric solutions for farmers.


The second panel focused on the "Role of Financial Intermediation in Agriculture" moderated by Mr. Femi Ogunjimi, Partner Cardinal Stone Equity Investment Ltd. Giving an overview of the theme, he said access to finance is critical for the growth of the agriculture sector.


He noted that financial intermediaries play a very important role in the flow of capital for agriculture. Speaking on the people that need financing in the agriculture sector he listed the following; Farmers & Agricultural entrepreneurs, Actors along the value chain, Rural infrastructural needs, and Research & Development.


Also, the Group Head of Agriculture and Solid Minerals, Sterling Bank Mrs. Bukola Awosanya restated the commitment of the bank to financing the agricultural sector. So far the financial institution according to her has devoted 10% of its loan book to the Agro sector.


The Director Development Finance Central Bank of Nigeria ably represented by Mr. Chinedu Ogbonnaya said agriculture is a critical mandate and CBN is interested in it. He said the primary reason for funding the Agric sector, was to provide support using monetary policy measures in partnership with fiscal policymakers to intervene in the sector.


Mr. Garuba Mohammed the Group Head Sterling Alternative Finance, said agriculture is at the forefront of real economic activities in Nigeria and according to him, the Sterling non-interest banking participation in the whole spectrum will directly support the agricultural sector. 


Also, Mr. Ezra Anyango from the Inclusive finance unit of AGRA in Nairobi said they are working on inclusive finance as the whole sector of the agricultural value chain requires financing.


The third-panel session discussed "The  Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture" and was moderated by Mr. Eze Nwakanma Head Agric NIRSAL. He said talking about climate and sustainability, the institution was aimed at driving economic growth through projects that make use of alternative energy.


Mr. Aliyu Ahmed a panelist at the third session from the National Space Reserve Development Agency said his institution was part of Nigeria's climate change research in the federal ministry of environment, supporting R & D.


Dr. Jubril Adeojo from SMEFunds Capital said the end game of agriculture is to provide food. For Mr. Segun Adaju CEO Consistent Energy Limited and President, Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria green finance and green bonds will catalyze investment. Ms. Justine Leigh-Bell CEO Climate Bond Network said Nigeria has proven to be a leader in transforming the agriculture sector on the Africa Continent.


In conclusion, the MD/CEO Sterling Bank Mr. Suleiman gave a vote of thanks and noted that the most valuable thing to do in the Agriculture ecosystem was to collaborate.


He acknowledged the effort of the government in providing an enabling environment for Agriculture but observed that it will also take the support of the private sector to drive it as a business with a functional ecosystem.


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