The Agricultural Summit fits into the African Union’s goal to drive Intra-African trade enunciated in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), reports Daniel Essiet
The oft-repeated declaration that Nigeria is the giant of Africa is mainly due to its abundant human and natural resources. Indeed, the country is so blessed with vast arable land to the extent that experts have regularly expressed the view that Nigeria has the potential to feed its teeming population and the rest of Africa if the agriculture sector is properly harnessed.
Nonetheless, the potential of the agriculture sector has remained largely untapped despite its capacity for employment generation, food security and poverty reduction in the country. But there is hope that the drive to achieve a hunger-free Nigeria remains a feasible one.
Sterling Bank has taken up the challenge of addressing issues preventing the agriculture sector from attaining its full potential through Agriculture Summit Africa holding in Abuja, from the 5th to 6th of September 2019.
The theme of the continental summit which seeks to transform Nigeria into a global leader in food production, processing and marketing is “Agriculture – Your Piece of The Trillion-Dollar Economy”.
A timely initiative, the continental summit is convened to address the future of agriculture in Nigeria and Africa at a point the continent is becoming a single market with over 1.2 billion people through the Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) treaty.
Addressing the media in Lagos on Agriculture Summit Africa which will bring together policy makers, development agencies, international finance institutions and value chain players on the continent, Yemi Odubiyi, Executive Director, Corporate and Investment Banking, Sterling Bank, said it will address the issues preventing the very important sector from attaining its potential because food security on the continent has become a critical issue.
Odubiyi disclosed agrarian land are becoming increasingly desolate in the face of climate change and rapid population growth making food security a big challenge. Using Nigeria with population estimated at 200 million as an example, he emphasized Africa’s food security challenge by pointing out that the country’s annual population growth rate of 3 percent outstrips economic growth rate at less than 3 percent.
“Agriculture is the focus of the government of the day in Nigeria, and it is one that has been well chosen. It will be difficult to stabilise the country until the food security challenge is addressed, and we very much appreciate the initiatives of all stakeholders addressing this same issue. We are very happy to make this our contribution to that effort. Agriculture Summit Africa will address food security and the other big problem which is job creation for young people. We all know the capacity to generate jobs that agriculture has and we believe that by supporting the sector, we will be contributing a great deal to solving the unemployment problem in Nigeria”, Odubiyi remarked.
He added that his bank is in a unique position because of the H.E.A.R.T of Sterling Project which makes agriculture the centerpiece of its specialised focused sectors in Nigeria. “We have over the last nine years developed the leading agriculture finance business in Nigeria with about 10 per cent of our loan book in the sector. And that preceded the government policy on lending to the agriculture sector. We also are aware of Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) treaty which took Nigeria some time to endorse.
“From a market of about 200 million, we suddenly face a potential market of 1.2 billion people if we know what we are doing as a country. We can export agricultural products to other African countries, not just to Europe and that’s what getting a piece of Africa’s $1 trillion agribusiness economy is all about. Working with all other stakeholders, Sterling can help build farming businesses from small land holders to very large, sophisticated operations that help enhance food security in Nigeria.”
The bank’s pedigree in agriculture financing is impeccable. It is oneof the first commercial banks in the country to participate in the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) for smallholder farmers in Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna, Ogun and Oyo states in partnership with development financial institutions such as DFID-PropCom and DFID-MADE. Sterling Bank is deeply involved in the funding of vital agricultural projects across the country.
Also speaking, Bukola Awosanya, Group Head, Agriculture and Export, Sterling Bank, explained that the first agriculture summit organised by the bank last year brought together smallholder farmers, input suppliers, agro-processing entrepreneurs, development finance agencies, policy makers and captains of industry in Abuja. According to her, the 2018 summit focused on co-creating a sustainable Nigerian economy through rural agricultural enterprise.
“This year, we have raised the bar by unveiling the Agriculture Summit Africa, which is a more ambitious attempt at addressing issues preventing agribusiness in Africa from attaining their full potential,” she said. She added that it should surprise no one that Sterling Bank and its partners are leading the charge to address the issues facing agribusiness on the continent.
She said Sterling Bank has helped a lot in developing the country’s agriculture value chain, adding the bank is a thought leader and the preferred lender for smallholder farmers, agribusinesses, input suppliers and other players in the local agricultural value chain.
“We are quite proud of our huge intervention in the agriculture value chain which is creating food security, stimulating job creation, while also enhancing the income of farmers in agrarian such as states Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna, Bauchi, Ogun, Imo andFCT Abuja, among others.”