To achieve food security for the growing city population, integration between stakeholders in the government and private sectors needs to be enhanced through a sustainable system that ensures accessibility of data to relevant players along the value chain for proper financing of different segments in the agricultural sector.
This was a major point of note at the close of a webinar held on Tuesday, August 25, 2020, courtesy of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
Themed “Leveraging Agribusiness Investment Opportunities in Nigeria to Feed the Cities (The Role of Private Sector)”, the forum featured participants who discussed investment opportunities available at the Agribusiness Deal room session for the upcoming African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) Summit 2020.
Mrs. Vanessa Adams, Vice President Strategic Partnerships and Chief of Party, PIATA in her speech underlined the urgency for a call to integrate globally to ensure food security.
”There is a huge change in interest and awareness globally for food systems to be inclusive and integrated,” she stated, adding that the private sector cannot work alone in ensuring food security, and that government policies have to be implemented to create an enabling environment for players along the value chain to work and ensure supply of food.
She encouraged stakeholders to participate in the upcoming Africa Green Revolution Forum-Agribusiness Deal Room, a platform for integration between potential investors and players along the value chain.
The forum featured a team of panelists comprising Mr. Kola Adeniji, Chairman/Managing Director Niji Group; Mr. Ayodeji Balogun, CEO, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited; Mrs. Bukola Awosanya, Group Head, Agricultural Finance & Solid Minerals, Sterling Bank Plc; and Mr. Emmanuel Adesina, Director, Investment Promotion, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), the moderator of the session.
They explored various challenges Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the agricultural sector face in making nutritious food available to the increasing city population and how these can be addressed through properly targeted funding in various segments of the value chain. The challenges, they said, are multifaceted and cuts across various sectors of the economy, adding that it will take the integration of various stakeholders to address the prevailing issues.
Keynote speaker, Mrs. Ndidi Nwuneli, CEO-Sahel Consulting and Member, Board of Directors, AGRA, emphasised the commitment of SMEs to solve nutritional challenges in the country and the current trends militating against the goal.
She noted: “There are SMEs committed to solve food insecurity problems in Nigeria such as AACE, Dangote, and more but COVID-19 has brought more challenges and they are struggling with access to funding, limitation of data.”
She added that investments must be made in data and traceability to ensure availability and accessibility of nutritious food and price stability in the system. This, she said, would be achieved through strategic partnership with standardisation organisations such as SON and NAFDAC to not only ensure that food is supplied but nutritious food is made accessible to consumers.
In aspect of partnership, she suggested that the private sector should have advisory think tanks to work with the government to track availability and accessibility of nutritious food, and the co-operation of all sectors while moral standards are upheld to ensure food security.
“We need Commissioners in Education (to equip the work force appropriately), Finance, Trade & Investment not just in Agriculture…. we need transparency, commitment, integrity,” Nwuneli said.
To ensure that sustainable agriculture is achieved through proper investments in appropriate areas, Mr. Kola Adeniji explained the roles of stakeholders in the Agricity Model. He stated that the model was built with a passion for agriculture, which is targeted at minimising cost in the agricultural sector.
“The cost burden is shared across different investors who have readily available inputs for investment. The model does not only serve as a pathway to strategic investment but also enhances sustainable agricultural production and benefits players across different aspects of the value chain,” he said.
Mr. Ayodeji Balogun, CEO, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited, commented on the need to create a sustainable structure to ensure availability of sufficient financial resources in the sector.
According to him, we need to have multiple players to unlock liquidity for participants along the value chain, just as AFEX Commodities Exchange is currently doing. He emphasised that inclusiveness of youths/mentorship programmes would be pivotal in ensuring a more competitive ecosystem. He stated that capital, knowledge, talent, productivity, and business models must be put in place to achieve a good system in the sector.
Mrs. Bukola Awosanya, Group Head, Agricultural Finance & Solid Minerals, Sterling Bank Plc., disclosed that Sterling has committed 10% of its loan books to agriculture and that this would be implemented through various packages for players along the value chain.
The packages, she added, vary from Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme to help youths to Sterling Mechanisation Scheme. She said that a digitisation strategy, which was targeted to build resilience in the agricultural sector during the lock down, was implemented to ensure that agro-dealers have access to finance within five minutes.
Furthermore, Sterling was committed to ensure food security during the COVID-19 era by reducing interest rate on loans to 5%, disclosed Awosanya.