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Bank identifies public, private cooperation as core to agricultural transformation

By Guardian Nigeria
30 September 2020   |   3:02 am
Chairman, Board of Directors, Sterling Bank Plc, Asue Ighodalo, has identified five core areas that should be articulated in the quest to transform the agricultural sector in Nigeria and African.

Chairman of Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Asue Ighodalo

Chairman, Board of Directors, Sterling Bank Plc, Asue Ighodalo, has identified five core areas that should be articulated in the quest to transform the agricultural sector in Nigeria and African.

The Chairman stated this in his welcome address at the virtual Agriculture Summit Africa (ASA), organised by Sterling Bank, themed: Fast Forward Agriculture: Exploiting the Next Revolution,” with synchronized broadcast studios from Lagos and Abuja.
Ighodalo stressed the need for the involvement of key stakeholders across public and private sectors in developing the right policies to aid the growth of the agribusiness value chain.

According to him, this is the only way to effectively transform the agricultural sector, feed the continent’s growing population, boost her economies, create massive employment for millions of its young and not so young people as well as absorb the shocks of the on-going pandemic.  

Ighodalo urged governments in sub-Saharan African economies to optimise the agricultural sector to attract sizeable investments that will help to drive expansion, and achieve global competitiveness as well as increase financing to key points of the value chain, particularly small holder farmers, to modernize their practices and increase outputs.

He stressed the need to focus on the role and impact of technology and data science in stimulating innovation in the value chain, and the need to understand the changing regional climate cycles, its impact on productivity, as well as identifying necessary adjustments to deliver growth despite these changes.

Also speaking, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Sterling Bank, Abubakar Suleiman, noted that the government can only help to kick-start the revolution, while private sector players can come together to make a success of it. 

He said the government has put in place the processes, finances and researches to start a revolution in the agricultural sector, and it is now about commercializing it, and making it possible for the individuals and businesses to benefit from it. 

Suleiman observed that Sterling Bank has been hosting the Agriculture Summit for three consecutive years, and every year has been better than the previous one. He added that one of the outcomes from the very first summit had been the Bank’s commitment to fund the Nigerian Farmers Radio, which has become a very successful platform for disseminating information to rural farmers.

He said the bank intends to enhance the platform so that more farmers could have access to information. In a keynote address, President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, remarked that agriculture remained his passion; adding that the vision of AfDB post COVID-19 is how to build a better, stronger and more resilient agricultural sector in the African continent.

Adesina, who was represented by Director of Agriculture and Agro-Industry of AFDB, Dr. Martin Fregene, noted that Africa should not be in need of food, adding that 60 percent of the estimated 200 million hectares of uncultivated land in the world resides in Africa. “Therefore, the African continent can be best described as the last frontier of agricultural development on the planet.

“We need to transform this land into a highly productive, profitable and sustainable breadbasket and for this we require food technologies which fortunately we have in abundance today. We also require technical know-how, finances, partnership with banks and enabling policies by governments, as they relate to landed property rights, debt trade policies, cross border trade and incentives such as low interest financing for land clearing and equipment purchases for primary producers.”

He said the AfDB had responded two years ago by launching the Feed Africa Initiative, which is a bold and ambitious programme that takes a value chain approach to developing agriculture on the continent. 

Adesina said as part of Feed Africa, the Bank had invested about half a billion dollars to scale new technologies to about 40 million farmers as well as worked with seed companies, researchers, farmers, input suppliers, governments to buy improved seed varieties and to ensure they get to farmers.

In his address, Vice President, Policy and State Capability, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Dr. Apollos Nwafor, observed that Africa is the main exporter of human resources, adding that the African Agricultural Transformation Agenda (AATA), is in tandem with the Sustainable Development Goal 2, which is Zero Hunger.  

He remarked that agriculture is the key to Africa’s development and the revolution in the sector would only happen through technology (digitization); building Agricultural Technology Hubs, SMEs support through de-risking financing, data system development that will be critical for decision making to grow and developing the sector by continuously monitoring and evaluating human resources.

Others are developing adaptation policies against shocks that may arise because of climate change, building resilient institutions and the implementation of the Think National Agricultural Investment Plan, adding that governance and leadership are key to agricultural revolution in the continent.