Ighodalo sees fresh opportunities in AfCFTA
Chairman of Sterling Bank Plc, Asue Ighodalo, has described the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a rare opportunity to transform the region’s agriculture value chain and trade.
Ighodalo said this in Lagos, while addressing participants at the fourth edition of the Agriculture Summit Africa (ASA) hosted by Sterling Bank in partnership with Saro Africa, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited, Leadway Assurance among others.
He explained that AfCFTA would achieve the objective of fostering agricultural transformation and advancement in the continent and leapfrog Africa in its efforts to promote food security and competitiveness.
“It is unacceptable and ironic for Africa to lack home-grown agricultural produce and battle with food insecurity in the midst of fertile and arable land across the continent,” he lamented.
According to him, when Sterling Bank started ASA four years ago, it was created as an advocacy platform to proffer solutions to the challenges facing the sector as well as rebuilding the sector as a growth driver.
Ighodalo said: “In the last three years our bank has paid specific attention to and concentrated resources on health, education, agriculture, renewable energy and transportation. These sectors, when put together, represent the heart of Sterling Bank and, either by design or fortuitously, agriculture has been and remained the heart of the strategy.”
The bank chairman noted that ASA had become much more than a summit for the bank as “it is now one of the major sources of providing powerful suggestions to drive the wheel of inclusive growth in Africa, create employment, reduce poverty and provide a strong base for the manufacturing sector”.
He said agriculture, despite numerous challenges, remained the largest sector in Nigeria contributing an average of 24 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP) from 2013 till 2019.
Improved access to markets within the region, he said, would help Africa achieve food security.
According to him, with the right trade policies coupled with scalable innovation and technology, Nigeria’s agribusiness sector could be transformed to feed the continent’s growing population and create decent jobs for the youths.
Also speaking, Group Managing Director of Saro Africa, Rasheed Sarumi, said the summit came at a time the country was faced with numerous challenges, adding that agriculture, if given the required attention, could salvage the economy.
He stressed that the sector needed to be highly innovative to meet the expectations of relevant stakeholders amidst the ruins of COVID-19.
Sarumi said: “Innovation can solve problems, attract good capital and address consumers’ pain.”