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How to secure agribusiness funding without banks, by Welcome2Africa

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Bamidele Seun Owoola

Miss Bamidele Seun Owoola is an entrepreneur. She is the founder/Managing Director of Welcome2Africa International, a firm that promotes investments in Nigeria and Africa, especially in the agro-allied industries. She spoke with Head of Agro-Economy, FEMI IBIROGBA at a workshop the company organized in Lagos, recently.

What is the business of Welcome2Africa?
Our vision is to catalyze finance and investments in Africa. But right now we are very much focused on agribusinesses. One of the main reasons for this is that I saw at a time that there was a disconnect between the opportunities and those that had an interest in the opportunities. There was an information gap.

One of the things we also found out was that quite often, many of the actors that could contribute solutions to the problems of Nigeria and Africa in the local and international scenes lack proper coordination.

For us, there are two things we are trying to achieve. One is to ensure that we provide the right information that will encourage those that want to invest. The second is by bringing together the key stakeholders.

Why are you so particularly interested in agriculture considering challenges in the sector now?
When we started the company, I spent some time looking at what challenges we faced in Nigeria and Africa at large and I found that agriculture was the most challenging sector. And wherever there are challenges, there are always more opportunities. As a matter of fact, agriculture has the biggest impact on the economic life and development of the country. And I think for us, it is very important, even though difficult, to start with a sector that has the most significant impact on society.And over the years, we have been very committed to the sector.

What exactly are stakeholders discussing today?
We are discussing value chain development and finance. By value chains, we mean from farm production all the way down to the market and the different stages and options in the value chains. One, we are talking about the challenges and the opportunities, and one unique thing about this particular workshop is that it actually represents opportunities. We are actually going to talk about life experiences from stakeholders so that participants can hear about the practical side of it.

Beyond this workshop, are you looking at attracting foreign investors to the agricultural sector?
We have been organizing workshops in Europe and we discovered that there is an interest in African agriculture. When we first started the company, the first ignorant perception I had was that there was no money in Nigeria. Then the most time I spent in Nigeria, there was an issue of unlocking that money.

You are optimistic that people are interested in African agriculture?
Oh! This is the way to go.

People in agriculture are faced with difficulties. How do you intend to cope, with this background information?
By organizing this seminar, it gives us a good position in the sense that it brings synergy and opportunities. It provides specific services, financial information, match-making opportunities, access to insurance and markets. One of the things we really want to strengthen is understanding our business.

The interest rate in agribusiness financing is not sustainable at 20-30 percent. Are investors going to cope with high-interest rate?
We have been organizing seminars around the world and we have discovered other cheaper ways of financing agricultural businesses. There are private equities, placements, crowdfunding, grants and technical assistance because some do not need money but technical assistance. So, for us, we also want to highlight the possibilities across the space of financing.


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Bamidele Seun Owoola
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