Asue Ighodalo, Chairman, board of directors, Sterling Bank Plc, has identified five core areas that should be articulated in the quest to transform the agricultural sector in Nigeria and on the African continent.
The chairman stated this in his address at the virtual Agriculture Summit Africa (ASA) organised by Sterling Bank with the theme: Fast forward agriculture: exploiting the next revolution,” which held with synchronised broadcast studios from Lagos and Abuja.
According to him, to be able to effectively transform the agricultural sector, feed the continent’s growing population, boost its economies, create massive employment for millions of young and not so young people as well as absorb the shocks of the on-going pandemic, the involvement of key stakeholders across public and private sectors in developing the right policies to aid the growth of the agribusiness value chain must increase.
Ighodalo urged governments in sub-Saharan Africa 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 smallholder farmers, to modernise 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, and identifying necessary adjustments to deliver growth despite these climate changes.
Also speaking, managing director/CEO of the bank, Abubakar Suleiman, noted that government could only help to kick-start the revolution while it was the responsibility of private sector players to come together to make a success of it.
He said the government has put in place processes, finances, and researches to start the revolution in the agricultural sector and it is now about commercialising 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 had been better than the previous one, adding that one of the outcomes from the first summit had been the bank’s commitment to fund the Nigerian Farmers Radio which has become a successful platform for disseminating information to rural farmers. The bank, he said, intends to enhance the platform so that more farmers could have access to information.
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, remarked that agriculture remained his passion; adding that the vision of AfDB post-COVID-19 was how to build a better, stronger and more resilient agricultural sector in the African continent.
Adesina, who was represented by Martin Fregene, director of agriculture and agro-industry of AFDB, 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,” Adesina said.
He said the continental bank had responded two years ago by launching the Feed Africa Initiative, which was an ambitious programme that takes a value chain approach to developing agriculture on the continent.
Adesina said as part of Feed Africa, the continental 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.