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Public-Private Partnerships will move agriculture forward in Africa – IITA

...As Sterling Bank reiterate commitment to partner operators

Sterling Bank Plc, Nigeria’s leading commercial bank, has reassured stakeholders in the agricultural value chain of its steady and unwavering support by pledging to partner with operators that are committed to the development of the sector in the country.

Bukola Awosanya, group head, Agric and Solid Minerals, Sterling Bank, disclosed this at the virtual Agriculture Summit Africa (ASA) held recently in Lagos and Abuja concurrently with the theme: ‘Fast Forward Agriculture: Exploiting the Next Revolution.’

Awosanya said the Bank would also provide advisory services and help farmers to develop their businesses in a way that their financial transactions and businesses improve profitability.

“Our goal is to ensure that the farmers experience minimal or no post-harvest losses by linking them directly with off-takers at the best prices for their produce,” she said.
She explained that digital solutions already developed by the Bank will enable farmers to have access to outlets where they can sell their produce at best prices.

She stated that the Bank had done a lot in the agricultural space such as pioneering the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and partnering with the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) to provide finance, advocacy and capacity building to farmers in a bid to ensure food security in the country.

Kwesi Atta-Krah, director of Advocacy and Country Alignment in the office of the IITA Director-General, in a keynote address, reiterated the need for private sector to partner with governments for agriculture to move forward on the continent.

He noted that Africa needs to invest more in research and innovations because such activities are critical for the desired revolution to occur in agriculture while strategic multi-sector partnerships are required for agric transformation and alignment.

Abubakar Bagudu, governor of Kebbi State, in his goodwill message, commended Sterling Bank for consistently hosting the agricultural summit in the last three years, remarking that it is turning out to be a significant gathering of stakeholders in Nigeria.

He said the revolution in agriculture has since started and is fast-moving, noting that this is now the golden era of agricultural development on the continent.

He added that Africa was fast becoming a destination for investors globally because government agencies support agriculture with laudable policies, adding that data management and artificial intelligence are critical for a revolution in Africa’s agricultural sector in a changing world.

Bagudu echoed the view of President Muhammadu Buhari that, “We must grow what we eat,” saying Nigeria needs to learn from countries such as Thailand and Bangladesh where resources are maximised to grow what they eat and for export, particularly rice.

Also, speaking, Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, said the state is focused on agro-industrialisation in a bid to replicate what Great Britain did during the Industrial Revolution of 1776.

He noted that agribusiness is the pathway to industrialisation of the state, with benefits of massive employment, and wealth creation among various social groups.

The governor said Cross River State had prioritised creation of opportunities by having several factories from garments, pharmaceuticals, noodles, frozen chicken processing, feedmill, organic fertilisers to rice milling.

A panel of discussants on Public Private Sector Partnership (PPP) noted that the government should be the enabler by formulating and implementing robust and investment friendly policies in the agricultural sector. Moderated by public policy expert, Tayo Aduloju, the panel had the contributions of Ade Adefeko, vice president, Corporate & Government Relations, OLAM Nigeria Limited; Jude Uzonwanne, MD, TUG Capital Partners, Inc.; Mallam Muazu, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Yohannes Assefa, director, Agriculture and Agribusiness, USAID East Africa Trade & Investment Hub.

According to the panel, government policies should assure investors that their investments would be safe and create a synergy that encourages and birth provision of infrastructure such as roads, storage facilities and energy, among others.

They noted that in its supportive capacity, the Nigerian government has put in place organs and agencies such as CBN, NIRSAL, BOA, BOI and that these organs should be harnessed for the growth and development of the agricultural sector.

They said the government should provide the enabling environment while the private sector should drive growth in the sector by working around some of the bottlenecks like port logistics, especially in Lagos.

The panel suggested the need to create a National Risk Register database and strategy, noting that since agriculture is problem solving, partnerships across board is very crucial in this aspect.

Another panel on building a sustainable ecosystem for smallholder farmers advised that the focus for creating sustainable ecosystem for smallholder farmers should be anchored by technology (digitisation), with a clear route to market by linking them to anchors and off-takers including a conducive environment to function as a business.

On the panel were Chidinma Lawanson, Country Rep, Mastercard Foundation; Segun Falade, GM, Golden Agric Inputs, Flour Mills; Chichi Aniagolu, Country Rep, Technoserve; Bukola Awosanya, Group Head, Agric Finance and Mineral Resources, Sterling Bank PLC and Kola Masha, MD, Babban Gona. The session was moderated by Prof Sani Miko, Country Director, Sasakawa.

The panelists suggested the need for training, access to credit facilities, access to quality and good seeds and other inputs by linking them to manufactures of certified seeds and agrochemicals, fertilizers and provision of storage facilities.

Others are consistent support, engagement with the smallholders through out-grower scheme and backward integration, irrigation facility while the government should be the driver due to the huge capital requirements needed for modern farming.

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