By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Ahead of the African Green Revolution Forum, AGRF, Summit 2020, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA, and stakeholders on Thursday, brainstormed on how to solve challenges facing Small and Medium Scale Enterprises’, SMEs’ challenges in the agricultural sector.
This was during a Webinar that focused on, ‘Leveraging Agribusiness Investment Opportunities in Nigeria to Feed the Cities’ (The Role of Private Sector)’ which stakeholders discussed investment opportunities available at the Agribusiness Deal room session for the upcoming AGRF Summit 2020.
They raised concerns over many challenges that have negatively impacted the SMEs in making nutritious food available to the increasing city population and how these can be addressed through properly targeted funding in various segments of the value chain.
According to them the challenges are multifaceted and cuts across various sectors of the economy and it will take the integration of various stakeholders to address the prevailing issues.
They also pointed out that to achieve food security for the growing city population, integration between stakeholders in the government and private sectors need to be enhanced through a sustainable system that ensures accessibility of data to relevant players along the value chain for proper financing of different segments in the agricultural sector.
Speaking on the issues on SMEs’ challenges in food production, the Vice President Strategic Partnerships and Chief of Party, PIATA, Vanessa Adams, pointed out that there is an urgency for a call to integrate globally to ensure food security.
Adams said, “There is a huge change in interest and awareness globally for food systems to be inclusive and integrated. The private sector cannot work alone in ensuring food security; government policies have to be implemented to create an enabling environment for players along the value chain to work and ensure the supply of food.”
She also called on stakeholders to participate in the upcoming AGRF Agribusiness Deal Room, where it gives them a platform for integration between potential investors and players along the value chain.
Some of the panelists include Chairman/Managing Director Niji Group, Kola Adeniji; CEO, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited, Ayodeji Balogun; Group Head, Agricultural Finance & Solid Minerals, Sterling Bank Plc, Bukola Awosanya; and the moderator of the discussion, Director, Investment Promotion, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Emmanuel Adesina.
The keynote speaker was CEO-Sahel Consulting, Member Board of Directors, AGRA, Ndidi Nwuneli, also emphasized the commitment of SMEs to solve nutritional challenges in the country and the current trends militating against the goal.
“There are SMEs committed to solving food insecurity problems in Nigeria such as AACE, Dangote, and more but COVID-19 has brought more challenges and they are struggling with access to funding, limitation of data.
“Investments must be made in data and traceability to ensure availability and accessibility of nutritious food and price stability in the system. This will be achieved through a strategic partnerships with standardization organizations such as SON and NAFDAC to not only ensure that food is supplied but nutritious food is made accessible to consumers.
In her suggestion on the partnership, she said, “The private sector should have advisory think tanks to work with the government to track availability and accessibility of nutritious food”; and the co-operation of all sectors while moral standards are upheld to ensure food security.
“We need Commissioners in Education (to equip the workforce appropriately), Finance, Trade, and Investment not just in Agriculture. We need transparency, commitment, integrity.”
Meanwhile, Kola Adeniji said to ensure that sustainable agriculture is achieved through proper investments in appropriate areas and the roles of stakeholders in the AGRICITY Model.
According to him, the model was built with a passion for agriculture, which is targeted at minimizing cost in the agricultural sector. The cost burden is shared across different investors who have readily available inputs for investment.
The model does not only serve as a pathway to strategic investment but also enhances sustainable agricultural production and benefits players across different aspects of the value chain.
The CEO, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited, Ayodeji Balogun, also asserted that the necessity to create a sustainable structure to ensure the availability of sufficient financial resources in the sector.
According to him there the need to have multiple players to unlock liquidity for participants along the value chain, just as AFEX Commodities Exchange is currently doing.
He further emphasized that the inclusiveness of youths/mentorship programmes would be pivotal in ensuring a more competitive ecosystem. He stated that capital, knowledge, talent, productivity, and business models have to be put in place to achieve a good system in the sector.
Group Head, Agricultural Finance and Solid Minerals, Sterling Bank Plc, Bukola Awosanya, disclosed that her bank has committed 10 per cent of its loan books to agriculture and this will be implemented through various packages for players along the value chain;
“These packages vary from Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme to help youths to Sterling Mechanization Scheme. A Digitization strategy that was targeted to build resilience in the agricultural sector during the lockdown was implemented to ensure that agro-dealers have access to finance within five minutes. Furthermore Sterling showed commitment to ensure food security during the COVID-19 era by reducing the interest rate on loans to five per cent”, Awosanya stated.