(L-R) Andrew Nevin, Partner -West Africa Financial Services Leader and Chief Economist at PWC; Patrick Akinwuntan, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria; Mustapha Baba Shehuri, Minister of State for Agriculture; and John Aboh, Chairman, Ecobank Nigeria Limited at the Ecobank Agribusiness Summit, held in Lagos.

Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan says the Ecobank Agribusiness Summit was an initiative to create a common platform that brings together partakers in the Agric value chain, be it producers, processors, logistics entrepreneurs, insurance practitioners and others within the sector to think a better approach to agriculture sustainability for Nigeria.

The bank Managing Director stated that Ecobank believes food security is critical, as it enhances national security, and to ensure our continued survival as a country, we must put agriculture in the front burner.

“Agriculture is not just a culture, it is a business. Historically, Agriculture used to be the lead within the economy, before the advent of petroleum, now, we understand that the long term sustainability of the economy can only come from Agriculture, because of its ability to create employment for the teeming young population and its ability to integrate all the parts of the country. When it is Agriculture, there is no North, West, South and East, it is all about where do I get the best item, best quality, best value. In addition, given the landscape in Nigeria, given the population within Nigeria, we are a natural market and so when you look at what the Government and the central bank has been promoting in the last four to five years, a lot of focus has been on supporting Agric as a means to reduce the import bill of Nigeria and ultimately increase the export revenues of Nigeria”.

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“Ecobank saw the opportunity that Agriculture provides and we decided that working together on the policies provided by the Central Bank and in partnership with Vanguard Newspaper, we established this national Agric summit as a platform to bring the entire ecosystem of the Agricultural sector together to interface to get the best value for the growth of the sector in Nigeria. Naturally, as a bank, we know that participants in the Agric sector need to be financially included, we will, therefore, give them the ability to open an account instantly on their mobile phones so as to have the ability to make payment for farm needs and to also collect their proceeds from anywhere. We believe “you can stay somewhere in Niger State, sell to someone in Lagos and through our secure platform, the person in Lagos will pay and you will receive your alert in Niger state before you release your goods from your farm in Niger state. That type of integration is what Ecobank brings to bear by bringing the entire participants; producers, processors, logistics, insurance and other participants in the sector unto a platform, the national Agric Summit, established by Ecobank”.

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Further, Mr Akinwuntan stated that Ecobank’s relevance to Africa would mean supporting growth in the mainstay of the continent’s economy, which is agriculture. “Agriculture ensures that our survival is guaranteed. Agric is available in every corner of Nigeria, be it fishery, to poultry, to arable farming. Be it Cocoa, maize, rice, cashew nuts, palm oil, or any of the Agric items that you know that is available in Nigeria and these can be produced on a higher scale” he stated.

Also speaking, Dr Andrew Nevin, Partner – West Africa Financial Services Leader and Chief Economist at PWC said reshaping Nigeria’s Agribusiness Landscape will require us integrate agriculture value chain to manufacturing, invest in agriculture infrastructure and mechanization, see agriculture as a business in the form of capacity building and education, and enhance crop yields and output and also instigate Land reforms and integration of national and sub-national policies.

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Dr Andrew Nevin who spoke on the topic “Unlocking productivity and investment opportunities across Nigeria’s agribusiness value-chain”, also maintained that there’s need for interventions to overcome agriculture financing challenges and risks in the area of Capacity development – that is offer training to farmers and advise them on how to undertake farming as a profitable business; Develop agricultural customized loan products that are relevant to farmers’ needs – this could enable farmers to borrow and repay loans successfully; De-risk through financial and entrepreneurship education; Establish strong partnerships and alliances to promote investment in Agriculture and deployment of high-end technology to enhance efficiency and convenience of access.

He noted that the UN expects agricultural production to rise by 69% between 2010 and 2050 to meet the expected increase in demand. Farmers, he said are, therefore, required to start implementing advanced technological techniques to boost productivity.

The maiden Ecobank Agribusiness summit in partnership with Vanguard Newspapers had exhibitors and hundreds of participants from within and outside the country in attendance.