Akinwuntan, Emefiele and Bayo

Banking stakeholders have in unison insisted that banks must play a critical role to restore the Nigerian economy from the negative effects of COVID-19.

Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) 13th Annual Bankers Conference in Abuja, the bank chiefs that included Godwin Emefiele, Governor Central Bank of Nigeria; Bayo Olugbemi, President/Chairman of Council, CIBN and Patrick Akinwuntan, Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIBN) Consultative Committee organizing the 13th Annual Bankers Conference and Managing Director Ecobank Nigeria noted that it is imperative from an economic as well as security perspective that banks work to support growth in sectors that have significant growth potential.

These sectors, they noted, include Agriculture, Information Communication Technology and Infrastructure Finance among others.

In his presentation, the CBN Governor Emefiele said that Nigeria’s banking and financial system can enhance the resilience of the Nigerian economy, in the face of external shocks.

According to Emefiele “we have witnessed the disruptions COVID-19 has had on global supply chains and food supply. If measures had not been taken earlier to improve cultivation and processing of staple crops in Nigeria prior to the onset of the pandemic, we would have had to deal with a major food crisis in the country. The banking sector therefore has a significant role to play as a facilitator of growth through its intermediation function”.

He stated that “over the next 4 years, the banking sector should consider ways under which it could increase its loans to the agriculture sector from 4 percent to 10 percent by 2024”.

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Further, the apex bank governor noted that “opportunities in the agriculture sector that banks should explore include addressing some of the existing gaps in the agriculture value chains, such as storage centers, transport logistics, and technology platforms, that can enable rural farmers to sell their produce directly to the markets.

More importantly, he said the “agricultural sector also offers significant opportunity for the nation to earn foreign exchange through the exports of processed agricultural products. With declining foreign exchange earnings from crude oil, banks should consider supporting agro processing companies that are export oriented. These measures would help to improve productivity of farmers, increase our foreign exchange earnings, reduce post-harvest losses, while supporting the growth of other sectors of our economy such as manufacturing, and transportation”.

According to Emefiele, another sector which has emerged as a significant source of resilience in mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, is Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

He said in the “second quarter of 2020, the ICT sector made contributions of over 17.8 percent to GDP growth, 20 percent higher than its contributions a year earlier. It is important that we leverage ICT as an enabler for growth in key sectors of the economy”. He said “ICT start-ups are emerging to support SMEs, farmers, and in providing quality learning to students affected by the shutdown in schools. It is important that the banking sector consider viable IT firms in these areas that have the potential to not only serve the needs of the local market but are also able to export ICT related services to countries across the world”.

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In his address, Bayo Olugbemi, President/Chairman of Council, CIBN, noted that “given the recent disruption caused by the impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the role of banks have become more important now than ever before. According to him this year’s edition of the Conference aims to uncover and articulate the roles of the banking and finance sector in achieving a sustainable future for the country.

He said the conference gives everyone the opportunity for an assessment of inclusive banking and the way forward, articulation of the risks of facilitating a sustainable future and positioning of banks in tackling risks, discussion on how Fintech is shaping the future through innovation and disruption, discussion on Green Banking and Economic Growth and the Impact of Finance on Emerging Sectors, spotlighting MSMEs, Manufacturing, Creativity and Agriculture Industry amongst others.

For Patrick Akinwuntan Nigeria need to move to the level of wealth creation, not just talking of poverty alleviation “because we have the human capital and natural resources. We must therefore leverage technology, leverage access to finance to be able to support the developing economy.”

He noted that the banks needs to support those who needs to grow their businesses, support those who need to invest in productive capacity. This according to him are some of the purpose of the 2020 annual conference, a message the institute is bringing to Nigeria. Further the Ecobank Nigeria Managing Director, reiterated that banks are unleashing digital platform to take financial services to the underbanked.

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He said the banks are determined to place Nigeria at the forefront of economic development in Africa.

The 2020 Annual Bankers conference themed; “Facilitating a Sustainable Future: The Role of Banking and Finance” has prominent bankers; major economic players; captains of industry; regulators; policy makers; members of the academic community and other stakeholders in the banking and finance industry in attendance.

The CIBN had adopted a hybrid approach for the two day event taking place simultaneously, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja and the Bankers’ House, Adeola Hopewell Street, Lagos and through Zoom teleconferencing.

In line with the theme, participants are evaluating the role of the Banking and Finance Industry in engendering an inclusive sustainable growth as well as offering a direction on how to reposition the Industry for relevance in the new world order, by leveraging on digitalization to boost Nigeria’s economy.