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Recession: Stanbic IBTC calls for fresh focus on sustainable agriculture

Stanbic IBTC Bank, a member of the Standard Bank group has called on governments at all levels, organised private sector, farmers and financial institutions embrace agriculture in a sustainable manner to ensure that Nigeria through increased output will find its way out of the present economic recession in the country.

Speaking at the 2016 Stanbic IBTC Leadership forum held in Lagos over the weekend, Chief Executive Officer, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, Mrs Sola David-Borha, said despite negative growth in several sectors of the economy, agriculture was the only sector that grew by 4.5 per cent, suggesting that with renewed focus, the sector is capable of helping the Nigerian economy wriggle out of recession.

According to her, the focus on agriculture is understandable; as the sector and its value chain have the potential to create millions of jobs, especially as over 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population is engaged in agriculture-related activities.

“We all know that agriculture is capable of creating millions of jobs across the entire value chain, drive export and much needed foreign exchange. I think the real challenge for us is unlocking opportunities that exist and making everything that we have been talking about a reality so that agriculture will be contributing to GDP across all its value chain.

“In Stanbic IBTC, we consider agriculture a key sector and we play across the entire value chain by providing financing, advisory services, partnerships and facilitate the process of acquiring machinery for commercial agriculture,” she said.

David-Borha further explained that agriculture is not about growing deposits but about providing the right type of financing across the entire value chain and other transactions follows. She said it is not for the faint-hearted, but require capital, patience and commitment to see it through, adding that the new drive into agriculture will go a long way in supporting federal government towards the drive to economic diversification.

Titled GEMS in the field, the Stanbic IBTC Business Leadership conference in Nigeria specifically focused on building a vibrant and sustainable agricultural sector in Nigeria.

Earlier, David-Borha the lender remains dedicated to providing platforms for showcasing Nigeria’s economic potential while availing investors accurate information with which they can make informed decisions on the economy. In addition, Stanbic IBTC Bank will remain in the forefront of providing bespoke products and initiatives that significantly impact on the whole agricultural value chain, David-Borha said.

Kola Masha, Managing Director, Doreo Partners, an agriculture-focused investment firm, said through an approach known as ‘Babban Gona,’ a Hausa word  for great farmer, his firm has been able to provide financing and  advisory services to millions of farmers across the country.

He said experience has shown that even though the farmers has “no formal addresses, no bank account, no financial history, no phone, can barely read and write,” the firm has recorded a credit repayment rate of 99.9 percent from the farmers, adding that with new approaches to agriculture, Nigeria can be the next Brazil in the nearest future.

Jason Drew, South African farmer and eco-entrepreneur, who achieved global fame by creating a thriving enterprise via the cultivation of maggots, also said there is need to approach agriculture in a way that takes care of not only the present, but the environment and the future, stressing that industrial revolution is over and “sustainable revolution is here.”

Now in its third year, the 2016 edition’s   keynote speakers participated in a panel discussion and engaged the audience in discussions covering the economy, and agriculture in particular, sharing their insight and expertise on how to build a vibrant and sustainable agricultural sector in Nigeria.

Building on the resounding success of the previous editions, this year’s theme reflected the large changes expected to occur in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, as the country moves towards diversification, while highlighting opportunities that investors and businesses can tap into.

The maiden edition of Stanbic IBTC Business Leadership Series was headlined by entrepreneur and motivational speaker Vusi Thembekwayo, and founder of online retail chain, Konga, Sim Shagaya, while the second edition had as guest speakers, South African rocket scientist, motivational speaker and innovator, Siyabulela Xusa, and CEO and Founder of Interswitch Limited, Mr. Mitchel Elegbe.