Fidelity Bank Plc., one of the country’s leading financial institutions has pledged to support ongoing efforts aimed at strengthening Nigeria’s agricultural value-chain by providing innovative funding schemes and technical advisory services to Micro Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) and Commercial agribusiness projects. The Bank’s Head, Agric Division, Omobola Odubanjo disclosed this in Lagos on Tuesday while delivering a keynote address at a breakfast meeting organised by Nigerian-Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (NNCC) in strategic partnership with Fidelity Bank.
Odubanjo said the Bank’s decision to move in this direction was driven essentially by the sector’s huge potential to become a major Foreign Exchange (FX) earner and help boost the country’s revenue base. “Nigeria is blessed with over 84 million hectares of arable land suitable for crop cultivation and livestock production. In fact, only 40 percent of that land mass is cultivated while 1 percent is irrigated. Nigeria has a youthful population yet to be sufficiently engaged”, she explained.
With a population of 180 million people, Odubanjo noted that the country has one of the largest economy in Africa with great opportunities for its agricultural, manufacturing and services activities. She urged attendees some of whom included investors, entrepreneurs and delegates from Netherlands-African Business Council (NABC) to take immediate advantage of the prevailing opportunities in the sector, assuring them of quick returns on investment.
Odubanjo however identified funding constraints, infrastructural bottlenecks, security, food storage and processing facilities, poor research & development, and unfriendly government regulations as some of the critical challenges hindering the development of Nigeria’s agricultural sector. She said the Bank was well-positioned to assist Dutch investors navigate Nigeria’s evolving economy in relation to business matchmaking, facilitating links to market and liaison with regulatory agencies. “Having the right partner makes doing business in Nigeria easy. We can also help you manage your trade risk through Documentary Collection, Documentary Credits via Letter of Credits, market research, enhancing your Working Capital and providing Bonds and Guarantees to support payment obligations.”
While admitting that agribusiness holds the key to sustainable economic development, she however pointed out that the financial institution has moved well beyond assisting businesses involved in food production, processing, supply and marketing activities to focusing on more sophisticated and value-creating areas such as AgriFinance, AgriEducation, AgriHealth, AgriEnergy, amongst others. On his own part, Reginald Ihejiahi, chairman, NNCC said that Nigeria’s agricultural sector has a high potential for growth, but this potential is not being realized. Ihejiahi, a former Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank Plc said “Let us be actively involved in agriculture for the economy of the nation to grow”.
On her part, Managing Director of AfricInvest, Abiola Ojo-Osagie emphasised the importance of agriculture to aiding the diversification of Nigeria’s economy. Ojo-Osagie pointed out that the private investment company was established to promote and foster ideas that can drive the economy of the nation forward. Offering extensive expertise in key growth industries, including financial services, agribusiness, consumer/retail, education and healthcare, she said the organisation is well positioned to partner local and international organizations to aid economic development.