By Peter Egwuatu
Chairman of Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Asue Ighodalo has said that the recent endorsement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by African countries will impart positively on the agricultural sector and trade on the African continent.
Ighodalo said this in Lagos while addressing participants at the opening of the 4th edition of the Agriculture Summit Africa (ASA) hosted by the bank in collaboration with Saro Africa, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited, Leadway Assurance, Agriculture and Finance Consultants (AFC), Young Africa Works (MasterCard), Stears, Thrive Agric and Nestle.
He explained that the AfCFTA will undoubtedly achieve the objective of fostering agricultural transformation and advancement in the African region as part of the effort to promote food security and competitiveness through the improvement of regional agricultural value chains.
He noted that: “It is unacceptable and an ironic paradox for Africa to lack home grown agricultural produce and have food insecurity in the midst of so much fertile and arable land across the continent.”
According to him, when Sterling Bank started the ASA four years ago, it was conceived as a powerful advocacy platform to provide solutions towards rebuilding and transforming the agriculture sector into a resilience growth driver.
“In the last three years our bank has paid specific attention to and concentrated resources on the health, education, agriculture, renewable energy and transportation.These sectors, when put together, represent the HEART of Sterling and either by design or fortuitously, agriculture has been and remain the heart of the strategy,” Ighodalo said.
The Chairman noted that ASA has become much more than a summit for the bank.“It is now one of the major sources of providing powerful suggestions to drive the wheel of inclusive growth in Africa, create employment, reduce poverty and provide a strong base for the manufacturing sector of the Nigerian economy” he said.
Mr. Ighodalo said despite its numerous challenges, agriculture remains the largest sector in Nigeria contributing an average of 24 percent to the nation’s GDP between 2013 and 2019, and more recent contribution to GDP at Q1 2020 which stood at approximately 22 percent.
He said, in a bid to stimulate the economy towards positive growth, the Nigerian government has continued to prioritise agricultural development in its policy and budgetary plan. This approach will help in building a strong agribusiness economy capable of meeting domestic food demand goals and generating export revenues leading to increase in foreign exchange earnings and creating jobs, he said.