The chairman of Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Asue Ighodalo, has said the recent endorsement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by African countries will impact positively on the agricultural sector and trade on the African continent.
Ighodalo said this in Lagos while addressing participants at the opening of the fourth 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 said: “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, in the last three years Sterling Bank has paid specific attention to and concentrated resources on health, education, agriculture, renewable energy and transportation.
Ighodalo said despite its numerous challenges, agriculture remains the largest sector in Nigeria contributing an average of 24 per cent to the nation’s GDP between 2013 and 2019, and more recent contribution to GDP at Q1, 2020 which stood at approximately 22 per cent.
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.
He expressed hope that the easy access to regional importation of food products can help countries within Africa to achieve food security given that the pact connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined GDP valued of $3.4 trillion.
Also, group managing director of Saro Africa Mr. Rasheed Sarumi, noted that the summit comes at a time the country is faced with numerous challenges, and argued that if given the needed attention, agriculture sector can salvage the economy.
He was of the view that the agriculture sector needs to be highly innovative to meet the demands and expectations of stakeholders given the current global realities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president of Afreximbank, Professor Benedict Oramah, in the keynote address titled: ‘The Green Mile – AfCFTA, Trade and Africa’s Agribusiness Economy’ encouraged African countries to rise above the loss of revenue that would have accrued to them and see the bigger picture in the enhanced regional trade that the new trade regime would bring on the continent.
He remarked that at the forefront of Africa’s economic integration with various forms of products keyed towards financing and promoting intra-African trade. Oramah noted that agriculture has the potential to fast-track Africa’s economic growth, industrialisation, employment and economic sustainability, among other benefits.