Mr Asue Ighodalo, chairman of Sterling Bank Plc, has stated that African countries’ recent ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will have a good influence on the agriculture sector and trade on the continent.
Ighodalo made the remarks at the opening of the fourth edition of the Agriculture Summit Africa (ASA), which the bank co-hosted with Saro Africa, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited, Leadway Assurance, Agriculture and Finance Consultants (AFC), Young Africa Works (MasterCard), Stears, Thrive Agric, and Nestle in Lagos.
He explained that the AfCFTA will surely achieve its goal of supporting agricultural transformation and advancement in the African area as part of the endeavour to improve regional agricultural value chains and increase food security and competitiveness.
He said: “It is unacceptable and an ironic paradox for Africa to lack homegrown agricultural produce and have food insecurity in so much fertile and arable land across the continent”.
According to him, Sterling Bank has focused its resources and attention on health, education, agriculture, renewable energy, and transportation in the last three years.
Despite its multiple issues, agriculture remains Nigeria’s largest sector, providing an average of 24% to the country’s GDP between 2013 and 2019, and a more recent contribution to GDP at Q1, 2020, according to Ighodalo.
He stated that the Nigerian government has maintained to prioritize agricultural development in its policy and budgetary plans to boost the economy toward positive growth.
Given that the treaty unites 1.3 billion people across 55 nations with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion, he expressed hope that easier access to regional importation of food goods may assist African countries to attain food security.
Mr Rasheed Sarumi, group managing director of Saro Africa, also mentioned that the summit is taking place at a time when the country is facing various issues, and claimed that if given the attention it deserves, the agriculture sector may save the economy.
He believes the agriculture industry must be highly inventive to meet the demands and expectations of stakeholders with the current global conditions in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professor Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, in his keynote address titled “The Green Mile – AfCFTA, Trade, and Africa’s Agribusiness Economy,” urged African countries to look beyond the revenue loss that would have resulted from the new trade regime and see the bigger picture of enhanced regional trade that the new trade regime would bring to the continent.
He posited that various sorts of products geared toward financing and encouraging intra-African commerce are at the forefront of Africa’s economic integration. Agriculture, according to Oramah, has the potential to accelerate Africa’s economic growth, industrialisation, job creation, and economic sustainability, among other things.