Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman has said the bank is ready and willing to invest more in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, having invested more than N100 billion; a figure that represents about 15 percent of the bank’s total loans portfolio.
The CEO stated this in his closing remarks at the Agriculture Summit Africa (ASA) 2022 with the theme: “Engineering a Trillion Dollar Agricultural Economy,” which held recently both physically and virtually with more than 10,000 attendees from across the world.
Agriculture is one of the five sectors of the economy that the bank has focused its investments since 2018 as part of her HEART of Sterling strategy. The others are health, education, transportation, and renewable energy.
Suleiman observed that apart from the Bank of Agriculture, he could not think of any other financial institution that has committed its resources to agricultural financing like Sterling Bank.
“When we started the journey about five years ago, we were very clear in our minds that we did not just want to make it a talk show and we have been changing the focus of the conversation from moving away from identifying problems to providing solutions and now we are bringing stakeholders together in a bid to effectively move the conversation forward with action.
“We started it because we wanted to focus on agricultural financing where there was a significant gap. Every time we meet a stakeholder or a regulator, we noticed a different perspective of what the problem was and therefore it became clear to us that if we do not bring all the stakeholders together to harmonise their views and understanding, we will continue to remain in the dark,” he said.
The CEO noted that the summit became imperative as part of the global conversation on food security due to the consequences of global trade which was so obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic when there was a global disruption in the supply chain.
“So, this conversation about food security in Africa is one that we will continue to sponsor because of its existential purpose which is about leveraging our competitive advantage,” he said.
The Agriculture Summit Africa (ASA) is one of the continent’s leading, privately funded platforms dedicated to increasing the value of the agribusiness value chain by creating a convergence of private and public sector interests, development finance institutions, agribusiness investors and players.
This year’s edition, proudly supported by esteemed partners such as Leadway Assurance, Thrive Agric, GIZ, Nestle Nigeria PLC, Stears Data, GIZ, Noor Takaful, and 2Scale, amongst others, featured four panels over two days of deliberations, with discussions on solving the challenge of import substitution for large scale manufacturers by facilitating the sourcing of key inputs locally, achieving sustainable productivity at scale; increasing the adoption of technology to improve output as well as discussions on a framework to standardize agro-commodities trade and exchange to increase the value created in the sector and open up new investment opportunities.
The two-day event also featured key stakeholders and players from the agribusiness value chain such as Yemisi Iranloye of Psaltry International, Ayo Arikawe from Thrive Agric, Adetola Adegbayi of Leadway Assurance, Mira Mehta of Tomato Jos, Elenwor Ihua of the Nigerian Commodities Exchange, Femi Aiki of Foodlocker, Akin Akeredolu-Ale of the Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange, Maxwell Olitsa of 2Scale, Sandy Eyal of CropIT, Victoria Madedor of AgroVerified, Taiwo Ayoade of Plantation Industries amongst other experts drawn from a diverse cross-section of the sector.
The Country Manager of Netherlands-based bank, Rabobank, Mr. Kevin Kabatsi, in his keynote address, talked about how the bank is using agriculture exchange to create a digital marketplace in countries where it operates.
In her goodwill message, the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Abisola Olusanya, encouraged youths that are seeking greener pastures outside the shores of the country to have a rethink because opportunities abound in the country because of gaps in the agricultural value chain.
She also said Lagos State can only produce 15,000 tonnes of red meat yearly but consumes more than 342,000 tonnes of red meat with transaction value of N350 billion sitting on the table which nobody is picking up.
The ASA, proudly hosted by Sterling Bank, is the largest private sector funded summit on agriculture on the continent, dedicated to discussing and uncovering practical solutions to the region’s unique challenges, facilitating transactions between investors and agric-focused ventures by highlighting opportunities in the sector for the benefit of public and private interests and the nation’s economy.