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Economy: Stakeholders Calls for Digitisation of Agricultural Sector

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Stakeholders at the Global Trade Review (GRT) 2020 have stressed the need for effective digitisation of Nigeria’s agricultural sector to revitalise economic growth and development.

They stated this at the GRT West Africa 2020 conference with the themed: “Driving Economic Growth with Trade in Lagos.”

Mr Ikenna Egbukole, Head, Structured Trade Commodity Finance, First Bank of Nigeria, said that digitalisation of the sector was important to improve produce yields in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

Speaking on the topic: “Digitising Trade: A root and branch opportunity to revitalise economic growth”, Egbukole said that Nigerians should use Fintech to develop the agricultural sector and the value chain.

“The benefit of information technology cannot be overruled looking at what has happened in the financial system.

“With the use of digitalisation, rural farmers will have more information, more knowledge, more training of the best practices to improve yields and production of their produce.

“Looking at what has happened in farming in this part of the world, we can see that the yields has been so low compared to developed economies where the yields are high.

“So with the support, digitalisation and information technology, farmers will have more information on how to apply the right fertiliser, how to use the right input and how to use the right seedlings,” he stated.

Egbukole said that FirstBank had done a lot to support farmers in the country through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) various intervention initiatives such as the Anchor Borrowers Scheme.

He noted that the bank had ensured lending at single-digit interest rate to some farmers in the country in line with the Federal Government diversification programme.

On trade barriers, Egbukole identified documentation and knowledge as major barriers affecting agriculture trade in the sub-Sahara Africa region.

“If you look at this part of the world, we don’t have many big traders or farmers, what we have is a small pocket and pockets of farmers and the most challenge for them is having the right seedlings and the right input.

“Storage has also been a major barrier, for example, today we produce maize or tomatoes, there is no right storage system for it to be preserved till the time the off-taker needs it, to take it off.

“So if there is enough storage and enough training for the farmers to know how to apply the input and also the fertilizers, there is going to be a lot of good yields,” he said.

Also speaking, Mr Emmanuel Nkenwokeneme, Chief Technology Officer, Union Systems Ltd, said that the company had built and developed financial system solutions for the financial sector to boost trade finance.

Trade finance signifies financing for trade, and it concerns both domestic and international trade transactions. A trade transaction requires a seller of goods and services as well as a buyer.

Nkenwokeneme said that the company’s flagship product Trade-X was an international trade finance software that delivers unique functionalities missing in most international trade systems to meet the requirement of the African market.

He explained that Trade-X helps banks meet all the apex bank regulatory reporting and processes from start to finish.

Nkenwokeneme said digitisation had helped in the development of the agricultural sector, noting that the company had built a market place platform where farmers could market and sell their products.

He stated that manufacturers on the platform could locate the region where a particular produce was needed.

According to him, the company has helped farmers, banks and corporates to unlock new revenue opportunities, thereby growing supply chain efficiency.

Ms Vera Nwanze, General Manager, West Africa, Azuri Techonlogies, said that Nigerians must work toward having seasonal crops all year round.

Nwanze stated that farmers in Nigeria should be quick in embracing technology like their contemporaries in other climes.

She said that Nigeria could afford to have seasonal crops all year round through embracement of solar migration intervention that had been adopted by some countries.

Nwanze stated that farmers needed to be enlightened to embrace solar energy, adding that, banks should as well support farmers. (NAN)

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