..Says 10% Of Its Loan Dedicated To Agriculture
Sterling Bank Plc, has announced an ambitious attempt aimed at addressing issues preventing agribusiness in Africa from attaining its full potential at its forthcoming Agriculture Summit Africa in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), between the 5th and 6th of September 2019.
The continental summit which is being organised under the theme of “Agriculture – Your Piece of The Trillion-Dollar Economy” seeks to actualise the $1 trillion African agribusiness economy plan by 2030. The plan came into being upon the realisation that Africa has about 50 percent of the world’s fertile and unused land estimated as 450 million hectares.
Addressing the media in Lagos, on the rationale behind the summit which will bring together policy makers, development agencies, international financial institutions and value chain players on the continent, Mr. Yemi Odubiyi, Executive Director, Corporate and Investment Banking with Sterling Bank said the summit will address the issues preventing the agricultural sector from attaining its potential because food security on the continent has become a critical issue.
Odubiyi said the agrarian land, which is the preserve of the continent, is now under threat because of issues of terrorism and other security concerns that have made some of those lands to be depopulated while there is a remarkable increase in population rate across the continent.
According to him, this development has made it imperative to address the issue of food security which would in the long run also help to address unemployment, another major continental challenge.
He said Sterling Bank has been a leading financial institution supporting large agricultural firms in the country by setting aside about 10 per cent of its loan portfolio to the finance of the agriculture sector.
The executive director said the recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) has also opened a new frontier for investors to tap into the agricultural potential of the continent as countries within the continent would be able to export food products among themselves.
While recalling the olden days when agriculture was the pride of the Nigerian economy with the establishment of research centres like the Cocoa Research Institute, among others, Odubiyi said Sterling Bank will continue to help build farming businesses that would help to sustain food security in the country.
Also speaking, Mrs. Bukola Awosanya, Group Head, Agriculture and Export, Sterling Bank, explained that the first agriculture summit organised by the bank last year brought together smallholder farmers, input suppliers, agro-processing entrepreneurs, development finance agencies, policy makers and captains of industry in Abuja. According to her, the 2018 summit focused on co-creating a sustainable Nigerian economy through rural agricultural enterprise.
“This year, we have raised the bar by unveiling the Agriculture Summit Africa, which is a more ambitious attempt at addressing issues preventing agribusiness in Africa from attaining their full potential,” she said. She added that it should surprise no one that Sterling Bank and its partners are leading the charge to address the issues facing agribusiness on the continent.
She said Sterling Bank has helped a lot in developing the country’s agriculture value chain, adding the bank is a thought leader and the preferred lender for smallholder farmers, agribusinesses, input suppliers and other players in the local agricultural value chain.
“We have the enviable record of being the first commercial bank to lend under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL)-led Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP) with over 22,000 small holder farmers as beneficiaries,” Awosanya said.
The group head said the bank has pioneered lending under the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) and was part of the team that drafted the guidelines for the Agricultural Sector Sustainable Banking Principle for the Bankers Committee, among others.