Managing director of Standard Chartered Bank, Lamin Manjang, says agriculture may not be adequately funded in Nigeria in as much as the government unduly interferes in how the agricultural funds are managed by the bodies saddled with the responsibility of managing various agricultural financing programmes.

Manjang says undue bureaucracy and unnecessary bottlenecks being created by either the government or its officials in the whole ecosystem of agricultural value chain and funding constitute a major drawback to the effective funding meant for agriculture, saying such a trend repels financial institutions from providing tangible funds for agriculture.

Speaking at the first quarterly lecture of the Africa Centre for Excellence in Agricultural Development and Sustainable Environment (CEADESE) held at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) on Tuesday, Manjang notes that potentials of agriculture must be harnessed by the Federal Government through a well-designed funding initiative.

The managing director, who spoke on‘Making Agricultural Funding Work in Nigeria,’ says Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $397 billion and noted that the country’s GDP could grow at near double digit with the right economic policies via robust investment in agriculture as the sector requires more stakeholders’ training, funding, better mechanisation, good road infrastructure, transportation system and year-round storage system in order to realise full potentials of the sector.

“The agricultural sector has the capacity to generate more employment opportunities, contribute more substantially to the GDP of the nation and become a strong source of foreign exchange earnings if well harnessed.

“The relevant government agencies and participating financial institutions should demonstrate greater commitment and focus on these agricultural funding programmes as tools for economic growth. More funds, including investments in data mining, technology and effective strategies should be deployed to make them work,” he said.

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According to him, “Administrators of the schemes and participating lending institutions should create a framework to simplify and make it easier for all value chain players to access credit with minimal collateral requirements. This rides on the back of an improved credit culture based on some of the policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria to encourage and strengthen good credit behaviour.

“There should be greater autonomy for relevant bodies managing the agricultural financing programme. Undue government involvement and bureaucracy constitute a major drawback for such programmes. This leads to apathy of participating financing institutions and the lack of discipline and commitment of beneficiaries, impacting both uptake and repayment.”

Manjang believes, “There should be greater awareness for the various funding programmes for agriculture. These programmes have remained largely under-reported. Participating financial institutions and the relevant government agencies should invest more in enlightenment campaigns through trade unions, associations and co-operative societies. This will deepen penetration.”

In his keynote address, Kolawole Salako, vice chancellor of FUNAAB, said government needs to increase support for agriculture in the country as adequate financing is key for advancement of agriculture, just as he identified insecurity as a major challenge facing agriculture in Nigeria, saying security must be provided for the sustainable growth and development of the agricultural sector.

Olukayode Akinyemi, director of CEADESE, FUNAAB, while highlighting some of the achievements of the centre, says the centre was adjudged the most impactful centre in terms of number of research publications from Africa in September, as well as the establishment of a World Class Research Laboratory in addition to other numerous developmental projects in the University.

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Source: Business Day

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