We Are Working to Empower Youths For Agro Productivity – Ugo  Nwabuisi

0

Ugo Nwabuisi Managing Director and CEO of 151 Products Ltd has just concluded his 6th agricultural expo in Abuja drawing a huge array of participants from the country and different parts of the world. In this interview with Kazeem Sumaina, Nwabuisi explains how the fair opened by the Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbeh is creating room for entrepreneurship for Nigerian youths through the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit for Agribusiness Advancement (YESAA)

Can you briefly introduce your product to your target audience keen on tracking your antecedents till date?
Our project-AGRIKEXPO has over a seven year period continued to redefine standards of business to business networking in Nigeria, with many foreign and local companies participating in our business development programmes. In the just ended expo, we worked closely with both the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment whose ministers made their presence felt either  directly or indirectly. The emphasis was on the Nigerian youth; there was also a strong representation of the Nigerian Agric Business Group (NABG) led by Sani Dangote and Emmanuel Ijewere.

Recall that the event which started more than six years ago has attracted many international exhibitors and the attention of
Government at very high levels. The Hon Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr Okey Enelama who was ably represented, commended the private sector initiative of the expo which attracted many agro business stakeholders and organisations. It created room for an exchange of ideas, opened new market outlets and deals were opened and closed. Obviously from the minister’s perspective the expo was promoting trade and investment between Nigeria and the participating countries.

How true has your agricexpo exhibition proven the agriculture sector as Nigeria’s next export earner outside oil and gas?
Our theme this year which is ‘From Crude Oil to Food Oil, Harnessing Opportunities Under the New Agricultural Road Map For Food Security, Jobs and Export’  summarises the argument with a clarion call for all hands to come on board and invest in agriculture whose economic
diversifications have tremendous multiplier effect. The agriculture sector has a wide array of opportunities especially for the youth whose sense of adventure can lead him to many options. Again because
government is keen on taking advantage open in the sector, it has introduced policies, an enabling environment for those who are willing to seize new opportunities available for incoming participants and
existing stakeholders.
During our next edition of Agrikexpo and Conference next year at the same venue and period, there will no doubt be an increased presence of state governments and their participants showcasing their farm gate and processed products as well as opportunities for agricultural investment.

How is the road map helping your organisation in the realisation of your vision?
The best way to understand where we fit into the road map is to take a cue from the forward written by Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture in the 50 page document titled ‘Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016-2020)’ It is an ongoing policy that kick started in 2010 and the aim is to reform the badly neglected agriculture sector with a new strategy, the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA). The idea is to provide sufficient food at home and de-emphasise on imports while exporting the surplus we don’t need. The refreshed strategy is known as the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP) and according to the minister the purpose of the new policy is to provide a disciplined approach to building an agribusiness ecosystem that will solve these two gaps where the private sector will remain in the lead while government facilitates, as well as provides supporting infrastructure, systems, control processes, and oversight functions. The success of the new policy from the minister’s perspective will be driven by the
levels of engagement of market place participants, farmers, states, investors, financial institutions, and communities. We are both promoter and participant driving the new strategy of agriculture through our expo and conference promotions as well as using our YESAA vehicle to actualise the vision of food for home and export consumption.

What did you seek to achieve in executing the agricultural expo project?
The idea behind the Agrikexpo is to create an annual meeting point, a fair or exhibition centre if you like, for stakeholders in agriculture in Nigeria to showcase their products either as raw materials for additional processing or as a food chain. We are also providing a platform to expose our future export products to various destinations whether in the sub-region, the continent or other parts of the world
where the end users need them. It has also proved to be a meeting point for global players as you could see at the stand and conference centre. The broad representation spread to the European Union represented by officials from Brussels the Belgian capital, Japan, Indonesia, Austria et al. Next year will prove to be more explosive in terms of challenges and presence both within and outside.

How successful was this very expo?
It was very successful and promising with the presence of the Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbeh, who commended the organisers of the Agrikexpo, 151 Products Limited, The minister who was obviously impressed with the high level of organisation provided by 151 Products Ltd commended the training programme for young people in agribusiness which he said would lead to the development of the agricultural sector, since the nation was at the point where the future of the sector rested squarely on the shoulders of the youth. I felt elated when he said the ministry has formally endorsed the annual event and would also lend its support to YESAA. He visited all the stands and showed great satisfaction at the level of agribusiness on display and announced the Ministry would hold town hall meetings with youths in the agricultural sector.

What is YESAA all about?
YESAA is the acronym for Youth Entrepreneurship Summit for Agribusiness Advancement, which has been described as a major compliment of the Green Alternative- the new agricultural road map for the country. YESAA was a major highlight of the 2015 edition of the Agrikexpo and the Nigerian Agribusiness Group (NABG) conference which was held at the International Conference Centre (ICC) Abuja. Sani Dangote the chairman of NABG fully participated in the Agrikexpo. He described YESAA as a key pivot of agricultural growth and development given the need for the inclusion of youths in the sector today and tomorrow.
The NABG chair agreed with us that youths represent a population of Nigerians whose voice must come under consideration in this context, the development of agriculture to the next level where it becomes a major foreign exchange earner while satisfying the food needs of the entire population.
YESAA had in participation more than 100 youths most of whom expressed satisfaction at the level of engagement and chance they are exposed to in seeing agribusiness in practice. Machinery, seeds,
abattoirs, rice milling, cattle milking, poultry technologies and services were in exhibition by exhibitors from different countries. One of the foreign exhibitors from Turkey described the Agrikexpo as a far better event than similar expos he has been exposed to in the West African sub-region. He made specific emphasis on the quality of conference participants, discussants and spot deals closed.
The exhibitor confirmed that the company has already booked multiple stands for next year and thanked 151 Product Limited for a great job well done. We had in attendance over3000 NABG members and direct agribusiness owners, including farmers from the major agricultural belts of the northern part of the country, many of whom were happy to be at the event.
Overall, the idea is to make YESAA a focal event that will be held from one region to the other in the course of the year as the objective remains the total support of Government in her vision to integrate youths into agricultural practice. We consider our YESAA project as our contribution to Mohammed Buhari’s undiluted focus on agricultural development which is the only way out of the present economic challenge, a challenge that calls for patience while the government works its way out of this recession. The youths in these hard times can see opportunities where others fail to do so and useful engagement in agro business is a sure path to prosperity.

What was the response of the foreign participants at the agrikexpo?
The responses were varied and positive ranging from anticipated prospects of business between the EU and Nigeria articulated by Francis Fay, Director General  Agricultural  &Rural Development in Brussels,  who noted that there is a lot of room for  trade cooperation under the Export Partnership Agreement( EPA). Fay also called on entrepreneurs to explore export opportunities within the window.
He noted that the EU was open to trade with Africa. Also present was the Indonesian Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency Harry Purwanto who confirmed the interest of improved bilateral friendships with Nigeria committing the embassy to a bigger presence of Indonesia at the next Agrikexpo. There was Julien Schmidt, Chief Technical/Trade Promotion Officer UNIDO, Austria office and Mr. Hiroshika of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).