By Nume Ekeghe
The Deputy Governor in charge of the Economic Policy Directorate at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Okwu Joseph Nnanna has challenged universities and research institutes in the country to find solutions to challenges confronting Nigeria’s agricultural sector.
A statement quoted Nnanna to have said this in Uturu, Abia State at the weekend,
while delivering the 26th Pre-Convocation Lecture of Abia State University entitled: “Diversification of the Nigerian Economy through the Agricultural Sector”.
While acknowledging that much had been done by various institutions in developing improved agricultural technologies, he noted that a lot more research still needed to be done to in developing and adopting technologies and innovative ways to combat issues relating to pests and diseases in addition to new techniques in biotechnology for agricultural activities.
The deputy governor also noted the crucial role played by the private sector in economic diversification through access to affordable credit facilities and other opportunities that support innovation and exploitation of untapped resources.
In spite of this, he regretted that Nigeria still lacked the human capacity with entrepreneurial and innovative skills to drive the economy to the height of industrialised economies.
According to him, universities remained knowledge and innovation hubs where fresh ideas could be developed and used in industry for economic transformation, adding that research and development were invaluable in the transformation of agricultural systems, increasing productivity and driving innovation in economies across the globe.
Rationalising the need for diversification of the Nigerian economy away from crude oil, Nnanna said the country’s vulnerability to the oil sector did not augur well for the long-term economic stability and development of Nigeria. He therefore emphasised the need for all stakeholders, including the government, private sector, organised labour and research and academic institutions to actively participate in the process of diversifying the economy.
He cited inadequate requisite infrastructure, poor storage and processing facilities, low public-private-partnership and underdeveloped value chain as some of the challenges of economic diversification in Nigeria. He, however, said the fiscal and monetary authorities in the country were doing the needful to fast-track economic diversification in Nigeria, particularly in agriculture through crops such as rice, cassava, fish, cotton, maize, oil palm, soya beans, all of which the country has comparative advantage.
On the part of the CBN, he said the Bank would continue to implement both conventional and non-conventional policies to sustain macroeconomic stability in the country.
He noted that policies of the Bank had been yielding positive results, as indicated by the improvements in domestic production of 42 items restricted from the Nigerian foreign exchange market. He disclosed that non-oil export in Nigeria increased by 59 percent in 2017, over the level in 2016.
In addition to intensifying food and animal production, he stressed the need for the improvement of the agricultural value chain in order to unlock the sector and harness its full potential. According to him, this would transform the agro-food systems from being farm centres to commercialised, productive and off-farm centred enterprises and in the process boost employment, promote inclusiveness, reduce the cost of food prices and improve efficiency in the agricultural enterprise.