Stakeholders Call for Digitalisation of Agricultural Sector

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Ugo Aliogo

Stakeholders at the Global Trade Review (GRT) 2020 have stressed the need for the digitalisation of Nigeria’s agricultural sector, so as to expand it contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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

Head, Structured Trade Commodity Finance, FirstBank of Nigeria, Mr. Ikenna Egbukole, said digitalisation of the sector was important to improve produce yields in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Egbukole, said the benefit of information technology could not be overruled looking at what has happened in the financial system.

According to him, “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 have 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.”

Egbukole, said FirstBank has done a lot to support farmers in the country through various Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) 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’s 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 are 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, the Chief Technology Officer, Union Systems Limited, Mr. Emmanuel Nkenwokeneme, said the company had built and developed financial system solutions for the financial sector to boost trade finance.

Nkenwokeneme said that the company’s flagship product Trade-X is 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 central bank’s regulatory reporting and processing requirements, from start to finish. Nkenwokeneme said digitalisation had helped in the development of the agricultural sector, adding 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.