Uche Usim, Abuja
Efforts to revive the agricultural sector got strengthened at the weekend as Ecobank Nigeria entered into a strategic partnership with the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) with a N15 billion agricultural investment scheme being the first tranche in agricultural value chain financing. The partnership between both institutions is in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s request that banks provide more funding to the agriculture sector.
NIRSAL was set up by the Federal Governmental as an innovative mechanism targeted at de-risking lending to the agricultural sector. It is designed to provide the singular transformational and one bullet solution to break the seeming jinx in Nigeria’s agricultural lending and development.
Announcing the partnership in Lagos during a business meeting with the management of NIRSAL, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan also disclosed that Ecobank Nigeria had concluded plans to invest at least N70 billion in agriculture financing within the next three years. He noted that the N15 billion dedicated funding with NIRSAL guarantee is for an initial takeoff tranche and rollovers will be done at the completion of each cycle.
“Agriculture is pivotal to the success and development of any nation’s economy. We are therefore committed to working with NIRSAL to open up the vast opportunities that abound in agriculture. Ecobank has done it in other countries across the continent, so we can do the same in Nigeria. This will give us the opportunity to create employment and enable farmers to finance their children’s education with ease. We prefer people to see us not just as a bank, but as a partner who will help them succeed. We are part of the community and we meet the people at the point of their needs.” he noted.
Further, Mr Akinwuntan noted that with a larger African footprint than any other bank in the world operating in West, Central, East and Southern Africa, Ecobank is the only bank that spans 36 African countries yet operates a truly integrated African network.
“Ecobank’s unique and largest pan-African platform is designed to help unlock the opportunities of the continent and for the continent, through standardization, fuelling regional integration, trade and investment across borders. Due to our sterling performance, we have been severally recognized; Most recently as ‘Best Retail Bank in Africa 2019’ at African Banker Awards and also as Most Admired Financial Services Brand in Africa 2019 by Brand Africa 100”.
In his remarks, the Managing Director/CEO of NIRSAL, Mr. Aliyu Abdulhameed urged the bank to harness the opportunities available in financing the agricultural sector leveraging on NIRSAL’s template of geo-cooperatives of 250Ha with a ticket size as much as N65 million naira, where all the players in the agricultural value chain are locked-in with an end-to-end approach and near zero cash handling system under a de-risked ecosystem to optimize agricultural value chain financing. He stated that this unique approach to agribusiness creates value for both farmers and financiers.
According to Abdulhameed, “At NIRSAL, we work primarily to create value for both financiers and farmers. It is in view of this that we have created innovative tools, techniques, methodologies and established strategic partnerships like this, to create a symbiotic relationship between all actors along the Agricultural value chain.”
The CBN led by Governor Godwin Emefiele has been at the vanguard of investment in Agricilture as a key contributor to the country’s economy.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had recently sought the collaboration of Ecobank Group to “institute a special fund to develop agriculture, which will cement its legacy as a bank that helped to transform this region’s economic fortunes. President Buhari spoke when he had an audience with the ETI board led by the Group Chairman, Emmanuel Ikazoboh.