The Chairman of Sterling Bank, Mr Asue Ighodalo, has said the recent endorsement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by African countries will impact positively on the agricultural sector and trade on the African continent.
Mr Ighodalo said this in Lagos while addressing participants at the opening of the fourth Agriculture Summit Africa (ASA) hosted by the bank in collaboration with Saro Africa, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited, Leadway Assurance, Agriculture and Finance Consultants (AFC), Young Africa Works (MasterCard), Stears, Thrive Agric and Nestle.
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He explained that AfCFTA would undoubtedly achieve the objective of fostering agricultural transformation and advancement in the African region as part of the effort to promote food security and competitiveness through the improvement of regional agricultural value chains
He said, “It is unacceptable and an ironic paradox for Africa to lack homegrown agricultural produce and have food insecurity in the midst of so much fertile and arable land across the continent.”
According to him, when Sterling Bank started ASA four years ago, it was conceived as a powerful advocacy platform to provide solutions towards rebuilding and transforming the agriculture sector into a resilience growth driver.
He said, “In the last three years our bank has paid specific attention to and concentrated resources on health, education, agriculture, renewable energy and transportation.
“These sectors, when put together, represent the HEART of Sterling and either by design or fortuitously, agriculture has been and remains the heart of the strategy.”
Mr Ighodalo further said in a bid to stimulate the economy towards positive growth, the Nigerian government had continued to prioritise agricultural development in its policy and budgetary plan, and that this approach would help in building a strong agribusiness economy capable of meeting domestic food demand goals and generating export revenues leading to increase in foreign exchange earnings and creating jobs.
He expressed hope that the easy access to regional importation of food products can help countries within Africa to achieve food security given that the pact connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined GDP valued at $3.4tn.