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New Investments Will Give Africa Lead in Agri Development

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Sola David-Borha

At a time when the rest of the world is re-thinking its approach to commercial agriculture, Africa has a clear opportunity to refresh its approach to the sector and become an emerging force.

Big shifts are already happening in food production, land and water use, and the integration of agri-tech and product tracing.

If African firms take an early lead during this transition, they will be well placed to compete globally by building enduring assets and commercial advantages beyond primary production.

The financing of new investments in agriculture has always relied on a healthy financial eco-system: active banks, sound insurers and lively futures markets.

The next set of gains will come from new platforms that allow small and large firms to connect to each other and to their shared stakeholders. The reciprocal exchange of market data will make smaller, efficient players more visible to large buyers.

“Without continued advances in agricultural productivity, the whole project of African advancement is at risk,” according to Linda Manda, Sector Head Agribusiness, Corporate and Investment Banking at Standard Bank. “The stakes are high for all of us”, says Ms Manda, “because communities in Africa rely on the agriculture industry for much more than food: employment, investment and infrastructure development are all part of the deal.”  Over half (52%) of all people in Sub-Saharan Africa are employed in agriculture (2019).

Three recent developments: Higher value incentives

Three recent development milestones suggest that African firms are ready to move beyond low-margin primary production while remaining active in agriculture.

According to Sola David-Borha, Chief Executive of Africa regions at Standard Bank, “‘higher-value economic activity is even more likely if finance, technology and trade move deeper into African agriculture. Larger and more open markets, strong supplier networks and technology investments will drive Africa’s growth.”

Trade data, and Standard Bank’s own long experience of trade finance, shows that Africa has been a net importer of food for almost two decades although the trade deficit has narrowed recently.

Despite the impressive export growth of certain key products, other food imports continue to rise. The COVID-induced disruption to imports is a reminder that regional resilience in the food supply is a practical imperative, not an intangible aspiration.

A larger, more open, internal market in SSA

First, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) should create a much larger internal market that gives producers access to a larger and more open market. Local production can better compete with the current import-and-distribute model. Large-scale production will arise when the returns are not stifled by trade friction. As an African bank, Standard Bank’s role is to put our strong balance sheet to work, lending to the new crop of agri-entrepreneurs.

Multinationals are already active cross-border distributors, but we expect new African producers to be attracted to the intra-African produce-to-trade and value addition opportunity. Africa also needs to be ready for the next disruption in trade. Some global imports will always be required but it would be wise to ensure that key inputs can also be sourced regionally.

Fading distinctions between suppliers

Second, the contrived distinction between the produce of small-holder farmers and very large commercial producers is beginning to fade. The new financial platforms being offered by Standard Bank will confirm the extent which large and small farming operations can complement one another.

Out-grower programmes offered by large global firms allow smallholders to establish themselves as suppliers to the biggest and most profitable value chains.

Tobacco, sugar and sorghum are all good case studies. Our banking platform is a place where buyers can meet producers, surrounded by market data on inputs, crop prices, volumes, regulations, trade advice and currency movements.

From the top of a tall grain silo, the neat polygons of mono-crop plantations appear to be the only advanced outposts of progress. By contrast, small-holder farmland can seem rough and rudimentary remnants of a pre-industrial age. Our own experience is quite different.

Smallholder farmers that have access to the right platforms and better yields are also able to compete on quality and cost. Local knowledge of weather, grains, indigenous varieties, insects, and soil has accumulated over many years in Africa and is becoming a treasure of indigenous competence and resourcefulness. The huge expansion of biological patents attests to the large commercial value of small, local insights.

Adoption of technology and optimisation logistics

The third recent milestone is the broad acceptance across Africa that advances in technology are not peripheral to growth. Grudging acceptance has given way to enthusiastic adoption.

Healthy livestock, fertile plantations, productive greenhouses and efficient cold chains all require technology partnerships to keep them productive and profitable.

Two decades of smartphone penetration in rural communities has probably eased the transition from guesswork and speculation to data-driven decisions and GPS mapping.

To make the most of this milestone, every hectare of land, every seedling and every bag of fertiliser must be used optimally. On-farm losses and unreliable methods are simply unaffordable during health pandemics and economic recessions.

Private investment in telecoms, machinery and pipelines will eventually work alongside publicly funded infrastructure: roads, rail and bulk water supplies.

Policy reforms need to support more public-private partnerships that have shown they can build and maintain high-quality infrastructure assets.

Consumer demand for less waste and more conservation will support investments in new systems that supply micro-nutrients to digitally-mapped crops and livestock. Food-insecure communities in Africa can cheer this development as much as time-starved households in wealthy countries: a regular surplus of well-priced food is the best guarantee of the social stability in which economic growth can best be cultivated.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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Economy

Dangote Says N300bn Bond Listing Reflects Nigerian Capital Market Depth

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Nigerian capital market Dangote Industries Limited

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The listing of Dangote Industries Limited’s N300 billion series 1 and 2 bonds on the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited has been described as an indicator of the depth of the Nigerian capital market.

The Group Chief Executive Officer of the conglomerates, Mr Olakunle Alake, said this on Wednesday when a closing gong ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the listing of the corporate debt instrument on the local stock exchange.

Mr Alake, represented by the Group Chief Finance Officer, Mr Mustapha Ibrahim, said, “We are pleased to have showcased the depth and liquidity of the domestic capital market whilst we reflect the strong quality of the issuer, despite the current global market realities.”

According to him, the depth of the market was reflected in the successful issuance of the bond, which was the largest aggregate local currency bond issued in the capital market so far within the year.

He further noted that the listing of the bond recorded participation from a wide range of investors, including domestic pension funds, asset managers and insurance companies and further demonstrated investors’ confidence in Nigeria’s credit reality.

On his part, the Divisional Head of Capital Markets at NGX, Mr Jude Chiemeka, speaking at the event, applauded the listing of the bond, which provides corporates with the opportunity to raise capital.

“The listing of this transaction on our platform not only allows for a more liquid capital market, but it also shows our capacity to facilitate large transactions towards enabling a more robust ecosystem,” Mr Chiemeka said.

He further noted that NGX remains committed to fostering similar transactions through its digital gateways such as this and a confident market where corporates and investors can achieve their respective objectives.

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Economy

Unlisted Securities Market Closes Flat at Midweek

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Unlisted Securities Market

By Adedapo Adesanya

Trading activities ended in a stalemate on the floor of the NASD Over-the-Counter (OTC) Securities Exchange on Wednesday, with no single price gainer or a price loser at the close of business.

As a result of this development, the market capitalisation of the bourse remained intact at N1.03 trillion, as the NASD Unlisted Securities Index (NSI) also remained unchanged at 743.15 points.

The unlisted securities market closed flat in the midweek session amid low investor appetite for the market, as attention shifted to the fixed-income market, where the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sold treasury bills at the primary market, with the stop rate over 14 per cent.

Data from the bourse showed that the volume of securities traded yesterday was abysmally low as it went down by 99.9 per cent to 8,299 units from the 20.1 million units transacted a day earlier.

Likewise, the value of shares traded during the session dropped to N1.2 million, 97.3 per cent lower than the N44.5 million posted in the preceding trading day.

These transactions were carried out yesterday in nine deals, 75 per cent lower than the 36 deals executed on Tuesday.

Geo-Fluids Plc remained the most traded stock by volume on a year-to-date basis with a turnover of 482.1 million units valued at N544.1 million, UBN Property Plc occupied second place with the sale of 365.8 units worth N309.5 million, while Industrial and General Insurance (IGI) Plc was in third place with the sale of 71.1 million units valued at N5.1 million.

Also, VFD Group Plc ended the session as the most traded stock by value on a year-to-date basis with a turnover of 7.3 million units worth N1.7 billion, Geo-Fluids Plc was in second place with a turnover of 482.1 million units worth N544.1 million, while UBN Property Plc was in third place with the sale of 365.8 million units valued at N309.5 million.

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Economy

Naira Sells N461.24/$1 at I&E, N764/$1 at P2P, N747/$1 at Black Market

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Fake Naira notes banknotes

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Nigerian Naira appreciated against the US Dollar in the Peer-2-Peer (P2P) and the Investors and Exporters (I&E) windows of the foreign exchange market on Wednesday, March 30, but depreciated in the black market.

In the P2P segment, it gained N3 against its American counterpart to quote at N764/$1, in contrast to the N767/$1 it was traded on Tuesday as the demand for cryptos, which most traders in this category use the funds to buy, was relatively mild.

In the I&E window or the spot market, the Naira appreciated against the greenback yesterday by 51 Kobo or 0.11 per cent to settle at N461.24/$1 compared with the previous day’s N461.75/$1, according to data obtained from FMDQ Securities Exchange, with the forex turnover put at $74.31 million.

But in the parallel market, the domestic currency depreciated against the US Dollar in the midweek session by N4 to trade at N747/$1 versus Tuesday’s exchange rate of N743/$1.

Also, in the interbank window, the Naira lost N1.93 against the Pound Sterling to sell at N567.68/£1 versus Tuesday’s N565.52/£1, and against the Euro, it slid by N2.25 to at N499.21/€1 compared with the preceding day’s N496.66/€1.

Meanwhile, the digital currency market swayed to the bulls yesterday as most of the tokens tracked by Business Post ended in the green territory amid better-than-expected consumer confidence figures from the United States.

Data from the US Conference Board showed that its monthly survey rose to a reading of 104.2 basis points, better than the 101 mark expected, lifting Bitcoin (BTC) by 4.2 per cent to $28,519.76, as Ethereum (ETH) rose by 0.5 per cent to $1,788.52.

Solana (SOL) grew by 2.1 per cent to $21.08, Dogecoin (DOGE) gained 1.4 per cent to sell at $0.0751, Litecoin (LTC) increased by 0.6 per cent to $90.14, while Cardano (ADA) chalked up 0.5 per cent to quote at $0.3797.

However, Ripple (XRP) dropped 0.4 per cent to trade at $0.5336, Binance Coin (BNB) lost 0.2 per cent to settle at $313.02, and Binance USD (BUSD) and the US Dollar Tether (USDT) traded flat at $1.00 apiece.

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