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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

CBN Puts Down N500m to Encourage Entrepreneurship Among Students

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Encourage Entrepreneurship

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

As part of its policy measures to address rising youth unemployment and underemployment, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has disclosed that it will support students in tertiary institutions to encourage entrepreneurship.

According to the apex bank, a grant of N500 million would be awarded to five top Nigerian polytechnics and universities with the best entrepreneurial pitches or ideas.

“Five top Nigerian polytechnics and universities with the best entrepreneurial pitches/ideas shall be awarded as follows: first place – N150 million; second place – N120 million; third place – N100 million; fourth place – N80 million; and fifth place – N50 million,” a report from the central bank on Wednesday, October 20, titled Guidelines for the implementation of tertiary institutions entrepreneurship scheme stated.

The bank said it would receive offers from crucial sectors of the economy like agribusiness, information technology, creative industry, and science and technology.

On implementation, CBN disclosed that a Body of Experts (BoE) from the private and public sector would be put together for the regional and national entrepreneurship competitions to evaluate entrepreneurial and technological innovations submitted by participants.

The BoE, who will review and recommend the projects, will comprise four representatives from the Bankers’ Committee, one representative from consulting industry, and one nominee from the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).

The body to review the pitches also comprises one nominee each from the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), and from the CBN (Secretary).

“Participation under the developmental component shall be restricted to undergraduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities.

“Interested Nigerian polytechnics and universities shall apply to participate in the national biennial entrepreneurship competition on a dedicated online portal (https://cbnties.com.ng), outlining brief details of the project, potential impact, and evidence of originality of the project.

“The submitted applications shall be evaluated by the BoE through engagements that showcase undergraduates competing by pitching entrepreneurial and technological innovations at regional levels, with finalists proceeding to the national event for final consideration and ranking by the BoE,” CBN disclosed.

According to the bank, the program, which will be aired a month on national television stations and on social media, will help promote the value of entrepreneurship.

It said that the awarded grant will be credited “in tranches of 55:45 ratio” directly to a dedicated account opened for the purpose of the funding.

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Economy

NGX Group Gains 10% to Lift Stock Market by 0.26%

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NGX Group Shares

By Dipo Olowookere

The nation’s stock market rebounded by 0.26 per cent on Wednesday after going down by 0.71 per cent on Monday, which was the last trading session as the exchange was closed on Tuesday for a public holiday in Nigeria.

Investors were in high spirits yesterday when they returned to the market and this reflected in the level of activity as the trading volume rose by 47.47 per cent to 499.5 million stocks from 338.7 million stocks, the trading value increased by 25.16 per cent to N5.1 billion from N4.1 billion, while the number of deals grew by 2.25 per cent 5,998 deals from 5,866 deals.

Business Post reports that when the exchange closed for the day, FBN Holdings was the most traded equity with the sale of 147.6 million units valued at N1.8 billion, followed by eTranzact, which transacted 105.2 million units worth N215.6 million.

Furthermore, Access Bank sold 27.9 million units worth N266.0 million, Transcorp traded 22.3 million units valued at N22.8 million, while GTCO recorded a turnover of 20.6 million shares worth N612.9 million.

It was observed that the market closed in the positive territory as a result of the growth posted by the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Group Plc as its share price went up by 10.00 per cent to settle at N21.45.

GlaxoSmithKline rose by 6.87 per cent to N7.00, NPF Microfinance Bank gained 5.85 per cent to trade at N1.81, Coronation Insurance grew by 4.17 per cent to 50 kobo, while FBN Holdings appreciated by 3.83 per cent to N12.20.

On the flip side, Prestige Assurance was the worst loser as its value depreciated by 8.51 per cent to 43 kobo, Consolidated Hallmark Insurance fell by 8.33 per cent to 55 kobo, Academy Press also dropped 8.33 per cent to 33 kobo, Cadbury Nigeria lost 5.88 per cent to sell for N8.00, while Union Bank went down by 5.66 per cent to N5.00.

In all, a total of 21 stocks closed on the gainers’ chart while 18 stocks finished on the losers’ chart, indicating a positive market breadth and investor sentiment.

However, three of the five major sectors of the market closed bearish with the energy, consumer goods and banking counters losing 0.39 per cent, 0.24 per cent and 0.20 per cent respectively, while the insurance and industrial goods sectors rose by 0.58 per cent and 0.04 per cent apiece.

At the close of transactions, the All-Share Index (ASI) improved by 105.04 points to 41,249.71 points from 41,144.67 points, while the market capitalisation expanded by N54 billion to N21.526 trillion from N21.472 trillion.

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Economy

Naira Appreciates to N414.07/$1 as Bitcoin Hits $66k

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bitcoin nigerians

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Naira appreciated against the US Dollar at the Investors and Exporters (I&E) window of the foreign exchange (forex) market by 0.16 per cent or 66 kobo on Wednesday, October 20 as trading returned after the Eid-el-Maulud holiday break.

At the close of business at the midweek session, the local currency was sold for N414.07/$1 in contrast to N414.73/$1 it was traded on Monday, according to data obtained from FMDQ Securities Exchange.

During the second trading session of the week, a turnover of $334.97 million was recorded as against the $172 million achieved at the preceding session.

This indicated a $162.97 million or 48.7 per cent rise in the value of transactions yesterday and because of the anticipation of pressure on the Nigerian currency, FX supply was made available to traders and this supported the growth posted by the domestic currency during the trading day.

But at the interbank segment of the market, the Nigerian currency maintained stability against the American Dollar as it remained unchanged at N410.89/$1 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, at the cryptocurrency market, Bitcoin (BTC) rallied to an all-time high (ATH) of $66,000 yesterday as optimism surged for greater mainstream acceptance in the wake of the successful launch of the first exchange-traded fund for US investors.

In a Naira equivalent, the most popular digital coin in the world was sold for N37,004,384.99 after it rose by 2.8 per cent.

On October 19, 2021, the Proshares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) was launched. The bitcoin exchange-traded fund is the first ETF ever to be approved in the United States and it’s based on bitcoin futures markets.

This development, Business Post gathered, triggered a renewed interest in the cryptos and caused Litecoin (LTC) to rise by 9.3 per cent to N117,992.99. Dash (DASH) went up by 5.9 per cent to sell for N111,892.63, Tron (TRX) grew by 4.7 per cent to trade at N58.70, while Ripple (XRP) appreciated by 4.4 per cent to trade at N635.00.

Further, Dogecoin (DOGE) was 4.2 per cent higher to sell at N150.96, Cardano (ADA) saw its value rise by 4.1 per cent to N1,305.81, Binance Coin (BNB) made a 3.4 per cent gain to trade at N205,395.75, while Ethereum (ETH) rose by 1.7 per cent to trade at N2,203,900.99.

However, the US Dollar Tether (USDT) went down by 0.4 per cent to sell for N565.49.

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