Nigeria Should Focus on Wealth Creation, Not Poverty Alleviation—Akinwuntan

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By Dipo Olowookere

Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, has been advised to pay more attention to wealth creation rather than poverty alleviation because the former has the potential of making the country achieve its economic goals.

The government of President Muhammadu Buhari is planning to lift at least 100 million Nigerians from poverty in the next 10 years, though he only has less than four years to constitutionally remain in office.

But the focus must begin to move away from poverty alleviation because of the huge human capital and natural resources in the country, Mr Patrick Akinwuntan, the Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria has suggested.

The banker made this suggestion at the recent Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) 13th Annual Bankers Conference held in Abuja.

“Nigeria needs to move to the level of wealth creation, not just talking of poverty alleviation because we have the human capital and natural resources,” Mr Akinwuntan, who was the Chairman of the CIBN Consultative Committee for the event, said.

“We must, therefore, leverage technology, access to finance to be able to support the developing economy,” he added.

He noted that banks need to support those who need to grow their businesses, support those who need to invest in productive capacity.

The banker reiterated that banks are already deploying digital platforms to take financial services to the underbanked, expressing the desire of lenders to put Nigeria at the forefront of economic development in Africa.

Also speaking at the conference, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, charged banks to make every efforts to boost the nation’s economy by supporting critical sectors.

According to him, the banking sector “should consider ways to increase its loans to the agriculture sector from 4 per cent to 10 per cent by 2024.”

He urged financial institutions to explore “opportunities in the agriculture sector” especially in the areas of the agriculture value chains like storage centres, transport logistics and technology platforms that can enable rural farmers to sell their produce directly to the markets.”

The CBN chief said “agricultural sector also offers significant opportunity for the nation to earn foreign exchange through the exports of processed agricultural products.

“With declining foreign exchange earnings from crude oil, banks should consider supporting agro-processing companies that are export-oriented.

“These measures would help to improve the productivity of farmers, increase our foreign exchange earnings, reduce post-harvest losses while supporting the growth of other sectors of our economy such as manufacturing, and transportation.”

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the global supply chains and food supply, saying if “measures had not been taken earlier to improve cultivation and processing of staple crops in Nigeria prior to the onset of the pandemic, we would have had to deal with a major food crisis in the country.”

“The banking sector, therefore, has a significant role to play as a facilitator of growth through its intermediation function,” Mr Emefiele declared.

On his part, the President/Chairman of Council, CIBN, Mr Bayo Olugbemi, noted that “given the recent disruption caused by the pandemic, the role of banks has become more important now than ever before.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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