By Dipo Olowookere
The Managing Director/CEO of Heritage Bank, Mr Ifie Sekibo, has expressed concerns over the high wheat import bill of Nigeria, noting that it was for this reason the bank was collaborating with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to adopt a novel approach to boost local production capacity.
Speaking at the launch of the Wheat Seed Multiplication Project tagged the Brown Revolution Initiative in Jos, Plateau State, the renowned banker said the partnership with the central bank is expected to add about 750,000MTs via rain-fed cultivation and reduce annual import by 60 per cent.
He further said the strategic partnership would help reverse the huge amount of foreign exchange (FX) used to bring the wheat into Nigeria and upscale its domestic production to close the wide supply gap in the agricultural space.
As part of the bank’s efforts to support the high yield seed variety to national wheat seed stock, Mr Sekibo, represented by the Head Agricbusiness and Export, Ugonwa Ikegwuonu, explained that the lender sets out to cultivate a total of 1,000 hectares of farmland at the end of the year with at least producing about 5 tonnes of wheat seeds per hectare in terms of yield.
“We set out to cultivate a total of 1,000 hectares of farmland but at the end of the day because of time constraints & other challenges, we have been able to cultivate 357 hectares.
“The crops according to the project manager are doing very well and in a few weeks they will be ripe for harvest, in fact, part of the farm is already ripe for harvest. So, we set out with this partnership with two anchors which we call service providers,” he further explained.
Also commenting, the Deputy Governor, CBN, Mr Edward Adamu, stated that the short-term benefit is the addition of about 2,000 metric tonnes (MT) of high yield seed variety to the national wheat seed stock which is 20,000MT currently.
According to him, this effort has the potential to add about 750,000MT of wheat annually through rain-fed cultivation.
He noted that estimated that only one per cent or 63,000MT of wheat, out of the five to six million metric tons of wheat consumed annually was produced locally.
The Governor of Plateau State, Mr Simon Lalong, while also speaking at the event, affirmed that Nigeria was on the path of agricultural food sufficiency with the ‘Brown Revolution’ the rain-fed wheat would help curtail the $2 billion spent on importation of wheat.
He further noted that the target of his administration was to attain zero importation of wheat, attain wheat sufficiency in the economy and commence exportation to raise foreign reserve.
President of Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr Salim Muhammad, stated that they have a good understanding with Heritage Bank for its proactive approach to the objective of the rain-fed wheat production in the agriculture value chain.
“I assure you that at the end of this programme, by next season, it will be a different scenario/story because we are now doing it on a very small scale but I’m sure by next season, the real revolution will start off and it will be seen all over Nigeria. Because currently, we are producing wheat in 16 wheat-producing states.
“By the coming of this wheat dry season, seeds available and practicable; we are going to expand our scope to cover other areas that can produce wheat during the dry season.
“I’m not saying that we are going to cover the whole 36 states of the country, but I assure you, by next season we will be thinking of about 20 to 27 states that we have,” he stated.
Business Post reports that the scheme was put in place to meet high demand amid the poor production capacity of wheat in the country.
The novel initiative that will boost wheat production annually is being processed via rain-fed cultivation, as this approach is actually the first-ever wheat programme that it would be planted in the wet season and as part of the pilot phase of the initiative, Heritage Bank financed the first-ever large-scale rain-fed wheat production in Nigeria.
Financial Industry Players Must Collaborate to Satisfy Customers Needs
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The Managing Director of Interswitch Purepay, Mr Akeem Lawal, has called on critical players in the Nigerian financial service industry to put heads together to provide innovative solutions and unique offerings to customers.
According to him, customers deserve the best from financial industry players like banks, telecommunications companies and financial technology (fintech) firms in order to meet the 95 per cent financial inclusion target by 2024.
Mr Lawal, who delivered a presentation at the recently-concluded Nigerian Fintech Forum at the Civic Centre, Lagos, stated that the partnership will accelerate growth and deepen financial inclusion in the country.
He said despite the growth of the financial sector, customers are yearning for more innovative and seamless payment solutions, which must be designed to meet their needs strengthen the financial industry.
The tech expert said at the event themed Building Partnership for Growth, Exploring the Intersection of Banks, Telcos and Fintech Companies that the Nigeria financial industry has evolved tremendously over the years with customers transitioning from banking halls transactions to adopting digital payment services.
“As headline platinum sponsor, we are delighted to be sponsoring the Nigeria Fintech Forum because we believe that a platform like this will provide the opportunity for critical stakeholders in the financial industry to engage and proffer solutions that will consequently drive the growth of the financial Industry.
“At Interswitch, we will continue to design tailor-made solutions that speak to the need of every customer. Therefore, it is important for players in the financial industry, including the banks, telcos and fintechs to leverage collaboration to provide innovative and seamless solutions to customers. This is the only way we can meet the 95% financial inclusion target by 2024,” Mr Lawal stated.
Speaking during the panel session tagged Regulating Nigeria’s Fintech Industry, Building Investors Confidence Without Stifling Growth, another speaker, Mr Tyoyila Aga, who is Group Head, Financial Services Business at Interswitch, said it was important that players in the industry collaborate with regulators, keep abreast of new regulations and help strengthen compliance levels to grow the financial industry.
“At Interswitch, our approach to regulators is to work in harmonious ways with them and that is what we have been doing for two decades. This has helped us to understand regulations better and we urge other players to do same to grow the industry,” Mr Aga said.
Airtel Africa Gets $125m Credit Facility from Citibank
By Adedapo Adesanya
Top telecommunications company, Airtel Africa Plc, has announced the signing of a $125 million revolving credit facility with Citibank’s subsidiaries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This was contained in a disclosure sent to the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited.
It was stated that the credit facility will provide Airtel Africa with the opportunity to save interest rates in exchange for achieving social impact milestones in such areas as digital inclusion and gender diversity.
The social impact projects will focus mainly on rural areas and women and are aligned with Airtel Africa’s recently launched sustainability strategy.
Airtel Africa’s newly secured $125 million credit facility is part of the telco’s corporate strategy to raise debt in its local operating companies. To this effect, the facility will come in both local currencies and US dollars. It will also have a 1-year tenor.
“This facility is in line with our strategy to raise debt in our local operating companies and will include both local currency and US dollar-denominated debt. The facility has a tenor up to September 2024 and will be used to support Airtel Africa’s operations and investments in four of its subsidiaries,” the statement said.
This is a big boost to the telco which operates in 14 African markets and has ongoing projects across several of these markets, including the recent acquisition of an additional 60 MHz spectrum for $40 million in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Airtel Africa’s business offerings range from telecommunications to mobile money services. It has a combined user base of about 131.6 million.
DisCos Reduce Number of Estimated Billing Customers by 16.3%
By Adedapo Adesanya
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has said that the number of Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) customers in Nigeria increased by 1.4 per cent from 10.37 million in 2020 to 10.51 million in 2021.
The report, Nigeria Electricity Report 2021, focuses on energy billed, revenue generated, and customers by DISCOS under the reviewed period.
The report said the number of metered customers rose by 36.2 per cent from 3.51 million in 2020 to 4.77 million in 2021, causing the number of estimated billing customers to decrease by 16.3 per cent from 6.86 million in 2020 to 5.74 million in 2021.
It was disclosed that in total, the value of electricity billed in 2021 grew by 5.9 per cent from 22,042.28 Gigawatts (Gwh) in 2020 to 23,360.59 (Gwh) in 2021, while the total revenue collected by the discos stood at N761.17 billion, 44.5 per cent higher than the N526.77 billion achieved in 2020.
A breakdown showed that the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) recorded the highest number of metered customers in 2021 at 701,781, while Yola Electricity Distribution Company (YEDC) recorded the least with 65,098.
In terms of electricity supplied, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC) recorded the highest in 2021 with 4,088.62 Gwh, while YEDC recorded the lowest at 422.00 Gwh.
Similarly, the highest revenue collected was by IKEDC with 155,012.01 million while the least collection was recorded in YEDC with 9,804.00m million.
More than 83 million Nigerians do not have access to grid electricity. This represents 43 per cent of the country’s population and makes Nigeria the country with the largest energy access deficit in the world.
The lack of reliable power is a significant constraint for citizens and businesses, resulting on annual economic losses estimated at N10.1 trillion, which is equivalent to about 2 per cent of GDP.
According to the now-discontinued World Bank Doing Business report for 2020, Nigeria ranked 171 out of 190 countries in getting electricity and electricity access is seen as one of the major constraints for the private sector.
To assist in mitigating this, the World Bank approved $500 million to support the government of Nigeria in improving its electricity distribution sector last year.
According to the global lender, the project will help boost electricity access by improving the performance of the DisCos through a large-scale metering programme.
In addition, the World Bank said financial support would be provided to private distribution companies only on achievement of results in terms of access connections, improved financial management and network expansion.
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