The Managing Director, Nigeria Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank, Mr Abubakar Bello, said that Kaduna State has the advantage of becoming a hub for the distribution of processed agricultural products for African continent.
Bello said this on Friday at the ongoing 6th edition of the annual Kaduna State Economic and Investment Summit, 6.0., with the theme, “Towards a sustainable knowledge-based economy”.
He spoke during a panel discussion on a topic, “AfCFTA: Opportunities in transforming the Agricultural Sector of Kaduna State”.
He said that state was moving in the right direction by creating the needed atmosphere and environment for investors to come and invest.
According to him, the annual summit and enabling investment environment to make state a cluster for Africa’s industrialised agricultural processing is becoming more and more clear.
He said that 90 per cent of Nigeria’s exports out of Nigeria were either agriculture commodities or agro-allied manufactured commodities.
He said that agriculture had always been central to Nigeria export but also key to Nigeria’s economy being the largest contributor to the nation’s GDP and the largest employer of labour.
Bello urged state to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) by taking agriculture beyond commodities to processing, thereby, creating comparative advantage.
“AFCTA has come and Nigeria and Kaduna state can take advantage of it by focusing more on agricultural processing.
“This is because, what we produce in Nigeria is what is being produced in other parts of Africa, cocoa, grains and cashew among others.
“However, with AFCTA, the countries that will benefit most from agriculture are countries that take agriculture beyond commodities to processing, thereby creating comparative advantage,” he said.
Mr Francis Anatogu, the Executive Secretary, the National Action Committee on AFCFTA, said that Africa exports about 600 billion dollars of product to the rest of the world.
According to him, this is a huge opportunity for Nigeria and other countries sourcing for raw materials from Africa, processing and selling in Africa, had given them an edge.
“Kaduna state is already providing platforms but requires a skillful population to be competitive by choosing a product and service to take to other parts of Africa and the gateway to other parts of the world.”
On his part, Dr Gylych Jelilov, the Head of Economics Department, Nile University, Abuja, added that state was blessed for being the third most populous state in the country, but also has a huge task of creating jobs.
According to him, the huge population is creating discussions on how to create jobs, otherwise the unemployed will look for who to rob, leading to kidnapping, banditry and other forms of insecurity.
“One of the unique ways to absorb labour is agriculture, because the land is available. What is needed is to invest in agricultural input and credit facilities to farmers.”
Mr Ishaku Elijah, the Assistant General Manager, Field Operations, Babban Gona, an agricultural-based company, said, “Just like oxygen is to fire, so are unemployed youths to insecurity’’.
Elijah said that about 80 million youths needed secured jobs by 2030, stressing, “If we do not get these youths engaged, we are simply looking for trouble and agriculture is the gateway.
“In spite the security challenges, Babban Gona, was still able to grow, and we really want to commend the state government for providing the enabling environment as 70 per cent of our operations are here in the state.
“While 98 per cent of our workforces are youths, our farmers grew from 100 to 84,000 in the last 10 years and we have been able to support over 130,000 rural smallholder farmers within the period.
“We have to make agriculture attractive to the youths by impr
oving returns on agricultural investment through increased yield per hectare.”
He pointed out that Nigeria was a six billion dollars maize economy, adding that the country was only supplying 10.5 million metric tonnes of maize out of the 15 million metric tonnes demanded annually. (NAN)