Agriculture is a very familiar and important sector to the Nigerian populace. Nigeria is naturally endowed with land (39.6 m hectares of arable land, of which 60% is under cultivation), climate and rainfall, its coastal areas and its history as an agrarian economy. Sixty per cent of the Nigerian population is involved in agricultural activities which makes up thirty-five per cent of Nigeria’s GDP. Nigeria is one of the world’s largest producers of cassava, cashews, tubers (sweet potato, yams), fruits (mango, papaya) and grains (millet, sorghum and sesame).
In Nigeria, the pre-crude oil era was characterized by a thriving agricultural scene on a national scale with the groundnut pyramid being one of the most significant memories of that era. Today, the focus has been shifted from agriculture to crude oil as the bulk of the country’s exports products are petroleum related. Transiting from small-scale farming for the domestic market and at the subsistence level to large-scale mechanized and innovative farming has been very slow.
Faced with growing challenges such as limited access to funding and training, poor rural-urban road networking and in recent times, insecurity; it is no surprise that Nigeria is presently a net importer of food. The first step to change the tide is the awareness and willingness of the Nigerian state to quit overdependence on petroleum-related revenue and explore non-oil domains of which agriculture tops the list. Concrete actions towards diversification are at the centre of the Economic Recovery and Growth (ERG) Plan released by the Federal Government of Nigeria in February 2017 which has a central objective of diversifying the economy beyond crude oil and hydrocarbon resources. The Government is also working with the World Bank to on a project called Commercial Agriculture Development Project (CADP) which is aimed at improving agriculture production in Nigeria by supporting the commercialization of agriculture production, processing and marketing outputs among small and medium scale commercial farmers and agro-processors.
The project will help to improve access of participating commercial farmers to new technologies, improved infrastructures, finances, and output markets, strengthen agricultural production systems and facilitate access to market for some targeted value chains among small and medium scale commercial farmers in five participating states; Cross River, Enugu State, Kaduna State, Kano State, and Lagos State. These value chains are rice, oil palm, cocoa, fruit trees, poultry production, aquaculture and dairy, with maize and rice as staples.
Experts insist that given that majority Nigerian farmers operate farms that are less that one hectare, it is imperative that inclusive agriculture initiatives be implemented in order to encourage both small-scale and large-scale farming. Nevertheless, there has been a remarkable increase in export productivity in recent times.
In the first quarter of 2017, the trade value in exports surpassed that of imports as exports saw a whopping 82% increase. Agricultural exports from Nigeria include sesame seed, soya beans, frozen shrimps and prawn, cashew nuts in the shell and crude palm kernel oil. Nigeria’s principal export trading partners include India, the US, Spain, The Netherlands and France. Amongst these countries, France ties with Nigeria is peculiar. Beyond being an export trading partner, there seems to be a synchrony between the present French government and the Nigerian government on diversifying economic growth in Nigeria by focusing more on revenue generation through non-oil sectors. This was the underlying tone during President Macron’s visit to Nigeria a few weeks ago. Remarkably, the French President’s visit was more focused on culture, youth development and fostering business ties particularly in areas not related to petroleum.
Commendably, the French president established the Franco-Nigerian Business club to boost business relations between both countries. Founding members of the club include Lagos State Government, CFAO, Dangote Group, Heirs Holdings, Friends of Nigeria (FON), and some others. The activities of the club will be communicated soon by the founding members including information about how other companies and SMEs can join the club. The first Franco-Nigerian Business Forum which held on the 4th of July in Lagos brought together 300 companies around themes of agriculture, renewable energy, sustainable cities and technology and innovation.
President Macron’s visit to Nigeria was indeed a step towards greater collaboration and support between both countries. Agreements worth about 475 Million dollars were signed and witnessed by both presidents. They include Urban Mobility Improvement Programme, sustainable water supply and reforestation. The longterm benefit expected is a dramatic shift from bilateral trade characterized by majorly petroleum products to one where other sectors thrive particularly the agriculture and creative sectors.
Following the Presidential visit, Friends of Nigeria (FON) a French-based organization has also announced its project to launch an entrepreneurship support program for SMEs in Nigeria to be championed majorly by Nigerian entrepreneurs running successful companies in Europe. This project is to launch during the Spotlight Nigeria Forum, the largest forum for France-Nigeria Business holding in Paris early October. The program would provide capacity building and funding for SMEs in non-extractive sectors, with agribusiness being one of the major areas of focus.
For more information on how to participate during the Spotlight Nigeria Forum, visit the event here.