Roland Oroh, is the founder and director of Nigeria Agribusiness Register. The organisation is launching AgNet today (Thursday 14 March 2019) – an outreach programme of the Nigeria Agribusiness Register. Oroh spoke to Daily Trust on what informed the decision to launch the programme. Excerpt:
What is AgNet all about and what is the objective of its launch?
AgNet stands for Agribusiness Networking, and this networking is an outreach programme of the Nigeria Agribusiness Register. The Register came into being to facilitate $3.4 billion in new agribusiness investments by 2023 from domestic and foreign sources through the provision of free and chargeable business development services to capital providers and project promoters.
The Register is designed to be operated as a private-public partnership initiative. It will serve five functions, firstly, to identify and track agribusiness investments that are above $1 million (or less in some cases) in investment value in selected value chains (like a yellow page of some sort). Secondly, it is to attract and operationalize new domestic and foreign direct investment projects. Thirdly, to provide statistical data and information for measuring employment and inclusive growth in agribusiness demography.
Fourthly, it is to provide business development services to listed businesses to strengthen and support the expansion of their operations in sales, distribution, hiring, and management. Lastly, to promote new agriculture technology ventures through incubation support services in partnership with the relevant government agencies in Nigeria.
So AgNet comes in on the second objective of the Register, namely to provide an opportunity for project promoters to meet with alternative fund providers so that new and expanding agribusiness projects can network with fund providers for deals to happen.
What specific areas of agriculture is this programme going to focus on?
AgNet will cover innovations and dynamic business models in agribusiness from primary production, aggregation, and processing including logistics, warehousing and cold storage investment projects. In addition, agricultural technology (agtech), climate-smart, gender inclusive, renewable energy (cleantech) projects are encouraged and will be weighted heavily.
We are constantly researching the funding side to know what the different funding interests are and what sorts of projects specific fund providers are looking for and then match them with projects in those areas. We also prepare project promoters on basic pitching techniques and support in business plan development and offer other relevant kinds of support. So we are more like a matchmaking service so projects can get funding more easily.
How is this initiative going to benefit farmers, processors, and other actors in the sector?
Ultimately, the beneficiaries will be farmers, aggregators and processors. Recently, the Hon Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heinekein Lokpobiri, was quoted as saying the biggest problem of Nigeria’s agriculture is funding. Finance that is patient and affordable is required to put all the factors of production together to drive growth in the sector. Banks generally are finding it difficult to fund the agric sector. Though they are trying their best, more needs to be done so that the potentials of the sector can be realised.
Nigeria has 84 million hectares of arable land, out of which only 40% is cultivated and only about 10% is optimally cultivated. Recognising farmland and agribusiness investments generally as an alternative asset class and allowing long term funding from pension fund assets will greatly benefit farmers and others within the value chain. Farmers will have more options to sell their produce if there are more processing facilities and aggregation centres.
Processors need to develop market channels and distribution networks and promote their brands in domestic and regional markets considering the possibilities of trading within the ECOWAS regional market and further broader within the new African Continental Free Trade Agreement with over 1.3 billion Africa-wide consumers. So ultimately, identifying alternative funding for agribusiness will be beneficial to all.