The 19th Nigerian Economic Summit was held between September 3-5, 2013, at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja. The central theme of the summit was Growing Agriculture as a Business to Diversify Nigeria’s Economy. The summit was used as a platform to evaluate the Agricultural Transformation Agenda of the federal government with the aim of ensuring that its potential translates into job creation, food security, social security and economic diversification. All the specific sectorial indicators that can crystallize the expected change were extensively considered with the following critical outcomes:
- Financing agribusiness to ensure a successful industry transformation: government has to put in place policies that will encourage access to funding from banks through cooperative societies. Practitioners in the industry need to develop cost-effective agro-specific insurance products.
- Advancing Information and Communication Technology for agriculture: government should implement projects that give incentives to operators to build networks in rural areas. There is need for government to also create an enabling environment for innovation, lower market-entry barriers and increase participation of Nigerian companies in ICT. Commodities Exchanges are considered an effective mechanism for achieving coordination and more efficient markets and as such the Abuja Commodity Exchange needs to be made more functional in addition to establishing electronic warehousing centers in the country.
- Exploring opportunities provided by Science, Research & Development: the new developments around science, research and development offers an opportunity for collaboration on the effective utilization of tropical wheat varieties. The government should put in place a proper channel for administering the Cassava Bread Fund in other to ensure that it gets to the intended beneficiaries. Public Private Partnership in R&D funding is imperative for a faster growth of the agro-allied industry in Nigeria. Government should further strengthen Intellectual Property Rights/Royalties in order to incentivize investment in market driven research.
- Implementing policies and incentives for developing the food and agribusiness industry in Nigeria: government should create visible infrastructure in agricultural communities to elicit interest in agribusiness. There is need for more venture-capital investment in agro-commodities. Government should also fast track the implementation of the staple crop processing zones.
- Sustaining the Agricultural Transformation Agenda: There is need to create a demand - driven Agricultural system that will give rise to a change in the current agribusiness labor composition. Encouraging investment in adaptive power alternatives. Expanding financing of Agriculture to bring about new financing arrangement at low interest rates. There is need for price stabilization, Crop Index Insurance, Setting up of agro-meteorological stations and branding of agricultural products.
FIIRO is expected to play a prominent role in fast tracking the outcomes under Science, Research and Development. The institute is already on the right track given its prominence during the summit at which samples of bread and confectioneries made from HQCF were exhibited along with other R&D products. A good opportunity for collaboration is to partner with the Lake Chad Institute to evaluate the quality of the tropical wheat varieties developed by the institute and its adaptability for use as a substitute for imported wheat.
The current participation of FIIRO in the implementation of the Cassava Bread Fund set up by the federal government is also noteworthy. It gives the institute an opportunity to share its expertise of many years in the utilization of the fund to achieve the government’s projection of broadening the Cassava Value Chain to create jobs, increase the livelihood of cassava growers/processors and the application of science and technology for value addition and higher capacity utilization.
The platform offered by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group for the institute to participate as Co-Chair on its Science and Technology Policy Commission could be well utilized to broaden FIIRO’s interaction/collaboration with the private sector particularly in ensuring that the gains from the 19th Summit remain sustainable for many years to come.