“No country can claim to be developed if you cannot feed yourself.”
President Goodluck Jonathan has commended world leaders and other delegates who despite the treats of terror, are attending the World Economic Forum for Africa (WEFA).
Mr. Jonathan who spoke at the High-Level closing plenary of Grow Africa, with the theme: A Leadership Agenda for Investing in African Agriculture, held at the Sheraton Hotels, Abuja, also commended the WEF team for not cancelling the event.
Two separate bomb explosions in the last one month killed about 100 people in Nyanya, on the outskirts of the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The attacks are believed to have been carried out by the Boko Haram terrorist group. The group has also claimed responsibility for the kidnap of over 250 school girls of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
Speaking on the importance of agriculture as a business, President Jonathan, who was a panelist alongside the Presidents of Tanzania Jakaya Kiweta; Rwanda, Paul Kagame; Boni Yayi of Benin Republic; and Prime Minister of Cote d’Ivoire, Daniel Duncan, said Nigeria was committed to self sufficiency in rice production by 2015-2016 for both domestic and export. This he said will help reduce poverty and hunger.
He assured that his administration was committed to moving agriculture from the rural development to business and creating wealth, hence Nigeria’s focus on treating agriculture as a business.
Mr. Jonathan stressed that Africa must create the enabling environment for private investors to get returns on their investments in agriculture, adding that that was the only way to attract them to the sector which is the major way of creating sustainable employment.
“No country can claim to be developed if you cannot feed yourself”, he said; hence the decision of his administration to dedicate 30 per cent of agric funds to women.
He further urged African leaders to go beyond campaign slogans if they want to reap the benefits of investment in agriculture.
Stressing the importance of encouraging the private sector to invest in agriculture, the President said, “You have to create environment to encourage investment because businessmen do not run charity organisations. That is why we are now looking at agriculture as a business. The youth before now see agriculture as something that is left for the poor and old people in the village with traditional instruments.
“If you invest in agriculture you will make returns on your investment. Agriculture is key because people must eat food no matter the situation. You can be sick and choose not to go to the hospital but you must eat every day”.
On food sufficiency, he said Nigeria’s import bill was very high because it imports almost everything, adding “that is why we are producing food for local consumption as well as to create jobs for our young people.
“There is a unique opportunity in agriculture because you will create jobs, achieve food nutrition and empower women.
“Before now lending to farmers was 2.5 per cent but presently it is 5 per cent and we are targeting a higher percentage.
“Before now, African leaders were playing politics with agriculture, but today the story has changed.
“In Nigerian we dedicated 30 per cent of loans to women and encouraged young men and women to be interested in modern agriculture. Financial inclusion is one of the limitation discouraging young people from investing in agriculture but if we encourage them they will be attracted to the sector”.
In conclusion, he said all these policies were being implemented and that is why Nigeria was achieving success.
All panelists concurred with President Jonathan on the importance of involving the private sector in development of agric sector.
Mr. Kagame particularly noted that the importance of agriculture cannot be overstated, adding “We are only focusing on it to maximise it’s benefits for us and our people”.
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