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Nigeria: Agribusiness is key to the future of the nation

Article - December 10, 2012
Agriculture, employing over 70 per cent of Nigeria's population, is a mainstay of the country's economy. However, rising food prices and food scarcity worldwide as well as challenges such as infrastructure gaps remain obstacles the country must overcome in order to feed and empower its citizens and move the country forward

Elephant Group Limited, a wholly Nigerian group of companies focused on commodities and equipment export for the oil industry as well as the import, distribution and marketing of fertilisers, wheat and rice, has decided to direct its focus at developing the agriculture sector in the near future in an effort to boost production and provide stability for the Nigerian people as the government looks to increase its agriculture GDP by 20 million tons in the next three years.

“We have decided to focus on Africa feeding itself,” says Akin Ogunbiyi, Elephant Group’s Executive Director.

“In the past 12 to 13 years, we have operated in other sectors of the economy, but since the beginning of this government'’s tenure, we sat down as a company and felt that we wanted to concentrate more on agribusiness and focus less on oil and gas and construction,” adds Tunji Owoeye, Managing Director.

For 10 years, Nigeria has been carrying out an ambitious reform agenda. This agenda involves developing the oil and gas sector as well as other sectors of the economy to ensure economic growth for the nation which now has a population of some 170 million people.

Despite Nigeria’s abundant natural resources (it is the biggest oil exporter in Africa and has the largest natural gas reserves on the continent) and the nation’s strong economic track record, poverty levels remain high and hurdles such as investment climate, infrastructure, incentives and policies affecting cultural productivity remain to be overcome. 

“Infrastructure is a major challenge,” says Mr Ogunbiyi, highlighting that in some areas simply accessing farms and transporting crops to markets is difficult due to a lack of usable roads. He goes on to note the problem of a lack of storage space, explaining that this forcibly reduced the amount of produce cultivated and thus the amount of income gained by farmers. 

“We believe in this country and in Africa,” says Mr Owoeye. Empowering Africans – not just in Nigeria but all over the continent (Elephant Group also has offices in Ghana, Cameroon, Niger and soon Togo and Benin) – as well as training and developing African entrepreneurs in agribusiness and encouraging diversification and foreign investment are key measures being taken to move the country from being highly dependent on import to increasing both its production levels and exports.

In August, Elephant Group announced plans to build a 350,000 metric ton per annum fertiliser plant to boost productivity. The firm also plans to set up rice-processing machines and plants to support rice farmers across the country, and is part of a national think tank which works to develop a roadmap for progress and development.