By G9ija

President of the Nigerian-Belgium Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), Timi Austen-Peters, has said that the potential in the agriculture sector can bail the country out of the perennial foreign exchange (FOREX) crisis if the value chains are developed to enhance its export value.

Austen-Peters stated this at a webinar hosted by the chamber and Agricultural Fresh Produce Growers and Exporters Association of Nigeria (AFGEAN) on Friday. Participants at the event tagged ‘Closing the Gap Between Farmers and Buyers and Create Access to Financial Support’ deliberated on related challenges and explored possible solutions.

The Chamber President said agricultural development is important for addressing the food security challenge and positioning the economy for sustainable growth and that the sector has a huge “commercial value.”

Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer, the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC), Yewande Sadiku, pointed out that Nigeria, being among the 10 top countries in the world with arable land, can feed the world. She said the country’s natural resource endowment is a huge attraction to investors who she said are increasingly finding it easier to do business in the market.

“Agriculture incentives are enormous. Nigeria has moved up drastically on the ease of doing the business assessment. We are not where we should be but what we have today has shown a remarkable improvement considering where we were some years ago,” Sadiku noted.

According to AFGEAN President, Tajudeen Dantata, it is no longer sustainable to continue to depend on hydrocarbon for sustenance and foreign exchange earnings. He urged the government to give prior attention to the development of the agriculture value chain to position the sector as an alternative to oil and gas.

After a historical analysis of the challenges facing the sector and the emerging opportunities in the international market, Dantata insisted that the country can aspire “to depend on agriculture rather than crude for self-sufficiency and export earnings”.

Commercial Manager, DHL Aviation, Abayomi Adetola, said Nigeria has moved beyond when the company’s cargo aircraft would fly in from Europe “full but returned empty”. He, however, said Kenya, Ghana, and Benin are doing much better than Nigeria in agriculture produce export and that the country must be aggressive in its efforts to catch up.

Adetola listed vegetable, yam, and cassavas as the major fresh produce exported from Nigeria, adding that the rejection rate is falling as logistics, documentation, and quality continue to improve.

Quality of produce, continuity, reliability, and proper documentation, he said, are some of the factors that guarantee good export earnings from agriculture.

He disclosed that exporters from the country merely service Nigerians in diaspora and are yet to scratch the opportunity in the international market.

Representatives of the Port of Antwerp, Sifax Group, the European Union Relations, and other foreign organisations spoke shared their perspectives on the logistics support available for Nigerian exporters with the capacity to play in the European market. They also called for collaboration in the effort to broaden the country’s commercial offerings in the global market.

‘We are transforming business process to satisfy customers’
United Bank for Africa Plc has said that the recently embarked transformation of its processes is to ensure that customers’ expectations are not only met but surpassed while enjoying seamless and world-class banking services.

The bank said it has embarked on several initiatives that include streamlining and automating its processes, upgrading technology, training, and staff reward to ensure that customers enjoy the very best of services.

Head of Operation, Alex Alozie, who explained this during a virtual session to mark the 2020 Customer Service Week, said the bank has intensified its efforts yo put the customer first while reaffirming its leadership position.

Alozie said that in line with this year’s theme, the ‘Dream Team’, the bank has recorded considerable milestones in its journey.

He said: “In the last one year, we have embarked on an intensive drive to transform our services across all service touchpoints, including but not limited to banking halls, channels – internet, mobile and USSD in Nigeria, Africa and other territories where we operate.

“We have ensured that our customers enjoy self-service, where they can carry out their transactions seamlessly on their devices. This has further boosted customers’ confidence as the services provide ease and convenience, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic brought out the best of us. With newly improved products like UBA and our recently-improved Mobile App, our uptime has improved significantly. Our branch operations have also recorded considerable improvement. All these are the outcomes of the transformation journey we embarked upon.”