Bayelsa State to work with South Korea on agriculture, infrastructure development

Source: Nairametrics

The Bayelsa State government has disclosed that it plans on working with South Korea for the development of maritime, agriculture and infrastructure in the South-South state.

This was disclosed by Governor Douye Diri after a meeting with the ambassador of South Korea to Nigeria, Kim Young-Chae, in Abuja on Friday, adding that the state was also interested in improving education, science and technology, as well as oil and gas.

What the Governor said

“The purpose of this meeting is to explore areas of economic partnership and seek the expertise of South Korea in developing our state and its economy.

Bayelsa has huge potential in agriculture and marine resources. We seek foreign investments in aquaculture and deep-sea fishing.

Our terrain is good for aquaculture to thrive, as well as rice cultivation and production with the large expanse of land already in Peremabiri and Sampou.

We are trying to revive the culture of farming in our state. The government is interested in commercial farming as against the culture of subsistence farming that a lot of our people engage in.

South Korean expertise is also required in the production of plastics, in science and technology and the oil and gas sector.

Our administration is taking deliberate steps to open up the state. This can be done through massive road construction and development of infrastructure, including how to control the perennial flooding in our state.

We seek your partnership and expertise too in these areas,” Governor Diri said.

USAID awards $500,000 co-investment grant to boost agric in Nigeria

Source: Premium Times

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Tuesday announced that it has awarded a $500,000 (N205 million) co-investment grant through its West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade hub) to PYXERA Global to boost Nigeria’s agricultural systems and food security pursuit.

This was disclosed in a statement by Michael Clements, Trade hub’s chief of party.

“The USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub has awarded a $500,000 co-investment grant to PYXERA Global, a not-for-profit with extensive experience designing training and capacity-building programs, to support the launch of its West Africa Agriculture Resilience Program (WAFARP),” the statement partly reads.

It said the programme will assist 10,000 farmers cultivating rice, maize, and soybean within Nigeria’s Kebbi, Cross River, and Benue States.

According to the statement, these states are focal areas for the Trade Hub in Nigeria, whose work aligns with and supports the mission of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative.

It said the smallholder farmers PYXERA Global is assisting have faced numerous challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including income loss from not producing crops as planned, and that their challenges have resulted in disrupted market channels and food supply chains.

Based on this, Mr Clements said the initiative would be leveraging on the existing agribusiness systems of Dantata Foods and Allied Products Company Limited (Dantata Foods), while PYXERA Global will provide an avenue for smallholders in its programme to increase crop yield and boost their incomes.

“Nigeria’s agricultural sector has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, negatively impacting smallholder farmers and the communities of people who depend on their success in growing crops,” Mr Clements said.

He said; “We are excited about the potential of PYXERA Global’s West Africa Agriculture Resilience Program to bolster agricultural systems and expect to co-invest in other such programs as part of our COVID-19 rapid response initiative.”

Ann Oden, the programme’s team lead was quoted to have said; “Under the West Africa Agriculture Resilience Program model, we have designed a program that is based on strengthening systems for three agricultural value chains—rice, soybeans and maize,”

“This initiative leverages private sector resources to deliver a strategic program, with the goal of bringing economic prosperity to smallholder farmers while ensuring sustained food security,” she said.

How the initiative would be implemented

Mr Clements explained further that the goal will be achieved by first bringing all the smallholders into Dantata Foods’ outgrower programme, as the company will both assist the smallholders to increase crops yields and buy from them as well.

He said to ensure quality output for the crops it buys, the company will supply the smallholders with quality seeds and other farm inputs.

While being supported by PYXERA Global, the statement noted that Dantata Foods will also provide training programs to help the smallholders produce higher-quality crops that command better prices.

“The crops produced through the program will be taken to Dantata Foods’ aggregation centers already located in the three target states of Kebbi, Cross River, and Benue, where the smallholders will be paid by the company at prevailing market rates,” the statement noted.

It said to assist Dantata Foods and the smallholders it is supporting within and outside the program, PYXERA Global, will further fund upgrades to the aggregation centers to allow for state-of-the art cleaning and sorting equipment.

Dantata Foods chairman, Tajuddeen Dantata, said, “It is our greatest aim to support and improve the livelihood of everyone in the society, especially the underrepresented women and youth in the agricultural sector.”

Through the program, he explained that the smallholders which will include 50 per cent women or youth are anticipated to produce 25,000 metric tonnes of each of the value chains in the first season and an additional 5,000 metric tons in the subsequent seasons.

Sesame seed, cocoa, cashew nuts top Nigeria’s agricultural exports in Q1 2021

Source: Nairametrics

Nigeria’s agricultural export stood at N127.2 billion in the first three months (January – March) of 2021. This represents a 128% increase compared to N55.8 billion recorded in the previous quarter (Q4 2020).

Sesame seeds, fermented cocoa beans, and cashew nuts led the list of top agro-food exports in Q1 2021, jointly accounting for 66.5% of the total agric exports.

This is according to the foreign trade report for Q1 2021, released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

  • In contrast to the N127.1 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 2020, this represents a 0.07% increase and the highest on our tracker, since Q1 2016.
  • However, as agric export increased in the review period, importation of agricultural items also surged by 140.5% year-on-year, and an 18.4% increase quarter-on-quarter.
  • Although crude oil still accounts for the larger part of Nigeria’s export earnings with 66.38%, agriculture still remains the base of Nigeria’s economy, providing the main source of livelihood for most Nigerians.
  • The sector remains the largest sector of the Nigerian economy and employs about two-thirds of the entire labour force in the country.

However, expected growth has been significantly impeded by production hurdles despite government interventions in the sector. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, over the past 20 years, value-added per capita in agriculture has risen by less than 1% annually.

It is also estimated that Nigeria has lost about $10 billion in annual export opportunities from groundnut, palm oil, cocoa, and cotton alone as a result of the decline in the production of these commodities.

It is worth noting that Nigeria exported agricultural products worth N321.5 billion in 2020, representing a 19.16% increase when compared to N269.8 billion recorded in 2019 and a 6.27% increase compared to N302.28 billion recorded in 2018

Top Agro export in Q1 2021

  • Sesame seeds – N41.94 billion

Top on the list is Sesame seeds with an estimated export value of N41.94 billion in Q1 2021. Sesame seed comes from a flowering plant mostly grown in Northern Nigeria due to the drought-resistant nature of the seed.

It has many uses, but perhaps, its most important use is as a source of sesame oil which is the most demanded vegetable oil in the world because of its zero cholesterol content.

Nigeria has been one of the highest sesame seed-producing countries over the years, making the seed an important component of the country’s agricultural export. Recall that Nigeria exported sesame seeds valued at N98.27 billion in 2020.

  • Cocoa beans – N35.49 billion

Cocoa stands second on the list with an export value of N35.49 billion. It is worth noting that this estimate includes good fermented Nigerian cocoa beans and superior quality raw cocoa beans.

Cocoa is a small perennial tree crop that primarily comes from the three tropical regions in the world; Southeast Asia, Latin America, and West Africa. Cote d’Ivoire is the single largest producer of cocoa beans, accounting for approximately 31% of the world’s supply.

  • Cashew nuts – N13.71 billion

Nigeria exported cashew nuts (both in-shell and shelled) valued at N13.71 billion in Q1 2021. Cashew is a tree crop that has been cultivated for food and medicine for many years.

The various parts of the cashew fruits are of economic value, which includes apple, nut, and kernel. The primary product of cashew nuts is the kernel, which is the edible portion of the nut. Kernels are used for various end products, which include chocolates, ice creams, cakes, sweets and even for medicinal purposes.

  • Coconuts – N8.66 billion

Coconut export in the review period stood at N8.66 billion, representing the fourth-highest agro-export. Coconut is a cash crop that is grown in 22 of Nigeria’s 36 states and its production is limited to the south-western part of the country, with Lagos State having the largest production area.

Coconut serves as a raw material for numerous industries, such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food, and beverage, with limitless domestic and export potential; coconut consumption, however, has continued to rise with the growing population, especially dry coconut which is consumed in the northern part of the country.

  • Ginger – N5.57 billion

Ginger stands fifth on the list with an export value of N5.57 for the review period. According to FAO and quoted by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Nigeria accounts for 40% of the global ginger production, producing almost 523,000 metric tonnes annually.

Bubbling under

  • Sesame oil – N3.42 billion
  • Palm nuts and kernels – N2.75 billion
  • Shea cake – N1.79 billion
  • Soya bean – N1.72 billion
  • Frozen shrimps and prawns – N1.29 billion

What they are saying

Despite agriculture being the major primary occupation of most Nigerians, the country is yet to solidify its position in the world in terms of food production both for local consumption and export.

  • Nigeria still spends more on the importation of agricultural items compared to our export value.
  • A PWC report identified poor transport infrastructure and services (road and rail), particularly in the rural areas as a significant cause of the current state of the agriculture and agribusiness sector.
  • According to Suleiman Dikwa, the CEO of Green Shara Farms, a major problem affecting Nigeria’s agricultural sector is the ability to efficiently deliver locally produced products in the country.
  • We have to first go beyond production and have an integrated approach through the horizontal value chain whereby any increase in production capacity has a commensurate increase in primary processing, logistics and capacity,” he added.
  • Adequate processing and storage system for these agro products is also a major problem affecting the agricultural value chain, with farmers losing about 40% of their yields to poor storage facilities, according to Mike Elechi, the CEO of Vintage Farm and Products.
  • The Chairman, Governing Council of Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NIIT), Mr John Onojeharho also disclosed that Nigeria loses about N3.7 trillion annually due to improper storage of foods. He said this while speaking on the topic: “Cold Chain Logistics” at the 8th Nigeria Annual Transport Lecture.

Agric Minister urges youths to embrace bee farming

Source: The Guardian

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Nanono, on Friday urged youths to harness the potential in apiculture sector for the growth of the nation’s economy.

Nanono, who made the call at the Nigerian Youth Beekeepers Summit to commemorate the 2021 World Bee Day in Abuja, emphasised that apiculture portends great investment opportunities for the youth.

The 2021 World Bee Day is with the theme “Exploring the Potential of Apiculture in Nigeria’’.

Represented by Mr Victor Egbon, Assistant Director, Department of Animal Husbandry Services, in the Ministry, Nanono described beekeeping as a great development for youths interested in agriculture.

“I implore you therefore to explore and bring up the best potential of the apiculture industry for the growth of the nation’s economy and wellbeing of Nigerians.

“This is really a great development for our youths who are embracing diverse areas of agriculture.

“Apiculture as you know is an area still largely untapped in Nigeria.

“The very many opportunities within the Honey Bee value chain provide employment, means of livelihood, wealth and high nutrition to the teeming populace.

“This portends great investment for now and the future in Nigeria.

“As you are aware apart from honey, other bee products of value include bee wax, propolis, pollen, bee venom and royal jelly to mention a few.

He said that the value chain of bee keeping was also a vast area to be tapped by Nigerian youths for its significant advantages.

“These products are useful in pharmaceutical, confectioneries, beverages, medicine and cosmetic industries.

“It is necessary to take advantage of these strings of profitable aspects of bee production, processing and marketing.

“And I will like to let you know that the ministry is supporting the honey bee value chain in its programmes,’’ he said.

Bee keepers who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) described the practice as a money spinning venture.

Miss Blessing Asapu urged Nigerians to understand that bee keeping goes beyond honey.

“There are other things like propolis, bee wax used for cosmetics.

“If youths embrace beekeeping, Nigeria will be an exporter of this commodity. But unfortunately they are scared to do so,’’ Asapu said.

Mr Bolowaji Durogbola, Secretary, Youths for Apiculture Initiative, urged policy makers to come up with favourable policies aimed at promoting beekeeping in the country.

GDP: Agriculture sector grows by 2.28% in Q1 2021

Source: Nairametrics

Nigeria’s agricultural sector grew by 2.28% in real terms in Q1 2021 compared to a growth of 3.42% in Q4 2020 and 2.20% in Q1 2020.

This was disclosed in the Q1 2021 GDP report, released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Sunday. Real GDP grew 0.51% in Q1 2021 compared to 0.11% in Q4 2020.

NBS added that Crop Production under Agric real GDP grew by 2.31% compared to 3.68% in Q4 2020 and 2.38% in Q1 2021.

  • Livestock under Agric real GDP grew by 1.65% compared to 2.38% in Q4 2020 and 0.63% in Q1 2020.
  • Fishing under Agric real GDP grew by 3.24 % compared to -3.60% in Q4 2020 and 1.49% in Q1 2020.

The report disclosed that Forestry under Agric real GDP grew by 1.28% compared to 1.24% in Q4 2020 and 1.71% in Q1 2020.

What you should know

The 2020 Agric GDP grew by 2.17% compared to 2.36% recorded in 2019.

Positioning agriculture as business

Source: The Nation

In quest to produce what Nigerians eat and create employment opportunities for youth and women,  the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) is supporting the drive for food and fibre security while assisting in diversifying the nation’s economy, improving household incomes, enhancing revenue mobilisation and generation.

The authority, which was established in 1992 but went into extinction in 2000, was resuscitated in 2020 to harness the full potentials of the vast arable lands in Nigeria to empower small holder and large scale farmers.

Presenting its one year scorecard to reporters, Executive Secretary of NALDA, Prince Paul Ikonne, said the Authority has identified and recovered its farm estates in Gombe, Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Niger, Kebbi, Oyo, Imo, Katsina, Lagos, Ekiti, Delta, Bauchi, Yobe, Kaduna, Benue, Kogi, Osun, Anambra, Akwa Ibom and Abia States.

Ikonne noted that NALDA has commenced the reactivation in phases, said the Authority has recovered lands in 21 states so far.

However, stakeholders in the agricultural sector who commended NALDA’s initiative and achievement so far, said year-round employment will be generated in the rural area and increase the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

NALDA soil doctors

Under this programme, the agency said it would train and engage 30,000 youth as soil doctors across the 36 states including FCT.

According to NALDA, the long term goal of the programme centres on engaging young Nigerian into the scientific method of farming to aid better crop yields and food security across the Nation.

It said the core essence of the engagement programme is geared towards creating a pool of qualified Nigerian youth who will carry out soil tests, soil management and extension services for farmers across the nation at a very subsidised rate.

“The programme is targeted at young Nigerian graduates who have a background in agriculture or sciences, the potential graduate must be passionate about agribusiness and food security in Nigeria.

“The young doctors will assist farmers to evaluate their soil, identify soil nutrients and prescribe fertilisers and crops suitable for their farm lands for a better yield,” it said.

Ikonne said the animal husbandry programme has recorded huge success as the agency has harvested over 30,000 litres of rabbit urine and 1,000kg of rabbit droppings, which are being used as fertiliser having subjected it to lab analysis and the rabbit farmers are making income from this.

“The beauty of the rabbit-rearing programme is in harvesting the rabbit waste (urine and droppings) which are sources of an organic fertiliser due to its richness in nitrogen.

“This will help us to grow organic food, which is healthier for human consumption and our aim is to export the organic fertiliser,” he said.

On training and empowerment of 30,000 soil doctors, Ikonne said the program had since commenced and over 500 Soil doctors have been trained in Borno and Jigawa states.

“The essence of this is to equip young graduates with agriculture or science backgrounds with the knowledge of extension services, which include soil testing and analysis and they are being given soil-testing kits in order for them to earn a living while ensuring our farmers are being equipped with best agricultural practices for greater output.

“This programme is in partnership with the state governments,” he said.

In line with NALDA’s mandate of achieving food security, he said they have embarked on establishing fish villages to engage rural women in fish production and packaging in some pilot States of Borno and Abia states.

“In Borno, we have started construction of the fish villages in 10 locations out of the 50 locations provided by the Borno State government to engage 2,200 women. While in Abia, the fish village in one location is 40 percent completed,” he said.

Bem Shija, a fish farmer, said with presence of NALDA in states, many young farmers have indicated interest to be trained in fish farming so as to get value for it.

While noting that NALDA has initiated a programme called NALDA Integrated Farms to be established in the 109 senatorial districts across the country, the executive secretary said they have reached out to the leadership of the Senate for Senators to facilitate land donation with the state governments.

In preparation for the wet season farming, Ikonne assured that NALDA is prepared for the wet season farming across the country on the recovered  farm estates.

He added that the state coordinators where the wet season farming will take place have been fully briefed and are prepared, as they have received more land donations from communities in Akwa Ibom, Cross River Yobe, and Adamawa States, among others.

Ikonne who also said NALDA engaged in dry season farming of rice in some pilot States of Adamawa, Niger, Yobe, Taraba and Bauchi, noted that farmers were trained on dry season farming of which they were not used to and we are expecting harvest in the coming weeks.

“NALDA provided all the farmers required for farming ranging from tractors, boreholes, pumping machines, planters and transplanters, fertiliser and seeds.

“We have a vision to position agriculture in the minds of young Nigerians as business.

“Our major aim is not only to achieve food security in Nigeria, but to show that Nigeria can work through this NALDA integrated farm estate.

This project is directly impacting the rural people in Nigeria, NALDA’s core mandate is to develop the rural area, develop agriculture.

“This will be owned by farmers from the community, that’s why we have reached out to senators so that every senator in collaboration with the state government will donate land within their senatorial zone so that we can have them integrated within the country.”

Economic benefits

Ikonne said the ongoing NALDA project will not only achieve food security, but will reduce unemployment drastically.

”The benefit of engaging our rural women into fish farming and production is not only for local consumption but also for export in order to earn foreign currency”.

An economic expert, Jide Andrew who spoke to The Nation, said the ongoing project initiated by NALDA would encourage industrial development.

”As demand for agricultural products rises around the world, this is the time for the country to grow agribusiness, we have a lot of resources to tap wealth from,” Andrew said.F

Agriculture capable of ending poverty – CDC Group

Source: Punch

The Director of Strategy, Food and Agribusiness, CDC Group Plc, Sami Khan, has said agriculture is a tool capable of ending poverty in countries around the world.

Khan said this on Thursday while speaking about the importance of agriculture at a webinar sponsored by NAHCO Plc and Red Star Express Plc, with the theme ‘Unlocking trade and export opportunities in the agricultural sector.’

“It has been proven that the agricultural sector helps lessen poverty,” he said.

Speaking on the role of the CDC Group to help transform countries around the world, he said the company would continue to stand with Nigeria in terms of partnership in the agricultural sector.

“The CDC Group is fully owned by the UK government, operating over 400 investments since 1948 with countries around the world, especially in Africa. CDC is a well-placed partner in transforming the agricultural sector in Nigeria,” he added.

The President, Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce, Kayode Falowo, noted that the National Bureau of Statistics said the Gross Domestic Product for agricultural sector in the first quarter of 2021 was lower than the GDP for Q4 2020.

The NBS report showed that crop production grew by 2.31 per cent, compared to 3.68 per cent in Q4 2020, and 2.38 per cent in Q1 2020.

According to him, crop production is a major driver of the agricultural sector.

Emefiele Inaugurates Rivers Cassava Processing Company

Source: Proshare

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele has tasked Governors of the 36 States of Nigeria to make their States more viable by investing more in agriculture, particularly crops in which they have comparative advantage, as well as to reduce their dependence on allocations from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC).

Mr. Emefiele dropped the challenge in Port-Harcourt, on Thursday, May 27, 2021, at the launch of the Rivers Cassava Processing Company Limited, which is designed to support improved production and processing of cassava into high-quality flour in Rivers State.

He disclosed that the CBN would no longer support the continued importation of items that can be produced in Nigeria, even as he pledged that the Bank will collaborate with Rivers and other States in supporting the development of a viable agricultural and manufacturing sector across the country in line with the CBN mandate of promoting economic growth for the country.

According to him, principal agencies of government at the federal and state level should continue to work hand in hand towards diversifying the Nigerian economy and creating an enabling environment for further investment by firms such as the Rivers Cassava Processing Company.

Emefiele identified land development as a major constraint to increase in agricultural activities in the Southern parts of the country due to its topography, noting that the CBN had partnered with several States Governments in the region under the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).

Continuing, he said about N7.436 billion had been accessed by four States in the South-South region to open up more land for cultivation, create access roads to agricultural lands, and provide infrastructure among other support services in the region. “These measures are helping to induce greater activity in the agricultural sector and are enabling the movement of goods from farm to factories, and to the markets,” he added.

While commending the Rivers State Government, working with Shell Petroleum Development Corporation, the Dutch Embassy Investment Nigeria Limited and their technical partners, in setting up the integrated facility, the CBN Governor said investments such as the cassava plant could help in driving economic growth, reducing unemployment and inducing other wealth creating activities in the state.

He also expressed optimism that the project would improve livelihoods, as well as enhance sustainability of farming operations for over 3000 farmers, by guaranteeing the offtake of their farm produce in addition to reducing the country’s reliance on imports of cassava by-products.

Emefiele further noted that the emergence of the Nigerian economy from the recession in the fourth quarter of 2020, and the recent report that the economy continued to experience growth in the first quarter of 2021, was due to significant growth in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

Given the multiplier effects of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, on growth, employment, and wealth creation, he challenged all stakeholders, particularly the State Governors to encourage more investment in the critical sectors of the economy.

“With the decline in our foreign exchange earnings, we can no longer afford to support continued importation of items that can be produced in Nigeria.  Our current situation has also made it imperative for the Central Bank to work towards supporting programmes that will enable greater cultivation and processing of key agricultural commodities in Nigeria,” Emefiele declared.

While also noting that the developmental finance initiatives at the CBN had been focused on creating an enabling environment that will drive both public and private sectors participation in the real sector with strategic deliverables around price stability, job creation, financial inclusion, import substitution and accretion to foreign reserve among others, he disclosed that so far, the sum of N333.196 billion had been disbursed to various projects in the South-South region covering activities in different economic sectors.

Nigeria: Where solar power meets agricultural markets

Source: ESI Africa

In 2015, Habiba Ali, the founder and MD-CEO of Sosai Renewable Energies Company based in Kaduna, Nigeria, had a trying time convincing the C&I market that renewables was the way to go. Often, she was met with a “don’t come with your environmental talk” sentiment. Today things are very different.

The change has seen the C&I market boom and most banks are now investing in solar installations. “It’s been so exciting to witness this change, which has been sudden and fast, because it means that all of my groundwork in previous years has not been in vain.”

Habiba Ali, founder and MD-CEO of Sosai Renewable Energies Company, Nigeria

Habiba’s passion is infectious and her drive to promote renewable energy in budding communities and urban areas – executing solar installations and drive product adoption and improving cook stoves for rural communities – has made her a respected voice in the green energy space in West Africa. However, the statistics that reflect the reality of the many millions that still do not have access to energy, keep her feet planted firmly on the ground.

However, she cautions that if the statistics are not changing then the work has not been fruitful: “Some of the research we did in 2010, indicated a rise in the energy ladder. The energy pyramid, where you had a lot more people at the bottom using firewood, charcoal and kerosene, showed movement up the pyramid to use of gas and electricity. Now the dream is to turn that pyramid upside down, and get more people using electricity or gas. If we’re still churning out that same data, it means all of the work we’ve put in is really wasted and that really hurts. It’s really frustrating.”

USTDA grant for feasibility studies

The mother of two is rightly very proud of a recent success for Sosai in the form of a research grant by the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). She explains: “We’ve been able to identify thousands of communities in Nigeria that need renewable energy solutions deployed to them. To reach even more people, we need more data. The USTDA do feasibility studies which they fund 100%. We were able to present to them about 100 communities across three states in Nigeria (Kogi, Kaduna and Plateau states). We were granted over $900,000 to implement these feasibility studies, which will help us to identify the communities that are viable for a project rollout.”

According to Ali, with such data and information, investors will take them more seriously. “One of the things you will find, especially in this sector, is that it takes a lot for a woman-owned business to be taken seriously. I’ve been in this industry for over 14 years and know that to be well-regarded means to tick all the boxes and work twice as hard just to make yourself relevant.”

It’s now an exciting time to be a woman in energy: “We signed the award agreement in February where the ambassador of the US and the new head of USTDA, both women, were present among other leading figureheads.”

COVID-19 challenges

Being a woman-owned business also has its advantages, she has discovered: “You know, starting out as a woman is different; it is difficult. You need to learn all the ropes and grow your network while your health, your family suffer. But then with time, once you’ve got the hang of it, people start realising that you’re not going anywhere, you’re there.”

That moment of realisation is when the benefits of being a woman start coming through. “For example, the first USADF award we received had 25% of the overall score allocated to being a female-owned company. So yes, we’ve got some very good value for being female-owned.”

According to Ali, a direct result of the pandemic has been the inability to do installations in communities, which has postponed revenue and adoption by the local residents, particularly as a lot of people are cash-strapped. “If I’ve lived for 15 to 20 years without any electricity, what makes you think delaying another one or two years would make any difference to my lifestyle?”

This setback will not discourage Ali: “I’m one of the advocates of ‘we cannot stop our lives because of COVID’. We can just learn to live around it, live together somehow. It’s just like living with malaria as we’ve done so for years.”

Finding inspiration in agribusiness

Sosai has started installing solar drying systems at agri projects, such as for pineapple and mango farming communities. Ali finds the agricultural sector particularly inspiring and complementary to their work.

“People can do without energy, but no one can do without food, right? And every day you find out that in the agricultural sector, there’s always more innovation and that’s very exciting. In Nigeria, people doing extension services are helping to improve farmers’ practices, ensuring they farm regularly over the years. In the same way, our solar drying project will benefit farmers. Yes, people already had practices but we’re just offering a better way now.”

The agribusiness sector is constantly innovating, constantly doing things that will improve it, make it better. “Looking at it from an investment point of view, it is a sure banker for revenue. It’s an exciting market for me where energy for services based in agriculture will have a huge impact. Solar drying systems are just the beginning and we hope to extend this into processing and irrigation. These are the solutions we are thinking to tie into the 100 communities coming up.”

Knowing your onions

For the Sosai Renewable Energies founder, finding partners and working together for a common cause has become a natural way of doing business and promoting a healthier way of living. Being a member of the Enlit Africa advisory board is also beneficial for everyone, she says.

Having ‘people of repute’ on your advisory board isn’t enough anymore, advises Ali. “Having people on board who are practitioners, who are hands on, constantly innovating, is more practical. We must do our utmost to ensure that acceptance of a variety of solutions is widely spread and more sustainable”

According to Ali, having announced her involvement as an advisory board member to Enlit Africa on LinkedIn has already gained mileage: “People are asking, ‘Oh, really, who is she?’ and they are taking notice, asking questions and it adds to our credibility. So it’s quite exciting to be listed as an Enlit Africa advisory board member.” ESI

Africa’s New Free Trade Area: 5 Reasons why it is a game changer

Africa currently accounts for only 2% of global trade. And only 17% of African exports are intra-continental which is low when compared to 59% and 68% for Asia and Europe respectively. Launched on the 1st of January, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has been poised to be the game changer that will see the continent harness its full potential.

This pact is going to create the largest Free Trade Area in the world measured by the number of countries participating. AfCFTA will connect 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined GDP valued at $3.4 trillion.

The aim of the agreement is to reduce all trade barriers, costs and to enable Africa to integrate further into global chains.

Here are 6 reasons why the AfCFTA is a game changer,

  1. The AfCFTA will reduce poverty.

A recent report by the World Bank stated that the pact will boost regional income by 7% ($450billion), increase wage growth for women, and also lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035. It also mentioned that the wages pf both Skilled and unskilled workers will be boosted by 10.3% for skilled workers and 9.8% for unskilled workers.

  1. Positive economic outcomes will be many and varied.

It has been estimated that the agreement will increase Africa’s exports by $560 billion, mostly in manufacturing. Exports between countries would also increase by 81% while the increase to countries outside the continent would be 19%. Markets and economies across the African continent will be reshaped, which will lead to the expansion of key sectors thereby making these countries to compete globally.

  1. Women will benefit from the Agreement.

According to the Economic Commission of Africa, 70% of informal cross-border traders in Africa are made up of women. As AfCFTA clearly focuses on improving lives of African especially women, the tariff reductions will enable informal women traders to operate through formal channels thereby reducing harassment, violence, confiscation of goods and even imprisonment.

It will be close the gender income gap and give SMEs the opportunities to access new markets.

  1. Trade Integrity

The agreement will promote good governance across  Africa and Globally through the concept of “Trade Integrity” which is defined as international trade transaction that are legitimate, properly priced and transparent. This will ensure the legitimacy of trade among African countries and with the rest of the world.

  1. It will cushion the effect of Covid-19.

The African Development Bank Group’s African Economic Outlook (AEO) 2020 supplement estimates that Africa could suffer GDP losses in 2020 between $145.5 billion (baseline) and $189.7 billion (worst case), from the pre-COVID-19 GDP estimates.

AfCFTA offers a short-term opportunity for countries to rebuild and cushion the effect of the pandemic. In the longer-term, the pact will strengthen the continent’s resilience to future shocks.

Reference: World Economic Forum