By Adaobi Dara
Abuja — The Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System on Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) is engaging banks and other key stakeholders to encourage improvement in another vital index: on-balance sheet lending to the sector by banks.
In this regard, a key outcome of the recent NIRSAL/CROs’ Forum, a platform that brought together chief risk officers of banks, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and NIRSAL was a commitment by participating banks to source more of their investments in agriculture from their own direct funds.
The imperative of improving agricultural financing by banks is underscored by the fact that overall bank lending to the sector has hovered between 3 and 4 per cent over the past eight years.
In his presentation at the event, the managing director/CEO of NIRSAL, Mr Aliyu Abdulhameed, stated that agriculture deserved more support because of its capacity to generate jobs and substantial contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
He stressed that there was, therefore, need for an increased and sustained flow of financing to the sector.
“NIRSAL is rightly positioned through our intervention pillars to effectively de-risk the sector and promote viable agricultural businesses,” he said.
The focus of brainstorming at the forum which NIRSAL hosted in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was to better understand and overcome the obstacles which prevent commercial banks from lending to agri-businesses and MSMEs from their balance sheets.
Hosted in collaboration with the CBN, stakeholders across local and foreign financial institutions, developmental agencies & MSMEs were in attendance.
The apex bank was represented by Mrs. Aisha Ahmad, deputy governor, Financial System Stability, CBN and Ms. Folakemi Fatogbe, chairperson, CRO Forum/director, Risk Management Dept, CBN.
Also in attendance were Mr. Emeka Emuwa MD/CEO Union Bank, Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan, MD/CEO Ecobank and other top officials from the banking sector.
The banks represented at the forum were Guaranty Trust Bank, Keystone Bank, FCMB, Ecobank, First Bank, Unity Bank, Diamond Bank, Access Bank, Heritage Bank, and Sterling Bank.
An important finding highlighted at the forum was that up to 79 per cent of rejected applications for funding are due to improper documentation.
Among the key areas of consensus at the forum was the need to enhance capacity building towards changing the perception of agribusiness as a high-risk sector as well as collaboration between stakeholders geared towards managing risks associated with agricultural finance.
Also highlighted was better communication between stakeholders to enhance synergy and increase participation in agribusiness financing.
It was also agreed that NIRSAL and CBN would develop a calendar of activities to boost collaborations, communication and capacity building among stakeholders.