The prevailing depreciation of the Naira, refusal of the United States – Nigeria’s major oil importer to patronize the country and the discovery of oil by many countries as well as alternative energy sources are already hurting Nigeria’s finances.
These uprisings have given additional impetus to the Federal Government’s focus on increasing non-oil revenues. The agricultural sector, according to the experts, has the largest potential to diversify the country’s economy, create jobs, ensure food security and expand foreign exchange earnings.
An economist and Managing Director of CMC group, Eniola Olagbe commented that the continuous decline of the international oil prices will affect Nigeria’s fiscal management and there have been strings of responses from major stakeholders, including leading firms and major contributors to the country’s GDP.
According to him, there has been an important shift in government policy, towards emphasizing agricultural transformation from subsistence to agribusiness in the country. “Although, a larger percent of African youths still believe Agriculture is a primitive vocation meant for the uneducated rural peasant engulfed in a vicious cycle of poverty and not what a young person should practice, it is gradually changing,” he said while adding that the number of youths in the agricultural sector is increasing in comparison to the past, when youths shied away from agriculture because of the drudgery.
Investing in agriculture for the future of Nigeria and its young people
“Nigeria’s population is expected to be more than double its current number by 2050, the future of the country is in the hands of the Nigerian youths and without a vibrant agricultural sector, the country’s future might not be viable”. These were the words of the President of All Farmers Association, Lagos chapter, Mr. Femi Oke.
“You cannot eat oil – at least not crude oil. Oil money has not transformed Nigerian agriculture over the last 30 years. It has not fed hungry people or developed rural areas. Nigeria is a developing country and it will remain a developing country unless Nigerians act to seize the opportunities at hand. These opportunities are existing in agriculture” he said.
He emphasized on the need for Nigeria to learn from England, India and Vietnam, saying that from 18th century England to 20th century India to Vietnam today, agriculture has proven that it can drive economic growth. The cassava farmer explained that GDP growth generated by agriculture has been shown to be at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors.
Foreign multinationals know the strength of Nigeria’s purchasing power and Africa at large. Guinness, for example, generates 13 per cent of its net revenues from Africa. Today, not only raw primary products but also quality, value-added products are in demand from Nigeria and this means new opportunities for the agro-industrial sector.
Speaking on agriculture and youths in Nigeria, an agro-entrepreneur, Alaba Kehinde said agriculture employs around two-thirds of the workforce, including 90 per cent of the rural population. Alaba stressed that government needs to act fast as multinational companies are already downsizing and increasing the unemployment rate the country.
“Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, for instance, is one of many multinational companies that have begun a contraction plan so as not to be caught napping if the decelerating trajectory continues. Already close to 5000 of the Company’s 18,000 staff strength are said to have been laid off,” he said.