e-Naira: Taking Agriculture in Nigeria to New Technological Heights, by Abdulrahman Abdulraheem

e-Naira: Taking Agriculture in Nigeria to New Technological Heights, by Abdulrahman Abdulraheem thumbnail
E-Naira, Godwin Emefiele, CBN


e-Naira: Taking Agriculture in Nigeria to New Technological Heights, by Abdulrahman Abdulraheem

Agriculture in Nigeria has an interesting history. A history of ups and downs. Long before the discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantity, from the precolonial and colonial days to the First Republic, agriculture was the mainstay of the economy.

But when the Black Gold came along, successive leaders misplaced the nation’s priorities and progressively abandoned agriculture, textiles, mining, and other vibrant sectors that gave the country a competitive advantage over other countries.

Despite many years of neglect, agriculture has managed to hold its own in the scheme of things. It remains the biggest employer of labour in the country. Over 70 per cent of Nigerians engage in the agriculture sector, though mainly at a subsistence level. The subsistence part of it needs to be addressed, and the present administration has done a couple of things in that regard.

The contribution of the sector to the GDP is, however, impressive. Between January and March 2021, agriculture contributed to 22.35 per cent of the total GDP.

Nigeria has 70.8 million hectares of agriculture land area with maize, cassava, guinea corn, yam, beans, millet, and rice being the major crops. Nigeria accounts for over 70% of yams produced globally.

Nigeria’s rice production rose from 3.7 million metric tons in 2017 to 4.0 million metric tons in 2018. Inspite of this, only 57percent of the 6.7 million metric tons of rice consumed in Nigeria annually is locally produced leading to a deficit of about 3 million metric tons, which is either imported or smuggled into the country illegally. To stimulate local production, the government banned importation of rice in 2019.

As for cassava, Nigeria produced 59 million tons in 2017, making it the world’s largest producer (approximately 20 per cent of global production). The economic potential is enormous, with high revenue yields from both domestic value addition and derived income as well as revenues for the government. With improved varieties and production techniques, production is anticipated to increase.

Animal production has remained underexploited. Livestock mostly reared by farm families are the small ruminants like goats (76 million), sheep (43.4 million), and cattle (18.4 million). The ecology in the northern part of the country makes it famous for livestock keeping. In addition to small and large ruminants, the poultry population stands at 180 million, according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Domestic demand, however, outweighs production despite several interventions by development partners to improve production and safeguard against diseases, including transboundary animal diseases.

Nigeria is the largest fish consumer in Africa and among the largest fish consumers in the world, with about 3.2 million metric tons of fish consumed annually. Its fisheries and aquaculture are among the fastest growing subsectors in the country. With a coastline of 853km and over 14 million hectares of inland waters, total fish production per year is close to 1 million metric tons (313,231 metric tons from aquaculture759,828 metric tons from fisheries). Fishing is a vital livelihood for the poor as well as an important protein source at the household level. The aquaculture sub-sector is considered a very viable alternative to meeting the nation’s need for self-sufficiency in fish production and nutritional needs.

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Despite the contribution to the economy, Nigeria’s agricultural sector faces many challenges that impact its productivity. These include poor land tenure systems, low levels of irrigation farming, climate change, and land degradation.

Others are low technology, high production cost and poor distribution of inputs, limited financing, high post-harvest losses, and poor access to markets.

These challenges have stifled agricultural productivity affecting the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP as well as increased food imports due to population rise, hence declining levels of food sufficiency.

For instance, between 2016 and 2019 Nigeria’s cumulative agricultural imports stood at N3.35 trillion, four times higher than the agricultural export of N803 billion within the same period.

The government has implemented several initiatives and programmes to address the situation including the Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP), Nigeria–Africa Trade and Investment Promotion Programme, Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative, Economic and Export Promotion Incentives and the Zero Reject Initiative, Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+); Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP); Action Against Desertification (AAD) Programme, among others.

All these efforts aim to increase agricultural productivity in order to provide sufficient quantities of food to meet domestic demand as well as an abundance of commodity crops for export in the international market. Besides, they aim at reversing forest loss and degradation; promoting sustainable management of natural resources; rehabilitation of degraded lands, and reducing erosion and climate vulnerability.

From the foregoing, it is obvious that the potential is there even though the challenges are enormous.

The experience is available in Nigeria, and the expertise is in abundance. Even government policies have been favourable as in recent years, the emphasis has been to diversify the country’s revenue base, deemphasise oil and gas, and focus on agriculture.

But what about the technology to drive growth in the sector? What about innovations that will make the sector compete globally? What about ideas and vision that can make life easy for Nigerian farmers? What about robust and sustainable funding for farmers?

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With the increasing population, estimated to reach 400 million by 2050, enhanced agriculture productivity through adaptation of new technologies and innovations is necessary to ensure food security and nutrition. Support from all partners to the efforts by the federal and state governments is central in achieving this goal.

e-Naira To The Rescue

Talking about technology and innovations, the ongoing efforts by the the apex umbrella body for Agricultural Commodity Associations, the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria (FACAN), to onboard 50 million members on the e-Naira platform couldn’t have come at a better time.

FACAN said it has concluded a plan to register and onboard all its associations and members on the e-Naira platform in a strategic partnership with Araba Technologies Ltd (Arabatech).

The plan is a fallout from the recently concluded national meeting of the association’s National Working Committee and presidents of associations under its jurisdiction with the active participation of Arabatech and CBN representatives.

The National President of FACAN, Mr. Victor Iyama, noted that e-Naira will be of immense benefit to all the members of the Association in the long run down to the grassroots level since some members are traders, or processors, while most of the members are the farmers at the grassroots. He also charged the members present at the inauguration meeting to educate their folks at the grassroots.

The President was s particularly happy about the CBN USSD (*997#) innovation, which means that without smartphones, BVN or NIN, farmers at the grassroots level can benefit fully from the e-Naira platform.

The plan is aimed at deepening the use of e-Naira among farmers and agro-allied merchants ecosystem in the agricultural sector of the economy. Arabatech entered into a strategic partnership with FACAN to commence the e-Naira campaign and onboarding of its 50 million members and associations across the country.

The National Working Committee and Presidents of Associations unanimously passed a resolution for the approval of FACAN e-Naira onboarding of members and therefore called for close collaboration with the CBN and Arabtech towards the successful implementation of the initiative within the timeline.

FACAN is an apex umbrella body for the Agricultural Commodity Associations in the country, and an initiative of the Federal Government established through a public-private partnership arrangement as a one-stop-shop between the government and the organised private sector in Agriculture and a link between the private Agricultural Commodity Practitioners. The Association provides members with maximum benefits for the overall development of agricultural commodities in the country.

CBN had appointed Arabatech as one of the official Partner-Agents for the e-Naira wallet adoption and onboarding campaign in the country. The campaign is in furtherance of the CBN Digital Financial Inclusion Strategy and Programme, which is aimed at achieving inclusive adoption of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) aka e-Naira across the county.

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Launched in October 2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari, the e-Naira was introduced by the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, as a store of value and reliable medium of exchange. The e-Naira innovation was created to target the banked and unbanked merchants and individuals in the country in order to make transfers, buying and selling easier, cheaper, and less cumbersome.

And since the e-Naira was launched, the CBN has welcomed a lot of private initiatives meant to expand the platform to serve Nigerians better in areas like health care, agriculture, payment of bills etc.

When I started my e-Naira research, I was privileged to interact with the CBN’s Head of Information Technology, Hajia Rakiya Muhammad. Also interacting with the Economic Confidential, she spoke glowingly about some of the private initiatives that are relevant to agriculture.

“So, this particular company came forward, they work with corporative societies like Agriculture, they give loans to small holder farmers. But often time when they give the loans, you know our people, they would use the loan to do something else, different from what they are meant for.

“So, when they heard about e-Naira, they said they would partner with us, you know, to curb malpractices and inefficiencies in the system. And I am happy to say that we have concluded the integration, and we will soon launch. What they do is you are a farmer, and the association gives you money, so they don’t give you money in cash. They give you e-Naira.

“So, there is what they call input providers. Normally, the farmers will go to them to collect input and then they pay. Now, the input providers can only provide people on the scheme, and the farmers can only collect what they are supposed to collect, and then e-Naira charges it. So this is programmed, and they have concluded that.”

Aside from aiding Nigeria’s transition into a full cashless system, it is obvious that the e-Naira platform was created to fix all things and solve all problems. The wide-ranging opportunities the e-Naira platform provides are not what Nigerians can continue to ignore.

Abdulrahman Abdulraheem, Managing Editor Economic Confidential, writes from [email protected]

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