Monday, 25 April 2011

POVERTY: `Boost agribusiness to fight poverty`

Felix Andrew : 20th April 2011
African business leaders have requested financial institutions to improve lending to agribusiness saying the sector plays a crucial role in poverty alleviation and as a source of income to individuals.
In a question and answer session at the second day of 9th Africa Investment Forum 2011, investors discussed the importance of agribusiness and food security.
Speaking during the session, Sebastian Kingu, a business consultant said most commercial banks in African countries including Tanzania prefer financing companies that pay off.
“Agriculture is the backbone of many African countries but these commercial banks want to deal with other sectors which they think can return their money in the short term,” he said.
Kingu urged commercial banks to increase lending to agriculture since it has been proved that the farmers are bankable.
“We have been witnessing an increase in food prices everywhere. This tells us that agriculture now is a good source of income to many people including bankers,” he stated.
He also urged organisers of the forum to convene a special meeting with bankers later on to discuss the importance of lending to the agricultural sector.
“I wonder why this forum has not invited many commercial banks to hear and work on our views so that we improve our agricultural industry and food security,” he said.
Hadija Simba, an entrepreneur, insisted on production of large quantities of quality goods.
She said agribusiness financing was the only way which would improve the livelihood of farmers and increase income to the government.
“Due to poor financing mechanisms we find that agriculture has failed to produce goods in large quantities and of a quality that can compete in the market,” she said.
Prosper Ngowi from Mzumbe University, urged multinational companies to increase investments in food security without grabbing land.
“Many of these foreign investors especially in agriculture tend to change their intention, diverting land to other non agricultural activities like jatropha farming,” he said.
He urged financial institutions to increase their lending portfolio to agriculture which employs a significant number of people in African countries.
Felix Mosha who is the chairman of Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) and one of the moderators, said governments in Africa need to do more in agribusiness and food security.
He said Tanzania is facing a challenge of post harvest losses which stand at between 40 to 60 per cent.
“We have to bridge the gap through financing agribusiness so that the lives of farmers become much better,” he said.
He said that the market is available and urged stakeholders to increase their support in the sector so that production is doubled.
He said last year, China imported about 40 million tonnes of soya from Africa and other countries in the world.
Tom Adlam, Managing Director from African Agricultural Capital urged pension funds to invest in agricultural activities.
“Time has come for these funds to look into possibilities of putting their money into agribusiness so as to raise the economies of the African continent,” he stressed.
The two-day Forum brought investors and projects together to showcase new opportunities, enhance African trade and investment and build new business partnerships.
The principal sponsors of the Forum were IPP Media and Vodacom.
Forum sponsors were Burundi Investment Authority (API), Ecobank, Equity Bank, KCB Bank, Movenpick Hotel, Rwanda Development Bank, Trade Mark East Africa, Trade Mark Southern Africa.
Forums supporters were Anglogold, Bakhresa, Bank of Africa, Bank of Kigali, Bank of Tanzania, Eximbank, Maxcom, Nakumatt, Parastatal Pensions Fund, Precision air, Public Service Pension Fund, Tanesco, Tanzania Breweries Ltd, Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation, TiGo Twiga Cement, Zakhem Construction and Zantel.

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