Nigeria’s Spot on the Global Food System: Lessons from Expo 2020 Dubai

WORDS ARE SWEET, BUT THEY CAN NEVER REPLACE FOOD
– Nigerian Proverb

The Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment in collaboration with B2B Multi-Concept Solutions Provider anchored Nigeria’s participation at the Expo 2020 Dubai held from 1st October 2021 to 31st March 2022. This partnership established a pavilion and executed engagements and events that showcased Nigeria in a positive light and all the wonderful opportunities therein.
On 23rd February 2022, Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition Ltd. facilitated the attendance of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development at the Expo thematic week – Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods. Nigerians across different stakeholder levels attended the landmark event titled ‘Finding your spot in the value chain from farm to fork’. The event highlighted the strategic role Nigeria plays in the global food ecosystem and explored opportunities that exist for export, investment, and collaboration to foster food and nutrition security in Nigeria and beyond.
A dynamic lineup of speakers engaged in a frank discussion on the realities of operating in the agriculture and agribusiness sector in Nigeria, de-stigmatizing the notion that agriculture is a primitive endeavor characterized by drudgery and unattractive to youth.
The welcome address was delivered by Busola Adeogun-Phillips, the Project Director of the Nigeria pavilion and CEO of B2B Multi-Concept Solutions Provider. She highlighted the commendable efforts of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) in partnering with Nigerian entrepreneurs to curate food and lifestyle items that showcased the best of Nigeria.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. He emphasized the need for Nigeria to harness the power of its growing population to create innovative ways of supporting youth to build careers in the food and nutrition sector. He also underscored the fact that Nigeria is open for business and ready to collaborate with public and private entities across the globe to fast track the deployment of innovative technologies in agricultural production, processing, storage, and distribution in a manner that creates more value for smallholder farmers. Given that the food and agriculture sector accounts for approximately 24% of Nigeria’s GDP (World Bank) and is the largest employer of labor in the nation, it is clear that there will be no economic growth in Nigeria without developing this sector.
The Permanent Secretary also cited examples of policies and initiatives rolled out by the Nigerian government that are paving the way for a food ecosystem focused on growth, recovery, and resilience. These programs such as the Anchor Borrowers Program and the National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy (NAPTIN) provide access to finance and create market linkages for smallholder farmers.

The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Ndidi Nwuneli, the Executive Chair of Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Ltd. The distinguished panelists were Ebun Feludu, CEO JAM the coconut food company; Aminu Nyako, CEO Sebore Farms; Chichi Eriobu, CEO Phronesis Foods Nigeria; Temitope Jebutu, Managing Director AACE Foods, and Gbolabo Gibbs, Vice President Culinary Arts Practitioners Association of Nigeria.

The panelists highlighted the need to adopt an integrated systems approach that efficiently connects all food system actors along the value chain. To foster an impactful transformation, farmers must have access to information on consumer demands to enable them to key into mechanisms that allow them to supply their produce consistently to the market.

In a country like Nigeria where smallholder farmers account for the majority of activities in food production, the surest way to secure the future of food and nutrition of the nation is to invest and partner directly with the farmers. This will create a sustainable future for the value chain, ensure the supply of healthy foods whilst making money for investors. In addition, the role of digitization and modernization in building a resilient and sustainable food system cannot be over-emphasized. However, technological solutions must be farmer-centered and farmer-owned to achieve measurable and scalable successes.

“Everyone has a perception of what the northeastern part of Nigeria is, but underneath all the rhetoric lies a fertile bed of opportunities for investment and growth”

Aminu Nyako, CEO Sebore Farms

Mr. Mustapha, a representative of the NEPC recognized that there are challenges around navigating the export landscape, especially with respect to certification and licensing requirements. He buttressed the need for agriprenuers to seek out information on quality standards for food products as this will facilitate the export and placement of Nigerian products on global supermarket shelves.

The Nigerian government also needs to step up and create an enabling environment that supports agriprenuers with innovative policies to propel the development of rural communities. This can be done by signaling to investors strategic interventions that have the potential to create substantial social and economic impact. One way of achieving this is by encouraging investors to establish production and processing units in rural communities where raw materials are produced to reduce post-harvest losses.

This is more cost-effective, will help reduce post-harvest losses, and will have a direct impact on household income and livelihood.

“Investors should begin to think of structuring smaller processing plants in the communities where raw materials are produced. This is more cost-effective and will have a direct impact on household income and livelihood”

Chichi Eriobu, CEO Phronesis Foods Nigeria

With the current food insecurity crisis and looming population boom on the continent, It is imperative to change the narrative around subsistence farming in Nigeria, scale-up capacity-building efforts and resource provision to strengthen resilience, and amplify the voices of young professionals who demonstrate the exciting possibilities that are career in agriculture holds.

The event ended with closing remarks delivered by Barr. Abiola Ladapo, the director of the Nigeria pavilion who thanked the panelists and audience for their participation and urged all stakeholders in the value chain to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment who is always ready to support Nigerian agriprenuers to share their products with the world.

 

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