Former minister of agriculture and rural development Sonny Echono has said that in the last two years, Nigeria has brought in 760 billion naira ($3.8 million; €3.6 million) in commitments to its agriculture industry from the private sector.
While the majority of the private investment has come from within Nigeria, investors from South Africa and north African states like Morocco and Egypt have also committed funds in recent years.
Following democratic elections this year, investors are hoping Nigeria can overcome the corruption of the past to build up agricultural infrastructure and business in the country. Echono’s announcement came as Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari reshuffled his cabinet, replacing Echono with Audu Ogbeh and creating a new ministry for budgeting and planning.
“They are setting an example by looking at agriculture that other countries should follow,” said Roberta Annan, an impact investor famous for her work in fashion.“But to affect issues in Nigerian agriculture we need more than that.”
Supply chains, like loading bays, cold storage systems and even roads, are sorely needed to boost an agricultural industry from field to fork within the country, she added.
“The focus has been on production, but I think the focus should be on logistics and retail. How you can transport from different farms to the supermarket and end consumer. So we need to diversify what we are looking at in investment.”
She said there were about 20 domestic and 16 international investors who had put money into Nigerian agriculture in the last few years.
However, several investors also told Agri Investor that the future of the sub-Saharan country, which has faced a series of corruption scandals and security issues over recent years, will depend on the current government’s ability to push through agricultural reform. Some also expressed some doubt over the 760 billion figure, calling it “fluffed up”, and in some cases “ludicrous”.
Local investors and consultants said that projects such as Aliko Dagote’s $1 billion investment into rice production, while potentially useful, have been moving too slowly. At worst, they fear the same corruption that has plagued the oil industry for years threatens progress in Nigerian agriculture.
Nigeria is the world’s second-biggest rice importer, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, but as its own population is forecast to increase, so will those of rice producers like China and India. “There is a need to ensure food security in Nigeria. It is good that unlike before, we won’t focus so much on oil,” added Annan.