Heritage Bank Limited, Nigeria’s most innovative banking service provider, has partnered with the first edition of West Africa Trade and Investment Forum: Conference and Exhibition on sub-regional integration of economies of West African countries in the areas of agriculture, education and skills, manufacturing and information communication technology (ICT).
Mr. Olugbenga Awe, Group Head, Agric and Exports of Heritage Bank said the bank was involved in the project because, “it speaks to its commitment to the development of Nigeria and its commitment to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) as well as its commitment to agriculture.”
He said the bank’s partnership with the organisers of WATIF “is just a continuation of a process it started as part of its commitment to SMEs which are the bedrock of the economy, because they (SMEs) employ labour and in terms of contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) they are the future of the economy.”
Besides this, Awe was also a keynote speaker in a roundtable discussion on agriculture which recommended soil quality and seed quality for improved agricultural output, mechanised farming and cluster blocks to enhance value in terms of pricing of agricultural commodities.
Other recommendations include the use of technology, creation of market hubs, setting up of website for farmers to upload information about their products and standardisation of products across the sub-region among others.
Earlier in her address of welcome, Mrs. Michele Branco-Aiyegbusi, Director of WATIF, “WATIF 2018, themed “Enhancing Collaboration for Regional and Economic Impact” could not have come at a more auspicious time, as it comes right on the heels of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement signed a few days by 44 African countries in Kigali, Rwanda.
She expressed the hope that they were optimistic that genuine efforts towards integration and economic collaboration would not only bring about a boost in the economic standing of Africa globally, but indeed opportunities for growth and development of the sub-region.
She remarked that with the focus of the maiden edition of WATIF on four sectors, the forum has been able to pool into the discourse industrialists and key drivers from these sectors who they hoped would be open minded in addressing the issues and barriers to trade and development in the sub-region.
The director added that the industrialists would collectively agree on proffering solutions and strategies that would be implementable first within the sectors and hopefully by policy makers.
Also speaking, Mrs. Bukunola David, director special projects, noted that “West Africa agro ecological potential is massively lower than its current output and so are its food requirements, adding that while more than one quarter of the world’s arable land lies in the African continent, it generates only 10 percent of global agricultural output.”
In the area of manufacturing, Mrs. David noted that while multinational consumer companies were thriving in West Africa while 95 percent of its population and 71 percent of their income remain at the base of the pyramid.
The special project director also observed in education and skills development that despite the abundant work opportunities, competent and skilled workers remain scarce across Nigeria, West Africa and Africa as a whole with companies bringing the gap in industries by using a mix of local and international employees.
Mrs. David also noted that information and communication technology is the cybernetic generation and transformation of information through the use of man-made gadgets, remarking that the generation of accurate and useful information and its proper and real dissemination have always been of great importance to humans from time immemorial.