Lagos, Nigeria, the economic capital of West Africa, played host to more than 85 technology leading brands from 22 countries: Algeria, Austria, Benin, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Jordan, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Only 6 countries of the 22 are in Africa.
These brands all converged to exhibit their technology solutions at Landmark Centre between April 26 and 28 during the Agrofood and Plasprintpack Nigeria 2016. Well attended by visitors, the just concluded 2nd International Trade show on Agrofood, Plastics and Packaging is an eye-opener for the discerning. There are lessons to learn from this three day event – some include:
Lesson #1: Nigeria’s potential is huge.
According to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics, between 2010 and 2014, the population of the country grew by 12% from 159.2 million to 178.52 million1.
Martin Marz, CEO, Fairtrade2 reports that Nigeria experienced a 92% increase (from 198 million Euros to 381 million Euros) in the importation of food processing and packaging machinery between 2010 and 2014. In the same period, Nigeria experienced a 136% increase (from 85 million Euros to 201 million Euros) in importation of packaging machinery and equipment, while importation of plastics machinery grew by 61% (from 54 million Euros to 87 million Euros).
Marz2 further said that imports of food products have increased from US $4.5 billion in 2010 to US $8.5 billion in 2014 while Nigerian exports of food products grew from US $2.9 billion in 2010 to US $4.9 billion in 2014. For the records, a number of food products exported to European countries get rejected due to unacceptably high chemical substances harmful to human health. Again, the European Union placed a suspension on Nigeria’s dried beans export till 30th June 20163.
Besides this staggering statistics on importation, sub-Saharan Africa has over 200 million Hectares of uncultivated land4 (almost half of the world’s uncultivated land), out of which Nigeria boasts of almost 50 million hectares5 of uncultivated land.
Aside the afore-mentioned, Nigeria is blessed with large water bodies (renewable water resources) suitable for irrigation and aquatic lives, favourable weather condition (abundant sunshine) and more importantly, a resilient and enterprising youth population. And now with Government’s renewed focus on agriculture, the potential of the sector is huge.
Thus, the selection of Nigeria by Fairtrade, the organising team of the exhibition as the choice of destination, is well thought-out.
Lesson #2: Nigeria’s potential is under-utilised.
With agriculture contributing about 40% to Nigeria’s GDP, the sector remains the largest in the Nigerian economy. About 70% of Nigeria’s current population is active in agriculture and agro-allied activities. Agriculture’s success is pivotal to the sustainability of other sectors and its importance to national development cannot be overemphasised.
Of the over 85 companies represented at the exhibition, just 9 are domiciled in Nigeria, with only 2 or 3 companies being indigenous.
Without dwelling much on the negatives, it is crystal clear from Lesson #1 that Nigeria hasn’t taken advantage of her huge natural and human resource endowments.
Lesson #3: Nigeria should prepare for the future.
By 2025, the world’s population is estimated to be 8.1 billion, with most growth in developing countries and more than half in Africa6. Twenty five years after, the population of the world is projected to be 9.6 billion and that of Nigeria to reach 440 million6. When population figures don’t make meaning as to inform policy formulation and implementation, especially in the area of food availability and security, infrastructural development, capacity building etc, then as a nation, we are only setting ourselves up for an upheaval situation, to say it mildly.
It has been established by the United Nations that much of the geometric growth in population will be experienced in Africa. With this reality, the developed world is being strategic in their preparation for the future. One of such strategies may be this exhibition, just saying.
In his welcome message, Marz2 said that ‘the target of agrofood & plastprintpack Nigeria 2016 is to support the Nigerian agrofood industry to meet its challenges in terms of food hygiene, food safety, cost efficiency and in creating an ever greater diversity of food and beverage products. The event is all about technological exchange and cooperation between Nigerian agrofood producers and international technologists’.
All over the world, Nigeria is envisioned to be Africa’s agriculture hub. So, deeper than supporting the Nigerian agrofood industry to meet its challenges is the underlining mission to subtly permeate Nigeria with technology solutions that will bring about dramatic turnaround in our food systems, and broadly, agriculture. For instance, the introduction of hybrid seeds or Genetic Modified Organisms (GMOs) to boost productivity and profit margin of commercial agriculture.
Technology is excellent. In this 21st century, as a nation, we cannot afford not to adopt the solutions of technology. But when Nigeria has to always depend on importation and not develop the competencies of her indigenous fabrication industry, put in place the needed infrastructure for the manufacturers, build capacity and technical knowhow of her people, invest in research & development etc then one wonders what becomes of the future.
By this, Government has to employ a two-pronged approach. First, government needs to deal with the decadence the sector has suffered due to the age-long neglect. Second, there is dire need to develop and implement a national agriculture blueprint for transforming the agriculture sector.
Additionally, it must be mentioned that the active players in food production – the small and medium scale farmers – didn’t have significant presence at the exhibition. Likewise, the voice of members of the academic (including students) and research community was not heard. These two, as custodians of knowledge, are important stakeholders in the value chain not to neglect.
For future exhibitions of this magnitude, it won’t be out of place to witness the synergy of other federal ministries like the Ministry of Trade and Investments with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Management.
2.Official Show Catalogue, Agrofood & Plastprintpack Nigeria 2016. 26 -28, April, 2016