Ecobank Nigeria Limited and Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) have signed a N70 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that signals the beginning of collaboration between both institutions on agri-business financing.
The collaboration is aimed at developing products that will support lending to actors in the agricultural value chain in conformity with Ecobank’s risk acceptance criteria and credit process.
Under the arrangement, the lender has committed a portfolio of N70 billion in series that has the bank immediately releasing a lump sum of N15 billion take off funding. Ecobank and NIRSAL would jointly select and develop projects that will meet the financing needs of actors in NIRSAL’s focal commodity value chains.
In his comment at the MoU signing ceremony in Lagos, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria Limited, Patrick Akinwuntan, said the bank is actively promoting agriculture as a strategic initiative to support national development which is critical to the wellbeing of Nigerians.
According to Akinwuntan, Ecobank is committed to working with NIRSAL to open up the vast opportunities that abound in agriculture and to ensure citizens benefit ultimately.
“This is a collaboration, the Federal Government had made it clear that investing in the agriculture sector is very critical for Nigeria to succeed, especially taking into consideration the natural endowment God granted us in terms of population, land and weather. We have the opportunity to make agriculture the economic spinner for Nigeria. What we are doing is to fulfil this policy direction of the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)” he noted.
Further, he reiterated that “in Nigeria, Ecobank hopes to contribute positively to move the economy forward, creating employment for the teeming population through agriculture. We found a natural partner in Nirsal, as they have the requisite intellectual and technical capacity to act as meeting point for the stakeholders in the sector. The de-risking participation of NIRSAL gives us the will to provide these facilities at single digit rates at a maximum of 9% to ensure that the users are able to make profit. When our customers make profit, we are also able to make profit. So it is a win – win business for everyone”.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of NIRSAL, Mr. Aliyu Abdulhameed revealed that under the agreement, and in line with it’s Mapping to Markets (M2M) strategy, NIRSAL will identify and refer structured projects to Ecobank to support the Bank’s deal origination and financing operations in agribusiness. On its part, Ecobank will finance the projects leveraging NIRSAL’s Credit Risk Guarantee (CRG) which is a further comfort for lenders to agriculture and agribusiness.
Shedding more light on the M2M, Abdulhameed noted that the strategy is “a closed loop financing system that mandatorily operates via one bank or a consortium of banks. He added that NIRSAL will refer input and service providers under the M2M to Ecobank for account opening, hence, driving the growth of the bank’s business.
In addition to growing the bank’s business, Abdulhameed said that NIRSAL will develop a program for training Ecobank staff on Agribusiness Finance, with emphasis on how to channel customer applications and requests for effective and streamlined agribusiness lending.
These include maize, soybean, wheat, cassava and cotton for industrial commodities. The list also includes consumer commodities such as hibiscus, sesame, ginger and shea, rice; controlled environment agriculture commodities including sweet potato and beans, fresh fruits and vegetables and agriculture and integrated livestock commodity. The intent of the partnership is to ensure farmers get single digit interest rates to make agriculture attractive to both the elderly and the young population.