By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday applauded world leaders for braving the threats of terror to attend the World Economic Forum for Africa.
President Jonathan who spoke today in Abuja at the high-level plenary of the forum also commended the participants and organisers for ignoring the threat of terror to attend the event rather than cancelling it.
Speaking on the theme, ‘A Leadership Agenda for Investing in African Agriculture,’ at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja venue, the President underscored the importance of agriculture, saying the sector holds huge potentials for employment, business and wealth creation.
Jonathan told the gathering of his administration’s commitment to self sufficiency in rice production by 2015-2016 for domestic and export, saying this would help reduce poverty and hunger.
Jonathan called on African leaders to create the enabling environment that would enable private investors get good returns on their investments in agriculture
“No country can claim to be developed if you cannot feed yourself,” he said.
“You have to create environment to encourage investment because businessmen do not run charity organisations. That is why we are now looking at agriculture as a business. The youths before now see agriculture as something that is left for the poor and old people in the village with traditional instruments.”
“If you invest in agriculture you will make returns on your investment. Agriculture is key because people must eat food no matter the situation. You can be sick and choose not to go to the hospital but you must eat every day.”
”There is a unique opportunity in agriculture because you will create jobs, achieve food nutrition and empower women.”
“Before now lending to farmers were 2.5 percent but presently it is 5 per cent and we are targeting a higher percentage. Before now African leaders were playing politics with agriculture but today the story has change,” he said.
“In Nigeria we dedicated 30 per cent of loans to women and encourage young men and women to be interested in modern agriculture. Financial inclusion is one of the limitation discouraging young people from investing in agriculture but if we encourage them they will be attracted to the sector.”
Panelists at the session include Presidents of Tanzania Jakaya Kiweta, Paul Kigame of Rwanda, Boni Yayi of Benin Republic and Prime Minister of Cote d Ivore, Daniel Duncan.
Similarly, President Kigame stressed the importance of agriculture saying, “We are only focusing on it to maximise it’s benefits for us and our people.
Other panellists agreed that it was high time due attention be paid to agriculture in order to tap from its huge business potentials.