The issue of how farmers from Africa can gain access to financial support through loans took centre stage yesterday at a meeting that attracted experts in rural and agriculture finance in Kigali.
The two-day meeting aims at providing platform for experts to share practices and experiences on how best to boost agricultural funding on the continent.
The international conference was organised by the African Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (AFRACA) in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Bank (BRD).
Officially opening the conference, the Minister for Agriculture, Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, told the experts from all over the world, that it was time for Africa to capitalise on the changes that it’s beginning to experience.
“The world population is expected to hit nine billion by 2050. It’s important to know that among these nine billion mouths to feed, the extra two billion is expected to be from Africa and, as expected, majority of Africa’s population is going to be young. This means Africa needs to seize this huge opportunity and change how it has been doing business,” she said.
Mukeshimana said there have been considerable progress in the development of agricultural finance in Rwanda recently, pointing out the national programmes that are specifically improving the financial services in rural areas.
“The government has been implementing a set of reforms to enable Rwanda to evolve from subsistence and food security agriculture towards market oriented agriculture. There are campaigns to improve the national financial literacy and training financial institution workers and the increasing use of technology and mobile money transfers,” she said.
She said, if well utilised, private sector investment has the potential to drive the inclusive development.
Also in attendance was the Vice Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, who said that there are many challenges not just with supply but also demand.
She said the Government had come up with financial responses, like Rwanda Development Bank (BRD) and the Business Development Fund (BDF).
“The government is pushing millions of dollars into the sector and we need to learn how to make good use of that. We have institutions like BDF and BRD that are consolidating all the facilities to lend in agriculture. We believe these are good but we need to make sure that we are comprehensive enough,” she said.
The Chief Executive Officer of BRD, Alex Kanyankole, told the participants that it’s important to have an efficient rural finance and agricultural system where knowledge sharing can take place, and best practices identified and replicated.
“The agriculture sector continues to play a significant role in livelihoods and continues to be one the biggest employers of Africans. There is need to continue to work together and to always ensure that the entire set of enabling factors is working efficiently,” he said.
The AFRACA Secretary General, Saleh Usman Gashua, said that when it comes to agriculture, this is the only sector where all humans are stakeholders.
“As long as you eat, you are a stakeholder. In terms of GDP, across the continent, the contribution is about 20 to 30 per cent. 60 to 70 per cent of the entire African population is involved, in one form or another, in agriculture,” he said.
He said that there is need to work hard and reverse the trend where, according to the African Development Bank statistics, less than 5 per cent of those involved in farming access one form of common lending.