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Agriculture vs Unemployment: Buhari’s farming policy has a major flaw

How workable is Buhari’s plan to send able-bodied young people to the farms as a way of solving unemployment in the country?

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Banks guaranteed N3.6 billion loans to farmers under the ACGSF - CBN, Agriculture vs Unemployment: Buhari's farming policy has a major flaw, Does sending "able-bodied youths" to the farms increase productivity?, Agricultural financing, Top AgriTech deals currently on sale in Nigeria – June 2020

Two weeks ago, President Muhammadu Buhari directed that food and fertilizer importers should not be given access to foreign exchange by the CBN.

The President added that Nigeria has lots of young people (median age of 17.9), hence, agriculture is a means to solve unemployment among youths. 

“We have a lot of able-bodied young people willing to work, and agriculture is the answer,” the President said.

However, Nigeria’s problem in Agriculture is not a lack of personnel, but a problem with productivity. 

READ: Can Agriculture replace Oil in Nigeria?

Is productivity related to manpower in other countries? 

The Netherlands is Europe’s largest agriculture exporter, boasting of Europe’s most advanced agriculture sector. In 2019, the Netherlands exported €94.5 billion worth of agricultural goods. That is a 4.6% increase in the €90.4 billion export figure for 2018. Around two-thirds of this growth is due to an increase in export prices, while a third is due to higher export volume.  

In 2019, the Netherlands had a labour force of 9 million, and just 2% of that figure is employed through agriculture. Meaningless than 300k people produce €94.5 billion worth of agricultural exports in 2019. 

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READ: GTBank, Access Bank, 11 others pay workers N271.64 billion in H1 2020

What about other emerging economies? 

Comparing Nigeria to the Netherlands does not paint a proper picture as the latter is a typical first world nation with most of the labour force out of agriculture.

However, other emerging economies also have large agriculture sectors, which could be comparable to Nigeria’s. 

The top 4 rice exporting nations of 2019 were India ($7.1 billion), Thailand ( $4.2 billion), USA ($1.9 billion), and Vietnam ($1.4 billion). 

The United States is the only top 4 exporting rice nation that is not regarded as an “emerging economy.”  

(READ MORE: Lessons Nigeria can learn from Microsoft’s Global Skills Initiative)

Does agriculture play a major role in their economic workforce/ productivity? 

India: The Asian giant has a labour force of 494 million, of which 44% are employed in agriculture, the Industry employs 23% of Indians while the Service economy employs 31% of Indians. 

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However, despite being the world’s largest exporter of rice, agriculture produce did not even make India’s top ten exportsas industrial goods were responsible for India’s top ten exports. Mineral Fuels made up India’s top export in 2019 at $44.1 billion, followed by Gems and Precious Metals at $36.7 billion, and Computer Machinery at $21.2 billion. 

India’s I.T sector is also a major producer of Indian productivity with domestic revenue expected to hit $44 billion in 2020, while exports revenue was estimated at US$ 147 billion. 

ThailandThe world’s second-largest exporter of rice had total exports of $245 billion in 2019, with a labour force of 39 million which is even less reliant on agriculture than India. 

READ: Zenith Bank blows past Access Bank as customer deposits cross N4 trillion

Agriculture contributes 8.4% to Thailand’s GDP, with Industry at 39.2% and Services being the highest contributor at 52.4%. 

Food is not a major top 5 export from Thailand, as Computer Machinery was its major export in 2019 at $40.2 billion, followed by Electrical equipment at $33.9 billion and Vehicles at $28.9 billion. 

(READ MORE: EFG Hermes highlights sectors that will boom Post-COVID)

VietnamSoutheast Asia’s star economy was the 3rd largest emerging economic rice exporter in 2019, with a labour force of 57 million. Vietnam recorded a trade surplus of $11.12 billion in 2019, from exports of $264.189 billion. 

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Agriculture contributes 15.3% to Vietnam’s GDP, followed by industry at 33.3% and Services at 51%. 

Vietnam exported $126 billion in electrical equipment in 2019 alone, with smartphones and spare parts making up $51.38 billion of that amount. Footwear exports came at $24 billion in 2019 while clothing was $16 billion. 

From the data above, agriculture which employs a component of emerging market economies does not contribute the most to their productivity, as manufactured goods are a major source of export income and rising. 

READ: Zenith Bank blows past Access Bank as customer deposits cross N4 trillion

Does sending more people to the farms increase productivity? 

Affiong Williams, the founder of food processing company ReelFruits, says that she does not think sending more Nigerians to the farms will increase productivity because “There is very little material productivity to achieve by increasing physical labour on the farms. Productivity increases in Agriculture, which moves the needle on production output, are more impacted by things like fertilizers, mechanization, and increased technical expertise. Manual labour is no match for any of those things.

READ: Pension: Low RSA balances – a subtly growing concern

What does Nigeria need to do to improve yields? 

The over-reliance on smallholder farming, in my opinion, is the biggest hindrance by the government to improve agro yields,” she added.

She added that even though the current model may be seen as a “development activity,” it barely achieves its true aim. 

To improve the output of any crop, one needs to do a lot of testing and control for so many factors to be able to arrive at the right conditions which increase productivity. Smallholder farmers do not have the resources to do this type of ‘A/B testing’ as it were and so it is very difficult to get true information and disseminate the right techniques that all of these farmers can apply.

“I think the government needs to enable more commercial farming by the private sector who are able to acquire the resources to increase productivity and disseminate such learnings at a faster pace, she said.

(READ MORE: IMF expects Nigeria’s GDP to shrink by 5.4% in 2020)

Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data

Bottom Line: The Nigerian government is not focusing on the aspects that increase productivity in agriculture which experts say are fertilizers, mechanization, and increased technical expertise, components that cannot be replaced with more human capital in the farms. 

Secondly, growth in Nigerian agriculture yields can only be done through large scale commercial farming with the ability to conduct tests to find the right techniques for farmers.  

READ: MARKET UPDATE: CBN’s historic agriculture lending; Is it yielding the desired results? 

Finally, compared to contemporary emerging economies, Nigeria is seriously lagging behind in both agriculture exports and manufactured exports,  as Nigeria’s top ten agriculture exports hit just N289 billion between April 2019 – March 2020. 

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Business News

Lagos State inaugurates 9-member committee to boost Entertainment & Tourism

The Lagos State Government inaugurated a Committee Chaired by Veteran actor, Richard Mofe-Damijo, to boost tourism and entertainment in the state.

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Lagos announces resumption time table for public and private schools, FESTAC town, Lagos cancels 2018 land use charge, LAND USE CHARGE, Lekki sealed buildings, Lagos state governor issues new guidelines for lockdown, consider full reopening of its economy,Sanwo-Olu gifts families of slain police officers N10 million naira each

The Lagos State Government inaugurated a Committee Chaired by veteran actor, Richard Mofe-Damijo, to boost tourism and entertainment in the state.

The Committee was inaugurated by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Wednesday at the Lagos House in Marina, citing that intervention and schemes by the state Committee will boost and fund the sector most affected by the pandemic.

Veteran Nollywood actor, Richard Mofe-Damijo, is the Chairman of the nine-member committee. Other entertainment sector members of the Committee include Tunde Kelani, Mo Abudu, Kunle Afolayan, Peace Anyim-Osigwe; while government representatives in the Committee are Adebukola Agbaminoja, Ferdinand Tinubu, Taju Olajumoke and Mrs Funke Avoseh.

What the State Government said

“The scheme is to support creative ideas of movie and entertainment producers, who are constrained by funds to bring their concepts into reality. Applicants are to be supported with funding based on the financial plans of their projects, the grant may be as much as N40 million for each beneficiary.

This is a signpost of all pockets of intervention we have created for the development of creativity and the tourism sector. This is with the belief that we can further raise the status of our creative output and commercialise the returns to a level where it can compete with Hollywood and Bollywood.

We realised most of our film production experts and directors face a lot of funding impediments. We are intervening to close this gap and bring credible veterans who have the knowledge and have demonstrated capacity in the industry to drive this project,” Sanwo-Olu said.

The Governor added that the State carefully selected five key practitioners in the industry to lead, to be supported by four government officials to limit bureaucracy for the committee to achieve its objectives.

He said the state wants to create entertainment and tourism business leaders who will use their creativity to enhance the market share of the sector.

“We want to support industry practitioners to raise capacity, support development of local content and discourage the action of taking proceeds from the industry out of the country, thereby denying local practitioners the benefits of their talents,” the Governor said.

What you should know

Recall Nairametrics reported last year that the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, announced the approval of a N1 billion seed capital for investment in the tourism and hospitality sector in the state. The N1 billion seed capital is to help drive new growth in that sector.

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Tasks before the AfCFTA dispute settlement body

The success of the AfCFTA will depend largely on the willingness of the member states to adhere to the agreement.

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The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) held its inaugural meeting on 26 April 2021 at the AfCFTA Secretariat in Accra Ghana. The DSB is composed of the representatives of the State Parties and shall have the power to establish Dispute Settlement Panels and an Appellate Body responsible for settlement of disputes between the member States.

The mandate of the DSB also extends to adopting the reports of the Panels and Appeal Body as well as monitoring and ensuring the implementation of the ensuing decisions. In carrying out its mandates, the DSB will work with the AfCFTA Secretariat while maintaining its independence in the area of dispute settlement.

The inaugural meeting signals the readiness of the AfCFTA dispute settlement infrastructure to take up any disputes that may arise in the course of trading amongst the member States. Disputes are inevitable in any free trade area and when any such disputes arise under the AfCFTA, the resolution is to be in line with the Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes which forms part of Phase I Negotiation.

Recognizing its importance to the success of the trade deal itself, the Protocol proclaims that “the dispute settlement mechanism of the AfCFTA is a central element in providing security and predictability of the system” and “shall preserve the rights and obligations of State Parties under the Agreement and clarify the existing provisions of the Agreement in accordance with customary rules of interpretation of public international law.”

Though inspired by the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s dispute settlement architecture, the AfCFTA framework is meant to address some of the lapses in the WTO. In an exclusive opinion piece for “The Africa Report”, Mr Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA, explained how the AfCFTA will work in order to avoid the pitfalls of other trading blocs. As noted in the report:

The WTO’s tribunal of final instance for global trade disputes, the Appellate Body, has been reduced to irrelevance over disagreements on its composition. The paralysis of both the WTO’s negotiating and dispute settlement arms means that trade disputes between China and the United States, two of the WTO’s largest members, have flared into open hostility.”

Drawing from the WTO experience, the African States in negotiating the free trade treaty cherry-picked the aspects of the WTO’s dispute settlement system that have worked and jettisoned the problematic parts.

At the Virtual Press Conference held on 04 May 2021 to update the public on the status of the implementation of the AfCFTA and the progress made so far, the AfCFTA Secretary-General re-echoed the importance of the dispute settlement mechanism to the success of the AfCFTA while answering questions from journalists across Africa. Commenting on the milestone achievement recorded with the inaugural meeting of the DSB, he noted that:

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“The dispute settlement is really the mechanism and is at the heart of the African Continental Free Trade Area. And it is at the heart of what we mean by a rule-based trading system. And at the heart of what we mean by market certainty and predictability. For the first time on the African continent, there is a dispute settlement body that will have oversight over all the disputes that arise under the agreement whether there are investments related, trade in goods, trade in services, market access related disputes. This body will have oversight over all of that.”

All eyes are now on the AfCFTA DSB as it shoulders the task of ensuring that disputes between member States are resolved in an efficient, transparent, fair and impartial manner. The starting point is to ensure that persons appointed to be members of the Dispute Settlement Panels and Appellate Body have the expertise and experience in the subject matter of the dispute and are chosen strictly on the basis of objectivity.

There is an even more important corresponding duty on the State Parties when nominating persons to be included on the indicative list or roster of individuals to serve as Panelists to ensure that nomination is based on merit and proven expertise on the subject matter. The member States should eschew any nepotistic or tribal considerations in nominating State representatives. The Nigerian government should resist the temptation to premise its nominations on Federal Character or other ethnic or religious considerations as we’ve seen in recent appointments.

Recent events such as the reported discriminatory measures against Nigerian traders in Ghana, the closure of the Nigerian border with Benin Republic, the Xenophobic attacks in South Africa on African businesses and the retaliatory attack on South African-owned businesses present examples of the kind of disputes that may come up before the AfCFTA DSB assuming that similar issues arise in the future. Others may include disputes over conflicting public policies, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, rules of origin, dumping, regulatory excessiveness, standardization, trans-shipment, taxation, market access, and consumer protection etc.

The AfCFTA dispute settlement mechanism is restricted to State-to-State disputes. The treaty is silent on the mechanism for the resolution of disputes between private individuals. Notwithstanding this limitation, the private sector participants such as the SMEs and other business entities will be able to petition their governments to implement the rights and obligations set out in the agreement establishing the AfCFTA. That way, the rights of the private sector can be enforced using the State instrument.

For instance, in a situation where citizens of a member State are being subjected to discriminatory measures in another AfCFTA member country, the affected country may decide to refer the case to the DSB on behalf of its citizens, after exhausting the amicable settlement options such as Good Offices, Consultations, Conciliation and Mediation. It is not yet clear what yardstick will guide such referrals or to what extent such anti-free-trade measures will impact on the citizens of the member state before it decides to challenge the infractions at the DSB. Whatever the case, where a member state fails to protect the rights of its citizens, the affected traders may seek other legal remedies available under the national laws or within any bilateral and multilateral instruments applicable to the disputes.

In relation to investment disputes, the ongoing negotiation of the AfCFTA Protocol on Investment is meant to clarify the uncertainty around the framework for resolving investor-state disputes. The member states in choosing to resolve their disputes within the AfCFTA framework should be aware of the fork-in-road provision under article 3(4) of the Protocol, which precludes a State Party who has invoked the dispute settlement procedure under the Protocol with regards to a specific matter from invoking another forum for dispute settlement on the same matter.  Another area of interest is the enforcement of decisions reached under the AfCFTA dispute settlement process.

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The effectiveness of a dispute resolution mechanism is often measured with the 3 E’s which are efficiency, expertise, and enforceability. Challenges will likely arise in relation to compliance with decisions under the AfCFTA as we have seen under the WTO and other regional trade treaties.  It is hoped that the desire to enhance investors’ confidence and the spirit of amity will spur the AfCFTA members to comply with decisions made by the dispute settlement bodies. In the end, the success of the AfCFTA will depend largely on the willingness of the member states to adhere to the agreement and to eschew any form of self-help when they perceive any breach of the trade deal.

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