"Effective partnerships for financing are key to the fertilizer sector growth."
Bank Vice President Pierre Guislain
Actors in West Africa's fertilizer industry emphasized the need to financially support the fertilizer value chain to improve agricultural productivity in the region.
Agriculture ministers, development partners and private sector leaders made the call during the opening ceremony of the first West Africa Fertilizer Financing Forum in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, on Monday 30 September.
Under the theme "Fostering Fertilizer Future," the event organized by the African Fertilizer Financing Mechanism Secretariat and hosted at the African Development Bank headquarters, will explore: public-private partnership in pushing Africa's fertilizer development agenda; concrete financing solutions for the fertilizer sector; and West Africa's fertilizer sector dynamics, challenges and opportunities.
"Effective partnerships for financing are key to the fertilizer sector's growth. The forum is a unique opportunity for our fertilizer companies, from the largest multinational to the smallest SME, to build viable business plans and connect with the Bank and other financial institutions to build a strong agriculture sector to feed Africa and improve the lives of Africans," said Pierre Guislain, Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization at the African Development Bank, speaking on behalf of Bank President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina.
The challenges are widespread: in West Africa, Mali is the only country to have achieved the fertilizer goal of producing 50 kilograms of nutrients per hectare, as per the objectives of the 2006 Abuja Declaration.
"This initiative of the African Development Bank and the Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism is timely as it reminds us of the urgent need to reconsider our policies and strategies in the area of fertilizer financing," said Gaoussou Touré, Minister of Rice Promotion in Côte d'Ivoire.
Lack of financing hinders fertilizer value chain development in Africa. According to the West Africa Fertilizer Association (WAFA), only 3% of bank loans in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are directed to the agriculture sector. Commercial bank interest rates are too high, compared to other types of financing in the region, and the process takes too long to be of benefit to farmers.
"Such difficulties obviously cannot favour the development of a strong fertilizer sector in the region and hence threaten the achievement of our regional objectives in the area of food security. The forum will definitely help us engage with financial actors present to find solutions that will unlock fertilizer financing in West Africa," said Moussa Diabaté, president of WAFA.
In the same vein, Amb. Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, stressed the need for stakeholders to accelerate the implementation of the 2006 Abuja Declaration to achieve the aspirations of the Africa Union's Agenda 2063.
"I believe that the forum will go a long way in solving the issues of affordability and access to quality fertilizers by the smallholder farmers in Africa," the commissioner said.
About 300 participants are attending the West Africa Fertilizer Financing Forum.
The two-day forum aims to develop relationships between private sector players in West Africa's fertilizer industry and the African Development Bank, along with other development financial institutions and commercial banks, which will lead to increased access to affordable financing and availability of fertilizer to farmers.
Chawki Chahed, Chief Communications Officer