The role of agri-financing in the expansion of agriculture has been underscored by financial giant Ecobank Ghana.
At the 10th edition of the annual Pre-Harvest Conference and Exhibitions held in Tamale, the bank joined forces with event-organiser Agri-house Foundation as a sponsor and facilitator.
The event was held under the theme COVID-19 and Beyond; Solutions for Agricultural Transformation, and was the 10th commemorative edition of the Pre-Harvest designed to create extraordinary opportunities for participants to meet with farmers of all commodities to negotiate and seal deals. The platform also afforded participants an opportunity to meet fertiliser, irrigation and seed companies; tractor, machinery and equipment dealers; technology firms, banks and financial institutions; processors, researchers, government institutions, development partners and a lot more in the Northern Region capital, Tamale, from 7th -8th October.
This year, the highly-patronised event brought together 114 exhibitors and 1,979 participants from across the country, and also gave participants an opportunity to interact with key industry players and colleagues from other links in the agric value-chain, including small- and large-scale farmers, aggregators, input dealers, machinery and equipment dealers, agro-processors, financial institutions, development agencies, Telcos and many more.
In his remarks, the MD for Ecobank – Daniel Nii Kwei-kumah Sackey, expressed the bank’s commitment to future editions of the event, and pledged Ecobank’s support for financial packages that are tailored to suit the unique needs of farmers.
“Ecobank Ghana is a strong player in this space (Agric Industry) and is delighted to be associated with this programme, having actively participated in this conference over the past seven years as a premier sponsor.
“The bank’s journey with this project commenced in 2013 with our commitment to USAID’s ‘Feed the Future’ scheme to ensure food sustainability in Ghana. Ecobank, under the project pledged to invest five million dollars ($US5,000,000) over a seven-year period in the maize, rice and soy value chains. This was a significant pledge made at a time when we had very little experience and technical know-how in the industry.
“With the assistance of USAID FINGAP (Financing Ghanaian Agriculture Project) and ACDI/VOCA, by the third year of project implementation Ecobank had exceeded its target. To achieve this, Ecobank employed a two-pronged approach of lending directly to actors in the value chain, as well as through other financial service providers to agribusiness in areas where we may not be physically present. This strategy allowed us to increase the number of beneficiaries and ensure effective monitoring of the programme.
“Ecobank recognises the fact that the current level of traditional bank financing to the agriculture sector can be improved upon, and we see this as an opportunity to actively grow access to financing and market across the entire agricultural value chain. Indeed, we believe that the desired agribusiness expansions within the diverse components of the value chain is best realised with timely access to finance and markets, especially by smallholder farmers and agribusinesses.”
He enumerated various products the bank has consultatively designed to promote the growth and expansion of agribusinesses and other farm-related enterprises.
“To ensure that we impact positively on the sector, Ecobank, has developed a number of unique products tailor-made for actors in the value chain, these include:
- Digital Farmer Solution
- Digi Banking Pack and Digistore
- Xpress Points, and Xpress Account.
“These are multi-purpose solutions which enable large-scale farmers – including aggregators, licenced buying companies and outgrowers – to digitise their commercial sourcing operations through efficient payment solution systems. They also provide commercial farmers the ability to get visibility over their commercial activities through intermediaries, namely purchasing agents – enabling them to sell their products within and outside the country in a contactless manner.
“To ensure that mutually beneficial successes are chalked up for both the bank and our cherished customers in the agricultural value chain, Ecobank will continue to work hand in hand with key players such as:
- the Ghana Commodity Exchange, which is responsible for regulation of the grain warehouse receipts system in Ghana, and the
- Ghana Rice Out-growers Scheme – in partnership with AGRA and MOFA, to increase domestic production and assist in the achievement of rice self-sufficiency by 2025; thereby significantly reducing the importation of rice and enhancing access to credit by farmers and other value chain actors.
“The Pre-Harvest Conference has over the past few years provided a valuable networking opportunity for participants, and on the 10th Anniversary of this event we encourage all to take advantage of this forum to establish new relationships and build on old ones. Ecobank strongly believes in the future of Agriculture, and we are committed to supporting the sector in a sustainable manner for a positive transformational impact on Ghana and Africa at large,” he concluded.
Sessions at the event imbued participants with requisite knowledge for agri-business expansion among other benefits.
Ecobank representatives at the event handled topics like: Increasing agricultural incomes and promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth; Technologies for Agricultural Transformation; Beyond COVID-19 – Structured system, policies for an improved farmers’ access to input, finance, services, markets and a commercially viable agric sector; The pathway, Identity – pricing – access – appraisals for obtaining credit or loans among others.
In its opening-day message, Agri-house Foundation – organiser of the event – made a call for support to take the event a notch higher.
This plea was met with almost immediate impact, as it was offered plots of land for the construction of an agricultural development, training and demonstration centre in Tamale.
The land offered by the Bamvum Lana, Chief Mahamad Abdulai, is to help train youth and women in entrepreneurial skills, as well as organise programmes aimed at enhancing the livelihood of smallholder farmers.
Commitment to Agric
Ecobank’s unique Pan-African focus places it in an ideal position to achieve the firm’s vision of contributing to the financial integration and economic development of Africa.
In line with SDG 2 – to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, Ecobank pledged in 2013 under the ‘Feed the future’ project to ensure food sustainability in Ghana.
To this end, the bank committed to invest US$5,000,000 between 2013 and 2020 in the maize, rice, and soybean value chains.
It is an undisputable fact that the current level of bank financing to the agriculture sector can be improved upon, and Ecobank sees this as an opportunity to continue increasing access to financing across the entire agricultural value chain. So far, Ecobank has invested an additional US$16,000,000 into the Agriculture value chain in less than 5 years.
The bank is part of the event because it acknowledges that it will promote dialogue and forge business partnerships among value chain actors and players, especially farmers, buyers, processors, transporters, input dealers, financial institutions and telecom companies.
Ecobank has tailor-made Digital Banking Solutions for Agribusinesses which guarantee growth and expansion for its clients.
The bank recognises that Agribusinesses have a need to digitise their payments and have access to enablers to help them scale and have access to untapped markets leveraging the emerging digital economy.
The need for these solutions has become more critical than ever in creating modern and sustainable agribusinesses, because of the pandemic which has accelerated the need for these solutions.
Ecobank has over the years offered support to Agribusinesses through financing and advisory services to build strong enterprises within the Agribusiness space. As part of its value contribution toward the upcoming Pre-Harvest Conference, Ecobank proposes to help accelerate the growth of agribusinesses through its digital infrastructure through the following solutions:
• Digital Farmer Payment Solution
• Enhanced Digi Banking pack
• Digital Farmer Payment Solution:
The digital farmer solution is a multi-pronged solution that enables large-scale farmers aggregators, licenced buying companies and out-growers to digitise their commercial sourcing operations through an efficient payment solution.
The solution not only streamlines payments made by large-scale farmers to small-holder farmers, but also gives commercial farmers the ability to get visibility over commercial activities through their intermediaries(i.e., purchasing agents).
To ensure the solutions work completely across the nation, the bank complements this service by streamlining the Cash-out leg of the Solution, which is a critical piece of the pie in digitising payments for agribusinesses. The Cash-out arrangements enables farmers to encash funds received on their mobile wallets or bank accounts through Ecobank’s Xpress Points – an agency banking and franchise branch, as well as through mobile network operators. As a home-grown solution developed specifically for agribusinesses, the solution is accessible both via web, which requires Internet connectivity, or via the USSD that requires just a phone – whether a feature phone or smartphone.
The Cash-out arrangements also helps households within agribusiness communities to make additional income by running these franchise outlets.
• Digi Banking Pack
The Digi Banking Pack is a bundle of solutions designed for small- and medium-scale enterprises to eliminate traditional barriers in accessing basic banking solutions and to provide a wider market access. The solutions help SMEs to access banking services from wherever they are and at any time, on both self-service channels and brick-and-mortar channels including Xpress Points.
The pack includes a bundle of solutions, including bank accounts with unique features designed to meet the needs of small businesses, efficient and affordable digital collection and payment solutions, flexible working capital solutions, and an end-to-end e-Commerce Solution to enable SMEs sell on remote channels.
Account Solutions: Clients will have access to bank accounts that can be opened and accessed within the same day, and includes an operational account to support their commercial operations and a business saver account to enable them earn interest automatically on an excess liquidity they hold. All account solutions are offered at a competitive rate to SMEs, as maintenance fees are waived to enable them grow and scale. There are no Commission on Turnover (C.O.Ts) charged on these accounts.
Payment & Collection Solutions: Small businesses will have access to Collection and Payments solution with no set-up costs. The Payment Solution is accessible through Omnilite, an Online banking platform accessible through web; or as an App on either iOS or Android. The Solution can be used to make a host of payments including inter-account, interbank, international, mobile wallet, utility and other bill payments. The payment solution is also complemented with a Debit Card linked to the business’s operational account, or a prepaid debit card that can be loaded with funds.
The Collection Solution includes EcobankPay which comprises GhQR, an innovative, contactless solution that enables payments to be made by scanning a unique universal quick response (QR) code for an SME; and a Mobile Wallet payment solution which enables payments to be received from any mobile money wallet (i.e: MTN Momo, Vodafone Cash and AirtelTigo Cash) directly from the payer’s mobile wallet to an SME’s operational account held with Ecobank Ghana Limited. The collection solution is complemented with a card payment solution that enables businesses to receive payments over a web portal. Collection solutions can be deployed as an integrated payment link that offers payers the opportunity to choose among multiple payment options to make payments remotely, and/or through onsite solutions to enable SMEs collect payments in-person at their premises or at fairs/exhibitions.
Financing Solutions: Ecobank offers flexible financing solutions to SMEs which are enrolled on its Digi Banking Pack to enable them scale. These financing solutions augment SMEs working capital by providing them with a Cash advance of up to 50% of their average collection turnover on its digital channels for an amount of up to GH¢200,000. These financing solutions are offered at competitive rates, as facility processing fees are waived. Interest applicable is fixed at a monthly rate of 3.5% and the facility is availed for a year, but payable within a month from the merchant’s daily sales
Digistore: As part of the bank’s efforts in creating resilient SMEs following the effects and changes to how consumers assess products and services, Ecobank has enhanced the value proposition of the aforementioned Digi Banking Pack to include the Digistore, which offers SMEs the opportunity and an avenue to sell their goods through a web store, through their social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, and through USSD. This tool helps SMEs boost their market-reach by creating and getting access to a market demand to enable them scale.
The Digistore service is complemented with a delivery service solution to enable SMEs fulfil their orders by ensuring orders are delivered to customers seamlessly. This is possible through strategic partnerships with logistic service providers, who are skilled at this business function and have the capacity to provide this service at competitive rates.
Ecobank is a universal banking institution, providing a wide range of flexible financial products and services to its Consumer, Commercial and Corporate Banking customers.
In a demonstration of its commitment to Agriculture, the bank is one of few with a dedicated desk specialised in the provision of Agricultural financing across its entire value chain, from production to processing and marketing. The bank does this by leveraging on unique technological platforms and digital solutions, thereby enabling customers to do banking wherever, whenever.
The 10th Pre-Harvest Agribusiness Exhibitions and Conference was organised by Agri-house Foundation and collectively supported by The Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the European Union, Yara Ghana, Ecobank, the Northern Regional Coordinating Council, and Agricultural Development Bank (ADB).