Chief Executive, Skill En hancement Centre (SENCE) Agric, Ikoyi, Lagos Mrs Ogo Ibok is an enterprise development specialist, who provides support to small medium businesses, especially start-ups.
She has consulted for a wide range of start-ups and multi-million Naira mid-level organisations, covering industries such as real estate, power, food, entertainment, IT, construction, education, transport and social sector etc.
She is promoting a mentorship project to help more Nigerians grow produce for international markets.
Addressing a day opportunities’ seminar in agribusiness in Lagos, Mrs Ibok said there was a need to accelerate agricultural growth and the way forward to foster an entrepreneurship climate in the agribusiness sector.
She briefed participants on agro business opportunities, new ventures, food business, seed and farm business, and fund facilitation for potential agribusiness entrepreneurs.
She spoke on business opportunities in the food sector and elaborated on funding opportunities to potential entrepreneurs.
She sought the participation of potential entrepreneurs present at the gathering, assuring them of effective business incubation and support to help move their agribusiness ideas and ventures forward.
She expressed concern that Kenyans and other Africans have taken over the foreign market while Nigerians with so much to offer are lacking behind with an opportunity to earn foreign exchange with dwindling oil revenue.
In the face of this, she explained that the growth of agro exports, needs to be placed in the broader context of the nation’s economic policy and performance.
This, according to him, means more Nigerians will have to export agro produce to enable the nation earn more income from other sources other than oil and create jobs.
The advantage is that the nation’s climate, soils and overall ecology are favourable for commodities production, making organic crops competitive.
According to her, organic produce is highly rated at export markets and are accorded premium prices.
Consequently, she has taken up a campaign to educate producers on how to improve their yields and quality and to take advantage of growing market opportunities.
She said as part of the project, would–be agro entrepreneurs will match with established farmers and exporters to enable them learn how to meet export standards to earn premium prices.
She maintained that mentorship as a form of skills development is essential in providing an opportunity for hands-on practical experience and a safe place to try new things under the guidance of an experienced mentor.
At SENCE, she said, the organisation networks with potential mentors, who can help new entrepreneurs take advantage of agribusiness opportunities.
At the international market, she noted that the most important concern among European consumers is food safety certification and compliance with environmental and ethical standards.
Meeting these requirements, she noted, presents a real challenge and some Nigerians are unable to remain as suppliers to the fresh vegetable trade with Europe. Yet, the rising food safety and other standards have provided an important opportunity to Kenyans and other Africans’ fresh produce to trade more generally.
The business of agro exports, she maintained, can be complex, with the sophistication required to compete at the high-value end of the market. The international market, she explained is affected by changing consumer demands, rising standards, and just-in-time delivery that necessitates careful supply chain management and close co-operation with the overseas clients.
The strategy, according to her, is for Nigerians to differentiate itself on the basis of product innovation and stringent quality assurance/food safety management systems.
She reiterated that her organisation is determined to facilitate the continued participation of many Nigerians in various ways, such as raising awareness on export standards and certification compliance.
On the other hand, she said, the local markets still provides some opportunities and that traditional commodities offer prospects for significant growth in volume and prices are expected to continue to increase.
She stressed the need for a high-quality and comprehensive agribusiness training programme, targeting small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
With a sizeable piece of arable land and elaborate farming skills offered by experts, Ibok said Nigerians engaged in different start-up agric businesses will be equipped with advanced skills and mentored on managing sustainable enterprises.
SENCE’s agribusiness skills training bolster agricultural production and productivity through modern agronomical practices, agro-processing and marketing.
If Nigeria is to improve agro business competiveness both locally and internationally, Mrs Ibok stressed the need to improve the efficiency in handling enterprise employees, marketing, quality of the product and capturing more value-added products in ways that will increase returns on investments and boost the agricultural sector job market.
SENCE, she said,promotes value chain linked business models that support farmers and agro entrepreneurs to produce for processing through their own investment in local cottage industries, as well as in financial inter-mediation, policy and regulation issues.
The event proved to be a highly valuable initiative to guide and mentor individuals interested in agribusiness.
Source: The Nation