HERITAGE BANK: THE BANK THAT IS CHANGING NIGERIA’S AGRICULTURE LANDSCAPE

Nigeria’s agriculture sector over the years have had poor access to financial services that enable farmers and other agricultural producers to adopt new technologies, improve market linkages, and increase their resilience to economic shocks.

 

Yemisi Izuora writes that poor access to financial services that enable input suppliers, processors, traders and others in agribusiness to address liquidity and encourage targeted private sector engagement in agriculture remains a challenge, until recently Heritage Bank deploys huge resources and services but with firm partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to lift the sector to enviable position. Beginning from 2010 to 2011, the federal government after years of neglect, began to reform the agriculture sector and to refocus the sector, government decided to implement a new strategy known as the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA).

 

In 2011-2016, the focus was on rebuilding a sector whose relevance had shrunk dramatically which reflected in the lack of lending to farmers by the financial system and the dramatic levels of food imports from across the world. That intervention, the ATA, served its core purpose of helping refocus Nigeria’s attention on agriculture. Development of Agriculture continues to remain a critical issue for Nigeria’s economic growth, poverty reduction and ensuring food security of the country, as over 70 per cent of the rural households depends on agriculture as their principal means of livelihood. The recent volatility of food prices enduringly affected Nigerian food system.

 

The imposing of import restrictions by the government while prices of food were high and resulting distrust in the functioning of the price of crude oil at the international markets forced countries that depend on agricultural imports to change their strategies to meet domestic demand. Given this development, many Nigeria financial institutions started investing in agriculture. Several of these large-scale investments triggered high rates of agricultural growth in recent times. In Nigeria, with access to finance still a significant challenge, agriculture remains underdeveloped with the majority of farmers in the rural areas still practicing subsistence farming.

 

A very commendable gesture by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is the decision of the bank to go into collaboration with the government and commercial banks to establish some notable agricultural schemes as a way of bridging the funding gap. Such interventions include the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), Commercial Agriculture Development Programme (CADP), and the Interest Draw-back scheme, Agricultural Credit Support Scheme as well as the recently introduced Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).

 

The broad objectives of most of the schemes are to fast track development of the agricultural sector by providing credit facilities to commercial agricultural enterprises at a single digit interest rate; enhance national food security by increasing food supply and effecting lower agricultural produce and product prices, thereby promoting low food inflation; generate employment and diversify revenue base. In all of these commercial banks in the country commendably keyed into those measures that have seen the sector lifted out of inactivity.

 

Heritage Bank’s Exemplary Intervention

Heritage Bank Plc, by every instrument of measurement has distinctly and evidently made funds available to both individuals and corporate organisations in their efforts to increase agricultural output in line with governments policy and CBN intervention strategies.
The bank has palpably financed critical agricultural projects in the country and, in the process supported many farmers. As one writer recently noted, “Since the five eventful years, the bank has opened its doors to its teeming customers, the showpiece of its operations is a full gamut of completed, on-going and nascent people-oriented programmes- create, preserve and transfer wealth across generations in the country.

 

This line of operation is steadily yielding great results as the nation continues to move its economic base towards the direction of the future, with a robust emphasis on thoughts about diversification of the county’s economic base.” For some period of operation, Heritage Bank is being positioned into a bigger and stronger financial institution that is placed to play a significant role in the much-envisaged transformation of the nation’s financial sector in line with the country’s stature as one of Africa’s largest economy. With the increasing recognition of agriculture as the ‘beautiful bride’ of Nigeria’s economy,

 

Heritage Bank’s unfaltering energy and commitment in agricultural financing which are fast gaining new interests and more attention within the business circles is helping to rebalance the sector such that Nigeria would soon become the food basket of the African continent.
As agriculture continues to be business, financing provides tremendous opportunities for lenders and borrowers, either at small or large scale. Heritage Bank has not only encouraged both governments, corporate and individual (including young people to embrace optimal productivity and greatness in this sector), it has taken the front seat in the drive to support them in the attainment of noble agricultural virtues by funding various agricultural projects in several states in the country.

 

Partnerships As Growth Strategy

The Bank believes in team work and that is why partnership with various critical stakeholders and institutions remain a major consideration to realise its objectives. In line with its collaborative initiative the Heritage Bank Plc entered into a partnership understanding with the Nigeria Incentive Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) in a bid to improve the agriculture value chain though increasing financing to the sector.

 

The partnership aims at identifying and securing financing of impactful agribusinesses within all the segments of the agricultural value chain. The financing was designed to cover segments from primary production of raw materials and sustaining the processing industries to exportation of the produce. Ifie Sekibo, the Managing Director of Heritage Bank, offered a wonderful explanation as to the reason for the partnership. To him, the partnership will avail credits at very low interest rates to commercially viable agricultural projects that have been packaged and fully de-risked.

 

Before then arrangements have been concluded by the bank to revolutionise agricultural sector by widening and deepening the participation of digital generation in agribusiness. Sekibo was convinced that support of NIRSAL would help the bank develop a digital agribusiness platform that will strengthen distribution of human capital that meet parameters of agribusiness.

 

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Heritage Bank will increase wallet of business transactions with Lagos State Govt - George-Taylor
L-R: GoodLuck Linda, WOSSA Chief Welfare officer; Helen Unabor, WOSSA Chief Protocol officer; Olawale Osundele, Regional Head, Lagos Island 1, Lagos Island 1 Zone, Heritage Bank; Amb. Tayo Thomas, President of WOSSA; Dame Jennifer Omotayo-Thomas, Vice president, WOSSA and John Adah, Team Member, Corporate Communications, Heritage Bank, during the award ceremony held in Lagos to mark this year’s International Widows Day themed: Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”

PRESS RELEASE

Heritage Bank supports over 500 widows, receives UN Award for Humanitarian Service 

Heritage Bank received the 2022 United Nations Award for Humanitarian Service from the Widows & Orphans Support Society of Nigeria (WOSSA), as no fewer than 500 widows and orphans in Lagos State benefitted from the Bank’s support. 

This was made known during the award ceremony held in Lagos to mark this year’s International Widows Day themed: Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”.

The event was an opportunity to recognize Heritage Bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) roles to widows, their children and other less privileged within the society.

Speaking during the awards presentation, Founder, Widows & Orphans Support Society of Nigeria (WOSSA), Ambassador Tayo Thomas, said Heritage Bank is one of the group’s key partners and has for years shown massive support to the widows. 

He said: ” Basically, we are giving this award to people and organizations that have been supporting the less privileged widows. These are our partners, they have been doing great service to humanity, especially service the less privileged widows in meeting their financial needs and those of their children”. 

Continuing, he said: “The United Nations Humanitarian Award is to appreciate and acknowledge them for their support to the less privileged widows. The United Nations Humanitarian Award is an award we give every 24th of June to those who have really supported the widows. Those who have joined us to fight against injustice against the widows. That is the reason for today”. 

Speaking at the event, Heritage Bank Regional Head, Lagos Island 1, Olawale Osundele, said the bank has for years, remained committed to improving people’s lives. 

He said: “It has always been one of our front liners to always improve the quality of people’s lives right from childhood. And today that they are marking the International Widow’s Day, we are also part of the support team to WOSSA in various aspects.”

“We have been supporting them in terms of providing quality education for children of widows to ensure that life after the death of their husband is still good to them and their children. We also support the children and orphans and the less privileged in the society,” he added.

According to Osundele, the bank’s support to the widows has always been a source of joy to them.  “It means that life still means a lot to them. You can see the joy in their faces. Despite what they are going through, they are still very happy and relevant in society,” he said. 

One of the widows at the event, Mrs. Felicia Ugwunwanne thanked Heritage Bank and WOSSA for their continuous support to the widows and less privileged. 

She said that WOSSA is through the support of partners such as Heritage Bank, making life better for the widows and their children. 

“The WOSSA has for years, been assisting so many of us, including our children and orphanages. WOSSA gives us cash, help some widows to pay their house rent, school fees for widows’ children, among other things,” she said.

Ugwunwanne said the widows under WOSSA are being trained for skills acquisition to improve the quality of their lives.

“I am aware that the WOSSA is working on securing loans from Microfinance Bank, and we have completed forms to achieve the purpose. Our members are prepared to access the loans. Some of the widows have gone to learn some skills that will enable them to invest and succeed in whatever craft or business they are doing so that they will not continue to depend on people,” she said. //END.//

Ozena Utulu, Ag. Group Head, Corporate Communications