Agriculture, healthcare at the forefront of Nigeria’s future - CNBC Africa

Agriculture, healthcare at the forefront of Nigeria’s future

Western Africa

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Agriculture used to be Nigeria's major GDP contributor until the oil boom in the '70s. PHOTO: Getty Images

“I believe that reasonably stable prices provide a catalyst for rational consumption and investment decisions and for orderly economic progress,” Emefiele said in a statement during his address.

“That is why throughout most of economic history, periods of price and financial system stability have coincided with economic growth and development.”

According to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s agricultural sector was most important to domestic production, foreign exchange earnings and employment in the 1960s.

After the oil boom in the 1970s, agricultural production then began to slow. The share of agriculture in GDP declined from 60 per cent in the early 1960s to 48.8 per cent in the 1970s, and down further to 22.2 per cent in the 1980s.

Agricultural contribution is however on the upswing, and according to the International Food Policy Institute, the sector contributed roughly 42 per cent of GDP in 2006.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria will revisit the goals and implementation of our intervention programmes in the agricultural Sector, in order to ensure that high value addition is obtained from funds provided,” Emefiele explained.

“Interventions in the sector will now be driven towards improving productivity in areas with high domestic demand, where opportunities exist to improve domestic supply, such as rice, fish, wheat and sugar and conservation of foreign exchange. These four commodities constitute a huge proportion of our food import bill of 1.3 trillion naira annually.”

Nigeria’s main food, oil and mineral exports will nonetheless have to be streamlined into decreasing Nigeria’s high import base, and provide more support for smallholder farmers.

(READ MORE: Nigeria's capital market a possible funding alternative for agrcultural sector)

Smallholder and commercial farming support has however been in motion, according to Emefiele, since the establishment of the central bank’s Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS).

Between 2009 and 2013, the scheme paid a total of roughly 16.2 billion naira to 12 rice producers who have subsequently met about 10 per cent of national consumption.

Similarly, Emefiele added that the central bank, public and private sector will have to find solutions to remedy Nigeria’s healthcare, and particularly shave down the bill of foreign exchange use for medical travels overseas.

(WATCH VIDEO: Reversing Nigeria's expensive healthcare services)

“The central bank intends to play a facilitating role by unlocking the potentials that exist for the private sector to invest at various points along the healthcare value chain including hospital services, health insurance, pharmaceuticals, supply chain, and financing,” said Emefiele.

The establishment of the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, with the support of government, is also expected to curb Nigeria’s growing trend of medical tourism.