The British International Investment (BII), the UK’s Development Finance Institution (DFI) and Impact Investor, have announced a US$26.5 million commitment to AFEX, one of Africa’s commodities platforms, to address food security in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda.
AFEX, which serves over 450,000 farmers, currently operates over 200 warehouses in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda. FarmingFarmersFarms gathered that the investment is expected to support structural improvements in Africa’s agricultural industry, which is believed, will significantly benefit smallholder farmers and lead to improvements in food security. The Chief Executive Officer of BII, Nick O’Donohoe, while speaking at the signing of BII and AFEX’s new partnership in Lagos, said that the World Bank estimates that Africa’s food import bill had reached US$30 billion in recent decades.
“This is why we need to back technology-driven companies like AFEX because they help reduce that import cost by supporting smallholder farmers to increase local food production, while also boosting their incomes. BII’s investment will be used to build 20 modern warehouses in strategic locations in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda. Its capital will also scale warehouse technology and next-generation software that captures post-harvest pricing. Smart storage solutions have the potential to preserve the lifespan of harvested crops, and so increase the volume of food available. The additional warehouses will provide 230,000 MT of storage capacity, enabling up to 200,000 more farmers to access low-cost storage and maximise sales from crop harvests, potentially helping increase farmer incomes by more than 200 per cent”, O’Donohoe said.
He added that supporting smallholder farmers to achieve a fair wage is vital to ensure they remain in operation, producing more and higher quality crops for local consumption. The AFEX Group Chief Executive Officer, Ayodeji Balogun while speaking said, “the investment from British International Investment is a landmark moment in our mission to revolutionise agriculture and elevate food security across Africa. By directing fresh capital towards the development of technologically-advanced warehouses and critical facilities, we are significantly enhancing market access and income potential for smallholder farmers. “In alignment with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, our mission is to enable Africa to feed itself efficiently and sustainably. Today’s investment doesn’t just propel AFEX’s growth, it forges a more secure and prosperous future for an entire continent”.
According to him, agriculture in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda accounts for a quarter of Gross Domestic Product and employs 70 per cent of their populations – 80 per cent are smallholder and subsistence farmers. “Currently, farmers face a difficult financial outlook due to macroeconomic uncertainty, limited market access, and poor reliability of sales from crop harvests. Yields have fallen, and farmers’ incomes are increasingly affected by price hikes of agricultural inputs and extreme weather events. He added that BII’s capital will also be used to develop a soybean processing plant in Ibadan, Oyo State, the third-largest city by population in Nigeria, and a drying facility in Uganda, stressing that the construction of the storage facilities and soy processing facilities will generate over 700 temporary jobs and more than 80 permanent roles.
The British Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, Jonny Baxter, said he is proud of British International Investment’s support, which will enhance agricultural productivity and boost food security in Nigeria. “The agriculture sector stands as a vital pillar to Nigeria’s economy, playing a significant role in job creation and investment potential. The UK provided early-stage funding to AFEX, and I am delighted to see the company grow with such success. We look forward to continuing to support Nigeria’s agriculture sector and the opportunities this provides for its economic growth”.