Xperts: On the Field…to Help Africa Feed Itself
by Abimbola Otepola, Corporate Communications Analyst AFEX
The agricultural sector offers a broad spectrum of economic benefits in Africa, and being an engine of job creation is inclusive. The sector accounts for 70 percent of employment and resources in Nigeria. While the employment opportunities across the food system are potentially large, agri-focused companies intensifying growth in the sector are exponentially growing. Our trading business unit — AFEX Fair Trade — is one of such engines for growth and job creation.
AFEX came to life in 2014 and since then one of the fundamentals of our story has been helping small farm holders in Nigeria to maximize their farm production through agricultural development programs that provide access to technical know-how, markets, and credit facilities. Data-driven technology lies at the heart of this approach of making progress towards Africa feeding itself. The implication of this sustained commitment lies in the employment of over 200 Nigerians in a process to improve livelihoods and food security.
One of AFEX’s changemakers is Dalhatu Abdulaeez from Zaria in Kaduna State, who shares his journey in the company and the viable future of the agricultural economy.
“ I value an organization that provides its employees with growth opportunities and the ability to expand their experience. I have worked with AFEX for 7 years now. At inception, there were just 25 of us setting the foundation for AFEX.
Today the company has a workforce of over 200. I joined as a normal employee looking for a normal life but I got a change of life instead. I joined as a classroom teacher who worked on a contract job with Collateral Management. Today I am a warehouse administrator living a comfortable life.
One thing I love about AFEX is her support for farmers. The company provides a full range of services from providing agricultural inputs to storage to harvesting and communication with the markets. This is helping farmers to optimize their crop yields and knowing that I get to contribute to this impact makes me happy every day.
I love what I do and I love that it is in AFEX because there is a future here. ”
Professional development has been a hot topic in companies in recent times. Hassan Akinade, a warehouse manager at Pampaida had this to say about aligning AFEX’s purposes and values with his goals.
“Sometimes you end up working in a field unrelated to your study. It can be confusing but when your company helps you to embrace the change and motivates you to imbibe a sense of excellence, providing you with the knowledge and resources to get better, the journey will just be seamless.
This is what AFEX did for me. AFEX is home to me. I was new in the commodity/aggregation industry when I joined but I was included in a culture that allowed me to not only thrive but learn and master the industry”
Using his experience in Market research, Hassan is making efforts to maximize the opportunities in the agriculture sector through AFEX.
“ As a warehouse manager coordinating agribusiness activities in aggregation, warehouse receipts, input loans, and many others, I will say AFEX is intensifying agricultural production in Nigeria. However, there is still the perception that agriculture in Nigeria is a risky venture.
I think many players have little or no knowledge of the terrain and don’t have an idea of what to do. The agricultural sector can also benefit more from financial literacy. We need to strengthen cooperatives with or without the loan programs.
Perhaps, growing markets, connecting trades is one of the viable strategies to create a sustainable food system in Nigeria. Successful companies are not only defined by the size of the market they control but also by how impactful their presence in such markets has been to stakeholders, employees inclusive — an initiative AFEX believes strongly in.
The culture at AFEX allows everyone to embody and enact the corporate philosophy behind AFEX Fair Trade — work effectively to “help Africa feed itself”. It is an essence that Abdulaeez sums up as
“AFEX is like a skyscraper. We have laid the foundation; improving livelihoods for farmers, and powering sustainable agricultural growth in Nigeria. We are on the middle floor, making impact, and transforming communities. We are moving, and won’t stop until Africa can feed itself.”