“Some of our agricultural specialists were once farmers and thus have real-life insights into the agric industry and are able to add value over and above ordinary banking solutions.”

Exclusive interview with Mr Charles Mudiwa, Chief Executive of Stanbic Bank Zambia, the platinum sponsor at the upcoming Agritech Expo in Chisamba in April.

1)    What products, services and projects of Stanbic Bank are you most excited about at the moment?
Currently, we have a number of exciting projects one of which is agricultural banking.  What excites us about this product is the fact that some of our agricultural specialists were once farmers and thus have real-life insights into the agric industry.  They fully understand the end-to-end experiences faced by farmers and are able to add value over and above ordinary banking solutions.

2)    What makes your company competitive in this market?
Firstly, as the leading African Bank with a unique footprint and a deep understanding of the African markets. This offers us competitive edge in providing support and local insights on complex structured transactions.

Secondly, agriculture is one of our key focus sectors and we have structured our business model to support the full Agric Value Chain ranging from input suppliers, farmers/out growers, off-takers, processing/production units, distributors, wholesalers and retailers:

To support our agriculture clients, we have an established presence in major farming blocks in Zambia with a team of dedicated agric specialists on the ground who are able to advise on a range of issues related to agri- business.  We also provide a very strong Global Markets and Treasury team to support cross border trade and forex hedging needs.

3)    Any specific projects or success stories you would like to share?
Our Agric portfolio has grown into one of the leading Agric banking portfolios in Zambia, both in market share and size of lending book, which directly supports the Zambian Government’s focus on the agriculture sector.  Further, we are proud of the growth of our branch network over the last few years, specifically as we opened branches in most of the major farming blocks. We also participate and sponsor various agriculture related events, which include the  Agricultural and Commercial Show, the National Bull and Wildlife Sale and more recently a major sponsor of the prestigious Agritech Expo, which all shows our commitment and passion towards the agriculture sector.

4)    What in your view are the main challenges for the agricultural sector in Zambia?
The ability to project future cash flows due to unstable commodity prices. The realisation of a Commodity Exchange/Desk to facilitate trade and commodity hedging. To unlock Zambia’s potential as a food producer for the region and increase exports to allow increased foreign revenues. Limited infrastructure to support transport and cross border trade, however this is a key focus area for the Zambian Government which will undoubtedly unlock the potential in the agriculture sector. High cost of inputs is another challenge, which is mainly caused by the high cost of transport/imports, specifically impacting the farmers negatively.

5)    What advice would you give someone who is interested in investing in the Zambian agri-sector?
Zambia is one of the best agricultural production areas in Africa, due to the availability of land, an abundance of water, rich soils, stable political and business environment. However setting up a commercially viable operation is capital intensive and investors need to make sure their feasibility studies are realistic and that they source the right technical and management skills. Partnering with local stakeholders is always useful in establishing a successful business, thus choosing the right attorney, auditing firm, bank, etc. Stanbic Bank is well positioned and has the expertise in assisting investors on  their  plans of investing in Zambia.

6)    What is your vision for the sector, also in terms of the region?
We would like Zambia to become the bread basket for the region and become a more stable earner of foreign revenues through exports. As a country, we are selfsufficient in maize, sugar cane, soya beans and wheat. As a bank, we would like to support the industry through the entire agric value chain. In addition to primary agriculture, we would like to see more processing of raw materials into finished products within Zambia, for both local as well as exporting opportunities.

7)    What surprises you about this sector?
The agric sector is very dynamic and there is no dull moment.

8)    Why did you decide to partner with AgriTech Expo?
For Stanbic Bank, the AgriTech Expo is the ideal opportunity to engage with all the key stakeholders in the agric industry as well as demonstrate our support and commitment. The full agric value chain will be present and it gives us a prime platform to exhibit our services and solutions. We will further, be able to introduce our partnerships and relationships with key players in the market. Lastly, it gives us the opportunity to spend quality time with our customers in an environment where they would feel most comfortable.

9)    What will be your main message at AgriTech Expo?
To build a sustainable agric sector in Zambia through valuable partnerships.

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