In a strategic bid to further bridge the financing gap created in the operations of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the Bank of Industry (BoI) has earmarked about N300 billion to achieve its development and intervention agenda in the sector.
The facility, designed to be accessed over the next five years, is expected to boost activities of small businesses in the country.
Besides, the National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), the Bank of Industry (BoI), Access Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc have concluded plans to explore new partnerships in a bid to provide required support for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector, especially in the area of accessible financing.
Executive Director, Small and Medium Enterprises, BoI, Waheed Olagunju, while speaking at the yearly general meeting of NASME in Lagos at the weekend, said the country is awash with funds for SMEs, noting that the development financial institution has earmarked the facility for the next five years to achieve its objectives in the sector.
Olagunju explained that since the bank discovered that most SMEs’ businesses are not bankable, serving as a debacle hindering growth and development, BoI employed the services of 122 Business Development Service Producers (BDSPs) to help produce a tune of 1220 successful bankable projects over the next 12 months.
He said the bank also has a cluster-based financial programme to support industrialisation, saying that infrastructure still remains a major constraint to the development of the sector.
“We anticipate an upsurge in the demand for finance by SMEs; as a result of this, we have strengthened the bank to meet these demands. The funds are there but we are only going to support genuine businesses,” he said.
Similarly, the President and Chairman of NASME council, Alhaji Garba Gusau explained that efforts to develop the sector require strong and supportive institutions and holistic infrastructural development as well as key and impactful sectorial intervention by the Nigerian financial sector, as a deliberate effort towards addressing the many years of the sector’s neglect.
Gusau stated that the meeting was meant to interface entrepreneurs with financial institutions to create new frontiers and accessibility of stakeholders to the sector’s various products and services, especially during a period of dwindling economic fortune and decisive elections at all levels.
According to him, “the elections are here again; NASME is challenging the political gladiators on their programmes and policies for the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) at all levels of governance. MSMEs’ development should be at the front burner of the political discourse.”
He however called on state governments in Nigeria to access the N2 billion each given to them for development of the MSME sector in their states, noting that some states are already doing well in this regard.
He commended the efforts currently being made by the government to address the challenges of the sector, but stressed that a lot needs to be done if stakeholders in the public and private sectors are indeed committed in developing the sector of the Nigerian economy.
Also, the Executive Director, Business Banking Division, Access Bank Plc, Mrs. Titi Osuntoki said despite the huge opportunities in the sector, it only contributes one per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to her, the bank invested over N30 billion in 2014 to support the growth of the sector, noting that the bank has concluded plans to invest another N60 billion this year into the sector.
She stated that the bank also has facilitated about $250 million fund from international organisations for SME development, adding that the future outlook of the sector is bright despite the challenges hindering its full potential.
“I will implore all agencies involved with the SMEs to provide the adequate platforms to drive this sector of the economy,” she said.