The Bank of Industry (BoI) and the Abia state government have inked an agreement under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to pump N1 billion into the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector of the state.
The fund as well as capacity building for effective deployment, will be made available to deserving entrepreneurs in the state to further boost their value addition processes, expand their production capacities and make more jobs available for the unemployed.
Speaking during the MoU signing ceremony at the Government House Umuahia, the ag. MD and CEO of BoI, Mr. Waheed Olagunju explained that the N1billion SME development fund is to be equally contributed by the bank and the state for onward lending to yearning entrepreneurs in the state, particularly those who are engaged in value addition and processing.
“What we are trying to do now is to accentuate the industrialisation of Abia State particularly in the SME sector vertically and horizontally, to increase the level of entrepreneurship in the state with its attendant
“We need to add value to our products rather than exporting them in their crude form to countries where they are processed and sent back to us with more value and we pay heavily for that and the per capita incomes of those countries get much higher than we have here, and the quality of life and living standards are also much higher than we have here.
According to Olagunju what separates the rich and the poor countries of the world is the level of industrialisation, as it is not by accident that rich
countries are described as industrialised nations of the world and the poor countries as less industrialised.
“By our estimation in the Bank of Industry, through every N1billion we
lend, we are able to generate close to 10,000 jobs. And as resources permit we can also increase the pool of funds, this is just a framework that we intend to start with,” he added.
Olagunju noted that with the right capacity building, prospective beneficiaries stood a better chance of making best use of the assistance given to them, which will enhance their potential and also enable them to honour their repayment obligations.
He announced that the bank was aiming to open a branch office in Umuahia, to enable it bring more of its products and services closer to entrepreneurs in Abia state.
In his remarks the Abia state Chief Executive, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu while appreciating the federal government’s renewed effort in trying to pick up the bits and pieces of the Nigerian economy through other vital sectors apart from oil stressed that “this is the time to seize the opportunities that are available to us.”
He said his government is resting on five pillars of development and first of these five pillars is the development of small and medium scale enterprises, having identified from inception that Abians were very resilient, tough and ingenious entrepreneurs.
“We also discovered a cultural hedge in the way our people do business which has prevented them from competing globally and that is the non-automation of production processes. With automated production lines we can be sure of consistent quality, time of delivery and consistency in design.
“We want to see how we can intervene by assisting them in procuring needed equipment, training and re-training and also help them in accessing markets and gaining exposure beyond Nigeria.
“I want to assure you that every person that will benefit from the facility will give a good account of it and will be willing to pay back. The orientation is that this is the time to move forward and the economy of the nation and our state depends on their ability to seize this moment and run with it.
“I want to assure the Bank of Industry that our government will cooperate with you, do everything possible to see that you succeed in setting up an office here in the state.
“I’m one of the few that believes that Nigeria will rise from this low ebb and become stronger, become better, such that we can tell the story of what happened as the nudge we needed to rise from our slumber.
Governor Ikpeazu noted that time has also come for Nigerians to take pride in what they produce because – “anything that is good enough for Nigerians should also be good for citizens of other countries.
“The greatest enemy of made in Nigeria products are Nigerians themselves and we need to change our orientation and discipline our appetite for foreign products. This is the time to tell the world who we are from our own perspective.”