Akwa Ibom Harps on Investment in Agric

Okon Bassey in Uyo
The 31 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Akwa Ibom State have been told to take the Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAAMP) which is funded by World Bank, French Development Agency and other international financial institutions a serious.

At a one-day sensitisation on the Akwa Ibom State -Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (AKS-RAAMP), the Chairman, Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency in the state, Prof Edet Udoh stressed the need for them to take advantage of the project.
He explained that RAAMP has window of opportunities created by the State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, for local government council helmsmen to access the facility and popularised themselves.

Under the scheme, Udoh said the RAAMP had already prioritised the construction of 500Km roads across the state as well as agro-logistics, among other projects as the state government had paid its counterpart funding.
Udoh, who doubles as the Chairman, State Project Monitoring Committee (SPMC) of AKS-RAAMP said “the problem we have in Africa is that we don’t own development efforts for sustainability.”

He noted that the interest of the state governor in the programmed had opened the state to development agencies or partners, pledging the resolve of SPMC to work with the Local Government Areas to ensure RAAMP succeed in the state.
Giving an overview of AKS-RAAMP, the Sate Project Coordinator, Mr. Gideon Akpan explained that RAAMP had been in Nigeria for the past twelve years with only two states that benefited.

Akpan maintained that it scaled up to RAAMP ll where seven states benefited, adding, “we had to scale up from RAAMP ll which was Rural Access And Mobility Project, to Rural Access And Agricultural Marketing Project,” with 18 states selected to participate including Akwa Ibom State which is opportune to join through the efforts of the present state administration of governor Emmanuel.

To boost the AKS-RAAMP, funded by the World Bank with the assistance of French Development Agency, he said the state government had released the sum of N833 million as counterpart fund.
“French Development Agency is coming to give us the grant for Agriculture while World Bank will be interested in infrastructure and institutional development,” he said.
He posited that AKS-RAAMP would embark on development of value change, agricultural produce through processing, marketing, export, making farmers product available at the right place, time and value through the right access road connectivity in the state.

The Project Coordinator said RAAMP was adopted by governor Emmanuel to consolidate on his five points agenda of Wealth creation, Economic and political inclusion, Poverty alleviation, infrastructural consolidation and Job creation.
Akpan maintained that farmers within the project will access loan at international market and agricultural hubs to improve their sales and make income, stressing that the 500Km roads identified in the state was for immediate intervention.

According to him, “the project will develop inter-border transport system that will connect all the local communities in Akwa Ibom state”, noting that with the development rural-urban drift would be controlled and all rural areas would be opened up with access broad and agro marketing hubs.
Also, he said the project would have a delivery of agricultural product at lower cost and at the right time as well as ensure food sufficiency and poverty reduction in line with sustainable development goals”
The Community Maintenance Scheme of RAAMP, according to him would employ 500 trained rural persons.
Akpan listed the objective of the project to include provision of access to market and service to all farmers living in the rural areas and improvement of access to health care, education and healthier water sources.

EFInA to Boost Financial Inclusion with $2m FinTech Challenge Fund
Emma Okonji

The Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA) has disclosed that it will use the occasion of the recent visit of the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, to Nigeria to introduce a new challenge fund focusing on financial technology (Fintech) companies.
This, the organisation said is expected to enhance the uptake and usage of financial services by the low-income population in Nigeria.
At a business networking event in Lagos, that was hosted by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright, EFInA’s Board Chair, Mr. Segun Akerele, explained further that EFInA is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Speaking at the launch of the fund, a board member of EFInA, Mrs. Bunmi Lawson, said: “Following our recent request for information at our Fintech Outreach Forum, it gives me great pleasure to announce the launch of a new $2 million fund for start-up and growth stage Fintech firms looking to increase access to financial products and services for the poor as well as reduce the rate of financial exclusion in the country.”
She said the essence was to pilot and support the development of innovative financial products and services through the use of digital technology.
In addition, the new fund would support projects that helps strengthen financial inclusion in Nigeria by aligning innovation and modern technology with the needs of the target audience.
“As we see changes happening faster and faster in our environment, we have to anticipate and step up our pace as well. There is immense opportunity in this market and our aim is to see to it that Nigerians are well placed to take advantage of these new opportunities and in the process reduce poverty and boost our GDP,” she said.
She further stated that the grants would cover a range of between $50,000.00, up to $200,000.00 for the “Fintech Challenge 1 Grant” and a range of between $200,000.00 to $500,000.00 for the Fintech Challenge 2 Grant,” adding that more information about the grants would be made available to prospective applicants at the formal Request for Proposal event to be held by the company in the near future.

FCMB Reiterates Support for SMEs

First City Monument Bank (FCMB) has reiterated its commitment to champion and execute initiatives that would boost the growth and performance of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) through increased lending, capacity building, advisory and value-added offerings that would fast-track overall national development.

The bank gave the assurance during the third series of its free capacity building programme tagged: “Business Enterprises and Sustainability Training (BEST)’’ that was organised for existing and new SMEs in Abuja recently.
This followed the success of the first and second editions of the training in Lagos.

According to a statement, the initiative, led by FCMB Training Academy, the bank’s business banking group and facilitators, focused on business and skills development, marketing, finance and accounting for SMEs.
It covered various topical areas such as identifying business opportunities, improving productivity, raising capital, optimising sales, cost and revenue management among others.
Speaking on the BEST initiative, the Executive Director, Business Development of FCMB, Mrs. Bukola Smith, said the bank recognises the increasing role and impact of SMEs on the lives of people and the society.
According to her: “the BEST initiative is one of the innovative ways we support the growth of our SME customers because without effective training and exposure, it can be a challenge to succeed.
“In FCMB, we are passionate about helping our customers thrive in a sustainable manner. We believe that this comprehensive training programme will go a long way to impact positively on the operators of SMEs and propel them to further develop themselves.
“This will also help them take their respective businesses to the next level and compete favourably within and outside the Nigerian market. We therefore, urge participants to take advantage of the unique opportunities provided by FCMB.”

Also commenting, the Head, Training Academy of FCMB, Mr. Sola Oyegbade, stated: “BEST Initiative is a proof of our commitment to the growth and sustainability of the SMEs.
“We focus on helping and getting these businesses sustained beyond just focusing on what value they add to our own Business on the immediate, and then overlook the critical need to develop the nation’s growing economy. A number of our SME partners who have participated in earlier versions of this training, are much better off today.’’

The participants at the training expressed gratitude to FCMB for living up to its value as a simple, reliable and helpful bank that creates opportunities and values.

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