Intra-African Trade Fair will Create Export Path for SMEs, Says Awolowo

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Olusegun Awolowo, NEPC Executive Director at the Nigerian Pavilion in Cairo, Egypt
  • BoI, states govt partnership lend over N20bn to SMES in one year

Jonathan Eze in Cairo

‎The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Olusegun Awolowo, has said that the country’s participation in the maiden edition of ongoing Intra-African Trade Fair in Cairo, Egypt, will create an export path for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) among other benefits.

Speaking on the sideline of the fair, Awolowo said that the participation of the Council is in fulfillment of its mandate of promoting the development and diversification of Nigeria’s non-oil export base and to showcase its products/ companies and expand their businesses and markets.

‎This is also as the Managing Director of Bank of Industry (BoI), Olukayode Pitan, disclosed that the partnership between the Bank and some state governments have enabled lending for the purpose of improving businesses to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across the country to the tune of over N20 billion in 2018.

Speaking with THISDAY in an interview at the fair in Cairo, Egypt, Pitan stated that “BoI on its own has partnership arrangements with states and we call it matching funds whereby whatever amount of money the state gives to us, we match it with the same amount of money, and this funds are disbursed in the same state”.

“Our matching funds are over N20 billion in terms of people that we have reached. We have reached over one million Nigerians in one way or the other this year. Matching funds is a product that we put together to encourage the states to be able to lend to small enterprises, for instance, we have in Kaduna, we have in Kano, and we have in different states. What we did is that we went to Kaduna State and tell them, if you give us (BOI) one billion naira, we will put one billion naira down, so, your one billion naira becomes two billion “.

“So we are putting our money where our mouth is, so we are also spending the bank’s money to ensure that SMES are encouraged by getting the financing that they require “.

On the ongoing trade fair, the MD said the Bank has sponsored over 50 companies to showcase their products. “This trade fair is the first of its kind in Africa, and we know it is very important, so we went out of our way to engage our customers, SMEs, so here we brought at least 50 companies at various levels of support, they were very small and they got close to 100% sponsorship “.

“The bigger they are, we reduced the amount of sponsorship that we gave them, and there are others who came on their own, so essentially, we must encourage and support them, so all together we are supporting 100 Nigerian companies for the trade fair “.

The NEPC is leading the coordination of Nigeria participation at the inaugural trade fair. The NEPC boss commended the African Export-Import Bank and the African Union (AU) for organizing the trade fair.

According to him, it will provide an opportunity for the promotion and trade of commercial activities between Nigeria and the rest of the African Continent as well as strengthen existing economic and diplomatic ties within Africa.

However, in addition to participating at the exhibition, Nigeria is hosting a Country Day on Thursday following a successful bid for one of the five available places. The country Day offers the country an excellent opportunity to showcase the best of its thriving economy, social and cultural sectors as well as its investor friendly policies among others.

The Nigerian pavilion was a beehive of activities because of its aesthetic beauty with exhibitors and investors seen discussing with NEPC officials for possible visit and investments in the country