By James Emejo
The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs. Mariam Katagum, Thursday flagged off the National MSME Survival Fund and the Guaranteed Off-take Scheme (GOS), both targeted towards assisting Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said the interventions which will gulp a total of N75 billion were core part of the N2.3 trillion Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) currently being implemented by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to help cushion the impact of the pandemic with a view to boosting the economy by saving existing jobs and creating new job opportunities.
Speaking at a press briefing to announce the commencement of the schemes, the minister said while the MSME survival fund will gulp N60 billion, the GOS will cost N15 billion adding that the schemes will be implemented over an initial period of three months in order to provide immediate relief from the economic impact of COVID-19.
The interventions are essentially palliatives in the form of grants to help navigate through the turbulent times and may not require payback mechanisms to the government.
Katagum however noted that while the survival fund scheme is expected to commence immediately, the GOS will follow as soon as proper modalities are put in place to meet current realities.
She said the interventions are expected to impact about 1.7 million entities and individual beneficiaries across the country.
She said going by recent statistics released by Small and Medium Enterprises Development of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), indicating that over 95 per cent of the 41 million MSMEs in the country are micro businesses, the government cannot afford to neglect the huge segment of economic landscape which contributes high percentage to employment and GDP.
This is as the Project Coordinator and Special Adviser to the President on MSMEs (Office of the Vice President), Mr. Tola Johnson said among other things that the survival fund scheme will start with the payroll support initiative targeted at about 100 businesses and 500,000 individuals.
He said no fewer than 100,000 MSMEs affected by the pandemic will get the sum of N50, 000 each as grant while 250,000 businesses will also benefit from free registration by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Lamenting that several MSMEs are currently not registered, he said though the registration is free for businesses, the government will pay the commission half the actual price.
He also said the transport and assistance support component of the scheme will provide a one-off payment of N30,000 grant to about 333,000 beneficiaries.
Katagum however, stated that the survival fund which targets MSMEs and self-employed individuals, is a conditional grant to support vulnerable MSMEs in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguard jobs from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and seeks to salvage about 1.3 million jobs nationwide while targeting an average of 35,000 individuals per state.
On the other hand, the GOS represents one of the federal government‘s economic support measures to assist micro and small businesses which are registered in the country to enable them minimise the effects of the pandemic.
She added that the government will leverage on the databases of micro and small enterprises in identifying those businesses that would qualify under the programme adding that the scheme will save about 300,000 jobs and 100,000 MSMEs by guaranteeing off-take of priority products.
She said:”It is to be noted that the two schemes are expected to be implemented over an initial period of three months in order to provide immediate relief from the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Provision has been made for 45 per cent female-owned businesses and five per cent for those with special needs.
“As I said earlier, while we are commencing the implementation of the Survival Fund immediately, the Guaranteed Off-take Scheme is still being reviewed to meet current realities especially with regards to product selection.”
She added that mechanisms were being put in place for effective and efficient monitoring and evaluation of the implementation matrix.
She said:”As expressly directed by Mr. President, our selection process is going to be very transparent and we will ensure very efficient and judicious use of the funds and other resources allocated to the schemes. Moving forward, we plan to give periodic updates to members of the press and civil society organizations, as the programme progresses.”
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo, had in August inaugurated a 10-man Steering Committee, chaired by Katagum to develop a workable template for the execution of the programme.