Arinze Gideon in Enugu
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has said that the apex bank is ready to invest in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector in order to stimulate economic growth and development.
Emefiele said the sector emerged as a significant source of resilience in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, by contributing over 17.8 per cent to the GDP growth by the end of 2020.
He spoke during the weekend at the CBN Special Day at the 32nd Enugu International Trade Fair with the theme: ‘Promoting new technologies, business ideas and strategies for rapid economic growth and development in Nigeria’.
Emefiele, represented by the CBN’s Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, said the growth of startups in the fintech and health care space rose in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, the CBN is pushing other banks to consider viable IT firms that have the potential to not only serve the needs of the local market but can export ICR-related services to other countries .
“With the ICT startups emerging to support SMEs, farmers and providing quality learning to students, it is important that we continue to leverage ICT as an enabler for growth in key sectors of the economy” he added.
Nwanisobi stated that the CBN has made efforts to restore stability to the economy by aiding households and businesses affected by the pandemic following the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the bank had reduced the interest rate on its intervention loans from nine to five per cent and created a N150 billion targeted credit facility for affected households and small and medium enterprises through the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank.
“We have since decided to double this fund to about N300 billion to accommodate many more beneficiaries and boost consumer expenditure which should positively impact output growth,” he said.
He added that the bank has established a N1 trillion facility in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across critical sectors.
Earlier in his address, President of Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Mines and Agricultural, Mr. Emeka Nwandu, commended the CBN and the Bankers’ Committee for their efforts in ensuring that affordable credit facilities are made available to the SMEs.
He, however, expressed worries with the process of disbursement, which he said had become slow since the second quarter of 2020.
“This would not in any way support the objectives of the scheme. Efforts should be made to ensure that qualified SME operators that apply for the loan get it at record time,” he added.