• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Access Bank plc, in collaboration with the federal government has launched a “youthrive” initiative which targets to empower 700,000 MSMEs in the country through a 50bn intervention fund.

Chioma Kema Ogwo, Head emerging business, Access Bank plc announced this during the Inaugural Job Creation and MSME Quarterly Communications Forum, hosted by the Senior Special Assistant to the president on job creation and MSME held on Thursday in Abuja.

She said that working with the office of the vice president, the initiative will empower 1 million MSME every year through capacity building and access to affordable finance, with loans at 15% interest rate.

“So for the next four years, we’re going to be empowering 4 million youth, 1 million every year. We’re starting this year. we’re going to be impacting 1 million SMEs. And this impact is going to take different categories or different fields. And these loans are going to give them a 15% interest rate per annum for SMEs.

“We’re going to have a training of 300,000 this year. We’re also going to be giving about 700,000 new SME loans this year.”

Ogwo added that the bank has earmarked N50 billion for the intervention and in addition it will give out interest free grants to deserving young people and they don’t have to pay back

On capacity building, Ogwo said “So, we will be building their capacity in different ways. So, they’re going to be formal training, they’re going to be digital, technical, they’re also going to be skill acquisition training. With regards to access to loans.

Ogwo also disclosed plans for a business exchange programme for the trained participants

“We’re also going to have something that we’re very excited about, which is the business exchange program is going to happen in the Netherlands, China and India.

“So how this is going to work is we’re going to see 10 deserving SMEs who have been trained, who are top of their class, and from the other set beyond wards, we’re going to take them to these countries so that they can trade on their businesses that are doing well in these countries, learn what it is they’re doing right, and come back.” she explained

Speaking on this initiative, Temitola Adekunle Johnson, senior special assistant to the president on job creation and MSMEs said that the partnership with Access Bank will help address the issue of delay in disbursement of loans to small businesses.

He said the end point is to achieve a single digit loan for MSMEs. “Our aim is to ensure single digit loans become the norm for MSMEs.” He disclosed that disbursements will be quick after the loan assessment is processed to help reduce the bottlenecks often faced by MSMEs to secure funding for their businesses.

He commended the bank for giving out the loan at a discounted rate and urged small businesses to take advantage of the opportunity and grow their businesses

“Average rates between 27 and 29%, so we’ve been able to get into a fixed 15% for a year. And what we’re trying to actually do is to be able to guarantee seamless and easy access to funding for SMEs. We don’t want businesses to be able to apply for a loan, and wait for a period of six months to be able to access the loan”

Adekunle-Johnson also disclosed that the government is working towards creating 100,000 thousand jobs by May 29 and 384,000 jobs in four years.

“We will show you where the jobs are, you can hold us accountable” he said

He also noted that the president in partnership with Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, (SMEDAN), Industrial Training Fund (ITF) and the ministry of labor and employment are working together to come up with a plan on how to not just train entrepreneurs but set up their businesses, and financially manage their books for the next two years.

“An example is you know as a barber. The problem is that you cannot pay the rent for your shop.rent is on the average of N65 ,000 per year.

“So with me, from this, I’m going to pay the rent for two years, I’m also going to ensure that we have two staff that are working for you and pay the salaries of the staff salary

“We’re going to give you a certain amount as your run around cost.”

He said the initiative will be launched massively across the country as the government is willing to provide businesses with the support of the social and private sector partnership.

He therefore urged other financial institutions to come up with programmes to support the SME sector.

Charles Odii, the DG of SMEDAN said that the agency is helping to mitigate the challenges faced by MSMEs, especially production cost and low rent to enable them to be productive and support the economy.

On his part, Ibrahim Hadejia, deputy chief of staff to the President said MSMEs provide resilience and agility to any economy, adding that a nation with a robust MSME sector, would have its economy better and able to adapt to some of the current global shocks.