The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and the American Business Council (ABC) are set to launch the public-private European small and medium-sized enterprises (ESME) initiative to boost investment inflow and job creation in Nigeria.
Alexander Muterko, project manager, ICMPD, Austria, said on Thursday during an introductory forum themed ‘Investment opportunities in Nigeria’ that Nigeria is a wide and promising market but unfortunately, investors shy away due to issues around infrastructure and qualified workforce.
He said the initiative aims to combat these problems and increase investment inflow which will boost job creation in Nigeria.
“The initiative includes the Business Park to provide security and quality infrastructure to international and Nigerian investors, the Centre of Practical Skills to upscale and certify Nigerian workers, based on international standards, and the Start-Up Centre to support local entrepreneurship,” he explained.
He mentioned that all the three pillars are being developed at the Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, a key partner of the project providing necessary infrastructure and network as well as the supply of quality workforce at all levels.
Speaking on Enugu as the preferred location to kick-start the project, he said Enugu is easily accessible locally and internationally, well secured, has a strong demand of services and consumer goods, and importantly, the local government is very supportive.
He added that private and public funding was pooled for the programme with 50 percent equity funding and 50 percent concessional loans, a total cost of €24 million.
Austria’s largest contributor to the international finance climate, Oesterreichische Entwicklungsbank (OeEB), contributed €1.9 million while the European Investment Bank (EIB) contributed €6 million.
Muterko mentioned that while the initiative kicks off in Enugu, efforts will be made to extend it to other parts of the country in due time, starting with the establishment of training centres in other states like Delta, Lagos, among others.
Laura Laubichler, project officer, ICMPD Austria, highlighted available investment opportunities like light manufacturing, textiles, alternative energy, agriculture, among others, in the initiative. She added that the project was ongoing and will become operational by the third quarter of 2021.
Michael Spindelegger, director general, ICMPD Austria, in his remarks said the programme aims to facilitate investment in Nigeria, create jobs and training opportunities for youths, thereby tackling some of the root causes of irregular migration.
He said the initiative is supported by the Austrian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ).
Margaret Olele, CEO, American Business Council, Nigeria, said the council moves to support efforts aimed at sustainable socio-economic reforms and as such, the initiative is welcome.
Olele added that challenges create opportunities for businesses to be established, to boom or to expand such as the COVID-19 pandemic period. However, businesses need enabling policies and structures to thrive.
Christian Anieke, vice-chancellor, Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, said with the increasing numbers of unemployment in the country, investments are welcome as they are avenues for job creation. He, however, said a major challenge is the unemployability of the youths.
“We need companies that can accommodate the majority of Nigeria’s young people. However, we need a practical college that prepares people for the labour market,” he said.