As part of a strategy to cushion the effect of the coronavirus pandemic, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) says it has granted moratorium to its Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) loan beneficiaries.
The agency which says it is at the forefront of assisting (SMEs) to access loans by providing them with training and preparing them to qualify for various loan facilities adds that the SMEs have been granted a six month moratorium before they start repaying their loans.
Lucy Ekpenyong, head of the agency in Akwa Ibom State who stated this in an interview said many SMEs have benefited from various schemes including the One Local Government One Product (OLOP) programme which she said provides funding for cooperative societies across the country for those engaging in agriculture value chain.
According to her, loans worth N3 million have been granted to selected cooperatives across the state. She also explained that SMEs have benefited from the NIRSAL loan scheme in which SMEDAN is the approved Enterprises Development Institute by assisting SMEs to package and present them for the loans.
“All the loans given out, we have extended our moratorium period to six months before they start paying, we are committed to assisting SMEs by packaging and training them for SMEs loans,’’ she said.
Ekpenyong who noted with dismay that a lot of SMEs have been hit by the pandemic advised small business operators to adopt new strategies that would enable them stay afloat during the period of COVID-19 by employing social media tools to help them increase the relevance of their goods and service.
‘Some of them should diversify, they should move into sectors that are relevant in the current situation like food and essential commodities while striving to operate at reduced cost,’’ she said.
According to her, SMEs that want to survive the pandemic should reduce their operational cost adding, that should be done by encouraging their employees to work from home which he said has many advantages.
She commended the federal government for “doing a lot in terms of investing in people by providing various loans” but frowned the negative mindset of the people which has prevent them from keying into the various loan schemes. She said many people who had responded to the COVID-19 fund have received credit facilities.
She also lauded those involved in the agriculture sector in Akwa Ibom State saying they have made food available despite the challenge of the pandemic but advised that the sector should be made more vibrant to attract more youths.
In addition, she advised agro-entrepreneurs to go into commercial farming to ensure food sufficiency and to create employment opportunities for youths.