The federal government will help operators of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) access needed funds, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN has said.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Mr Laolu Aknade, said  the vice- president  spoke in Abuja at an SME financing conference with the theme ‘Bridging the Nigerian SME Funding Gap’ convened by the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, Kaduna State chapter and the Economic Affairs Section of the United States  Embassy.
Osinbajo said the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration would make concessionary funding initiatives available to SMEs.
He said government had resolved to engage more with SMEs in order to ensure sustainable economic development and wealth creation.
According to him,  the future of the economy and expansion of commerce actively depend on MSMEs.
The vice-president noted that inability of SMEs to access low cost financing had negatively impacted on the growth of small businesses.
He therefore said by  working through co-operatives and trade organizations credit could reach large number of businesses.

He said: “SMEs are grossly undeserved in terms of low cost financing. There are several reasons why this may be so. These include how to deal with the sheer scale of numbers of SMEs that need to access concessionary funds in order to make an appreciable impact.”
He said the importance of financing SMEs had never been lost on the governments,  adding that several deliberate and sustained financial initiatives were put in place by the Central Bank of Nigeria but noted that SMEs still remained grossly under-served.
He listed co-operatives, market-women and trade groups, artisans, start-up companies as veritable partners that would be  engaged in the creation of wealth with overall goal of boosting job creation and economic growth and development.
“This would be the main focus of our engagement with SME sector. We believe that working through the co-operatives, Market and Trade organisations, credit can reach the largest numbers,” he said.
He pointed out that the Central Bank of Nigeria had in 2003 put in place an Entrepreneurship Funding initiative where banks set aside ten percent of their annual profit before tax for equity investment schemes in SMEs.
He added that in 2010, CBN approved N500 billion debentures stocks issued by the Bank of Industry (BO1) out of which N200 billion was set aside for re-financing and re-structuring of banks existing portfolios’ to Nigerian SME manufacturing sector, offered at a seven percent interest rate, all in a bid to ensure that funding challenges militating against their growth and development were frontally addressed.
Osinbajo said the administration would continue to put in place innovative policies and programmes towards ensuring that funds get to SME because they formed the fulcrum of any meaningful growth and development of the industrial sector.
He then pledged the Buhari administration’s continued drive to provide social protection for Nigerians and to tackle the deficiency in infrastructure especially power, roads and rail.

Earlier, the US Assistant Secretary of State, Economic and Business Affairs, Ambassador Charles Rivkin, in his address,  said when it was good for SMEs in any country, it would also be good for everybody adding that with the huge population potentials of Nigeria, SMEs remained the driver if adequate and easy-to-access funds were allocated to the sector.
In a goodwill Message, Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello described the conference as timely, saying it had inherent possibilities of building capacity for SMEs as well as the private sector towards improving accessibility to low-interest funding for the sector.

Source: [This Day]

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