By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
The Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) said on Monday that it has so far disbursed N253.4 billio8 to a total of 548,345 Nigerians been under its Targeted Credit Facility set up last year during the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele disclosed this at a Public Lecture presented at the 51st Convocation Lecture of the University of Lagos.
He spoke on the theme, “National development and knowledge economy in the digital age: Leapfrogging SMEs into the 21st century.”
The CBN Governor said globally, SMEs are considered key drivers of industrialization and agents of socio-economic transformation, adding that in this digital age, they are recognized as the backbone of national and economic development due to their significant contributions to GDP, through employment generation and poverty eradication.
Emefiele said they also promoted investment and wealth creation, equitable income distribution, export promotion, technological innovation, industrial diversification and value addition to local content.
According to the Governor, the CBN has contributed significantly to the development of SMEs in Nigeria.
Apart from galvanising policy support for SMEs development through its mandates, the Governor said the CBN has rolled out massive developmental interventions in some critical sectors of the Nigerian economy, especially in agriculture, manufacturing and SMEs.
He stated further that attention has also been paid to advancing knowledge and innovation through various initiatives targeted at promoting youth’s entrepreneurship, research and development.
Emefiele noted that one of the most recent schemes targeted at channeling low-interest wholesale funds to the MSME segment is the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund which charges 9 per cent interest rate.
He said the scheme has recorded the disbursement of over ₦83.9bn to 216,704 beneficiaries as of the end of last year.
The obligor limit ranges from ₦500,000 for micro enterprises to ₦50bn for SMEs financed by Deposit Money Banks.
The initiative also offers 10 per cent of the total loans for start-up businesses, 2 per cent to economically active persons living with disabilities and 60 per cent of the Fund’s wholesale component dedicated to women entrepreneurs or women led MSMEs in order to promote financial inclusion.
He said, “Another intervention is the Agri-business/SME Investment Scheme, an initiative of the Bankers’ Committee, in collaboration with the CBN was also set up to improve access to affordable and sustainable finance by agri-businesses and MSMEs.
“This will enhance the creation of productive employment opportunities and boost the managerial capacity of agri-businesses and MSMEs. So far, a total of ₦111.7bn has been disbursed to 29,026 beneficiaries.
“Furthermore, a ₦50bn Targeted Credit Facility was introduced in March 2020 as a stimulus package to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on households and MSMEs across the country.
“So far, under AGSMEIS and our targeted credit facility, over ₦111.7bn and ₦253.4bn have been disbursed to 29,026 and 548,345 beneficiaries, respectively.”
The apex bank boss said that the CBN has prioritized financial inclusion as a deliberate strategy to reduce the percentage of adults excluded from financial services.
This, he noted, is intended to increase the access to finance for households and SMEs. To achieve increased financial inclusion, he stated that the revised strategy focuses on areas with significant gaps in inclusion rates.
He said, “As SMEs continue to play strategic roles in strengthening national economies and creating jobs, the catalytic roles of knowledge and innovation is essential for delivering more inclusive growth.
“With the abundant resources at our disposal, including a large population of over two hundred million (200 million), natural resources and favourable climate among others, extensive measures must be put in place to accelerate the development of the economy and to make it more globally competitive.
“In this regard, the following policy options should be considered, special consideration should be given to the strengthening of physical and ICT infrastructure to enable SMEs perform more efficiently and become globally competitive.”
He also said there is need to increase efforts towards accelerated diffusion of technology among SMEs. As users of new technologies, he said policies should incentivize the adoption of innovations that will improve SMEs competitiveness and productivity.