Yolamchi Ukaga, Umuahia
Abia State Government has announced plans to set up a micro-finance bank in the State, to provide low interest loans to artisans and other entrepreneurs, who have been starved of funds by commercial banks. Nkwachukwu Agomou, permanent secretary, Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises Development, who affirmed this to Orient Daily, stated that the State’s SME Micro Finance Bank, would be launched soon.
According to him, “it will also make government accessible to the people. MFB is being established to help the people get funds and re-equip their businesses”.He urged those yet to register their businesses to do so, to make it formal and accessible for people to know what they do.“Most informal businesses in this part of our world are wrongly done and that is why it is bringing low proceeds and that is why we are not where we ought to be. SME is where the money is and people should take advantage of it”, he observed.Lack of finance has been a major challenge faced by garment and finished leather sector operators in Aba, a situation they attributed to the refusal of commercial banks to lend to micro and small industries.
To ensure that its members qualify for the CBN-AGSMEIS loan, which comes with a lower interest rate than what the commercial banks offer, the Aba Chamber of Commerce, Industry Mines and Agriculture (ACCIMA) recently signed a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Wider Perspectives, a management consulting firm to train its members to qualify for the loan.
Mr. Andy Uba-Obasi, president, ACCIMA, while addressing members at a sensitization event, observed that the capacity of MSME, to perform its role, as the engine of growth of the country’s economy, is hampered, by challenges such as, lack of access to finance, modern technology, and market with unfair competition to imported goods, among others.
He urged entrepreneurs, especially manufacturers to apply for the CBN and BoI loans, which according to him, come with lower interest rates.
Mrs. Adaobi Umeh, head, Economic Analysis Unit, Wider Perspectives Limited, explained that CBN-AGSMEIS was designed to help MSMEs in agric business-production, input supply, storage, processing, logistics and marketing, education, health services,-hospitality, catering services, among others.
It also aims at empowering entrepreneurs in ICT, manufacturing, mining, creative industry, fashion designing, crafts, entertainment and petrochemicals.
Represented by Mr. Amarachukwu Ajomiwe, head, Eastern Operations of the firm, Umeh, explained that applicants, who are interested in accessing the loan, must undergo training, organized by a CBN-EDI, of which Wider Perspectives, has been selected, to train applicants in the South-East/South-South zones of the country.
She stated also that Wider Perspectives, would package its trainees, to access the CBN fund. The BoI on the other hand has launched the N500million Aba finished leather goods (FLG) cluster financing programme, geared towards supporting shoe, bag and belt makers in Aba, to produce seamless products that can compete favorably in the international market.
The Aba FLG Cluster Financing programme, provides affordable working capital credit to qualified members of the Leather Products Manufacturers Association of Abia State (LEPMAAS) with the aim of affording artisans the opportunity to reduce the level of manually completed tasks, by purchasing small scale production tools.
It will also help improve quality of finished leather products and promote job creation within the cluster.
BoI is executing the programme, which was officially launched in August 2018, in Aba, in collaboration with the Ford Foundation West Africa and Fidelity Bank plc, its strategic partners.