22 September 2015, Lagos – The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has expressed its commitment to bridging the N9.6 trillion financing gap in the micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) sub-sector of the economy.
CBN Director of Corporate Communication, Alhaji Ibrahim Mu’azu, who disclosed this at the weekend, said disbursement of significant part of the N220 billion MSMEs instituted by the regulator remains part of its commitment to providing improved financing opportunities for small businesses.
Mu’azu, who spoke at the 2015 annual conference organised by Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) in Lagos, said poor access to credit remains one of the biggest limitations faced by small businesses and has to be tackled collectively by stakeholders in the financial services sector.
He said 60 per cent of the fund, representing N132 billion, had been earmarked for providing credit to women-owned businesses, hence giving financial backing to one of the most vulnerable segments of the society.
But the President, Association of Small Business Owners (ASBON) Dr. Femi Egbesola, argued that the criteria for accessing the fund was cumbersome and largely beyond the reach of small business owners.
According to him, commercial banks authorised by the CBN to disburse the funds do not see SME operators as serous people that need such funds.Egbesola, therefore urged the CBN and commercial banks to rethink their SMEs’ funding strategy because of the huge benefits increased credit access by small businesses will add to the economy.
Continuing, the CBN director said the objective was to unlock the potential of small businesses through credit support and taking such enterprises to positions where they would be able to create jobs and reduce poverty among the citizenry.
He said a huge channel had been created for the administration of the loans through private or state owned microfinance institutions, finance houses, as well as commercial banks. State governments, he added, are allowed to access up to N2 billion each for on lending to eligible beneficiaries through participating financial institutions in their respective states.
The CBN’s spokesman said a maximum of 10 per cent of the commercial component of the fund is being be channeled to trading and commerce to ensure that productive sectors of the economy continue to attract more financing necessary for employment creation and diversification of the country’s economic base.
“The broad objective of the N220 billion MSMEs fund is to channel low interest fund through participating institutions, like banks and microfinance banks and state governments to small businesses that need it to create jobs and empower grassroots population,” he said. “The fund has reduced cost of borrowing and created better opportunities for beneficiaries to declare better results”.
He however said that successfully accessing the fund will require prospective borrowers getting them acquainted with the drawn down procedures and providing the needed information that enable their banks consider the loan requests.
*Obinna Chima – Thisday