*Says ready with N169Bn to support SMEs as NEPC grooms Niger Delta small exporters
* Financing is biggest obstacle to export business
Roads seem to lead to the Niger Delta to help their entrepreneurs out. This is as it has been noticed that the oil region seems to lag behind in accessing loans and pushing small businesses.
Many have asked why this is so but no answers seem readily available. It has been suspected that the whiff of big money may have blunted their hunger for small money.
Now, many federal agencies flock the zone to help out. Last week, the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) said it has N169Bn ready to fund small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) especially those eager to go into export. This as the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has brought small exporters in the South-South to train on how to access the funds.
The head of sustainability department of the bank, Lolade Awogbade, who spoke in Port Harcourt said the bank has already disbursed N151Bn to over 100,000 SMEs in its first three years of operations, saying the DBN operates in some ways like the Bank of Industry (BoI) but with focus on SMEs.
She said its 21 partner banks disburse the loans on its behalf while the DBN concentrates in training and leading the SMEs to do more. She said the DBN does not however fix the interest rates nor direct the commercial banks on who to give apart broad guidelines of making sure the loans go to SMEs and women.
In his opening remarks, the south-south zonal coordinator of NEPC, Joe Itah, export financing is one of the bedrocks in the value-chain to successful export business. He said this informed the choice of the theme: Building Sustainable MSMEs: A Case of Financial Inclusiveness”.
Itah went on: “Let me count every exporter here present as being lucky because the challenges surrounding financing in exports could be quite daunting and frustrating especially when you are either a beginner or one that does not have requisite knowledge on what is essential to package a must-attend-to financial request by banks.
“The problem of access to finance is well-known, even as solutions have been building in recent times – through micro-credit, micro-financing, and lately financial inclusion. But of all these, financial inclusion is attracting greater attention because of its tendency to build financial sectors that can serve exporters who currently have no access to formal relevant financial services or do not know how to get them, hence the decision of NEPC to host the seminar.
“I am sure that today we would satisfy our curiosity as we ponder questions related to financial inclusion, such as: What are the available financial facilities for MSME exporters? What are the barriers to benefitting from financial services? What other services need to be developed to enhance SME exporters’ performance? How can the provision of financial services be improved to boost export business? Who is best equipped to deliver large scale quality financial services to customers in real want?
“Permit me to stress that this forum could proffer how companies can manage financial vulnerabilities through sound monetary advices including best choices in international trade payments, to taking advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities through securement of capital loans, to safe receipts of remittances after successful export transaction, among others.”
Speaking, the executive director of NEPC, Olusegun Awolowo, regretted that Nigeria could be so endowed and yet the citizens are in poverty. “This is more worrisome based on facts backed by statistics that only few countries of the world can match our country’s endowment in the area of natural resources and human talents.
“The country has abundant opportunities in the non-oil export which include: agricultural commodities, sei-processed products, fully manufactured products, arts and handicrafts, services and solid minerals, most of which are yet to be fully harnessed. It is in realization of these huge potentials, coupled with observed lack of awareness of these opportunities that events of this nature are packaged to enlighten participants towards attaining success in non-oil export business.
“It becomes imperative therefore, that policy makers, institutions, businesses and leaders of thoughts should identify and implement strategies and policies that leverage technology, foster favourable business environments and establish supportive financial frameworks and increase the competitiveness of Small and Medium Enterprises in Nigeria.”
In an interview, the deputy director, Export Development & Incentives, Esther Ikporah, said time has come for non-oil sector to rise to the task of being the export driver.
She said many Nigerians have embraced the drive for export and were registering in many locations including the oil region. She said financiers have therefore been brought in at this point to remove one of the obstacles in export business.