The Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah has inaugurated a $160 million (about N49.2 million) World Bank supported initiative to improve access to finance as well as provide technical assistance to small and medium enterprises in order to boost job creation in the country.
Also launched, an online vehicle to properly execute the programme was the Business Innovation and Growth (BIG) platform.
BIG is landmark initiative of the Federal Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment, which is funded by the World Bank and represents the main channel through which the Growth and Employment (GEM) assistance is expected to be made available to micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in order to stimulate economic activities in critical non-oil sector areas.
The minister noted that the initiative, which has a three-year-implementation time frame, would among other things, help to open up the nation’s economic space to more players, particularly small business operators.
He said: “One of the challenges we have, which is well documented, is our ranking in the ease of doing business; it is depressing to know that Nigeria is ranked 169th of 189. And we have told the World Bank what exactly are the issues. So I am very confident that as unsatisfactory as it is, it is not going to be business as usual. So we are going to see a new Nigeria, you are going to see us working together in the mirror to see our country rise.”
Also speaking at the launch in Abuja, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud, said that the project would not only help to complement the nation’s industrialisation efforts, but also assist the present administration’s drive to boost Job creation.
He said: “The Growth and Employment Project is a major initiative aimed at stimulating job creation through the growth of specific, high potential, non-oil sectors. It will make resources available to help address some of the key constraints identified by business, with a particular emphasis on MSMEs, which are widely regarded as a vital engine for growth and job creation.”
Benmessaoud further explained that MSMEs operating under the GEM sectors throughout the country would be invited to register on the BIG platform through its dedicated website as part of modalities for accessing the funds.”
“They will apply and be screened and if they meet the required criteria, will be given access to high quality training and capacity building. If they pass through the training phase successful, they may become eligible to apply for grants. Grants will be offered through various grant windows designed around the differing needs of individual businesses, consult is of businesses, and investors”, he added