- Targets funding for 100 SMEs monthly, 60% women
Ben Eguzozie in Port Harcourt
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State has flagged off a N10 million micro-credit scheme for low income earners in the state. The scheme targets mainly petty traders, artisans and other micro and small-scale businesses.
The governor said the scheme is in line with the government’s resolve to create wealth and boost SMEs in the state.
The scheme’s flag off comes on the heels of the official opening by the governor of an Abia SME Microfinance Bank in Aba, the state’s commercial capital, which thrives in artisanal leatherworks and fabrications. The city’s shoe thriving industry is worth in excess of N130 billion, producing more than 52 million pairs of shoes.
The SME Bank, the governor said, is meant to assist the low-income traders and artisans in the state with easy funding.
Governor Ikpeazu said the N10 million credit scheme was specifically meant for ordinary traders, and recommended that six out of every 10 beneficiaries in the first phase of the credit scheme would be women.
He said that the idea of the bank is to create many millionaires in the state through small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs). The expectation is that the bank would target at empowering 100 persons each month, with 60 of them women. He urged all to open accounts with the bank.
He said the state government would use the project to save traders from long processes of getting collaterals before they can obtain loans from deposit money banks at ridiculously high interest rates.
The governor said that the only collaterals the low-income earners needed in order to benefit from the Abia SME Bank’s micro-credit scheme was just for them to present business ideas, and the state government would always bring fund to meet their ideas.
Ikpeazu said his interest in setting up the Abia SME Bank was that it was an opportunity for the people of the state to access available funds from the Federal Government financing institutions such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Bank of Industry (BoI), among others.
He informed that the first set of Made-in-Aba shoes from the newly installed automated shoe factory would hit the market in Q1 of 2020. He called on Aba residents to leverage on the constant electric power in Ariaria International Market to better their lots.
Onyema Wachuku, Cosmas Ndukwe, Uwaoma Olenwemgwa, the commissioners for SME; Trade & Investment; and Industry, respectively, said Abia believes in the entrepreneurial spirit of its people, and that the state was ready to support them in various ways, including establishment of a bank specially dedicated to SMEs.
Eme Okoro, the chairman of Abia SME Microfinance Bank implementation committee, and Gabe Igboko, coordinator, described SME Bank as the people’s bank; saying that it was unprecedented in the economic development of the state.