As the rate of unemployment continues to worsen by the day, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says disbursing the AGSMEIS’ N26billion facility at single digit interest rate will create jobs and reverse the ugly trend in the country.
According to its Governor, Godwin Emefiele, the funds will not only reduce “the huge financing gap for Micro,Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), but also fully commits to the pursuits of job creation, financial inclusion and inclusive growth for Nigerians, particularly the teeming youth population.”
At the flag-off ceremony for the disbursement of the funds, under the Agribusiness/Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS), last Thursday in Abuja, Emefiele lamented that the fallout of the youth unemployment is their restiveness across the country.
Citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to buttress his point, the CBN boss says “the rate of unemployment in Nigeria worsened somewhat marginally during the third quarter of 2017, a situation that poses enormous risks for our collective peace and progress in the country.”
The NBS, in its report, “Unemployment and Under Employment Report from first quarter to third quarter 2017, paints a gloomy scenario of unemployment in the country as can be seen above.
“Reflecting the concerns and risks that this situation could pose for our collective peace and progress,” says Emefiele, which going down memory lane to explain the reason for the initiative, “ we all committed, during the 2016 Bankers’ Committee Retreat, to design and fund a suitable scheme that will not only reduce the huge financing gap for MSMEs, but also fully commits to the pursuits of job creation, financial inclusion and inclusive growth for Nigerians, particularly the teeming youth population. It was on this premise that the Bankers’ Committee at its 331st meeting in February 2017, came up with AGSMEIS as an initiative to improve access to affordable financing for MSMEs, particularly those operating in the informal sector and to support the Federal Government’s efforts and policy measures to promote sustainable economic development and employment generation”.
On the progess made so far, he explains:
“As a commitment, to the successful implementation of the Scheme, all deposit money banks, voluntarily agreed to set aside and contribute 5 percent of their profit after tax annually to finance eligible projects under the Scheme. As at today, the size of the fund stands at about N26 billion and this is expected to exceed N60 billion by June 2018.
“We have come to this stage where we are ready to begin the disbursement of these funds to deserving beneficiaries. These beneficiaries are youths who have been trained on various entrepreneurship, vocational and management skills across the country by Entrepreneurship Development Institutions and Centres, such as Fate Foundation, Lagos.
“Business School, House of Tara and Thrive Agric. Upon completion of their vocational training, the specific implements needed to practise their vocations, are procured under the scheme.
“The beneficiaries’ details, including their Biometric Verification Numbers, (BVN) are forwarded to the banks to confirm that they are their customers before accessing the fund.”
Emefiele stated that the challenges of youth unemployment and restiveness must be confronted with strategic innovative thinking to provide sustainable solution.
“One of the most effective ways to tackle this scourge, is through entrepreneurship development and easy access to affordable financing. Yet, access to finance has been an Achilles heel on entrepreneurship development in the country today. A situation often credited to financial intermediaries’ apathy to youth entrepreneurship and startups, which are usually perceived as being too risky, lacking relevant managerial skills and not possessing adequate collaterals acceptable for conventional credit.”
Commending the apex bank, one of the beneficiaries, Stella Ajige, the newest Tara beauty entrepreneur from Nassarawa State, was full of praises for the CBN. Hear her:
“It was with lots of doubts and excitement I made the long trip down from Lafia, Nasarawa State to Abuja to be part of this amazing experience. With doubts because we had come to believe that in Nigeria that you always give to receive. In this case, I never gave, so why was I receiving? I got into Abuja and was offered the best hospitality from front desk smiles, lovely room and meals also taken care of by House of Tara and the CBN. I met a lot of lovely ladies whose friendship I would nurture till for ever. “Every word the CBN governor said was an inspiration to pass this dream to yet more people and there I sat in the same room with him. Just when I thought I have had enough motivation in one day came an opportunity to see Tyler Perry’s Acrimony…Perfect finish to an already perfect day. Lesson! There is always acrimony, regret, strong anger in not pushing yourself hard enough to reach a dream you know was possible for you. People would try to slow you down, people would price you low. But if you believe, you believe and you push till you reach. Thanks a lot Tara and the CBN. I am keeping this experience for life.”
AGSMEIS has been designed to be implemented in three broad components, namely Direct, Indirect and Developmental components.
Under the Direct component, beneficiaries can access loans to a limit of N10 million, at interest rate of 5 per cent per annum and a maximum tenor of up to seven years. There is also a moratorium period of 18 months on principal and 6 months on interest element, depending on the nature of the business. However, it is mandatory that all loan beneficiaries must have valid BVN, which shall be registered on the National Collateral Registry and used to track repayments and blacklist any defaulters.
U n d e r t h e I n d i r e c t c o m p o n e n t , beneficiaries can access equity and quasi-equity investments of up to 10 years with an initial lock up period of three years before divestment.
Finally, the developmental component of the scheme is to be used for capacity building and technical assistance to support beneficiaries.
Assuring the public of its faithful implementation, Emefiele said: “There is a common cliché that describes a banker as ‘someone who lends an umbrella when the sun is shining and takes it back when it rains’. I will like to assure you all that under the AGSMEIS, no bank will lend a beneficiary an umbrella and take it back during the rainy season.”