Omodele Adigun and Steve Agbota
Worried that the Export Stimulation Fund (ESF) is not achieving its desired impact, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has vowed to reinvigorate the initiative to make it serve as foreign exchange earner for the country.
According to its Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who stated this on Sunday in Lagos at a press briefing to round off this year’s Annual Bankers’ Committee Retreat, the apex bank has already set up a committee to investigate the challenges militating against its success.
He explained that the banks would bend over backward to ensure that the exporters get the necessary support to make them contribute maximally to the economy.
His words: “There are major critical aspects of the economy that require banks’ support.
We, the experts at the banking sector, need to come together to put strategies in place that will help create access or make it easy for people to access credit from the banks where they do require credit; to enable us know what challenges are faced by their companies; what can we do as a banking industry as member of the banking community to assist them overcome some of the challenges they face that will make it easy for them to conduct their export business and also generate export earning that we will use to run the economy.
“We need to set up a committee headed by a bank CEO. What that committee will do is to take a deep look into some of the issues and challenges that are faced by exporters and report back to our February 2019 Bankers’ Committee meeting, to raise some of the issues and through that, the banks themselves will commit to ensuring that we deploy funds either on a commercial basis through the banks or some of our intervention funds at CBN to support the initiative.
“You will recall that N500 billion was made available to support export activity, to boost export business and also help in generating export earnings for the country.
We took a review of it. We must confess that that aspect has not really permeated the system and we wanted to hear from some of the export companies what their challenges are.
Hence the reason we set up a committee to look into the issue. By this time, we are determined that they will get the support they need, we will make it easy for them to access the credit and will put in place policies that will reinvent the export earnings in a way that funds that come in are used in a way that is beneficial to the economy.”
In its bid to help diversify the economy away from oil and boost the growth of non-oil export sector, CBN in June last year launched the N500 billion non-oil Export Stimulation Fund (ESF).The purpose of the fund is to provide concessionary finance to non-oil exporters; provide long-term fund at single digit interest rates to non-oil exporters and aid non-oil export productivity and create more jobs.
Other objectives of the fund include to expand the diversification of Nigerian economy in the non-oil export sector, boost contribution of non-oil exports for sustainable economic development; increase foreign exchange (forex) earnings as well as broaden the scope of export financing instrument.
According to the guidelines for operating the fund, CBN will invest in a N500 billion debenture to be issued by Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) in line with Section 31 of CBN Act.
This makes the apex bank the sole investor, having invested half a billion naira for the purpose of funding non- oil export; it determines the lending limit and applicable rates. It also reviews the operating guideline as may be deemed fit.
NEXIM, on the other hand, is the ESF managing agent in charge of the day to day management and administration of the fund and renders periodic returns to CBN.
Participating Financial Institutions (PFI):
These are Deposit Money Bank (DMBs), otherwise known as commercial banks, and the Development Finance Institution in charge of liaising directly with interested customers and reviewing and appraising applicants’ eligibility