CBN's N132bn facility for women entrepreneurs -The Sun

By The Citizen

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has set aside a facility of N132 billion to provide financial services to women from the N200 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MSMED) Fund. The CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who disclosed the good news, said this special allocation represents 60 per cent of the total fund.

Established on August 15, 2013, the MSME portfolio is designed to   provide unhindered access to long-term, low-interest funds for prospective beneficiaries in that sector of the economy, through the intervention of participating financial institutions. The decision to allocate 60 per cent of this facility to women entrepreneurs is      highly commendable. It has the potential to catalyse female   entrepreneurship at this level of investment, which usually faces the challenge of paucity of capital because of poor access to bank loans and grants from international donor agencies

There is no doubt that this gesture will provide more funding for women entrepreneurs, with the CBN, according to Sanusi, targeting at least two million subscribers in the next 10 years. The greatest setback to the development of this sector has always been funding. A lot of individuals and organisations that could have participated in this vital component of the national economy keep away because of lack of funds.

Now that the CBN has made this special provision for women entrepreneurs, we urge the intended beneficiaries of the scheme to make good use of it to improve their businesses. The managers of the fund should ensure that copious documentation and other associated bureaucratic bottlenecks are not allowed to bog down access to the fund. This is important because many of the key players in this sector may not be able to cope with unduly demanding procedures and requirements that require high   educational level to understand. The process of obtaining the funds   should be simple, transparent and fraud-free. The objective of this faciity will be better achieved if access to the facility is straightforward. In essence, it should not be cumbersome to the extent that its intended beneficiaries cannot access it

It is also imperative to point out that measures should be put in place to ensure that only those who are supposed to get the fund do so. We say this because similar loans and other input like fertilisers and grains for the agricultural sector were, until lately, mostly obtained by wrong persons or diverted by genuine beneficiaries. Against this background, there must be foolproof measures to forestall sharp practices and ensure judicious application of the funds.

Sanusi has described the objectives of the MSMED Fund as social and commercial. Let the government ensure that these two objectives are firmly kept in view, to achieve the goal of boosting entrepreneurship at the MSME level.

Development of MSMEs remains the key to economic advancement and creation of wealth. Once this sector becomes very active as envisaged, it will lead to unlocking of wealth-creating potentialities for small and medium-scale businessmen and businesswomen who suffer discrimination in accessing financial services. Such discriminatory practices on grounds of gender are antithetical to overall national economic development. The grassroots of the country will also experience a revolution if this programme is well implemented. Rural communities nationwide need this kind of tonic to grow their local economies, but efforts must be made to make information on this loan available to the potential beneficiaries all over the country. All stakeholders should also show the necessary commitment to ensure that the scheme flourishes.

We call on the CBN to make this intervention a sustainable developmental programme-not one that will die with the forthcoming exit of Sanusi as the apex bank's helmsman. The policies and guidelines evolved for this initiative should be tailored to meet the needs and requirements of all stakeholders. Possible problem areas in the management and disbursement of this fund should be addressed from the outset to avoid any truncation of the laudable initiative. MSMEs are pivotal to economic growth, increased productivity and industrialisation.

This special funding for women is a challenge to them to take up the gauntlet and justify the confidence the CBN has reposed in them. Nigerian women must see this gesture as a wake-up call to be more active and contribute their own quota to the growth of the Nigerian economy.