The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has called on financial institutions in Nigeria to facilitate increased access to funding by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country. UNIDO Representative to ECOWAS & Regional Director, Nigeria Regional Office hub, Jean Bakole, who made the call in Abuja at the opening session of a workshop for entrepreneurs, noted that entrepreneurship is a necessary ingredient for stimulating economic growth and employment opportunities.
According to him, the workshop for entrepreneurs is the core of UNIDO’s job creation initiative in Nigeria, as it provides an innovative electronic learning platform, which gives business owners the opportunity to gain real-life business and technology skills to start, manage and grow their businesses. Bakole said the need to provide every needed support to small businesses is accentuated by the fact that they broaden the base of participation in society, create jobs, decentralise economic power and give people a stake in the future.
The UNIDO official noted that collateral requirement by banks remains a major impediment to access to loans by SMEs, adding that banks can further help by supporting trained entrepreneurs to start up or expand their businesses. Bakole stated: “There is no doubt that Nigeria’s SME sector is the largest employer of labour in the country today. However, there is a major challenge that should be at the back of our minds as we implement the project. This relates to how to formalise and grow the large micro enterprises estimated to be over 37 million in 2013, according to a survey of SMEs by SMEDAN and NBS. “As we gather today to brainstorm on the implementation of the project, I will request those of you from the financial institutions to think of ways to support these trained entrepreneurs to start up or expand their businesses, especially those who are able to develop a bankable business plan.”
He also revealed that about 10,000 entrepreneurs have benefited directly or indirectly from UNIDO’s HP Learning Initiative For Entrepreneurs (LIFE). “The HP Learning Initiative For Entrepreneurs (LIFE) which is a core UNIDO’s job creation initiative in Nigeria is an innovative e-learning programme which gives business owners the opportunity to gain real life business and technology skills to start, manage and grow their businesses. The project mainstreams gender in all its activities, and in particular, young women who are actively encouraged to participate through activities designed to fit their needs,” Bakole stated.