Wanted: A Simple Access To SME Loans
There is no gainsaying the fact that, between the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government, there is a growing range of grants, loans and sundry credits available to individuals and entities in the Small and Medium Enterprises ecosystem. It is also true that, in spite of the growing arsenal of venture monies seemingly waiting for the beck and call of Small Business Owners and Independent Professionals, the recurring refrain is that gaining access to these funds is perhaps as easy as the proverbial camel passing through the eye of the needle! When the intervening institutions are not asking for collaterals, they are seeking all sorts of personal and/or bank guarantees. While no one advocates that SME operators should see the start-up or growth funds being advanced to them as their shares of the Nigerian cake, and should therefore not worry about returning the principal and interest to the national treasury, it is important that we do not miss a key reason for the existence of these funding
arrangements. It’s good to focus on the laws governing the disbursement of these venture monies, but we must also remember the fact that their existence is driven by the desire to promote the spirit of enterprise, nurture a culture of entrepreneurship amongst our people, and assist them to engage in productive endeavours, especially at times like these, when there is a high level of unemployment, particularly in the ranks of our young and restless youths. It is in this light that the SME community aligns with the Coordinator of the Presidential Council (PEBEC), Jumoke Oduwole, in advocating that a critical thrust of improving Nigeria’s Ease of Doing Business Index should be a focus on making it easy for Small Business Owners to access credit. Quite re-assuring is the disclosure by the Managing Director, Bank of Industry, Olukayode Pitan, that the bank has commenced discussions with the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria
(SMEDAN) and the Nigeria Export and Import Bank (NEXIM) with the objective of de-risking its loan portfolios to Small and Medium Enterprises. According to Pitan, the bank is working with SMEDAN and NEXIM to create credit registry data by year end, which will enable it to rate and monitor its borrowers and improve their risk-acceptance criteria for accessing loans. These are laudable objectives. We urge the Bank of Industry, NEXIM, SMEDAN, its sister agencies in Government and private sector entities with similar values and vision, to follow through with timely execution, the pursuit of a simplified process for funding Nigerians who want to start, run and grow their businesses. Never before has the need for a simple procedure of accessing grants and credits, ready and available for use, been more urgent for Small Business Owners.