In continued recognition of its role as an agent of development, the Central Bank of Nigeria said it would invigorate its development finance activities.

This, it added, was aimed at ensuring the nation’s self-sufficiency to reduce Nigeria’s excessive dependence on imports.

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said, “We have maintained a particular focus on supporting farmers, entrepreneurs as well as small and medium scale businesses, through our various intervention programmes such as the Anchor Borrowers Programme, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending and the National Collateral Registry.

“The CBN recently introduced the real sector support fund; a facility meant to provide cheap funding at no more than nine percent to new projects in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors; aimed at boosting output and creating jobs.”

According to the CBN, in the agriculture sector, the Anchor Borrower Programme ensured that Nigeria moved from being a net importer of rice to becoming a major producer of rice, supplying key markets in neighboring countries.

As at October 2018, it stated that a total number of 862,069 farmers, cultivating about 835,239 hectares across 16 different commodities, had so far benefited from the Anchor Borrowers programme, which had generated 2,502,675 jobs across the country.

Emefiele stated, “It is in light of the success of the Anchor Borrowers Programme with regards to cultivation of rice and maize that the Monetary Policy Committee, in its last meeting on November 21, 2018, recommended that the programme be applied to other areas such as palm oil, tomatoes and fisheries to mention a few,” he stated.

“Our efforts at supporting small scale farmers and SMEs is based on our awareness of the critical role they can play in supporting our economic recovery and growth, as well as in creating job opportunities for millions of Nigerians.

“So far, the CBN has through its MSME fund disbursed over N100bn to the sector, but we still feel a lot can be done. Under the auspices of the Bankers Committee, the sum of over N60bn has so far been set aside under the AGSMIES fund to fund Micro Small and Medium enterprises in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors of our economy.”

The CBN stated that it recognised that the greatest challenge confronting the MSMEs and local farmers was access to credit, and that to unlock the growth potential in the country, these groups must access funding seamlessly.

In response to this challenge, Emefiele said the CBN would in due course take action that would directly bring banking services to the rural communities through licensing of a national micro finance bank to be located in all local governments in Nigeria, through which credit could be channeled to the rural communities.

“We will continue to explore ways, in partnering with the fiscal authorities, on how we can best provide farmers and SMEs with the support they need to expand their operations,” he said.

While noting that many people were being employed by these entrepreneurs to support the production of these goods as a nation, he said the country “must continue to encourage these businesses as they do more than just provide goods, they help to sustain the vitality of the communities in which they live and work.”

Source: The Punch