By Dipo Olowookere
No fewer than 24,000 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) across the country have applied for technical and financial support under the Federal Government’s Growth and Employment (GEM) project.
The Coordinator of the project, Mr Yunusa Labaran, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Monday.
Mr Labaran stated that the applications were those that had so far been received, adding that they being made through the online registration portal of the project known as Business Innovation and Growth (BIG).
He said that induction workshops had been held for applicants in the South-East, South-South, South-West and North-Central zones of the country.
He explained that the induction exercise was postponed in the North-West and North-East zones due to their low levels of registration at the time.
“As at the time other geopolitical zones were invited for induction, the level of registration from the North-West and North-East was very low.
“This was due to the Boko Haram insurgency, which crippled telecommunication and internet facilities in the North-East, and the low level of education in the North-West.
“So, we have to give MSME operators in those areas additional two or three weeks to register because the portal is still running,’’ he said.
The coordinator explained that the next stage would be the training of inducted applicants, after which they would be asked to submit their business plans for evaluation.
He added that MSMEs that scaled through the business plan evaluation exercise would be assisted with grants in line with the guidelines of the project.
Mr Labaran said that independent monitors would thereafter visit the benefiting firms to ensure that they were using the grants for their purposes.
“These independent monitors will visit them three or six months later to know whether they are using the funds for the purpose they are meant.
“That is why whatever we are giving we are going to tranche it. We don’t just give it to you at once.
“We will first give them certain percentage; thereafter, we will monitor them to see whether they are doing what they claim to do.
“If they are not doing it, then they will not get another tranche,’’ he said.
NAN reports that GEM seeks to provide technical support and grant to participating MSMEs in five identified sectors with high potential for economic growth and employment generation.
The sectors are Information and Communication Technology (ICT), entertainment, hospitality, light manufacturing and construction/real estate.
GEM is being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment with funding support from the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
While the World Bank is supporting the project with a loan of 160 million dollars, DFID is providing a grant of 100 million dollars.
Registration on the BIG platform is restricted to MSMEs operating in the five identified sectors.