The Federal Government says it has begun screening and selection of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) seeking grant under its World Bank-assisted Growth and Employment (GEM) Project.
The coordinator of the project, Yunusa Labaran, said in Abuja on Wednesday that more than 24,000 MSMEs nationwide had already applied for the grant.
Labaran stated that some of the applicants are already being dropped for falling short of the requirements that will qualify them to receive the grant.
“We have to create a BIG (Business Innovation and Growth) portal.
“This is an electronic platform where everybody who wants to benefit from this grant must first register.
“You must register and you must belong to one of the five sectors I have listed for you to even be pre-qualified for the next stage of the process.
“Many applied but some were dropped because they never belonged to ICT, entertainment, hospitality, light manufacturing and construction.
“But if they belonged to any of these five sectors, then they would now be invited for what is called induction course.
“But before the induction course there is what we call the baseline survey of those invited.
“The essence of the baseline survey is to have baseline information on their business so that we will be able to assess the impact of the intervention we are making.
“Anything that is free needs to go through this rigour. If you don’t do that, people will collect this fund and not make proper use of it.”
GEM aims to enhance job creation and increase growth in the five sectors selected.
It seeks to provide a minimum of 460,000 new jobs, comprising 110,000 direct and 350, 000 indirect jobs, while about 10,000 enterprises are expected to be reached.
The five-year project, which runs from June 2013 to September 2018, is being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
The World Bank is supporting the project with a loan of $160 million, while the UK Department for International Development (DFID) is providing a grant of $100 million.
Besides administration of grant, the coordinator said that the project also involved the provision of technical assistance to benefitting enterprises.
“There are three things that the individual private sector firms will enjoy from this project.
“They will enjoy training; it could be e-training or face to face training that will be conducted by EDC (Enterprise Development Centre), a reputable training institution in this country based in Lagos.
“Sometimes, finance is not the problem of the business people. The finance may be there but they may lack the wherewithal of how to utilise these funds to make profit.
“We are also giving them business development services by engaging business development service providers (BDSPs).
“The next thing is where we are in terms of grant disbursement because that is where impact will also be made on the growth of these various businesses and the employment generated.
“Anything that is a grant is free; it is not a loan. Therefore, it requires a thorough screening, training and retraining of those who will benefit from this grant so that they will make proper utilisation of the funds that will be made available.”
Responding to complaints among some stakeholders that the project implementation was slow, Labaran said the implementation team had been taking its time to put the necessary structures in place.
“In a project like this, you may not achieve 100 percent implementation, but if you score above 60 or 50 percent, it would be adjudged that you have performed.
“The delay was caused by the various structures that needed to be put in place, and we are happy to say that those structures have now been put in place.
“What now remains is training, administration of BDS (business development services) services.
“In fact, we have already engaged 27 BDS providers; they are waiting to now reach out to these MSMEs.
“Some people, like I told you, don’t need money. The money is there, but they don’t know how to utilise it.
“They lack knowledge of business management, they don’t know how to do normal human resource management, they don’t know how to do financial management and marketing.
“So, these people will be taught and at the end of the day they will get grant. So, what remains to be done in this project is disbursement of funds, providing business development services and providing training.
“That will not take as long as putting structures in place.”