Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, says growing and developing Small and Medium Enterprises (SSMEs) remain the best way to pull a state or country out of poverty.
Ikpeazu made the assertion while declaring open the maiden edition and flag off of SME Development projects and a workshop on Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS) for SMEs in Umuahia.
“We also recognize that if you want to pull a people, a state or a nation out of poverty, the easiest and the best way to do that is through SMEs,” Ikpeazu told the hundreds of participants at the workshop.
The governor, represented by his Deputy, Sir UdeOkoChukwu, explained that Abia was the first state to create a Ministry for SMEs because the state was naturally endowed with SMEs and has comparative and competitive advantage over other states.
He noted that government realized that its assistance to SMEs was paying off and it decided to create a full-fledged ministry for it.
“We also said for Abians to appreciate the importance we attach to SMEs, the government went ahead to establish the Ministry of SME Development.
“I can tell you that that is the first of its kind in the entire federation. The federal government has recognize Abia State as the capital of SMEs in the country,” he added.
According to him, Abia was reaping bountifully from supporting SMEs as reports from the National Bureau of Statistics “indicate that Abia is the third state with the highest Direct Foreign Investment in the entire federation, outside Lagos and Abuja.”
He urged the participants to be committed as the growth of the SMEs would boost the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of the state.
“We have to be involved and in less than no time, God willing, the GDP of Abia will be the highest among states in the country as you deliberate on the way forward on how we can enhance and improve on the level of our SME in Abia,” Ikpeazu told the entrepreneurs.
Delivering a keynote address, the Director of Development Finance Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), DrMudashiruOlaitan, explained that CACS was established in 2009 to cushion the effects of the global financial squeeze resulting from the collapse of United States’ subprime mortgage market.
The objective of the scheme, he said, was to fast track development of the agricultural sector by providing long-term credit facilities to commercial agricultural enterprises at a single digit interest rate; enhance food security by increasing food supply; reduce cost of credit in agricultural production, provide input for the industrial sector on a sustainable basis and to generate employment.
He listed agricultural activities that could be funded under production to include cash crops, food crops, poultry, livestock and agriculture, as well as processing, storage, farm input supplies and marketing.
Earlier, while welcoming his guests, the Commissioner for SMEs Development, said the workshop was organized in conjunction with the CBN to expose and enable the participants to benefit from opportunities offered by the CACS.