The Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has pledged the Bank’s readiness to increase its development finance interventions to further support start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country.
Emefiele made the pledge while delivering the 51st Convocation Lecture of the University of Lagos, Lagos, on Monday, noting that increased access to finance for start-ups and SMEs was highly essential for the nation’s economy to grow.
Speaking on the topic: “National Development and Knowledge Economy in the Digital Age: Leapfrogging SMEs in the 21st Century,” he stressed that special consideration should be given to the strengthening of physical and ICT infrastructure to enable SMEs perform more efficiently and become globally competitive.
He highlighted the critical role of vibrant and growing SMEs to the growth of the economy and the creation of jobs for Nigerian youth, noting that special consideration needed to be given to the strengthening of physical and ICT infrastructure to enable SMEs perform more efficiently and become globally competitive.
While noting that the potential of SMEs in enhancing economic growth was hampered by limited access to finance, inadequate infrastructure and poor digital penetration, Mr. Emefiele enjoined the Government and the private sector to provide more support in addressing the challenges of SMEs in the country. Specifically, as users of new technology, he urged that policies should incentivise the adoption of innovations that will improve SMEs competitiveness and productivity. He also tasked all relevant stakeholders to deepen reforms that will improve human capital development through skills enhancement and proper linkage of research to the SME sector.
Citing examples of other climes that have continued to harness the benefits of the knowledge economy to accelerate economic growth, through the contributions of SMEs, Mr. Emefiele charged tertiary institutions in the country to tap into the educational trends that are significant drivers of productivity in advanced and emerging markets, in order to reshape the existing curriculum, enhance the learning experience of students and foster innovation amongst the faculty and staff in Nigerian institutions.
The CBN Governor further opined that enhanced collaboration between universities and players in key sectors of the economy such as agriculture, manufacturing and ICT were necessary to enable implementation of sound ideas generated from the universities. He, however, noted that universities in many developing countries had little or no formal linkages to industry, thereby, resulting in the production of ill-equipped graduates.
Emefiele therefore challenged Nigerian tertiary institutions to ensure effective collaboration with industry players in key sectors of our economy, in the training of relevant manpower to minimize mismatches between the skills required by firms and the educational qualifications of Nigerian graduates.
Speaking on the role of the CBN in the development of SMEs in Nigeria, the Governor reiterated that the Bank had rolled out massive developmental interventions in some critical sectors of the Nigerian economy, especially in agriculture, manufacturing and SMEs. He said attention had also been paid to advancing knowledge and innovation through various initiatives targeted at promoting youth’s entrepreneurship, research and development.
Congratulating the graduating students, Emefiele urged them to take advantage of some of the Bank’s directly aimed at supporting SMEs such as the SME Credit Guarantee Scheme (SMECGS); Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF); Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YEDP); Agri-business/Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS); Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI); Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) and the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF).
Emefiele, who disclosed that the CBN had also prioritized financial inclusion as a deliberate strategy to reduce the percentage of adults excluded from financial services, urged the graduating students to be part of the solution to a greater Nigeria.
According to him, “…despite the hues, cries and complaints about this country, this remains the land of indescribable opportunities, the land where finding a simple solution to a common problem can lead to unimaginable financial prosperity.”