From Uche Usim, Abuja

To buoy ailing Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Ebonyi State, the Bank of Industry (BOI) and the Ebonyi State Government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the programme execution and management of funds for the Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES).

The NG-CARES programme is a $750 million state-owned initiative specifically for the elevation of communities, households and businesses affected by COVID-19.

It seeks to protect the livelihoods of existing and newly poor and vulnerable households, and support the recovery of local economic activity especially among micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

The MoU signing ceremony, which took place at the BOI House in Abuja at the weekend, further demonstrates the readiness of both parties to officially flag-off the NG-CARES Result Area 3 component in Ebonyi State in weeks ahead.

The BOI General Manager, Northern Region, Dr Rislanudeen Muhammad, signed the pact on behalf of the bank, while the Ebonyi State Commissioner for Finance, Orlando Nweze signed for the state government.

Speaking at the event, Muhammad said the Bank of Industry appreciates the efforts of Governor David Umahi and his officials in taking the first major step to the implementation of the NG-CARES programme in Ebonyi State.

By signing the MoU, he said the bank has shown its commitment to working together closely on achieving the goal of the programme, which is to elevate communities, households and businesses affected by COVID-19.

He said, “It is indeed exciting to witness the onset of a partnership between the Bank of Industry and Ebonyi, a state passionate about protecting its small businesses.

“Our goal is to support the State to seamlessly deliver the NG-CARES programme using our infrastructure, while building internal capacity in the State.

“We look forward to a rewarding partnership with Ebonyi State, Salt of the Nation”.

Nweze in his comments stated that the agreement will enable Ebonyi State to leverage BOI’s nationwide infrastructure, employing technology, big data, and an extensive field agent network to deliver funds to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) under the RA3 component of the NG-CARES programme.

He noted that the Ebonyi State CARES coordination office will closely monitor all aspects of program delivery through efficient internal mechanisms, which include program parameters, Key Performance Indicators, success metrics, reporting and validation.

He said, “The Governor of Ebonyi State is so interested in implementing this programme. The BOI has implemented many programmes such as GEEP and others for MSMEs and the Bank has done well in that regard.

“We are expecting BOI to surpass those records in implementation of this programme. We hope to use this partnership to strengthen our institutions as well as increase the capacity of our people so that our MSMEs can start exporting their products.”

He expressed optimism that in the next six months, the states through the implementation of the initiative will move up the ladder among the states with a vibrant MSMEs sector.

The negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had made the Federal Government of Nigeria to partner with the World Bank to implement the NG-CARES project.

The impact of COVID-19 on Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) was no less severe. Statistics showed that more than 75 per cent of MSMEs experienced a significant reduction in their revenue.

About 70 percent of these businesses had to scale down production and lay off staff due to lesser sales and revenue.

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Source: news