CIBN highlights importance of MSMEs in economic recovery

The President, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Prof. Segun Ajibola, says the financial services sector must redirect the economy to the path of recovery by channelling a major part of their loan portfolio to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises financing.

He spoke in Abuja at the 10th edition of the annual Banking and Finance Conference, tagged, ‘Innovation in the financial services sector: Driving Nigeria’s new economy.’

Ajibola noted that the economic recession in the country could be traced to years of “skewed economic structure” as manifested in the monolithic nature of the source of Federal Government foreign exchange earnings.

He said, “Our economy has been overstretched with the level of foreign exchange reserves hovering around $25bn, perhaps the lowest in recent decades and barely able to support six months import bills.

“I believe this is the time the financial services sector needs to play some catalystic roles to redirect the economy to path of recovery, growth and development.”

In a bid to recover the economy, Ajibola stressed the need to give the MSMEs necessary support through a lasting initiative modelled after countries like Malaysia and South Korea.

The CIBN president said, “Nigeria has experimented with multitude of policies and programmes aimed at supporting this lower end of the economy with minimal results.

“Perhaps, one way of entrenching a lasting initiative is to benchmark the models already successfully implemented in countries such as India, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia where the contribution of micro businesses to the GDP hovers around 75 per cent.  He added, “South Korea, for example, recovered from the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 through the SMEs. In 1999, the SMEs accounted for 81.9 per cent of industrial employments and 74.3 per cent of total manufacturing in the country.

“We should also be prepared to accept the truism that the promotion of this segment of the economy can succeed if only the various institutions and agencies provide their complementary roles of providing the enabling environment, infrastructural base and funding support.”

Earlier, the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, in his keynote address, had emphasised the importance of an improved payment system to sustainable economic growth.

He noted that the successes recorded in the e-payment space in the country were made possible through programmes aimed at migrating transactions from cash to electronic payments.

Emefiele said, “In order to sustain this progress, the CBN launched the second phase of the National Strategy in September 2013, aimed at ensuring safety, improving efficiency and integrating effectively into the global payments system through compliance with international standards.

The CBN governor stated that Nigeria’s transaction-to-fraud rate had dropped significantly in 2015 to 0.01 per cent, representing a 63 per cent reduction.