BY EMEKA EJERE
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has rolled out a new scheme targeted at financing 25,000 graduate entrepreneurs annually, which will, in turn, create an additional 75,000 sustainable jobs annually across the country.
This, the apex bank said, is coming in form of loans for university and polytechnic graduates who are willing to set up businesses under the Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Scheme (TIES), as part of its effort to fight rising unemployment in the country.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to 33.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020, translating to some 23.2 million people, the highest in at least 13 years and the second-highest rate in the world.
The figure had jumped from 27.1 per cent recorded in the second quarter amidst Nigeria’s lingering economic crisis made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment rate in the country has more than quadrupled since 2016 when the economy slipped into a recession. A second recession occurred in 2020.
According to the implementation guideline released and signed by Yusuf Yila Philip, CBN’s Director, Development Finance, the objective of the TIES is to enhance access to finance by undergraduates and graduates of polytechnics and universities in Nigeria with innovative entrepreneurial and technological ideas.
“The CBN, as part of its policy measures to address rising youth unemployment and underemployment, introduces the Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Scheme (TIES) to create a paradigm shift among undergraduates and graduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities, from seeking white-collar jobs to entrepreneurship,” the apex bank said.
“The scheme aims to provide an innovative financing model that will boost job creation, enhance entrepreneurship development, and support economic growth.”
The guideline further said start-ups and existing businesses in areas such as agribusiness, information technology, creative industry, as well as science and technology are eligible for financing under the scheme.
It further noted that priority would be given to innovative entrepreneurial activities with high potentials for export, job creation and transformational impact.
The apex bank also explained that the scheme will be implemented through three components namely term loan, equity investment and developmental components.
Under the term loan component, an individual project can access a maximum loan of N5 million with a five-year tenor and interest rate of five percent per annum (nine percent effective from March 1, 2022, or as may be prescribed by the CBN). For partnership/company projects, the loan is limited to N25 million.
“Applicants under the scheme shall be graduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities with first-degree certificate (BSc/HND/ or its equivalent); National Youth Service Certificate (NYSC) discharge or exemption certificate; Certificate of Participation issued by polytechnics and universities evidencing entrepreneurship training; and not more than 7 years post-NYSC,” the document reads.
The CBN added that the equity investment component shall be in the form of injection of fresh capital for start-ups, expansion of established businesses or reviving of ailing entrepreneurial businesses.
Another component of the intervention is the developmental component which shall be disbursed in the form of grants to Nigerian polytechnics and universities in a national biennial entrepreneurship competition.
The apex bank said it would award N500 million worth of grants to five top Nigerian polytechnics and universities with the best entrepreneurial pitches/ideas. Only undergraduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities are eligible to participate under the developmental component.
“Five top Nigerian polytechnics and universities with the best entrepreneurial pitches/ideas shall be awarded as follows: first place – N150m; second place – N120m; third place – N100m; fourth place – N80m; and fifth place – N50m,” the document adds.
‘‘Interested applicants must apply on the dedicated online portal (https://cbnties.com.ng) and provide all the requisite documents to support the application.”
However, an economist and private sector advocate, Dr.Muda Yusuf, believes that as much as interventionist schemes are good in tackling unemployment, they are not sustainable but only function for as long as there is budget to drive them.
Yusuf, a former Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said in a monitored interview that what is sustainable is to create an environment where those who are creating the jobs will be able to sustain their investments and grow their businesses.
He said: “Unemployment is a function of investment. If people are not investing or if people who are already investing are having challenges sustaining their investments, then there is a problem.
“So the only sustainable way to deal with the unemployment problem is to fix the challenges of investors, the challenges of entrepreneurs, especially the micro enterprises, the SMEs and all of them. All over the place, there is a whole lot of challenges that they’re facing.
“I know the government has been trying to do N-Power and all sorts of schemes. Those things are not that sustainable, they can only function for a while, for as long as they have the budget to drive it.
“What is sustainable is to create an environment where those who’re creating the jobs, which are the SMEs, the medium enterprises, the large enterprises, will be able to sustain their investments and grow their businesses. As investments grow, employments will come.
“So, that is why it important for government to listen a lot more to those who are investing in this economy. There’re not getting the right attention.
“All the government is concerned about is how to generate revenue, sending all the agencies to go and look for money, not minding the implication of that for those who’re investing.
“The pressure on them is a lot. There is the pressure of infrastructure; there’s the pressure of the regulator; there is the pressure from the tax people; there’s the pressure at the port.
“Now you have these macroeconomic problems. Inflation for instance, look at the way prices are galloping. Look at what is happening to our exchange rate. Those are microeconomic issues and they’re also a major part of the investment environment.
“So, it’s a very big issue, but the immediate thing we need to do is to encourage those who are creating the jobs by providing the enabling environment for them to be able to create the jobs.”