By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
THE Cross River State Government and the Bank of Agriculture have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, to raise the sum of N200 million to support Agro-Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, in the state.
Speaking after signing the MoU, the Acting Governor of the state, Mr. Efiok Cobham, said that SMEs was pivotal to the socio-economic development of the nation.
Cobham explained that the loan facility which the state government was contributing 50 percent as its counterpart fund would go a long way in upgrading the financial status of young entrepreneurs who he said were the main target of the initiative as well as creating sustainable employment opportunity for them.
He commended the bank for its innovation in introducing programmes aimed at youth and women empowerment in its agenda which will improve their economic stands and urged the bank to also consider funding of agro-allied processing industry to add value to agricultural produce, especially perishable goods.
The Acting Governor said that the state being an agrarian, there was dire need for it to re-strategise and be more proactive in initiating programme to make agriculture more attractive to the youths with the view to encouraging them to venture into the sector that was seemingly been neglected over the years and solicited the bank’s technical support in that direction.
Also speaking, the representative of the Managing Director of the bank, Mr. Sam Elibe, said the exercise was the actualisation of the bank’s mandate of growing agriculture and creating a platform for rural finance access.
Elibe said the facility will contribute significantly to the rural transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan that was fashioned out in two programmes targeted at the youths and women to actualize their dream.
He said the Youths in Agricultural Revolution in Nigeria, YARN, initiative and Grow and Earn More, GEM, for women were aimed at using agriculture to create jobs and generate income for both youths and women, who are the most vulnerable to unemployment.
He noted that the agricultural sector, which had suffered serious neglect from successive administrations, has the capacity to transform the economic landscape of the nation, if properly harnessed and in turn check youths’ restiveness which has culminated to insecurity challenge in some part of the country.
The MD promised to strengthen and grow the new partnership between the bank and the state government in growing the SMEs with adequate micro credit facilities to empower the citizenry and expressed his readiness to explore other areas of possible collaboration.