The federal government, in partnership with the World Bank on Tuesday launched the Growth and Employment (GEM) Equity Window, a grant scheme to support micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) in the country.
The World Bank has committed $165 million to the project.
The grant would be made available to qualifying venture capital and private equity firms and other equity providers to incentivise them to provide equity finance to MSMEs. The GEM project seeks to support participating MSMEs to enable them increase their market and their contribution to employment.
Speaking at the launch of the initiative in Lagos, the Lead Financial and Private Sector Specialist at the World Bank, Michael Wong, said the GEM is a project that the government decided to put in place to enhance enterprise development and to also diversify the economy.
“The objective of the project is to generate employment particularly among young Nigeria. The World Bank is the funder of the project. Those to benefit include any small enterprise, any aspiring young person that wants to set up a business can register under the business innovation platform which would be launched in December,” he explained.
The project has windows for equity companies, which are companies that should provide capital to aspiring high growth potential firms, he said.
On his part, the Project Coordinator, GEM, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Mr. Sani Labaran, pointed out the project has a lifespan.
“It became effective in July 2013. It is a 5-yearprogramme. But what we are saying is that whoever we support in the next few years should become effective in whatever business he is doing. The equity grant is what we are launching today.
“Firstly, for an entrepreneur to benefit, he or she must register on the Business, Innovation and Growth (BIG) platform and must receive training. You must tell us areas you are having challenge so that when you go back to your business your profitability will increase. Everybody has equal opportunity. The ultimate goal is to create employment opportunities for Nigerians,” he said.
Also speaking on the initiative, a senior official of theHenshew Capital Partners, Barbara James, said the facility was one of the many interventions that had been proposed.
She decried the low number of private equity firms in Nigeria when compared with countries such as South Africa, Brazil and Malaysia.
“In these countries, they have over 100 private equity firms operating in the SME sector, in larger companies, in aviation and so many other sectors. But in Nigeria, we have just very few. So, we need to facilitate and activate more managers of such funds to come up so as to support SMEs and other sectors of the economy,” she said.