WAYEF: NEXIM moves to promote youth, women engagement with new initiative

NEWS DIGEST –  Abba Bello’s led management of Nigerian Export Import Bank has introduced specific policy intervention that is promoting economic and social inclusion of key segments of the population, in particular the women and youth, writes Thisday’s Ugo Aliogo

The United Nations Population projection for Nigeria in 2020 indicated that about 62 per cent of Nigerians were below 25 years; while over 50 per cent belong to the female gender. These segments of the population can, therefore, not be ignored by an interventionist agency like the Nigerian Export Import Bank (NEXIM) hence the bank’s decision to establish the Women and Youth Export Facility (WAYEF). “The WAYEF is a deliberate and targeted funding scheme to address the needs of these vulnerable groups,” These were the words of the Managing Director of the Bank, Mr. Abba Bello during the launch of WAYEF in Abuja and its recent engagement with women and youths in Kebbi State. Over the years, the bank has provided enormous support for many export-oriented industries that are high employers of women and youths such as cashew, shea, hibiscus, ginger among others, where a lot of women are involved in cleaning and packaging of products for export.

NEXIM is an export credit agency and in living up to its mandate and statutory functions which include providing finance, risk bearing services as well as trade and market information and export advisory services to the Nigerian export community, it has steadfastly focused on the development and expansion of the non-oil sectors of the Nigerian economy, with a view to reducing the country’s over-reliance on oil exports.

This is in tandem with the diversification agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari and the bank is recording milestones in this regard with the audacious platform of Women and Youth Export Facility, which is being championed by the management team that includes the Executive Director, Business Development, Honourable Stella Okotete and the Executive Director, Corporate Services, Dr. Bala Bello.

Specifically, the Managing Director of the bank has been at the forefront of the diversification drive of the bank.

Speaking at a forum recently, Bello said his tenure as the Chief Executive of the Bank has been focused on the diversification of the external sector of the Nigerian economy towards increased jobs creation and foreign exchange earnings from the non-oil export sector.

He stated: “In line with our mandate, we have observed the unfolding dynamics of the Nigerian economic environment and the need for specific policy intervention to promote economic and social inclusion of key segments of our population, in particular the women and youth. Let me emphasize that over the years, NEXIM has intervened significantly in key non-oil sectors that are high employers of women and youth such as Shea, Cashew, Hibiscus and Ginger etc, where women and youth are involved in cleaning and packaging of products for export.

“We have however observed that by providing access to finance and other capacity building initiatives, these groups of people can own their businesses and contribute more directly to jobs creation and economic diversification objectives of the federal government of Nigeria.”

Empowering SMEs
To achieve this, the Bank mainstreamed the informal traders and SMEs and small traders to embraced the culture of operating formal trades, which is already providing many benefits, including access to concessionary funding and other government incentives that is helping them grow their businesses.

At every opportunity, the bank often boasts of valued customers who share their success stories during such engagements to encourage potential young exporters and these success stories provide motivation for other women and SMEs players across the country.

Known for its innovative approaches, Bello recently announced efforts to further support and mainstream informal businesses and SMEs with a plan to launch an Export Academy whose focus would be to build capacity and enhance the skills of small exporters, towards boosting the contribution of the non-oil sector to the country’s export revenues.

This scheme, according to him, is akin to the USP programme offered by the EXIM Bank of India, which identifies companies with comparative advantage in the areas of technology, process and products and offers support to such businesses through a mix of technical assistance and funding to help them realise their potentials.

The NEXIM boss further stated, “It is our believe that the services offered by the Export Academy will complement the Joint Project Preparation Fund (JPPF), recently established in partnership with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), through which both NEXIM and Afreximbank have agreed to contribute an initial take off fund of $50million to support the pre-investment phase of a project preparation circle.

“We are quite optimistic that such mix of intervention programmes will go a long way to address the dearth of bankable projects, which will increase the flow of funds to the SMEs and enhance their contributions to national development.”

On her part, Stella Okotete at a different forum alludes to the fact that Nigerian’s population is predominantly youth dominated, and female population accounts for about half of the total population. So, she has often opined that improving the economic environment to enhance the effectiveness of women and youth participation in economic activities is empowering to these vulnerable segments of the population.

She is an advocate of and holds tenaciously the view that equipping women and youth with the requisite knowledge and skills required for their survival through remarkable ingenuity would help them establish themselves as income earners and employers of labour in the country.

During one of the events, Okotete said: “In line with the government policy of diversifying the economy, export plays a key role in income generation as well as job creation for our people. We shall keep informing Nigerians about the bank products like WAYEF and also engage them with advisory services to start thinking export because that is the new norm, that is the new normal, that is what will help Nigeria to overcome the challenges of current economic situation of being solely dependent on oil and being a very large import dependent nation , we said we need to drive non- oil sector by bringing on board more SMEs with a special focus on women and youth.”

She stated that it is achievable because “we have the numbers we have the farmers, we have the funds from NEXIM, so the excuse of not having access to finance is in the past.”

Zero Oil Plan
As Nigeria deals with the aftermath of the recent episode of Covid 19 pandemic, which has caused severe economic challenges in the country, such challenges could easily have been avoided with less dependence on crude oil, which is the major reason why the federal government has launched the Zero Oil Plan.

NEXIM has also established the State Export Development Fund, which is targeted at assisting every state of the federation towards promoting at least one exportable commodity that can form part of national export basket.

In the weeks and months ahead, young Nigerians look forward to more engagement opportunities with the bank in some selected states to give youths and women especially a platform to listen to risk takers who have successfully tapped into the NEXIM products and are doing well in their different businesses.

Source: Thisday