Kwara State Government on Monday organised a sensitisation programme on Kwara NG-CARES for MSMEs, urging business owners to take advantage of the World Bank grants to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses.
“We are here today for a townhall sensitisation meeting on MSMEs across Kwara State to let them know about the CARES/World Bank programme. It is COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus Programme which is set up to support MSMEs in various sectors and in various ways due to COVID-19 pandemic, the losses they may have incurred during that period,” Ag. General Manager Kwara State Social Investment programmes (KWASSIP) Brimah Muhammad said.
“What we intend to achieve here is to enlighten MSMEs across Kwara State on how to apply. The eligibility criteria to apply for the support the World Bank, Federal Government and the state government are providing to them.
“It is a loan from the World Bank to the federal government to the tune of about $750m and in turn the federal government is also loaning the 36 states and FCT to the tune of about $20m per state. This will be shared across different result areas which include social intervention support (result area one), food security (result area two) and MSMEs. This is where we are coming in because we are partnering with the Bank of Industry which is the implementing partner with World Bank to implement this result area three. This is targeted at MSMEs. It is going to cover both the formal and informal businesses.
“We need to enlighten them on how to apply, the eligibility criteria, which each category of businesses will benefit in terms of the grant sizes available and the major business disbursement link indicators (DLI) that we are targeting. These include businesses that collected loans during COVID-19 period. The plan is to offset 40% of the loans they’ve collected.
“We have the second DLI which is supporting the overhead costs of businesses. Basically, these include the operational costs, salaries, utility bills, security bills and that of alternative power. And the third is the technology support to businesses. We need to advance businesses like hardware and software and other devices.
“The turnout was very impressive. We invited representatives of clusters of businesses and associations across the state. We also have members of transition implementation committees and other agencies relatively dealing with SMEs in Kwara State.”
Speaking on operational support grant, the official in-charge of Disbursement Link Indicator 2, Jaye Jegede explained that the programme would support government’s interventions that help MSEs retain their staff and operational costs.
“Grant to MSEs to cover 50% of the operational costs, including staff salaries, documented utilities, documented private security expenses, rent and mini solar panel acquisition expenses,” he said.
“Under DLI 2, it will be targeted at formal/informal micro, small and medium enterprises who are involved in active commercial activity within the state.”
In an interview with newsmen, the Director-General Kwara State Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KWACCIMA) Prince Ayo Fagbemi commended the state government for the laudable sensitisation programme, describing Kwara NG-CARES as a soft landing for business owners to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on businesses.
“We have been told of the benefits derivable from the Kwara NG-CARES for MSMEs. This sensitisation programme is a laudable one, provided it will be carried out immediately. It is one good thing for government to have good programme but execution was usually the problem,” he said.
“Right now, what we have gained is that the government is very concerned about the economic situation in the state as a result of COVID-19, particularly from March, 2020 till date. So, the government intends to provide softlanding for business owners to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on businesses that have collapsed or nearing collapse or not performing as expected….To my mind, it is a positive development. It will reassure the community that this is part and parcel of the dividends of democracy. It is a good programme.”
Chairman Nigeria Association of Small and Medium Enterprises Prince Tajudeen Ajisefini urged the state government to partner relevant associations in the screening process of the applicants to bring development and relief to MSMEs in Kwara State.
“We are concerned on how the petty traders will be able to access the application online. I want the organisers to put that into consideration. I still want the government to collaborate with organised associations that are directly involved in the affected businesses so that the right people will be the right beneficiaries,” he said.