The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Udom Emmanuel has pledged to continue supporting start-ups and growing businesses in Akwa Ibom state. This was communicated through the Governors Senior Special Assistant on Micro-Finance & Entreprise Development Mr Ime Uwah on Wednesday, 20th November 2019 at the November edition of the Dakkada Networking Experience, a monthly business and networking event organized by the Micro-Finance & Enterprise Development Unit of the Governor’s Office.
Speaking at the event held at the Microfinance and Enterprise Development Centre, Mr Ime Uwah stated that the Governor is committed to promoting entrepreneurship and supporting its development in the State through every available platform such as the Dakkada Networking Experience which he described as a business parley with the drive to help entrepreneurs network, share ideas and collaborate with relevant stakeholders on better and easier ways to conduct their businesses.
Speaking further, the SSA on microfinance and Enterprise development, Mr Ime Uwah stated that the Dakkada Networking Experience is a monthly event and is geared at bringing entrepreneurs together with the focus of networking and building better relationships while encouraging and consolidating on the Dakkada philosophy.
Addressing start-ups and growing business owners present at the event, Uwah disclosed that it became imperative to gather entrepreneurs in an informal setting to network, discuss and tinker of the way forward for their business growth.
“We plan to mobilize entrepreneurs in Akwa Ibom state to live up to expectation and uphold the industrious, enterprising and spirit of hard work which is synonymous with the Akwa Ibom people” He added.
In his remarks, the company secretary, Akwa Savings and Loans Limited, Mr Abasiama Idiong explained that often, entrepreneurs complain bitterly about the difficulty to access credit facilities. Idiong who was the moderator at the event maintained that the meeting will allow both the entrepreneurs and stakeholders to ask and answer relevant questions like why accessing credit is seeming challenging, what facilities are available for start-ups and growing businesses, and what criteria are needed to ease the access.
Reeling out available packages, a representative of Zenith Bank, Mrs Ime-Umanah Kokoette revealed that there are packages for growing businesses in the informal sector, adding that they are presently facilitating and disbursing SME loans for women entrepreneurs. Mrs Kokoette further stressed that on this facility, women need to own more than 50% of the business and that no collateral was required to secure the loans, only BVN and evidence of existing business. This facility covers areas ranging from agriculture, fashion, cosmetology, confectioneries, and hospitality, among others.
Speaking on the effort of the Akwa Ibom State Government to helping entrepreneurs access credit, Mr Monday John, Secretary, Akwa Ibom Microcredit scheme hinted that Governor Udom has contributed a tangible quota to the growth of businesses in the state by facilitating over 17,000 interest-free loans to SMEs from 2015 till date.
John stressed that the Udom Emmanuel administration has not relented efforts in helping entrepreneurs especially market women, technicians and business people from the informal sector. He added that plans are on ground to ensure every entrepreneur that needs credit facility is accommodated in the scheme.
Also speaking, the State Coordinator of SMEDAN, Lucy Ekpenyong said that SMEs in Akwa Ibom state lack the basic education on how to access credit, what package is available and how the packages can be accessed, stressing that most SMEs frustrate the process of getting credit by applying for bogus amounts which automatically robs them of credit assessment.
According to Ekpenyong, “when small business owners who should request for 1 million Naira end up requesting for 5 million instead, definitely the application is going to be turned down because SMEDAN looks critically at the business cash flow, viability and the capacity of the entrepreneur to pay back the loans before approving any loan or grant.”
She further maintained that SMEDAN as close partners with CBN had put up a new system that encourages credible and profitable SMEs funding by eliminating the guarantor’s system, providing a low-interest rate and convenient payment period.
Highlighting the role of the Microfinance and Enterprise Development Center, Coordinator of programmes at the centre, Mr Brian Ekwere revealed that the centre has a responsibility of linking ideas to opportunities, helping startups and growing businesses access credit facilities as well as training them to make informed decisions that translate to business progress.
Ekwere said the center was poised to build a network of young enterprising leaders in Akwa Ibom state through commitment to continuous learning and provision of mentorship, stating that the attendees of this month’s Dakkada Networking Experience were culled from Alumni members of the My Entrepreneurship Goals programme (MEGP) and also members of the Dakkada Multipurpose Cooperative Society.
“In our effort to link ideas to opportunities and assist participants in accessing credit, we have created a credit assistance desk where assistance in areas of business registration, business plan development, cash flow analysis, and other indices that are required to access credit for businesses are being provided at no cost to participants” he added.