The Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has approved the sum of N756.3 million for disbursement to 81 Nigerian innovators as part of Federal Government’s economic empowerment initiatives.
Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, said this in Abuja on Tuesday during the grant award ceremony.
Enelamah said the grant was made possible through the Growth and Employment Project (GEM) financed by the World Bank IDA Credit.
The GEM project is an initiative of the Federal Government, World Bank and DFID to increase firms and businesses growth and employment creation in Nigeria.
The project seeks to achieve economic diversification, increased overall competitiveness, increased investment and sustainably increase jobs for Nigerians. Enelamah said the innovators were selected following a technological innovation competition organised by the Presidency, called Aso Villa Demo Day (AVDD).
According to him, the project targets young Nigerian entrepreneurs with innovative business models who will contribute to the growth of the economy. “Having awarded grants to the best three innovators that emerged winners from the 2016 AVDD national competition, the presidency engaged GEM to scale up the programme for wider impact,’’ he said. Enelamah said 289 candidates were shortlisted and after the evaluation process, 81 of them met all requirements and were selected as beneficiaries.
He said the beneficiaries were drawn from the six geo-political zones, adding that the grants would be disbursed in two separate tranches after the grant award ceremony.
“GEM is about igniting businesses and building their capacity to grow and employ Nigerians. Above all, it helps solve the problem of funding faced by many of our MSMEs,’’ Enelamah said. He said the project was a 160 million dollars World Bank IDA credit with the Project Implementation Unit at the ministry.
Enelamah said the project’s objective was to increase growth and employment in participating firms in Nigeria through provision of technical assistance and grants to qualified existing firms and businesses across Nigeria.
He said the project would operate in five high growth sectors of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Hospitality, Entertainment, Light Manufacturing, and Construction.
The minister said the project would verify the achievement of set milestones by beneficiaries, while the progress would be monitored as condition for the second disbursement.
Mr Rachid Benmessaoud, the Word Bank Country Director in Nigeria, said the project would enable the country to address its unemployment issues. Benmessaoud, represented by Mr Andrew Gartside, Senior Private Sector Development Adviser in World Bank, said that the country needed to create jobs through the small and medium enterprises as way of ensuring inclusive economic growth.
“If the economy of Nigeria is to grow and the desired diversification of the FG must succeed, the SMEs will have to grow and succeed to harness the economy,’’ he said. Some of the beneficiaries said the project would enable them to empower more youths. Ms Nkem Okocha, who operates at the grassroots by empowering the women on skills, said the grant would enable her to touch the lives of the poor at the communities where she operated. Okocha advised other youths to enrol into the project to better their lives rather than depending on government paid jobs.
Ms Damilola Olokesusi, another beneficiary, said she would use the grant to buy more buses for her business.
Olokesusi said the project was a dream come true and promised to utilise the grant judiciously.