African Development Bank blames National Assembly for non-release of $700m SMEs loans

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has explained the rationale for delay in the release of the $700 million (N108 billion) loans for small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs). It blamed the delay on what it called technical hitches and the National Assembly.

In 2011, AfDB approved $700 million for the development of SMEs in Nigeria. It also provided loans to the Bank of Industry (BoI) and NEXIM Bank two weeks ago following the signing of an agreement. The loans were given in two tranches of $500 million to BoI and $200 million to NEXIM for distribution to the qualified SMEs.

AfDB’s representative in Nigeria Dr Ousmane Dore told The Nation that the loans arrived late because the National Assembly did not approve it in time.

He said: “This is a sovereign-guaranteed (Federal Government-backed) credit lines. In this case, the credits must be approved by the parliament. So, it was one of the loans that had to wait for the approval of the National Assembly before it can be released.

“We are trying to work out some conditions guiding the release of the loans.These are technical issues relating to the capacity of the beneficiaries to pay back the loans. Some negotiations need to be done to ascertain whether the banks have the capacity to undertake the risks of collecting the loans. This is important to ensure that confidence between the AfDB and Nigeria is intact.”

Dore said the board of the AfDB has since approved the loans, adding that the technical issues must be sorted out before the cash is released to the would-be-beneficiaries.

According to him, the bank is lifting its operational goals to employment generation to foster the growth of the continent. This, he said, is evident by the decision of the bank to approve and release the $700 million loans promised the operators of small and medium scale enterprises in the country.

He said AfDB has set up loans for capacity building in some countries, including Nigeria, adding that the loans are sovereign guaranteed.

The AfDB, he said, looks at the conditions attached to sovereign- guaranteed loans, before it releases the loans to the beneficiaries. He added that the loans are given to people at a considerable terms to ensure flexible mode of payments.

He berated banks for not providing enough funding for the agricultural sector, adding that the sector plays a critical role in the economy. The agricultural sector, he said, is poorly funded, and as such cannot deliver expected results.

“If you look at the overall credit in the economy, only two per cent goes to a sector like agriculture identified as one of the strongest contributors to the Gross Domestic Product(GDP). The Federal Government can work towards improving the scheme. I think the government has some schemes on that,” he added.

He said the AfDB has dedicated loans for the growth of the power sector, stressing that infrastructural development is of major priority to the institution.

The bank has medium-term projects in Nigeria, with a gestation period of four years.The projects spanning road construction, transportation, water, irrigation, among others, aimed at meeting the nation’s infrastructural challenges.

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