*FG, China sign MoU to create 2,000 ICT jobs
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it is finalising arrangements to launch an initiative that will create employment for at least one million young graduates in 2016.
The apex bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this at the Bankers’ Committee retreat held in Lagos on Thursday.
He said that the apex bank’s goal was to ensure that more young people secured jobs, adding that the proposed initiative would entail the CBN collaborating with banks and development institutions to channel concessionary loans to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
He said: “We need to get more and more people to be employed and we would need the support of the banks to begin to see how we lower our risk acceptance criteria to give support to our young graduates. In the course of the next few weeks, we will be unfolding a plan of support of the CBN to create employment for at least one million young graduates in Nigeria in 2016. That will entail support from Nigerian banks; it will entail support from our development institutions to see how to channel concessionary loans to companies that are MSMEs.”
According to him, although the CBN has a N220 billion MSME facility for the 37 million MSMEs in the country, less than half of that fund has been disbursed despite the various approaches adopted by the apex bank to stimulate lending to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
He noted that Nigerian banks had not played an active part in supporting SMEs.
He warned that if banks failed to lend the funds that were released into the system via the cut in Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), the CBN would take back the money and devise a way of ensuring that it leads to the creation of jobs for young graduates.
The CBN Governor said: “These are young people; let us not assume that they will take a loan and not pay. We need to develop a scheme that will work where they take a loan and they pay. Let’s give the young graduates a chance.
“The details of SME programme is going to be separate from the N220 billion MSME fund and I am saying if you (the banks) refuse to support, your money that we would have released through the CRR, we will take that money and lend it through any channel that will give these young graduates jobs. We all need to think together and agree because there is no need to release the money to you and all you do with the money is buy treasury bills.”
He emphasised that the country was facing serious pressure on its external reserves due to the slump in oil prices, adding that this was the time for Nigerians to come together to think about the best ways to diversify the economy away from oil.
Speaking at the retreat, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, revealed that the Federal Government would borrow in order to stimulate the economy.
She said: “Our debt-to-GDP ratio is low, and that gives us some space to try and run a deficit budget. But we need to do some fiscal house-keeping and there are some initiatives we have already rolled out. We need to borrow in order to stimulate the economy.
“But the significant challenge we have is with recurrent expenditure. If you look at recurrent, it is high. So, if we continue in that trajectory every penny we borrow would go to recurrent. But we want to make sure that such borrowing goes into capital expenditure that would stimulate the economy.”
In his remarks, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, who was at the retreat as a special guest, said that the Lagos State Government was mindful of the challenges facing SMEs and was taking steps to support young entrepreneurs to create wealth and generate employment.
He said that the government would soon complete the legislative process of inaugurating its Employment Trust Fund, through which youths and entrepreneurs, particularly in the social enterprise sector, would be supported with start-up funds.
In another development, the Federal Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Chinese firm, Huawei, that would create 2,000 technological-based jobs for the youth.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Gu Xiaojie attended the signing ceremony at the presidential villa in Abuja yesterday.
Speaking at the event, the vice president said creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and flourish was one of the key priorities of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He said creating such job opportunities would spur the growth of the economy and create opportunities for other gainful employment.
The MOU provides 2000 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) trainee jobs to young Nigerians next year under the “Huawei’s Seeds for the Future programme.”
According to Osinbajo, who was joined by the Minister for Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, and Communications Minister, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, “ICT is one of the quickest ways people can get decent jobs, so we think this is absolutely important.”
He said: “In the change agenda, how to grow the economy is important, and we want to create ICT hubs and support existing ones. We thank Huawei for this initiative of advancing technology in Nigeria, apart from the job creation itself.”
In his remark, the Chinese envoy said China was prepared to partner with the Buhari government in delivering on the “change” agenda.
Nigeria’s Ministers for Labour and Communications, whose ministries would select the 2000 trainees, signed the MOU on behalf of the Federal Government while Mr. Richard Cao, the Vice President of Huawei West Africa signed for the Chinese Information Communication and technology firm.