Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, Nigeria’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment says financing products will significantly enhance clusters and increase their contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Enelamah said this in Aba during the inauguration of Aba Finished Leather Goods Cluster Financing Programme by the Bank of Industry (BoI), in collaboration with Ford Foundation and Fidelity Bank.
Enelamah was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr Edet Akpan.
He said that the Aba Finished Leather Goods Cluster financing product launch was a welcome initiative that would create an enabling environment to boost the sector’s productivity and creative ability.
According to him, Bank of Industry, Ford Foundation, Fidelity Bank and other partners through the programme are bridging the capital gap, while providing training and capacity development to improve made-in-Aba goods.
“I strongly believe that through this initiative, additional jobs will be created, quality of lives improved and ultimately, the economy will benefit significantly,’’ Enelamah said.
He commended the programme which was aimed at providing collateral-free loans for qualified artisans and members of the Leather Product Manufacturers Association of Abia State (LEPMAAS).
Also speaking, the state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, thanked the partners for their assistance which had improved the lot of Aba artisans.
According to the minister, Aba leather manufacturers have what it takes to lead the world in leather products manufacturing and challenged them to do better than their competitors abroad.
He said that the equipment imported by his government for their use would arrive soon, while urging them to ensure they make the best use of them.
Ikpeazu who assured the partners that the leather workers would repay the loans on time and exceed their expectations of the financing partners, urged the artisans to do more.
“I want to remind you that the world is looking at you now and you can no longer cut corners. So you must improve the quality of your job” the Governor added.
The Managing Director, Bank of Industry, Olukayode Pitan, said that the leather sector was a contributor to the manufacturing industry in Abia state, adding that it was a diligent driver of job creation, having engaged more than 150,000 artisans.
He said that Aba leather workers manufacture large quantities of leather products sold in Nigeria and neighbouring African countries.
Pitan noted that the contribution of LEPMAAS members to the leather sector was more than N10 billion annually, in spite of the challenge of importation of leather goods into the country.
The Managing Director said that the programme was designed by the banks and other partners to create quality jobs as well as improve the lives of Nigerians.
He said that the bank had provided credit facilities for members of the Leather Product Manufacturers Association of Abia State (LEPMAAS) recommended by their line chairmen to assess up to N300,000 (Three Hundred Thousand Naira) to improve raw materials procurement and quality of their works.
According to source, seven members of LEPMAAS were given a cheque of N300,000 each to formally start the loan scheme.
Amaka E. Nliam