By Nathan Nwakamma
The Bayelsa Government said on Thursday in Yenagoa that it created over 7,000 direct and indirect jobs through the release of N1.88 billion loan to Small and Medium-scale to entrepreneurs and cooperatives.
Gov. Seriake Dickson stated this at the 2017 African SME EXPO with the theme `Promoting SMEs for sustainable development and economic growth’.
Dickson, represented by his Deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd), said that his administration achieved the feat in partnership with the Bank of Industry and other relevant agencies.
He said that the initiative enhanced the growth of SMEs with direct impact on the economic growth of the state.
Dickson said that In furtherance to his commitment on job creation and empowerment of the teeming youths in the state, the government was also negotiating for a N2 billion Micro, Small and Medium Scale (MSME) Entrepreneurship loan.
He explained that in 2015, the government launched Izon Microfinance Bank to provide small businesses and serious minded entrepreneurs with access to capital.
“This is important for us because funding is crucial, if people are to innovate and think outside the box.
“We have achieved so much since the commencement of the Microfinance Bank, especially because the bank, with support provided by CBN and other funding partners, has supported women groups and cooperatives in the state to venture on their own.”
Describing SMEs as panacea for the growth of the local economy, Dickson stressed the need for the promotion of locally made goods and as well as simplifying business registration process.
“We need to deliberate in strengthening the existing institutions as in the Bayelsa example, where there is a law that one per cent of the annual state budget is released to the Bayelsa State Microfinance and Enterprises Development Agency for SME development yearly.
“We must simplify the registration processes for businesses and encourage their migration from the informal to the formal sector through regulation and proper monitoring.
“As leaders and opinion shapers, we need to encourage technology diffusion through value chain processes and establish priority sectors for local investment,” the governor said.
Dickson recommended tax incentives for priority sectors, saying that it is a means of boosting local production.
In addition, he advocated for training and incentives for the utilization of local production resources for SMEs that establish operations in certain designated areas.
Dickson said the gains of his administration included the 60 tonnes per day Cassava starch factory at Ebedebiri in Sagbama that is linked with the cultivation of a 100-hectare cassava farm.
“Our Aquaculture village at Yenegwe in Yenagoa, with fish processing complex capacity of 7.5 tonness per batch, 20 tonnes per day feedmill, 500 non-earthen ponds capable of accommodating 700 fishes, hatchery with six million fingerlings per animals.
“Our plans, in collaboration with the Federal Government over the the Peremabiri Rice farms/mills in Southern Ijaw, is also one of the largest in Africa with a huge capacity that has started.
“With that in mind, the construction of a 3.5 Kms run away Cargo Airport is under way in Bayelsa,” Dickson said.
In his contribution Dr. Ebiekure Eradiri, the Director-General, Bayelsa State Microfinance and Enterprise Development Agency, applauded Dickson’s vision and support for the MSMEs sub-sector.
Eradiri said that that since Dickson took over the mantle of leadership in the state in 2012, he has been of tremendous support to the scheme.
He stated that the Africa SME Expo event had increased the perspective and that the Agency was willing to pursue vigorously its mandate to achieve its cardinal projects on fund recovery, job creation and wealth creation for Bayelsa.