By VICTOR NZE
The N300 million credit facility to be provided by the Bank of Industry (BoI) under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed, last Friday, with the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), portends a window of opportunities geared towards fast-tracking growth and development for micro, small and medium scale operators in the country.
This is against backdrop of the fact that before now, no channel had clearly defined funding for micro, small and medium-scale entrepreneurs in the sub-sector, just as these operators had been forced to compete with other business sectors for accessing credit facilities at the conventional commercial bank rates with their unfavourable conditions for obtaining such facilities.
The MoU, therefore, is seen as key to driving development of the industry as a whole not just for the art and crafts workers, as it eases their operations and further opens up the market for them both at home and abroad as contained in the agreement that will be guided by the NCAC, which Director General, Otunba Segun Runsewe, noted was the first of its kind in the country for handicraftsmen.
The MoU not only guarantees funding for the artists spread across the country, it also remarkably comes with the provision of a closed and condusive work-friendly environment that knocks off overhead costs for the artists, which by implication means an easing of the repayment of loans obtained, and this in addition to the Bank of Industry activating its partnership agreements with countries and foreign counterparts and unlocking them for the artists.
The deal which attracts a single digit interest rate on short – medium term loans of three to four years gestation period is further guaranteed by the Dangote Window initiative that backs the seed fund with prospects of raising the sam sum to up to N1 billion.
Under the terms of the agreement, NCAC will shortlist visual artists, potters, weavers, fabric makers, fashion designers, and other craftsmen to the BoI, while the bank will deploy facilities as well as trained personnel for the evaluation and eventual certification of the beneficiaries of the facilities.
At the official signing ceremony which took place at the Bank of Industry House, Abuja, Managing Director of the BoI, Mr Waheed Olagunju, said the credit arrangement was in line with the company’s mandate of growing the MSMEs in businesses that add value to the national economy.
“The conditions for the loans are easy and we will also provide a condusive localized environment for the entrepreneurs who were part of the scheme under which amenities will be provided free so that overhead costs are reduced which by implication also means that repayment of the loans is made easier for the participators since they are not paying much in overhead.
“Also, we will explore our other existing agreements with international bodies like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as well as foreign countries like Taiwan where we have working deals that we intend to avail the loan beneficiaries as part of the MoU. We will link them with foreign markets as well as broader local market.
“This MoU will enable us to boost the handcraftsmen with credit facilities which ordinarily would have been difficult to access but for the NCAC intervention. Through the MoU we also structure their businesses by encouraging them to join cooperatives and others organization through which the loans will be made available.
“In addition, we will deploy our officers who will monitor these artists, whose positive reports about their activities will aid the accessing of the credit facilities to be provided by us. Although the initial seed money is N300 million, it can be raised to up to one billion naira,” said Olagunju.
On his part, the NCAC Director General of NCAC, Otunba Runsewe, described the project as an epoch-making one which will in days to come impact positively on the art and crafts makers spread across the country.
According to Runsewe, the MoU with the BoI will ‘open up opportunities for art and crafts makers will get the much needed boost and exposure to international market, an opportunity to expand their businesses and touch their lives and that of their families as they are in a position to obtain the much needed funding support.’
Runsewe who commended BoI for its support, also lauded what he described as the bank’s ‘corporate presence’ in the arts and culture sector, ‘the first by any bank in the country.’
The MoU was signed by Otunba Runsewe for NCAC, while Olagunju signed for the BoI at a ceremony observed by the entire Management Teams of both parties.
Later, the NCAC boss, Runsewe at another ceremony inside the Conference Room of the Ministry of Culture and Information, in Abuja, formally presented the MoU to the Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who added that the deal would create over 200,000 jobs in the country.
“I have been reliably informed that top on the list of the benefits that will accrue from this landmark MoU is creation of over 200,000 jobs for the sector. This is epochal and in line with one of the cardinal programmes of this administration, which is job creation and empowerment’’, he said.
”The MoU will also act as a catalyst for the development of the country’s craft industries, create a financing window and make available loanable funds to be accessed by all NCAC stakeholders, as well as assist the stakeholders in capacity building,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said the MoU will equally enhance the capacity of producers of cultural products and services to work towards attaining the standard of modern practice in the packaging of their cultural products, to enable them compete favourably at the global markets and earn the nation’s Artists a decent living.
The Minister commended Otunba Runsewe for putting together ”this momentous event” just a few days after assuming office as the NCAC DG , and also thanked the Acting MD of BoI, Mr Waheed Olagunju, for his support for the Creative Industry.
“As you may all be aware, one of the factors militating against the promotion of the Nigerian creative industries has been lack of access to funding for the Artists to develop their creative works as well as weak access to international markets, due to poor packaging and standard. I am therefore happy to say that with the signing of this MoU, Nigerian Artists can heave a sigh of relief,” he said.
Also remarking, Otunba Runsewe described the document as a milestone in the creative sector, being the first time in history that the sector will access funds from a financial institution with a single digit interest rate.
“Today, we have come to make a history-making presentation to the Honourable Minister. Today happens to be a day that will create a change and we are going to tell our story the way it should have been told some few years ago,” he said.
The NCAC DG acknowledged the leadership role of the Minister, particularly in leveraging on the unique potential of the Creative Industry to drive the diversification of the economy away from oil.
The Minister used the occasion to decorate some journalists with a special pin with the inscription: “Our Culture, Our Pride”, as part of a conscious strategy to mobilise the media to promote the nation’s Creative Industry.