INDUSTRIAL POLICY: SMEs

The New Industrial Policy [adopted in 1989] engaged on the attainment of rapid industrial growth. Its main elements included (a) increase in the local content of industrial output, (b) improvement of the nation’s technological capacity, (c) increase in non-oil exports and the proportions of manufactures, and (d) priority focus on small and medium-scale enterprises [SMEs] as the engine of industrial growth and medium of employment generations. In this last connection, the Federal Government established in January 1989 the National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND) specifically to provide medium to long-term loans through participating commercial and merchant banks for on-lending to SMEs. The NERFUND was designed to be a grassroots funding mechanism, with the participating bank, which should create SME departments in their establishment, ensure easy access to credit and technical counseling and provide working capital, as the primary obligors. A related window, devoted to the financing of domestic production for exports, was the Export Stimulation Loan scheme (ESL). Initial funds available to NERFUND include N300 million contributed to by the Federal Government and the Central Bank, up to $500 million as counterpart funding from the World Bank, African Development Bank, bilateral and other sources. Correspondingly, the Central Bank established a Small and Medium–Scale Enterprise Apex Unit to manage the interface with participating banks disbursing the World Bank fund component.

To further encourage the inflow of foreign investment, the Industrial Development Coordination Committee was established as a one-stop approval agency for prospective investors; and the Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree of 1977 was received and greatly simplified.

The foregoing feature surely point to revolutionary measures and Nigeria would never be the same again.