The Central Bank of Nigeria, in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, commenced the disbursement of N26bn Agribusiness/Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Fund (AGSMEIS) to the first set of beneficiaries.

The fund was set up by the Bankers’ Committee at its 331st meeting held on February 9, 2017 to improve access to affordable financing for Micro, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises, particularly those operating in the informal sector of the economy.

As a commitment to the successful implementation of the scheme, all Deposit Money Banks voluntarily agreed to set aside and contribute five per cent of their profit after tax annually to finance eligible projects under the scheme.

Speaking at the inauguration of the scheme at the apex bank’s headquarters in Abuja, the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said the fund was designed to support the Federal Government’s efforts to promote sustainable economic development and employment generation.

He commended the commitment of the DMBs to supporting the scheme, saying the disbursement rate of the fund would have risen to N60bn by the end of next year.

The governor said the fund would be disbursed to youths who have been trained in various entrepreneurship, vocational and management skills across the country by entrepreneurship development institutions and centres, such as Fate Foundation, Lagos Business School, House of Tara and Thrive Agric.

He stated that unlike other intervention schemes where the funds were disbursed in cash, beneficiaries under the agribusiness programme would be given equipment that would be commensurate with the required amounts based on their trade areas.

Emefiele said, “In Nigeria, the challenges of youth unemployment and restiveness must be confronted with strategic innovative thinking to provide sustainable solution. No matter how daunting the challenge might seem, I believe that with unity of purpose, we can fight this scourge together.