world bankWorld Bank yesterday unveiled a $160m (about N31.52bn) Growth and Employment Project to facilitate the provision of access to finance and technical assistance for micro, small and medium enterprises, MSMEs, in Nigeria.

In order to push through the initiative, Business Innovation and Growth, an online platform code-named BIG, was launched in Abuja by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah.

Largely an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment and funded by the World Bank, BIG is the main channel through which GEM assistance is expected to be made available to MSMEs to stimulate economic activities in some key non-oil sector areas.

Some of the identified GEM sectors include ICT, construction, entertainment, light manufacturing, including agro-processing, and hospitality and tourism.

Speaking during the formal launch of the initiative, which has three years implementation time frame, World Bank’s country director for Nigeria, Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud, said the project would not only help to complement the nation’s industrialisation efforts, but also assist the present administration’s quest for job creation. Explaining the modalities for accessing the funds, the World Bank chief noted that MSMEs operating under the GEM sectors throughout Nigeria would be invited to register on the BIG platform through its dedicated website.

He hinted further that the enterprises would apply and be screened, and that if they meet the required criteria, would be given access to high quality training and capacity building.

If they pass through the training phase successfully, they may become eligible to apply for grants.

In his opening remarks, the minister highlighted some of the initiatives of the present administration aimed at making the nation, not only an investment haven, but also business-friendly nation.

For instance, he noted that he had opened up a line of communication with relevant agencies and stakeholders with a view to improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

He, however, disclosed that the BIG initiative would help to open up the nation’s economic space for more players, especially small business operators.