The Executive Secretary, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), Akintunde Oyebode, has said that the Fund had approved and provided loans worth N5billion to 6,600 beneficiaries since inception.
This is part of the LSETF vision to eradicate poverty and create employment opportunities to citizens across the state, he said yesterday, during a courtesy visit to The Guardian headquarters in Lagos.
He identified jobs creation as the panacea for tackling Nigeria’s insecurity by engaging the teeming unemployed youths, thereby making them to shun vices.
Noting that Nigeria’s population is growing by three per cent yearly, Oyebode said at the moment, about 35 per cent of Nigerians are either unemployed or underemployed, even as they are willing and ready to work. For young people under 35 years that percentage is about 49.4 per cent, he added.
“It is a significant problem, while we appreciate the resilience of people, it also important that we start putting the building blocks that would solve the unemployment crisis in the country, providing economic opportunities, and enabling environment to tackle such,” he said.
He revealed that LSETF is in partnership with the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), to train over 10,000 youths, and women on skills acquisition across the state, as part of the fund commitment to breaking the barrier towards investments and helping businesses scale through.
He disclosed that the trust fund is constantly inputting into the policies that shape the quality of businesses carried out in the country.
LSETF was launched in 2016 to promote entrepreneurship, improve access to finance, strengthening institutional capacity of Medium and Small Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) and formulate policies designed to improve the business environment in the state.
He explained that those beneficiaries are on different levels of fulfilling a requirement for disbursement. He added that in 2019 when the framework would be due for revision, the target would be to have disbursed loans to at least a 100,000 businesses with the overall target of creating at least one million jobs within same period.
According to him: “The scheme is not like traditional lending, it does not require collateral. One of the hallmarks of the scheme is that we are solving two problems; we are solving access to capital and the cost of capital. We are doing this without any form of collateral.
“Our target this year is to support up to 23,000 MSMEs and of course being our first year we expect rise above that in coming years. We also ensure that we had a clear governance process in place to ensure the disbursement is done transparently, unbiased and meets the expectations of the people of Lagos state.”
He disclosed that the Fund is partnering five microfinance banks and three commercial banks to ensure monitoring of loan performance and repayment, adding that there are business development support co-partners, who help monitor job creation and formalisation of the businesses.
He listed the beneficiaries to include hairdressers, market women, disc jockeys, people who are baking in their homes, fashion designers, bricklayers, candle making organisation, pure water institutions, people who sell coconut oil for hair and beauty products among others.
He said the Fund is keen on financial inclusion, stating that the beneficiaries are people who have never borrowed money from a financial institution before.
For the future, he said: “We will soon roll out our employability framework, where we will identify the skill gap in the industry. So, unlike what we have seen in the past, we are not training people for the sake of training.
“The participants at our programme have guaranteed employment upon graduation, because they now have the required skills to take up existing jobs.”
Oyebode said the Fund had ensured that its programmes are ubiquitous, adding that it has launched an online portal for residents in Lagos to apply for loans under the various programmes.
For those who are unable to navigate the portal, he disclosed that there are 20 liaison offices set up across the local government councils and 37 development areas in Lagos, where application forms can be picked up at no cost.