The programme would prepare the cluster for anticipated credit facility.
A business management programme geared toward educating the leather cluster, comprising shoe, belt and bag makers, has commenced in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State.
The programme, tagged, Growth and Employment in States (GEMS 1), is funded by Department for International Development, DFID, which leads the U.K. Government’s fight against world poverty.
Al-Habib Onifade of INL consulting Ltd., organisers of the programme, made this known in an interview in Aba, on Monday. Mr. Onifade said that the programme would prepare the cluster for anticipated credit facility from Diamond Bank and other commercial banks interested in investing in the leather sector.
According to him, young graduates will be engaged to serve as extension consultants to further help train the artisans on loan management and get them ready for the loan. He explained that the extension consultants would be trained on bank products and tools made available to them, so that they would be able to help the artisans in readiness for the anticipated credit facilities. He said that the programme would also ensure that all artisans were covered under the programme, adding that a database was being created to include their names, line numbers as well as phone numbers.
”We are also collecting data of all artisans involved in leather products in Aba, their names, line numbers and phone numbers. ‘The idea is to further guarantee these people because the banks are very nervous about doing business with them. ‘Apart from their normal drivers’ licences, we are going to create an identification card for them, like a chip, so that anybody with that card can approach Diamond Bank for credit,” Mr. Onifade said.
In a separate interview, Enoch Njoku, GEMS 1’s Junior Intervention Manager for finished leather in Aba, said that the data gathering was already ongoing. He said that it was geared toward reducing the perceived risk in giving credit facilities to the cluster, adding that the programme targets 15,000 artisans for initial take-off.
“We are also creating a calendar of trade shows in the country to enable the artisans to look for market for their products rather than sit at their comfort zones and be expecting customers to come to them. We are beginning to let them understand that they can’t just sit here and wait for customers to come and meet them. They have to attend some of these fairs to get customers and that is why we are training them,” he said.
GEMS 1 is fully funded by DFID to support the improvement of competitiveness in strategically important cluster of the meat and leather industry which has the potential to contribute to growth, income and employment. Although the project’s initial design was on cluster development, it has shifted to a Making the Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) project approach.
The areas of operation of GEMS 1 are Kano, Kaduna, and Lagos; but it has increased its coverage this year by including Onitsha (Anambra) and Aba.