CBN Launches N220 Billion Fund For Small Businesses

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi

The Central Bank has launched a N220 billion micro, small and medium enterprises fund to boost the growth of small businesses in the country.

Addressing participants at a meeting of eight developing countries, D8, the CBN governor, Mr Lamido Sanusi said 60 per cent of the fund will be given to women at an interest rate of nine per cent.

Mr Sanusi said access to the fund will help alleviate poverty and create jobs for the nation’s youths.

Officials of the D8 as well as micro finance experts at a meeting discussed ways to improve the contribution of small businesses to the economy of member countries.

Although growth in the sector has experienced setbacks as a result of inconsistent policy, high interest rate and poor infrastructure, government officials at the gathering expressed hope that the provision of special funds will change the situation.

Statistics have revealed that lending to small businesses reduced from seven per cent to zero point one per cent between 2003 to date.

World Bank says rising food prices a concern, ready to help

The World Bank on Monday said it stood ready to help governments respond to a broad-based run-up in grain prices that has again put the world’s poorest people at risk and could have lingering detrimental impacts for years.

People shop inside Nakumatt"s supermarket in Nairobi January 5, 2011.

“We cannot allow short-term food-price spikes to have damaging long-term consequences for the world’s most poor and vulnerable,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in statement.

“The World Bank and our partners are monitoring this situation closely so we can help governments put policies in place to help people better cope,” said Kim, a public health expert facing his biggest challenge in two months on the job.

A severe drought in the U.S. Midwest has cut projected grain yields dramatically, reviving memories of 2008 when a sharp increase in food prices caused riots in some countries and raised questions about the use of crops to make biofuels.

Wheat prices have jumped more than 50 percent and corn prices more than 45 percent since mid-June, with dry conditions in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, excessively wet weather in Europe and a below average start to the Indian monsoon season adding to global crop worries.

Prices for soybeans, a critical food and animal feed crop, also have risen almost 30 percent over the past two months and nearly 60 percent since the end of last year.

“When food prices rise, families cope by pulling their kids out of school and eating cheaper, less nutritious food, which can have catastrophic life-long effects on the social, physical, and mental well being of millions of young people,” Kim said.

Kim said the bank has a number of programs to help governments should the situation worsen.

Those include policy advice, increased agriculture and agriculture-related investment, fast-track financing, risk management products and work with the United Nations and private voluntary groups to help governments make more informed responses to global food price spikes.

“In the short-term, measures such as school feeding programs, conditional cash transfers, and food-for-work programs can help to ease pressure on the poor,” Kim said. “In the medium- to long-term, the world needs strong and stable policies and sustained investments in agriculture in poor countries.”

World Bank officials stressed there is no indication, based on current crop forecasts, of any major grain shortages resulting from the reduced harvests this year.

In addition, lower prices for oil, fertilizer and shipping than in 2008 will ease the cost of importing food and planting next year’s crop, the bank said.

But Marc Sadler, head of agriculture risk management at the World Bank, said the situation is also “more complicated” than in 2008, when rice and wheat prices rose the most and then fell sharply the next year when plantings increased.

“The difference now is, if you look across the board, all prices are up,” making it tougher for farmers to decide how to allocate their acreage, Sadler said.

“When corn prices are up, bean prices are up and wheat prices are up, which one, as a farmer, do you go for?”g he said.

Sadler underscored Kim’s point about the threat food shortages pose to a country’s long-term vitality.

“One of the most pernicious facts out there is that in the first thousand days of a child’s life, they develop 80 percent of their brains. So, malnutrition in those first thousand days has a long-lasting impact,” he said.


World Bank removes Nigeria from aids’ list

Outgoing World Bank cheif Robert Zoellick

The World Bank has removed some developing countries including Nigeria from its list of countries eligible for charity and aid from the foremost development agency.

Outgoing chief executive of the bank, Robert Zoellick disclosed this at the on-going International Monetary Fund/World Bank spring meetings in Washington DC where he noted that  the developing countries have provided two-thirds of global growth over the past years, hence they are no longer charity cases.

Even though developing countries are vital to the world economy, Mr Zoellick stressed the need for both developing and developed countries to focus on structural reforms that will be the drivers of future growth; otherwise the world will keep stumbling along.

The World Bank chief said the countries must work to remove barriers to the great economic potential of the region and seek to achieve regional integration.

African Finance Ministers support Okonjo-Iweala for World Bank top job

South Africa is throwing its support behind Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the African candidate for the World Bank presidency. The country, which chairs one of the three African seats on the 25-member World Bank board, is expected to announce this at a news conference on Friday, sources close to the discussion said on Thursday.

Sources said Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy was proposed after meetings between South African President Jacob Zuma and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

A statement from South Africa’s Treasury said the Finance Ministers of Angola, Nigeria and South Africa would hold a news conference in Pretoria on Friday, although it did not disclose details of the agenda, Reuters reported.

Since the bank’s founding in 1946, its Presidency position has been held by U.S. citizens. Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo are set to make the first concerted challenge to the U.S. grip on the top job at the World Bank.

Brazil said this week that both Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo would be “great” candidates to replace Robert Zoellick as head of the Washington-based development institution, the latest sign of emerging nations wanting more say in how it is run, Reuters reported.

Despite the push by developing nations, it is likely that an American will succeed Zoellick as the United States has the bank’s largest voting share and is expected to win the support of other developed nation.

The United States is yet to put forth a nominee.