The Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] recently unveiled its plan to administer N200 billion in single-digit interest loans to the creative industry, some targeted cash crops and other operators in the economy. The loan repayment period can be as long as ten years. Speaking after a meeting of the Bankers’ Committee in Lagos, CBN’s Director of Banking Supervision Department Ahmed Abdullahi said the loans will be will be administered under aegis of the Bankers’ Committee.
Abdullahi also said an increase in lending to the private sector has been recorded just as confidence in the economy by portfolio investors has increased. He said the new loan deal is inspired by the positive developments in the course of the economy. While the prospects of a new loan deal for the creative sector and indeed all other sectors of the economy are highly welcome, the initiative seems to lack clear cut delineation of beneficiary sectors, at least according to its presentation in the public domain.
While the creative sector is touted as the beneficiary, the attachment of ends such as cash crops and other vaguely defined operators has the tendency to complicate matters. The dynamics of agriculture are very different from those of the creative arts and it is important to separate programs directed at the two sectors. Perhaps a better delineation of the beneficiaries was provided by Managing Director of Access Bank Mr. Herbert Wigwe, who identified the would-be beneficiaries as operators in activity areas as music, movies, information technology and fashion. Moreover, he said the support would cover from production facilities to capacity building, to ensure that whatever is produced is world class.
There are many different areas of the creative industry that could do justice to banking support. They include entertainment, music, film, publishing, theatre, sculpture, photography and art, to name a few. However, among all of these, research and development are the bedrock for ultimate sustainability of any developing and developed economy. Hence its glaring absence in the template of creative industry by the Bankers’ Committee constitutes a grave disservice to the country. The situation mirrors a systemic paucity of emphasis by the banking sector, to invest in the future of the country, which can only be guaranteed by a robust research and development agenda.
Historical evidence teaches that Nigeria’s early efforts at economic development were premised on a policy of import dependence, whereby it remained prostrate at the apron strings of the industrial countries. Both then and now, the prospects of the country’s escape from such an unenviable economic dependency syndrome resting on robust indigenous research and development, had remained in the sight of not a few nationalists. That is why the absence of any mention of research in the favoured sectors for the new loan deal is problematic. The time has therefore come for CBN and the banking sector be to address their attention to the imperative of funding research activities if the country shall ever attain self-sufficiency in the economic sphere. And the new loan deal should constitute a starting point.
It is an open secret that in the laboratories and workshops of the custodians of research breakthroughs such as the country’s universities and research institutions, lie a legion of workable and bankable products needy of financial support to be transformed into roaring business successes in Nigeria and abroad. This is where the Ministry of Science and Technology should rise up to the challenge and engage the banking sector for securing whatever financial support that can be garnered for research and development in the country.
If the country’s entertainment sector which panders more to hedonistic interests can be considered to require a regime of single-digit interest rate for a period of ten years to survive, the research and development sector needs such assistance even more.