Washington D.C., June 28, 2002—The Support
and Training Entrepreneurship Program (STEP)—an IFC-led Nigerian micro/small
enterprise development organization—has attracted financing from new corporate
partners and expanded its operations outside of Lagos for the first time.
These initiatives are being funded by a pool of partners led by Mobil Producing
Nigeria (MPN), an affiliate of ExxonMobil and the first major multinational
corporation to contribute funds directly to an IFC-initiated small business
support program. IFC’s Swiss technical assistance trust fund and
Citibank have also recently provided support, and discussions are underway
with another bilateral donor that has tentatively indicated additional
support. The German bilateral aid agency GTZ is also expected to
be a close partner in STEP’s upcoming staff training programs.
Since its founding 17 months ago, STEP has built an initial set of management
training programs for high-potential firms with 2 to 25 employees in Lagos.
It is now also beginning to work to increase economic opportunities
at the grassroots level in the Niger River Delta, an oil-producing region
with limited economic opportunity.
“To date, IFC has been the sole source of STEP’s funding, providing $400,000
over the last two years,” said IFC Executive Vice President Peter Woicke.
“In order to reach its potential in helping local microentrepreneurs
build successful businesses, STEP must attract a wider support base and
scale up its activities. ExxonMobil is setting an excellent example
of good corporate citizenship by contributing to this program, and we are
grateful to them and our other new partners for the support.”
STEP uses an integrated strategy to increase the productivity of the informal
sector—a vast zone of economic activity that by some estimates is the
source of 30 percent or more of GDP in Nigeria, but one that until recently
IFC had no tools to reach. The program works to improve the productivity
of microenterprises by providing technical assistance, training, and facilitating
access to finance. Its main activities include diagnostic work, client
surveys, microbusiness development activities, and training of large commercial
groups and business associations. Clients pay a portion of the costs
of all programs and work with STEP as business partners, not aid recipients.
J. Enakhe Aken’ova of MPN said, “We are glad to facilitate this program
as a demonstration of our commitment to the economic growth and development
in Akwa Ibom state, the site of our operational headquarters. This
initiative represents what we hope will be a series of new efforts to make
more opportunities available to communities in Akwa Ibom state. This
is an important new approach—we realize we cannot execute these types
of programs by ourselves, but there are organizations like STEP which can.”
The funding from MPN has allowed the opening of a new office in the city
of Eket in Akwa Ibom. STEP also plans to expand to other regions
IFC’s mission is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing
countries, helping to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives. IFC
finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes
capital in the international financial markets, and provides technical
assistance and advice to governments and businesses. Since its founding
in 1956 through the close of the last fiscal year on June 30, 2001, IFC
committed more than $31 billion of its own funds and arranged $20 billion
in syndications for 2,636 companies in 140 developing countries. IFC’s
committed portfolio at the end of FY01 was $14.3 billion.