Press Releases

Nigeria---IFC-Led Program to Develop Business Skills Attracts Corporate Sponsors

L. Joseph
Phone:  (202) 473-7700

Fax:  (202) 974-4384


Rob Wright        

Phone:  (202) 473-7997        

Fax:  (202) 522-3742        


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 in Nigeria.

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.