Joining a long line of other selected beneficiaries, Patience Ikhiapa was overjoyed to receive her payment notification during the pilot phase of the TraderMoni interest-free loan disbursement which happened recently in Edo State. The TraderMoni scheme is a unique micro-credit facility the Federal Government is set to roll out nationwide, under one of its Social Intervention Programmes known as Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP).
“I thought it was a joke when a GEEP agent came to tell me that the government is helping people like me. Although I was reluctant at first, I gave the agent my details. Later, I got a call and a text to come for verification,” Ikhiapa said, and then decided that a good place to start was to share a story of how she began her business.
“It was with just N500. I was selling cold pure water. Each day I buy a few bags and sell in public places. Things were very hard for me, sometimes at the end of the day, my gain may just be N300. In the process of hawking, I found a place in Sapele prison to sell bread and minerals to people. With this loan, I am planning to add more things to what I sell… I am very happy that little by little, things are getting better for me,” She added, while posing for a picture with her certificate.
Ikhiapa was part of the 368 individuals who got the Federal Government’s interest-free loan in Edo State. Asides the money, the beneficiaries also got food and some products from well-known fast-moving consumer goods brands, to add to their wares.
Majority of the beneficiaries were owners of ultra-small microenterprises, those often referred to as petty traders. They were also mostly women, some with little ones strapped to their backs. They were called because of a renewed focus of the government, to tackle hunger, reduce poverty and improve the standard of living of those who are often left out of the conversation on microfinance and credit schemes.
The FG, through TraderMoni seeks to offer interest-free microloans to people like Ikhiapa, the food sellers, Mai Shais, petty craftsmen, shoe repairers, and other street traders. This scheme is an addition, to an existing one called MarketMoni, which already caters for market women, artisans, farmers and enterprising youths nationwide.
According to the Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, TraderMoni is for those who are doing small, little things, where in many cases, their inventory isn’t more than N5000 – N10,000. “We want to give those types of people some credit as well, and once they pay back, we will give them some more money as well. We want to make sure that the very poor trader, no matter how poor you are, so long as you are trading or working, the Federal Government will support you by giving you some extra money to do whatever you are doing. So that every Nigerian who wants to work, who wants to do something, can get the opportunity to do some work.” Osinbajo declared.
Explaining the TraderMoni scheme, more vividly, Uzoma Nwagba, the Chief Operating Officer of GEEP, said since GEEP programme commenced 18 months ago, the government has been focusing on the higher end of the micro-enterprises, disbursing loans of N50,000 to N300,000 loans. However, TraderMoni is focused on ultra-micro-enterprises who are literally people on the street involved in commercial activities.
“We created a new category driven by extensive demand for much thinner, smaller loans that don’t have stringent requirements like BVN or belonging to a market association. These people don’t have BVN or bank accounts, they just have their mobile phones. Our agents go to them and capture their data, and we can disburse to them by creating a mobile profile for them automatically. Once we capture your data and verify you belong to any category, then we will put you in a system that we monitor extensively and then we will disburse a loan to you immediately that will come to your phone as a mobile money transfer and with that you can go withdraw the money at an ATM, you don’t need a card at the ATM you just need the code that was sent to you then you can withdraw at any ATM in the country,” Nwagba stated.
He added that the idea is to be able to provide loans to those that have no hopes of accessing credit, and in time onboard them into the mainstream financial service sector, which is a good way to drive financial inclusion. “Think about it as the government taking interventionist approach of saying we have a category of Nigerians at the very base of the pyramid who are not even in our conversation because they are very difficult to track, hard to understand, they don’t have collateral, they are not educated, they don’t have BVN, they don’t have all the buzz and whistles and security that gives traditional lenders comfort. So, we are willing to take a risk to be able to absorb the critical needs of everyday Nigerians, and we are hoping to scale this programme to 2 million Nigerians over the next few months”.
Nwagba further revealed that the current administration is very much focussed on a different class of Nigerians. These are people who are underrepresented and underserved especially when it comes to finance. “We work very closely with Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and he’s quite obsessive about making sure that the right people get these loans. That is why we can tell you that everybody who has gotten MarketMoni till this day, we can give you the name of the person, where they live, what they do, we can also track them and verify”.
“We don’t have money in bulk to a state government, party steward or government official, the money goes directly into the account of the beneficiaries. There is no intermediary and there are no exceptions. I think by doing that, we are ensuring the integrity of the process,” he added.
The TraderMoni beneficiaries expressed their gratitude to the government for the loan. Benedicta Imanogbe, who is into soap making said, “I am going straight to the market to buy materials, more than the quantity I have always bought. I know people will be asking me where I got money, so I will just be shouting that the government gave it to me. We don’t believe money will get to people on the street but this one is real.”
Another, a plumber, Daniel Oduaran said “I have a little caravan where I sell small plumbing materials. Once I finish paying back this small loan, which will help buy few things, I will apply for a bigger loan to expand my business some more.”