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Hon. Arinze Chilo-Offiah, a name significant to the success of Enugu State's startup development

He says Enugu will thrive by helping the unemployed and underemployed become business owners.

Hon. Arinze Chilo-Offiah

On the 18th of June, 2021, Enugu State had great reason to be delighted because, despite the negative impact of the coronavirus on budding businesses in Enugu, the state had crossed another milestone by becoming one of the top 5 startup ecosystems in Nigeria, and was ranked 978th globally.

In the frenzy of this report released by StartupBlink, many people have repeatedly asked "How Come?"

StartupBlink, being 'the world's most comprehensive startup ecosystem map and research center' couldn't be wrong about these rankings.

So, ears have been pricking to know how Enugu could become the 1st state in the Southeast of Nigeria to make it to the top 5 ecosystems in Nigeria, leaving 31 states behind.

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The Enugu success story cannot be complete without the substantial role of Hon. Arinze Chilo Offiah, the Special Adviser to the Governor of Enugu State on SME Development, and Head of the Enugu State SME Center, who has continuously offered himself as a frontier for the state’s development with his numerous trailblazing projects aimed at facilitating the development of SMEs, and the establishment of startups, in line the Governor of State, His Excellency, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

An interview with Hon. Arinze Chilo-Offiah

Sitting across a table from a living legend hits differently, and the feeling can never be represented in words.

Hon. Chilo-Offiah disclosed that he first received the news of Enugu’s latest status via a text that read, "Did you see the Global Startup Ecosystem Index Report? Enugu has made the global ranking for the first time. One of the top 5 startup cities in Nigeria!"

Underneath the message was a link to the report on Technext. This text was the first of many.

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He also added that the report was more of a personal achievement for him because in heading the Enugu SME Center to carry out many projects, he had only wanted the success of the people of Enugu.

"The problem of unemployment is one challenge that we want to surmount in Enugu State.

"And, for me, the best way is to develop Micro and Medium Scale Businesses. By helping the unemployed and underemployed become business owners, and developing SMEs, the state will definitely thrive."

In reply to my request on the projects the Enugu State SME Center has embarked on to make this possible, Hon. Chilo-Offiah explained, "It’s not just about being a business owner. SMEs are facing a lot of challenges, especially during this post-COVID-19 period.

"There are higher cases of business failures now than ever before. In reaching out to the unemployed, I have fronted over 15 successful Skill Acquisition Programs in partnership with some private sectors, and the beneficiaries of these programs have gone on to build impressive Startups.

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"I can assure you that this is majorly responsible for the numbers and the ranking. For the SMEs, the Enugu SME Center, under the command of the Governor of Enugu State, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in partnership with the Federal Government, launched the Survival Fund Program.

"Under this program, we offered the CAC Formalisation Grant, Artisan Support Grant, Transporters Support Grant, and Payroll Support Grant to support people who were holding down their businesses."

The Survival Fund, which is made up of a ₦75 Billion Funding Scheme, is a grant proposed to support defenceless SMEs in fulfilling their salary responsibilities; and protecting employment within the Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises.

This funding scheme was significantly necessary after the shock of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Hon. Chilo-Offiah saw to it that this grant was given to the deserving sectors.

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For the Artisan Support Grant, his special focus was on youth artisans within the age range of 18 to 38.

This constituted a one-off payment of ₦20,000 to ₦30,000.

500,000 individual beneficiaries were targeted for the Payroll Support Program which paid between 3 to 10 staff the sum of ₦30,000 to ₦50,000 for three months.

These programmes succeeded in reserving employment and uphold local production.

Hon. Chilo-Offiah also did the same for the Transportation Sector and has been launching more programs to improve the general productivity of the state.

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The successful CAC Business Name Registration for over 6,000 Startups has finally made a reflection in lunging Enugu forward and putting the State on the global map.

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