(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) SME Development Fund (SMEDF), which is being implemented by the National Company for Projects and Management (NCPM) to finance and support the SME sector in Oman, plans to partner with colleges across the sultanate to build a culture of entrepreneurship among young Omanis.
SMEDF signed a partnership with the Caledonian College of Engineering (CCE) to launch the 'Entrepreneurial Campus' initiative in the college. A memorandum of understanding to this effect was signed by Dr Ahmed Hassan al Bulushi, acting dean of CCE, and Raphael Parambi, CEO of NCPM, on Thursday at CCE's Al Hail campus.
Speaking to reporters at the event, Parambi said that this year the 'Entrepreneurial Campus' initiative will be launched in five colleges in Muscat as a pilot programme, and it will be rolled out across all colleges in Oman over the coming years.
He said, ''In the next semester we will have ten colleges and within three years the initiative would go national. This semester we will bring between 1,000-1,500 students under the initiative because we want to make sure we are doing well. The number will go up to 10,000 students in the next semester and we hope it will keep rising every year. For the long term we are talking about 500,000 students over a period of ten years. Within the next ten years we will try to reach every college, private and government, in the country.''
The 'Entrepreneurial Campus' initiative is a broad array of programmes and resources that help build a participating college's capacity to develop and run exciting, high-impact entrepreneurship programmes on campus for students and new entrepreneurs.
SMEDF was launched recently and the fund will have a total capital of RO100mn, to be raised over five tranches. The first tranche of RO20mn has already been raised through a private placement. ''For entrepreneurs, the fund capital will be RO100mn, plus ‚50mn of soft loans at a later stage. So a total of RO125mn-RO130mn has been earmarked for funding SMEs,'' said Parambi.
He said the funding for training programmes and other initiatives will be via grants that the fund has received. ''The first tranche of US30mn of grants has been budgeted for the first three years.''
Parambi said the SMEDF presently has 12 investors, of which four are from the private sector and eight from the government sector - including pensions funds and the SGRF. ''The target of RO100mn capital will depend on how the market grows. We would be happy if every two to three years we mobilise another tranche of RO20mn of capital.''
He added that the second tranche will also be raised through a private placement, but for the third tranche the fund will go public. ''The third tranche will be initiated in the forth or fifth year of the fund, depending on the market,'' Parambi said.
Speaking at the inauguration of CCE's entrepreneurship club, Dr Bulushi said, "CCE believes
in the importance of entrepreneurship and has prepared specialised courses and introduced them within its programmes