Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the country are to benefit from a N100 Billion fund provided by Ecobank Nigeria to enable such small businesses contribute more meaningfully to the growth of the nation’s economy.
The Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan disclosed this over the weekend during the Ecobank/Vanguard Virtual Summit for MSMEs in Nigeria.
Mr. Akinwuntan said that apart from closing the funding gap, Ecobank ‘will up skill and avail the MSMEs its state-of-the-art digital platforms to promote their products’.
The virtual summit with the theme, ‘Unlocking Credit Growth in a Changing MSME Lending Landscape’ was aimed at promoting and encouraging lending to small businesses in the face of challenging business operating environment.
Mr. Akinwuntan declared: “We can see clearly that in terms of moving the majority of Nigerians from the realm of poverty to financial inclusion and wealth creation, it is important that we pay attention and explore the potentials of MSMEs. Given the focus of Ecobank to contribute positively to the financial integration and economic advancement of Africa, it is critical that we focus on this segment and ensure it is given the empowerment to play its rightful role in the development of our economy.”
He said that the feedback from a survey embarked upon by the bank indicated that the MSMEs were basically faced with several constraints, including access to market, inadequate skill set, infrastructure deficits and inability to track cash flow. To this end, Ecobank has put measures in place to address the challenges.
Based on the market feedback, Ecobank has decided to provide the MSMEs some capacity building support to up-skill their competencies in order to fulfill their potentials. The bank is embarking on these measures in partnership with the African Union through the AUDA-NEPAD academy – a digital academy where MSMEs are able to access skills in inventory management, accounting record, market analysis, market penetration and access to finance.
In addition, Ecobank has also, in conjunction with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, been actively involved in opening up easier access to funding in the agriculture segment, through the agric loan; the creative industry for various talents in the economy and the healthcare industry.
In each of these areas, Akinwuntan said, Ecobank has been playing a leading role.
“In terms of access to market”, he explained, “we do have an e-Commerce Club for the MSMEs; we also have the Emerald Business Club, Google-my-business e – Solution that enables MSMEs to build simple websites and be able to promote their products across Africa. These are opportunities for MSMEs to promote their products through digital platforms including the capability to receive payments from nearly all other foreign currencies into their Naira accounts seamlessly, using our NQR-based Ecobankpay collections platform. This is one of the key advantages we have in Ecobank Nigeria. We also have agency banking services currently at about 26,000 locations across the country. We have our digital banking solutions called Omnilite; we also have *326# USSD code for transactions, mobile app and lots more to support the small businesses.”
In her goodwill message, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Yelwaji Katagum commended Ecobank Nigeria for complementing the efforts of the Federal Government at developing the MSME segment of the economy.
She called on the financial sector as a whole to continue to provide the much needed support for Federal Government initiatives by facilitating and granting accessible financing for small businesses at single digit interest rate.
Ambassador Katagum said there was no doubt that MSMEs were regarded as the driving force behind structural changes and sustainable growth and development, particularly with their contributions to job and wealth creation. These enterprises, she explained, play a big role in the economy and are crucial drivers for innovation and competition in many sectors of the economy.
She stated that the Federal Government had over time provided the platform to improve access to finance for the MSMEs in order to boost production, increase the value of trade, enhance the investment climate, foster innovation and entrepreneurship.
In her contribution, the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, who was the Special Guest of Honour at the Summit, noted that access to finance for small businesses has become more imperative against the backdrop of the ravaging effects of COVID-19.
While commending Ecobank’s various initiatives at supporting the growth of MSMEs, she urged the financial sector to complement the efforts of the Federal Government’s N2.3 trillion economic sustainability plan.
Other speakers at the Summit included the Managing Director/Chief Executive of Bank of Industry, (BOI), Mr. Olukayode Pitan; Director-General, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN), Dr. Dikko Rada; Executive Director, Fate Foundation, Adenike Adeyemi and Executive Secretary, Nigerian Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (NASME), Eke Ubiji.