Ecobank Sets Aside N100 Billion To Support Small Businesses … Gets Commendations From Industry Minister, President’s Adviser On Ease Of Doing Business

By Odidison Omankhanlen

Lagos, May 23, 2021 - The Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan has disclosed that the Bank has dedicated N100 billion for the financing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country. This, he said is to enable them contribute more meaningfully to the growth of the nation’s economy. The Managing Director stated this in his welcome address during the Ecobank / Vanguard Virtual Summit for MSMEs in Nigeria, reiterated that apart from closing the funding gap, the bank will upskill and avail them it’s 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’is to promote and encourage lending to small businesses in the face of changing operating environment in the country.

According to Mr. Akinwuntan, “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 pointed out that feedback from 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 among others. He noted that the bank had put measures in place to address the challenges.

“Given this market feedback, we have aligned at Ecobank to provide the MSMEs some capacity building support. This is about up-skilling their competencies to fulfill the potentials. We are doing this in partnership with the African Union through the AUDA-NEPAD academy. This is a digital academy where MSMEs are able to access skills in inventory management, accounting record, market analysis, market penetration and access to finance. Secondly, we are actively involved in conjunction with the CBN to open up easier access to funding, be it in the agriculture segment, through the agric loan; the creative industry for various talents in our economy and the healthcare industry amongst others. In each of these areas, Ecobank has been playing a leading role. In terms of access to market, 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 website and be able to promote their products particular across Africa.

“There 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 26000 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.” He stated.

In her goodwill message, Minister of State, Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment, of Ambassador Mariam Yelwaji Katagum commended Ecobank Nigeria for complementing the efforts of the Federal Government at developing the MSME segment of the economy. She urged 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 the small businesses at single digit. “There is no doubt that MSMEs are regarded as the driving force behind structural changes and sustainable growth and development particularly with their contributions to job and wealth creation. These enterprises play a big role in the economy and are crucial drivers for innovation and competition in many sectors of the economy. As you are all well aware, the Federal Government has over time provided 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”. She stated.

Also speaking, Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole who was the Special Guest of Honour at the Summit opined that access to finance for small businesses has become more imperative against the backdrop of the ravaging effects of covid 19 pandemic. 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 N2.3 trillion economic sustainability plan.

Other speakers at the Summit included Managing Director/Chief Executive, Bank of Industry (BoI), Mr Olukayode Pitan; Director General, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (SMEDAN), Dr. Dikko Rada; Executive Director, Fate Foundation, Adenike Adeyemi and Executive Secretary, Nigerian Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (NASME), Eke Ubiji, amongst others.