Nigerian bank throws SMEs N8bn lifeline

Also, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the World Bank Group has signed US$15 million (N2,1 billion) loan agreement with Nigeria’s Access Bank Plc.

Addressing delegates, including Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, World Bank officials and Nigerian economic operators at the 12th Nigerian Economic Summit closing dinner sponsored by First Bank in Abuja, the bank’s managing director/chief executive officer, Mr Jacobs Moyo Ajekigbe said that over N4,6 billion of the amount is still in the kitty of the bank for small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and agricultural farmers to draw down this year.

Mr Ajekigbe who told the delegates to move from the level of perpetual complaints over paucity of funds to the stage of action, challenged SMEs and farmers to forward their business proposals to the bank for consideration, adding that money is now available to be invested either as equities or loans.

“Every year, we come here and it is all complaints against not providing funds for businesses. It is now time for action as we now have money to support any small business and agriculture.”

According to him, First Bank had, indeed, set aside through its subsidiary, First Funds, over N5,8 billion in the last four years for SME financing of which only N3,2 billion has been accessed.

The balance of more than N2 billion is up for grabs by credible SMEs entrepreneurs.

He said about N3,2 billion already disbursed was invested in 53 different projects, adding that “we are inviting you to come and tap into this fund. We are now challenging you, come up with credible SMEs plan and we will partner with you.”

Besides, he announced that the bank had also set aside over N2 billion for lending to agriculture this year. At the heart of the bank’s commitment to agriculture and SMEs are corporate and development finance which Ajekigbe said, involves finance of infrastructure, agri- finance, consumer finance and micro credit.

IFC’s partnership with Access Bank is a programme that the international financial firm aims to replicate in other emerging markets.

The facility is the first major loan under the IFC’s Gender Entrepreneurship Market (GEM) programme, designed to leverage the potentials of women in emerging markets.

The loan will be used to extend lines of credit to women entrepreneurs and Access Bank Plc is one of the first banks in Africa to dedicate lines of credit to finance women-based businesses.

IFC’s vice-president for industries, Mr Declan Duff, said.

World Bank Group research has established that women are more likely to contribute additional income to household poverty reduction and that giving more women access to credit is more likely to translate into improved livelihood for a wide cross-section of society.

Mr Duff, said “women are the driving force in the African economy, but their access to finance is still far too small. This is why IFC is partnering with Access Bank, a dynamic and innovative local bank, to bridge the gap.

“This initiative will increase the contributions of women-owned business to the Nigerian economy and can have a significant development impact,” he said.

IFC’s funding will allow Access Bank meet the financing heads of its female clients, particularly those running small and medium enterprises.

At the same time, IFC’s Gender Entrepreneurship Markets programme will provide comprehensive assistance and training to enhance the bank’s ability to reach out to the women’s market as well as provide business and management training for women entrepreneurs. ‘ Daily Champion.

June 2006
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