First Bank of Nigeria Ltd. on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) to develop and promote MSMEs.
Dr Adesola Adeduntan, Chief Executive Officer of First Bank, said at the signing of the agreement that the partnership would change not just the bank and SMEDAN, but the fortune of Nigeria.
According to him, SMEs play critical roles in the growth of a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through diversification of the economy, job creation, wealth distribution and social stability.
He said, “this is one of the driving forces behind our SME Connect initiative through which we offer bespoke financing and non-financing solutions to meet the needs of our growing SME community.
“For instance, in 2022, FirstBank disbursed about N455 billion in value, via tailor-made loan products to support SMEs in various industry segments.
“We have also continued to deploy various innovative e-payment products and services to aid SMEs’ trade and collections and in the process, create a seamless experience of doing business.
“I commend the amazing work that SMEDAN is doing with the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises sub sector in Nigeria.
“Your mandate of linking MSMEs to internal and external sources of finance, appropriate technology, and technical skills is one of the biggest motivations that inspired us to embark on this partnership engagement.
“Leveraging our SME Connect initiative, the large community of SMEs managed by SMEDAN, will be exposed to our product and service offerings aimed at growing their businesses and expanding its scope and scalability.”
Adeduntan, represented by the Executive Director, Chief Risk Officer, Mr Olusegun Alebiosu, said the partnership would also enable the bank and SMEDAN to accelerate digitisation and development of the SME subsector toward increasing its contribution and impact to the national economy
According to him, there are endless opportunities for the teeming community of SMEs.
“The teeming community of SMEs will be exposed to trainings, workshops, mentorship programmes, financial and non-financial interventions needed for upscaling their businesses through the entire value chain.
Responding, Dr Olawale Fasanya, Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of SMEDAN, said that funding was an issue for small businesses, expressed joy that the bank was ready to partner in their development.
He said, “but unfortunately, the issue of finance is a major issue, especially for those that are just going into business and then the aspiring ones.
“Then when we look at the nature of the nano and micro businesses, you know banks don’t want to touch them, and they are the ones in the majority.
“So, when we have this kind of Memorandum of Understanding where we can work with banks that are ready to, at least, fund the ones that we feel are credible and will be able to pay back, we are usually very happy to enter into this kind of agreement.
“But, we also know that we have to do a lot of work to make sure that if we are recommending anybody, they are people that will be able to prove they are trust worth,” Fasanya said.
He said SMEDAN was talking to government to see how to come up with credit guarantee scheme that would help SMEs, who might defaults.
He said the agency was also trying to put them together to cooperatives, to make it easy for those in the same value chain to source their raw materials as a group.
He also promised to provide a common facility for operators in the Garment, Furniture and Packaging sector.
The Director General of SMEDAN also assured Macro Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) operators in the country of commissioning a common facility centres.
Fasanya said that such facility centres would be provided for operators in the garment, furniture and packaging industries to facilitate their operations, both in and outside the country.
Also on June 13, SMEDAN partnered with the Sterling Bank on creating support system for MSMEs to leverage on.
The DG/CEO of SMEDAN, Dr Wale Fasanya also signed the MOU on behalf of SMEDAN on June 13, 2023, while Abubakar Suleman the Managing Director, Sterling Bank signed on behalf of the bank.
Fasanya said that MSMEs would soon have a cause to smile as the two institutions had promised to ensure the process was accelerated.
He stated said that the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Sterling Bank would facilitated MSME operation both in and outside the country.
According to him, the two institutions had promised to work closely in improving integrity of MSMEs to enable them access more funding needed for their business.