The International Finance Corporation and Lift Above Poverty Organisation have announced a mutual agreement to enhance lending to the Small and Medium-scale Enterprises in the country.
The IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, will work with the LAPO Microfinance Bank “to increase access to financial services for low-income customers, small-scale entrepreneurs and rural communities”.
The done deal will also empower the bank to roll out agent banking.
The agreement was signed in Lagos recently by the representatives of the two institutions.
The facility was said to be the largest investment IFC ever made in a microfinance institution in sub-Sahara Africa.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, LAPO Microfinance Bank, Mr. Godwin Ehigiamusoe, said the deal would allow the bank to expand its activities of agent banking and expand its loan portfolio for SMEs.
He said, “LAPO Microfinance Bank has remained committed to its goal of economic empowerment through access to finance. We are taking further steps to increase our reach to more low-income earners and more micro, small and medium enterprises.
“IFC’s long-term support has helped us and we hope this new project will lead to enhanced financial access for more financially excluded Nigerians.”
The IFC’s Country Manager for Nigeria, Eme Essien-Lore, maintained that their working relationship with LAPO would go a long way to reaching out to the “critically underserved low income-earning population of Nigeria, to improve financial inclusion and help grow the economy.”
She added, “One of IFC’s core objectives is to promote access to finance that benefits the small-scale business sector as an engine of inclusive growth and job generator.”
The LAPO CEO, who disclosed that bank was keying into the agent banking as approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria, stated that the agreement was in tandem with the expectations of the bank to have a client base of five million in the next few years.
“And doing that, there are few things we need to do. One of them is to come up with a more flexible structure that will reach more people, especially those we are not reaching now. And this facility today therefore is going to be very helpful in achieving that,” he said.