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FirstBank’s SMEconnect Platform Continues to Help Businesses Thrive

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Dr. Adesola Adeduntan - FirstBank CEO - Investors King

Small Medium Enterprises are the ultimate drivers of the economy, and when they are under-utilized and not given the much-needed support to thrive, it has an overriding effect on the overall growth and development of a Nation. In a demonstration of its continuous commitment to National development, FirstBank’s ‘’SMEConnect’ continues to create an atmosphere for SMEs to build, grow and scale.

SMEConnect is FirstBank’s value proposition geared towards building the capacity of SMEs to deliver business goals and contribute even more significantly to national development. It is a digital platform through which SMEs can access the bank’s plethora of services. The portal is designed to help SMEs access the Bank’s unique propositions and identify various gaps that hinder their business growth. With FirstBank’s over 127 years of impacting the economy, the portal helps proffer tailored services solutions, whilst creating avenues for business improvement, profitability and sustainability. Currently, there are 4,225 registered businesses and 20,880 users on the platform.

SMEConnect was birthed out of the need to bridge the gap and connect SMEs to resources, products and services that will enable them to overcome the challenges of poor business structures, lack of infrastructure, poor market penetration, limited access to information and professional services, inconsistent government policies amongst others, hence the bank has identified seven strategic pillars considered essential for the sustainability and growth of SMEs.

The pillars are: connect to infrastructure, connect to talent, capacity building, connect to policy and regulation, connect to resources, connect to market as well as connect to finance to further reinforce the Bank’s role in putting SMEs at an advantage whilst contributing to national growth and development. SMEConnect serves as a medium of connecting SMEs to these solutions from the comfort of their offices, homes, and anywhere they are in the world. The uniqueness of the platform lies in the fact that these offerings are either free or substantially discounted.

The unique selling proposition of SMEConnect is the congregation of value-adding products & services on one platform for easy access and at rates (prices) that are competitive and (in most cases) discounted. The SMEConnect has special features such as the Business Diagnostic tool which has been specifically developed to evaluate one’s business and give one a business effectiveness score, it goes further to tell one what one has done well and what one needs to improve on. One is also able to request a business coach on the portal and get up to a 34% discount.

SMEs can also have access to free business advisory services through the business diagnostic tool, they can showcase their products and services at no cost at all, interact with their customers and other SMEs alike, Connect to free capacity building workshops, seminars and webinars and get regular updates on policies and regulations impacting SMEs. All these interesting features combine to make FirstBank the first-choice bank amongst SMEs.

Other features of the SMEConnect platform include enlightening blog articles that provide tips on growing businesses, e-newsletters, and useful webinar content.

What are the pre-requisites for SMEs to be listed on the portal?

SMEs can join the SMEConnect community by visiting https://smeconnect.firstbanknigeria.com/ to sign up seamlessly for free. Users only need to enter their email addresses and create a password to get started. Businesses must be registered and have a corporate account with FirstBank to list their business on the business hub and access all the beneficial offerings on SMEConnect.

Furthermore, individuals and businesses can register to be users of SMEConnect without listing their business. SMEConnect is open to businesses operating across all sectors.

Businesses who wish to list their businesses on the business hub in addition to being registered and having a corporate account with FirstBank must accept the terms and conditions of the platform.

There are some exceptions, however, businesses that deal in cryptocurrencies, sports betting and other similar business ventures that do not align with the Bank’s T&Cs (https://smeconnect.firstbanknigeria.com/terms)are currently not allowed to be listed on the business hub.

Visit https://smeconnect.firstbanknigeria.com/ to sign-up and enjoy the rich benefits the FirstBank SMEConnect offers.

 

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Banking Sector

UBA Director Aisha Hassan-Baba Invests NGN30.63 Million in Bank Shares

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Aisha Hassan-Baba, an Independent Non-Executive Director of the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), has invested NGN30.63 million in the purchase of shares.

According to a disclosure by UBA, Hassan-Baba purchased 1,401,769 ordinary shares at NGN21.85 per share on June 27, 2024.

This acquisition was conducted on the Lagos Nigerian Exchange (NGX), solidifying her stake in the financial institution.

Aisha Hassan-Baba, who holds the prestigious title of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), has been a part of UBA’s board, contributing her extensive experience and expertise in guiding the bank’s strategic direction.

Her decision to increase her shareholding is viewed as a testament to her belief in UBA’s growth and profitability.

UBA, with its wide reach across Africa and beyond, has been a cornerstone of financial services in the region.

The Group Company Secretary and Legal Counsel, Bili A. Odum, confirmed the transaction in a press release published on the Nigerian Exchange Group website.

This move by Hassan-Baba comes at a time when UBA continues to expand its operations and innovate its services to meet the evolving needs of its customers.

The bank’s strategic initiatives, coupled with its solid financial performance, have positioned it as a leading financial institution in Africa.

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Banking Sector

Angola to Sell Minority Stake in Standard Bank Angola Amid Anti-Corruption Drive

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The Angolan government has announced plans to sell a minority stake in Standard Bank de Angola SA, previously controlled by a former insurance magnate currently serving a prison sentence.

This step aligns with President Joao Lourenco’s ongoing efforts to dismantle the legacy of corruption from his predecessor’s administration.

The Angolan government seized a 49% stake in Standard Bank Angola from Carlos Sao Vicente in 2020.

Sao Vicente, once a prominent figure in the nation’s business landscape, was convicted of embezzlement and tax fraud, leading to his nine-year prison sentence.

According to a recent presidential decree, President Lourenco has approved the sale of up to 34% of Standard Bank Angola through an initial public offering (IPO).

The state will retain a 15% stake in the Luanda-based lender. Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa’s largest lender, currently owns the remaining 51% of Standard Bank Angola and has the option to acquire an additional 24% stake during the IPO.

The decree, however, did not specify the timeline for the IPO. This sale aims to bolster investor confidence in Angola’s financial sector while further distancing the state from assets linked to corrupt practices.

Standard Bank Angola, which began operations in the southern African country in 2010, has been a significant player in the region’s banking sector.

The move to partially privatize the bank comes as part of broader economic reforms aimed at increasing transparency and efficiency in Angola’s financial system.

Carlos Sao Vicente, the former owner of the seized stake, was a key figure during the latter years of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ regime, which concluded in 2017.

Vicente amassed significant wealth by heading a conglomerate that sold insurance contracts to the state oil company, Sonangol.

His vast fortune enabled him to acquire substantial shares in Standard Bank Angola, among other investments. Following his conviction, he was ordered to pay Angola $500 million.

The decision to liquidate Vicente’s assets is part of President Lourenco’s broader initiative to recover assets misappropriated during the dos Santos era.

This anti-corruption drive has led to several high-profile prosecutions and asset seizures, sending a strong message that the current administration will not tolerate financial impropriety.

The planned IPO is expected to attract significant interest from both local and international investors, given Standard Bank Angola’s robust market position and growth potential.

By reducing state ownership and increasing private sector participation, the Angolan government aims to foster a more competitive and transparent banking environment.

This development underscores Angola’s commitment to reforming its financial sector and curbing corruption, essential steps for attracting foreign investment and promoting sustainable economic growth.

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Banking Sector

Unity Bank Empowers 400 Fresh Graduates, Invests Over N100 Million in Corpreneurhip Challenge

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No fewer than 400 fresh graduates have benefited from Unity Bank’s entrepreneurship development initiative, also known as Corpreneurship Challenge over the past five years.

This reflects the Bank’s commitment to driving economic growth by supporting the next generation of Nigerian entrepreneurs.

Launched in 20219 with pilots in 4 states – Lagos, Edo, Ogun, and Abuja and scaled to 10 States in 2020, the Corpreneurship Challenge initiative is promoted in partnership with the NYSC Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development, SAED. The initiative features a business pitch presentation where participants, who are mostly fresh graduates participating in the one-year compulsory NYSC service, get the opportunity to present their business plans and stand a chance to win business grants.

The Bank recently increased the prize money to 16 million Naira per stream, allowing participants who emerge winners in the business pitch to win N800,000, N500,000, and N300,000 Business grants for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd positions respectively as against the previous editions in which the sum of N500,000; N300,000 and N200,000 were handed out to respective winners in the Corpreneurship Challenge.

Reflecting on the impact of the initiative, The Divisional Head, Digital Banking and Fintech Partnerships, at Unity Bank, Mr Olufunwa Akinmade, who led the pioneer team that designed the initiative and launched the pilot, said: “The Corpreneurship Challenge has proved to be a viable enterprise development and empowerment initiative due its high-level of success in supporting budding entrepreneurs in the target demographic, as well as the size of the problem it is designed to solve for the Nigerian economy”.

Olufunwa expressed satisfaction with Corpreneurship Challenge’s rising profile as one of the leading sector-agnostic business incubators in Nigeria and said the Bank is committed to sustaining the programme to attain even greater impact required to boost job creation, with young entrepreneurs leading the charge.

Also speaking, the Divisional Head of Retail and SME Banking, Mrs. Adenike Ambimbola said, “We have seen the positive impact of the Corpreneurship Challenge over the past five years because of its innovative approach to youth empowerment and job creation, including a holistic strategy of supporting budding entrepreneurs with mentorship, and skills development, besides the financial backing.”

Since its launch, the Corpreneurship Challenge train has crisscrossed the length and breadth of Nigeria, making a stop in 10 States per stream to turn the dreams of fresh graduates and aspiring entrepreneurs into reality, thus supporting the growth of the SME sector in Nigeria.

The latest edition was held across 10 States, including Taraba, Kogi, FCT, Lagos, Yobe, Ogun, Ebonyi, Enugu, Adamawa, and Imo State, with three winners emerging in each State to make up 30 winners for the edition.

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