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Boosting SMEs Growth Through FirstSME Account

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited created FirstSME Account to add to its SME product family in support of small and medium scale business owners by sustaining and expanding their business. AMAKA IFEAKANDU looks at what the facility offers and how SMEs owners can key in to boost their businesses.

There is no doubt that Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs) are essential for rapid and sustained economic growth and development of any nation, including Nigeria, Africa and other growing countries of the world. First Bank of Nigeria Limited, the nation’s most valuable bank brand, has over the years shown commitment towards the success and growth of SMEs business in Nigeria.

The bank has severally introduced different customised products to provide solution that would grow SMEs in the country. Given that SMEs industry is the backbone of the economic development and the major contributor to employment  opportunities and export growth, First Bank is committed to ensuring  the sector  sustains business growth by providing all the necessary financial support needed to grow their businesses and Nigeria economy at large.

Although the SME sector is awash with various industries and business, FirstBank is always at the forefront of packaging products and service that suit their various businesses. The bank, which has been in existence for over 127 years, has been a pillar of support to businesses in Nigeria and always develop the right products to provide flexible and dependable services that would help SMEs achieve the expected growth profile in all areas of their business lines.

FirstSME Account 

The FirstBank’s leading SME Initiative – FirstSME account – was specifically created on August 2020, to support SMEs towards the sustenance and expansion of their businesses.

The FirstSME account, which comes in two variants – FirstSME Classic and First SME Deluxe – is offered to SMEs irrespective of industry and a tailor-made current account with a clear value proposition aimed at harnessing the huge opportunities available in the SME sector in Nigeria.

The product also exposes SMEs to a wide range of services that are essential for their continued growth and playing their roles in contributing to national development.

Apart from supporting SMEs, FirstSME account is also available to all non-individual entities like Limited Liability Companies, Public sector institutions, Enterprises/Sole proprietorships, Partnerships & Associations, Religious Bodies, Traders NGOs.

Benefits to customers

FirstSME account has been beneficial to a lot of companies, especially SMEs, in terms enhancing the capacity to sustain growth. The major benefits of these accounts include; access to Temporary OverDrafts (TODs) and other facilities subject to meeting Risk Adjustment Capital (RAC) of each product; immediate enrollment on all digital platform; free access to FirstBank SME events; free access to extensive business promotional and networking opportunities on the SMEConnect portal; access to a wide range of discounted and promotional offers and access to SMEConnect.

Other opportunities

Other available opportunities for operating   FirstSME account is its connection to   SMEConnect initiative of FirstBank which is a platform through which SMEs access the bank’s unique description   that will equip them with the essential tools required for the growth of their business.

The SMEConnect portal is also designed to help SMEs identify various gaps affecting the growth of their business. Beyond financial support, SMEConnect offers strategic advisory services, business seminars periodic updates as well as information that will guide you in growing your business.

Importance of SMEConnect

SMEConnect is created to bring under one umbrella relevant resources, products and services aimed at helping SMEs in Nigeria. FirstBank has tailored -made products targeted at the specific needs of SMEs in Nigeria. These loan products have been designed for financing the activities of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) under the U-First Scheme

The leading financial institution also provides Business Advisory and Support services and business-oriented credit access, customer/market, financing structure, access/availability of raw materials sales/cash flow  projections, marketing/distribution/logistics  and business strategic plan.

The platform provides other features including the SME Connect blog, business categories, e-newsletter, special offer and upcoming events and programme.

Accessibility/criteria for opening account 

The FirstSME classic account is specifically designed to support small scale enterprises to   grow and scale up their business with a minimum opening and operating balance of N50,000 and turnover limit caps at N100 mIllion with annual maintenance charge on the excess at 0.50k/mile.

The account also attracts Zero/mile annual maintenance charge subject to minimum operating balance and turnover limit.

But on the other hand, the FirstSME Deluxe account expects holders to have minimum opening and operating balance of N500,000 and N1 million respectively with zero annual maintenance charge subject to minimum operating balance and with no turnover limit caps.

FirstSME Connect’s scope of coverage

FirstBank’s SMEConnect services cover small/medium scale manufacturing firms, merchants (both suppliers, distributors), professional firms including law, consulting, audit, agricultural, Churches, Mosques and NGOs whose annual debit turnover is between N5 million and N500 million.

SMEs and FirstBank’s FirstSMEs account

The FirstBank’s FirstSME account is unique when compared with other SMEs accounts operating  in the  nation’s banking industry and the  bank is passionate about helping SMEs to grow on all fronts

 Another thing that makes the product stands out from products of other banks  is that FirstSME customers get to enjoy services such as; zero account maintenance charge, access to webinar/training, various credit facilities, workplace resources, access to SMEConnect portal and directory and It is specially made for MSMEs and SMEs.

SMEs’ importance  to FirstBank 

 Across the globe and Nigeria in particular, SMEs are known to be responsible for the majority of new jobs created and they are crucial to Nigeria’s success in the global economy, in so many ways namely: For government, SMEs, contribute to wealth creation and generate tax revenues; in business, SMEs represent an important source of innovation and in the society, they are an important source of employment.

Furthermore, SMEs drive consumption because they operate in every sector of the economy, and they have extensive local knowledge of resources, supply patterns and purchasing trends. In the same vein, the sector constitutes an important source of local supply and service provisions to larger corporations and makes a significant contribution to the revenue profile of most financial institutions.  The SME sector stimulates growth and development within the economy.

NBS data

Available data from Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that SMEs in Nigeria have contributed about 48 per cent of the national GDP in the last five years, account for 96 per cent of business and 84 per cent employment. With about 1.7 million people , the sector accounted for about 50 per cent of the industrial jobs. In other word, SMEs is one of the sectors that cannot be ignored in any given country

These also imply that First Bank of Nigeria Limited understands what it takes to turn around the nation’s economy, knowing fully well that supporting the SMEs will bring multiple effects on individuals, society and economy in general.

The bank also has deeper understanding that providing support, loans facilities and training to SMEs through SMEConnect would not only help their business to thrive, but increase employment opportunities, reduce high rate of crime, open doors for more investments in the country and bring return on investment and increase  individual’s  ability to save.

Impacts beneficiaries/economy 

The FirstBank FirstSME account will go a long way to reducing cost of operating corporate account which frees up funds for the beneficiaries to grow their businesses faster. The resultant effect on the economy is the increased growth of SMEs.

Challenges of SMEs

Without any iota of doubt, the SMEs in the country is faced  with different challenges ranging from poor capital structure, high cost of production, limited access to long term funds, poor business continuity/succession plan, weak value chain: supply, distribution, logistics, poor managerial and technical skills to lack of access to international market.

 The FirstBank’s FirstSME account has  provided an answer to some of the SMEs challenges by its readiness and commitment to  providing  the Nigerian SMEs with the  necessary support needed to grow their various businesses

In all, for any SMEs company  to move its business to the next level- both locally and internationally-, such business owner needs to open FirstSME account to avail him/herself of all the advantages provided by First Bank of Nigeria through its SMEConnect.

Operating FirstSME account is one step away from any form of distress, as all the  training opportunities from SMEconnect and credit facilities embedded in the account  will help to revive the company and place it on the path of growth.

SMEs

USAID Trade Hub Partners ShEquity to Support Over 100 African Women Entrepreneurs

USAID, ShEquity to invest and support more than 100 high-potential women-owned businesses with a sum of $1.2m

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United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Trade Hub, West Africa Trade & Investment Hub has partnered with an African Investment Hub, ShEquity to invest and support more than 100 high-potential women-owned businesses with a sum of $1.2m.

The businesses targeted will operate in one of six key sectors: agribusiness, healthcare, tech-enabled solutions, renewable energy, mobility, and fast-moving consumer goods.

“Women entrepreneurs are integral for Africa’s success, as they operate more than 40 percent of small and medium-sized businesses on the continent. However, African women entrepreneurs face the hurdle of collectively growing these businesses due to $42bn less in financing than their male counterparts,” Founder and Managing Director of ShEquity, Pauline Koelbl stated.

Koelbl added that if Africa is to reach its full economic potential, smart investment for African women entrepreneurs needs to be dramatically increased. “The lack of financing, combined with insufficient business support, put potential women entrepreneurs and those seeking to expand their already successful businesses in a growth deficit or low-income trap, widening the gender gap and reinforcing negative biases,” he said.

The partnership between ShEquity and USAID Trade Hub will focus on challenges facing Africa by bringing cash investment, structured technical support, and access to high-value networks.

As for ShEquity, it will generate at least $15m in private funding that will in turn be used to “invest, upscale and accelerate women-owned or led businesses operating in Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, and Niger.”

Also, through this partnership, ShEquity will provide business development services and technical support to 120 women-owned or led businesses in the target markets and also select 12 high-growth, high-impact businesses that will each receive at least $50,000 in venture capital funding.

The combined investments in the 12 selected companies are expected to create at least 200 jobs and benefit around 20,000 people economically either directly or indirectly, along their respective value chains, through 2024.

According to Koelbl, ShEquity’s current portfolio of companies has impacted more than 13.5 million people across Sub-Saharan.

Koelbl stated: “We are excited about the future, as we hope to see more action towards democratizing access to capital and closing the gender funding gap in Africa. Backing female-led funds is the best strategy to address gender funding gap because of its trickle-down effect: more diversity in capital allocators translates into diversity of businesses getting funded,” he continued.

The USAID Trade Hub’s partnership with ShEquity represents its commitment to ensuring more women in West Africa have the access to finance, resources, and knowledge needed to grow their businesses and speed economic development in the region.

ShEquity has since invested in eight businesses in Sub-Saharan countries. Since the launch, ShEquity has been investing as a special vehicle purpose and is now in the process of formalizing into a venture capital fund structure.

 

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SMEs

Bank of Industry Disburses N213.63bn to Over 30,000 Businesses in 2021

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The Bank of Industry (BOI) has revealed that it disbursed a total of N213.63 billion to 30,406 businesses in Nigeria in the 2021 financial year.

The Managing  Director of BOI, Olukayode Pitan disclosed this at the 62nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the bank on Thursday in Abuja. He said that the bank was able to successfully scale up its developmental impacts in 2021 despite the challenges and limitations caused by COVID-19.

Pitan said “at the peak of COVID-19 in 2020, the bank took steps to support customers with a two per cent reduction in interest rates for a year alongside an extension of loan tenors and moratoriums. He said that the operating environment improved in 2021 and that is the reason they have decided to extend the incentives until March 31, 2022.”

He added that all ongoing projects were reviewed to assess emerging risks and opportunities and also additional support was provided.

“In the year under review, the bank disbursed a total of N213.63 billion to 30,406 Nigerian enterprises through both direct and indirect methods. This represents a 47.3 per cent increase over disbursements in 2020.

“The 2021 disbursements include N2.99billion to 22,120 farmers through our smallholder  farmers on  lending product and one billion Naira to 4,000 micro-retailers through our MSMEs distributor finance programme.

“At BoI, we have since taken measures to ensure that our systems, processes and people are continuously equipped to meet the evolving business environment.

“Today, we are a more agile and adaptive institution,  able to provide the necessary developmental support for Nigeria’s real sector in an ever-changing economy.

“Our commitment to building a resilient organisation that can respond to the needs of our customers and operating challenges is unwavering.

“We strongly believe that we can achieve this with the continuous support of the stakeholders.” he further said. 

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Edo State to Promote Tech-business for MSMEs

Edo Cares is set to promote Small and Medium enterprises in the state

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The Edo state government through its newly launched programme, Edo Cares is set to promote Small and Medium enterprises in the state.

According to the report by the media, the Managing Director, Edo State Skills Development Agency, EdoJobs, Ukinebo Dare said “an emergency state-level intervention programme, is designed to support micro and small enterprises in Edo State affected by the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Speaking at the launching of the grants, Dare stated that the programme which was domesticated in Edo State from the Federal Government and World Bank partnership on COVID-19 Action Recovery Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES),

The programme will provide succour for Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) impacted by the pandemic in the country.

She said that under the Edo-Cares programme, business owners are now able to access grants for their business development and support.

“To grow their businesses and contribute to the state’s economic development,” she added.

The Edo state government has, however, advised the beneficiary of the programme to take full advantage of the initiative as a means to better their lives in terms of human capacity development, Investors King understands.

She added that the business support grants will be provided in form of credit grants, operational grants, and IT development grants, to enlarge and promote their businesses to enhance the economic viability of the state.

“Business owners can gain access to technology tools such as e-commerce website, POS, computers, mobile applications, under the IT Enhancement grant category, and business supplies, rent, salaries, utilities, solar panels, under the Operational grant category.

Also, the Credit grant category where business owners can gain access to funds to pay off existing loans,” she submitted.

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