The Minister of State, Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment, Ambassador Mariam Yelwaji Katagum, has commended Ecobank Nigeria’s massive support and sustained commitment in providing credit to entrepreneurs and small businesses in the country. She called on operators in the financial services sector to continue to provide the much needed support to the Federal Government’s initiatives by facilitating and granting accessible financing for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) at single digit.
Ambassador Mariam Katagum in her goodwill message at the Ecobank-Vanguard Digital Summit with the theme: “Unlocking Credit Growth in a Changing Consumer and MSME Digital Lending Landscape” last Friday, stated that the Muhammadu Buhari –led administration is strategically positioning the MSMEs towards achieving their full potential with a view to contribute more to the economy of the nation, stressing that the financial sector has a great role to play in this regard.
According to her, “there is no doubt that MSMEs are regarded as the driving force behind structural changes and sustainable growth and development particularly with their contribution to job and wealth creation. These enterprises play a big role in the economy and are crucial drivers for innovation and competition in many sectors of the economy. As you are all well aware, the Federal Government has over time provided platform to improve access to finance for the MSMEs in order to boost production, increase the value of trade, enhance the investment climate, foster innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Further, Katagum disclosed that the Federal Government has embarked on deliberate and pragmatic policies geared towards sustaining small business in the country by equipping entrepreneurs to enable them compete globally, especially under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCTA), noting that the initiative also take into accounts the importance of digital technology in promoting enterprises and sustainable industrialization for economic growth.
She added that in a bid to guarantee continuity and support for MSMEs in the country, the Federal Government has harnessed prime policies in the economic recovery programme and national enterprise development programme into the Nigeria economic sustainability plan, stressing that this is creating sustainable environment for small businesses to thrive.
Also speaking, Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole who was the Special Guest of Honour at the Summit opined that access to finance for small businesses has become more imperative against the backdrop of the ravaging effects of covid 19 pandemic. While commending Ecobank’s various initiatives at supporting the growth of MSMEs, she urged the financial sector to complement the efforts of the federal government N2.3 trillion economic sustainability plan.
In his address, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan disclosed that the bank has dedicated N100 billion for financing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country. This, he said is to enable them contribute more meaningfully to the growth of the nation’s economy.
“We can see clearly that in terms of moving the majority of Nigerians from the realm of poverty to financial inclusion and wealth creation, it is important that we pay attention and explore the potentials of MSMEs. Given the focus of Ecobank to contribute positively to the financial integration and economic advancement of Africa, it is critical that we focus on this segment and ensure it is given the empowerment to play its rightful role in the development of our economy.” He pointed out that feedback from survey embarked upon by the bank indicated that the MSMEs were basically faced with several constraints including access to market, inadequate skill set, infrastructure deficits and inability to track cash flow among others. He noted that the bank had put measures in place to address the challenges.
“Given this market feedback, we have aligned at Ecobank to provide the MSMEs some capacity building support. This is about up-skilling their competencies to fulfill the potentials. We are doing this in partnership with the African Union through the AUDA-NEPAD academy. This is a digital academy where MSMEs are able to access skills in inventory management, accounting record, market analysis, market penetration and access to finance. Secondly, we are actively involved in conjunction with the CBN to open up easier access to funding, be it in the agriculture segment, through the agric loan; the creative industry for various talents in our economy and the healthcare industry amongst others. In each of these areas, Ecobank has been playing a leading role. In terms of access to market, we do have an e-Commerce club for the MSMEs, we also have the Emerald Business Club, Google my business e – Solution that enables MSMEs to build simple website and be able to promote their products particular across Africa.
“There are opportunities for MSMEs to promote their products through digital platforms including the capability to receive payments from nearly all other foreign currencies into their naira accounts seamlessly using our NQR based Ecobankpay collections platform. This is one of the key advantages we have in Ecobank Nigeria. We also have agency banking services currently at about 26000 locations across the country. We have our digital banking solutions called Omnilite, we also have *326# USSD code for transactions, mobile app and lots more to support the small businesses.” He stated.
Other speakers at the Summit include Managing Director/Chief Executive, Bank of Industry (BoI), Olukayode Pitan; Director General, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (SMEDAN), Dr. Dikko Rada; Executive Director, Fate Foundation, Adenike Adeyemi and Executive Secretary, Nigerian Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (NASME), Eke Ubiji, amongst others.