By Dipo Olowookere
Commercial banks operating in Nigeria have been to intervene in building a formidable economy driven on the wheel of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) because there is lots of value and opportunities in the SMEs sector.
This was the stance of Managing Director/CEO of Heritage Bank Plc, Mr Ifie Sekibo, on Tuesday on the sidelines of the ongoing 11th Annual Banking and Finance Conference of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).
The conference with the theme, ‘MSMEs: The Game Changer for Economic Growth and Development,’ is being attended by various key stakeholders in the banking sector.
According to Mr Sekibo, as a way of cushioning the effect of capacity building and fund management, the lender introduced the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Investment Protection Fund to assist the growth and rejuvenation of the sector.
He said Heritage Bank remains poised to collaborate with operators of MSMEs to grow them into generational conglomerates.
He stated that it was the desire of the bank for Nigerian businesses to be listed on the stock exchange and eventually become global brands and household names.
Mr Sekibo noted that surviving in the face of all odds as a business in Nigeria with the present economic situation would not be an easy feat, adding that tenacity remains key characteristic of a sustainable business.
According to him, notable businesses such as Quaker Oats and KFC went through trying times, overcame them, and are now global brands.
“We believe that businesses like yours are the backbone of the economy because you create jobs and play a huge role in moving our country out of this present recession. I encourage you to rise up to this challenge facing every Nigerian entrepreneur and make our economy vibrant again,” Mr Sekibo said.
Also, he said Heritage Bank would support operators in the MSMEs sector to broker new deals and partnerships, adding that a contact today could lead to a business opportunity tomorrow.
He said the bank would create a platform to propel a network of fast growing businesses and urged them to seize the opportunity, network with others as well as engage the bank’s SME consultants in their bid to build and develop sustainable businesses.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who represented Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said it was no longer possible to achieve a robust growth trajectory as well as realise the much desired inclusive growth without proper attention to the MSMEs sub-sector of the economy.
He said the sector not only contribute significantly to the economy but also serve as an impetus for economic diversification.
Mr Osinbajo, however, stated that government is currently working round the clock to put the country in its rightful place in the world economy.
He said this will be achieved through the provision of key physical infrastructure, technology and innovation as well as conducive atmosphere for small businesses to thrive.
President/Chairman of Council, CIBN, Mr Uche Olowu, insisted that projected economy goals for Africa, particularly Nigeria would remained unrealistic if challenges affecting the contribution of MSMEs to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with the sector is not prioritised.
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