By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The issue of access to finance in the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Africa may soon become a thing of the past going by efforts being made by Absa, a pan-Africa financial institution, to tackle the issue.
The lender disclosed that it was accelerating the creation of trade finance solutions aimed to allow small business owners to compete favourably well in the new trading system called the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Business Post reports that the AfCFTA agreement became effective on January 1, 2021, and allows businesses on the continent to operate in a single market, giving room for organisations to reach more than one billion people.
But to operate on such a large scale, SMEs must have access to funds and this is where Absa intends to provide assistance through digital solutions.
In its digitisation projection, the financial institution identified trade financing as a critical financial issue, which it said has the capacity to deliver higher impact in Africa in particular.
The bank advocates for an increased value proposition around trade financing and likened it to the oil that greases supply chains and ensures that buyers are sellers fulfil their obligations.
However, the bank further opined that digitisation is a key enabler in democratising trade finance and the pandemic has accelerated the need for wider adoption of digital trade finance solutions by SMEs and corporates.
According to the Head, Trade Finance and Financial Institutions Trade Sales, Absa, Mr Oladapo Adeigbe, while technology-driven solutions are becoming more and more relevant, much of the trade finance sector is still very paper-driven with manual processes slowing down access to finance.
“Financial inclusion across Africa is yet to peak as most SMEs operate in the informal sector and are largely unbanked. Hence, their viability cannot be ascertained or assessed directly by financial institutions,” he stated.
“The hurdles that impede growth in the informal market have not been effectively tackled. For example, an average transaction that involves, for instance, customs clearance in the local ports requires tons of paper documents which slows down trade activities by forcing unnecessary supply chain bottlenecks,” he added.
The bank posited that to digitize trade finance, the entire ecosystem needs to support and participate in re-imagining how it unlocks value. This includes integrating activities of all role players; the regulators, the logistic companies, banks and other non-bank financial institutions (e.g., fintechs) Fintech innovators, which will eventually drive the Digital Trade Ecosystem.
It also said facilitating the secure exchange of data between the partners within the ecosystem will catalyse the sector.
However, salient issues such as interoperability of systems to facilitate coherent industry-wide solutions that can operate at scale, standardisation through digital innovation and agility in the regulatory space will impact positively on the digitisation projects being pursued across the continent with the propensity to open up the continent for wider cross-border trade.
The bank thereafter reiterates its commitment to accelerating trade finance solutions on the continent and to be an enabler of the AfCFTA agreement which is a critical step to building a healthy SME ecosystem for Africa.
Airtel’s Smartcash Payment Service Bank Begins Operations in Nigeria
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The payment service bank of Airtel Africa Plc, Smartcash, has commenced operations in Nigeria with the launch of the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary at an event held in Lagos on Thursday.
The leading provider of telecommunications and mobile money services, which trades its shares on the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited, launched the PSB arm at the Eko Hotels and Suites with several personalities in attendance.
Some of the bigwigs at the event were the Group CEO of Airtel Africa, Mr Segun Ogunsanya; the Chairman of Smartcash PSB Ltd, Mr Kingsley Umadia; the Lagos State Commissioner for Finance, Mr Rabiu Olowo; Chief Human Resources Officer of Airtel Africa, Ms Rogany Ramiah; the Special Advisor to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais; the Managing Director/CEO of Airtel Nigeria, Mr Surendran Chemmenkotil and the CEO of Smartcash PSB, Mr Muyiwa Ebitanmi, amongst others.
During the occasion, Airtel said the SmartCash PSB will provide secure and reliable financial services to customers across Nigeria after obtaining a license from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The firm, which has its headquartered in Lagos, will accept deposits from individuals and small businesses, carry out payment and remittance services within Nigeria, and issue debit and prepaid cards among other banking services.
SmartCash also enables person-to-person payment and transfers from across the world. The service is currently available at selected retail touchpoints, though it hopes to reach the 36.8 per cent unbanked adult population in Nigeria, as estimated by the Access to Financial Services in Nigeria report.
Plans are underway to expand the innovative, technology-driven services to all parts of the country, including the furthest and most remote, in an effort to accelerate financial inclusion for all Nigerians.
“The launch of SmartCash Payment Service Bank gives us fresh impetus at Airtel Africa to continue growing our footprint in the continent and delivering innovative solutions.
“In the bank, we have the best of both worlds – a hybrid of commercial bank and mobile financial services – offering last mile connection to the financially excluded. Through it, we want to contribute towards driving financial inclusion in Nigeria, to empower Nigerians while transforming the payment landscape in Nigeria and the rest of Africa,” Mr Adesanya stated.
On his part, Mr Ebitanmi said: “Through SmartCash Payment Services Bank, we aim to bridge the financial divide by providing rural and urban Nigerians access to innovative, highly secured and reliable banking services that are powered by technology and are relevant to their needs.”
New, Existing Customers of Stanbic IBTC to Enjoy Non-Collateralised Digital Loans
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
New and existing customers of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc have been assured of non-collateralised digital loans at any time of the day for their personal and business use
The chief executive of the lender, Mr Wole Adeniyi, explained that customers can access the affordable funding from N20,000 to N20 million from any location 24/7 without having to visit the branch and without paperwork as they are all digitised end-to-end.
He stated that the Stanbic IBTC Digital Loans come in various packages like Stanbic IBTC Unsecured Personal Loan, Top-Ups, Smart Loan, EZ Cash, and Device Financing.
It was explained that through the Stanbic IBTC Smart Loan solution, customers of the bank who also have mutual fund investments with Stanbic IBTC Asset Management can access up to N20 million instant loan to finance personal and business projects while their investments continue to earn them returns.
With the upgraded Stanbic IBTC Unsecured Personal Loan, salary earners can apply for a top-up of existing loans through their mobile devices from the comfort of their homes.
Similarly, with Stanbic IBTC EZ Cash, customers can access loans of up to N7.5 million via the bank’s USSD code *909*44#, the My Bank Module of the Stanbic IBTC Mobile App and the bank’s online banking portal. Customers can access loans quickly and conveniently with up to 48 months of repayment, depending on the loan type.
“The Stanbic IBTC Digital Loans, which are available via our Super App, our website, our *909# USSD service and Internet Banking, help alleviate some of the challenges individuals experience in meeting urgent financial needs.
“The loans are available to both new and existing customers of Stanbic IBTC and are geared towards helping customers meet their financial obligations at any time, no matter the urgency,” he stated.
“Customers, through the Stanbic IBTC Device Financing solution, can acquire new mobile devices from MTN partner stores and enjoy additional benefits such as 4GB data, 100 minutes talk time monthly and insurance against loss and screen damage,” Mr Adeniyi added.
He assured that the company would continue to design financial solutions that will meet the needs and enhance the financial growth of its esteemed customers.
“With economic empowerment as a core pillar of our corporate social investment initiatives, we remain committed to ensuring not only the growth of our customers but also their business activities,” Mr Adeniyi concluded.
It was gathered that the funding packages were designed by Stanbic IBTC as part of efforts to assist Nigerians with financing and also to address the challenges facing individuals in accessing finance.
Ecobank Named Best Trade Finance Bank in West Africa
By Adedapo Adesanya
Ecobank has been named the Best Trade Finance Bank in West Africa at the prestigious Global Trade Review’s Leaders in Trade awards held in London last month.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the lender announced that the award comes as recognition of its solutions for domestic and regional supply chain financing across key trade corridors as well as the bank’s arranger roles and participation in key soft commodities campaign financing across West Africa, notably covering cotton, cacao, soya beans and cashew nuts.
Ecobank’s offerings are supplemented by its state-of-the-art E-trade module under the Omni Plus platform and its products are positioned to support both Corporate and Investment Banking and SME customers in leveraging on the African Continental Free Trade Area’s opportunities and growing intra-African trade.
The judges also recognized Ecobank’s Trade Services solutions, which led the bank to command significant market share on Letters of Credit across the continent, leveraging on its Paris-based affiliate, Ecobank International, for confirmations, payments, and discounts.
Commenting on the recognition, Mr Souleymane Diagne, Group Head, Trade Finance, Ecobank, said: “As a Pan-African bank with the largest footprint across the continent, a major ambition of Ecobank is to be the preferred trade bank for SMEs and corporates across Africa. We are committed to enabling them to take advantage of the immense growth opportunities fostered by the game-changing African Continental Free Trade Area.
“This accolade from Global Trade Review provides welcome recognition of the impact we are making through our suite of trade products and solutions, which include Structured Trade and Commodity Finance, Trade Services and Supply Chain Finance.
“For our customers and partners in West Africa and throughout sub-Saharan Africa, we are resolved to continue delivering value through our trade and multi-currency payments solutions, leveraging on our African expertise and our network’s advantage.”
Ecobank works closely with clients and leverages partners within and outside Africa in reviewing key aspects of transaction dynamics, including settlement, financing, risk mitigation, credit enhancement, syndications and applicable regulations.
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