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COVID-19: Keystone Bank Unveils Platform to Assist SMEs

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Keystone Bank

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

An online platform to empower Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) with knowledge to manage and grow their businesses in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has been launched by Keystone Bank Limited.

The platform, Keystone Bank Online MSME Academy, will assist SMEs to cope with the operational stress of the current pandemic.

According to a statement from the bank, the initiative will also serve as an enabler for business owners to create an active online presence, digitalize their product, services and find new ways to connect with their customers.

Head of MSMEs at Keystone Bank, Ms Helen Nwelle, while speaking on the initiative, stated that, “It was no accident that Keystone Bank came up with such an initiative because the bank has always had a culture of helping SMEs grow through the provision of diverse business solutions.”

“This culture is clearly spelt out in our tagline as a bank – WE GROW TOGETHER – because at Keystone Bank we believe that SMEs are the engines of socio-economic transformation as they offer opportunities for jobs and wealth creation as well as income redistribution within our society.

“The current pandemic and its untold impacts has caused a lot of panic in the business scene all around the world and Nigeria is not left out.

“We are aware that many SMEs are worried about what the future holds for their businesses and how to manage their businesses in order to guarantee business continuity post-Covid-19 crisis.

“This was why we considered it important to proactively create an enabling environment for them to thrive even in the midst of the pandemic’’

“This development is no doubt an exemplary one from Keystone Bank and SMEs who desire to grow should consider the Bank as a partner.

“Other interesting trainings have been lined up for the coming weeks which will be delivered in partnership with seasoned business experts, and promises to be relevant during the pandemic and beyond,” she said.

Participants at the first edition of the initiative held on April 24, 2020 with the theme Managing our business cash flow in times of uncertainty, gave positive testimonials on how relevant and rewarding they found the training.

During the training, participants were taken through series of webinars, digital marketing trainings, digital media services and the provision of other value adding business tools to improve business branding, visibility, profitability and easy connectivity with customers.

Also, Keystone Bank, while commenting on the

Keystone Bank, an SME-centric bank, has not hidden the length it is willing to go in finding new ways to help SMEs to survive and thrive in the current harsh business environment.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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Banking

MFS Africa Expands into Nigeria With Baxi Acquisition

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Baxi

By Sodeinde Temidayo David

Nigerian fintech startup, Baxi, has been acquired by the Pan-African payments company, MFS Africa, giving way to its business expansion into Nigeria.

The acquisition of the Nigerian firm was sealed after MFS Africa signed an agreement with Capricorn Digital, Baxi’s parent business, for an undisclosed amount.

Founded in 2014, Baxi provides a cash-in or cash-out offering as well as value-added services like account opening, money transfer, bill payment and more, through its network of more than 90,000 agents.

These services are provided through the company’s retail network of agents and merchants in some of Nigeria’s most remote regions, through its BaxiBox POS, BaxiPay, Baxi MPoS Device, and BaxiRIMS products.

Recall that MFS Africa had earlier acquired East African payments management startup Beyonic, a Ugandan fintech startup and this time also, has plans to build Baxi into a key node on its digital payment network, allowing customers to make regional and global payments to and from Nigeria.

The deal, which is subject to approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), sees MFS Africa expand into Nigeria for the first time, having had a limited presence thus far due to the country’s small number of mobile wallets.

MFS Africa will also expand Baxi’s proposition for offline SMEs to select markets within MFS Africa’s footprint of 320 million mobile wallets across more than 35 African countries.

Speaking on the acquisition, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of  Capricorn, Mr Degbola Abudu, expressed that the future of the mobile payments landscape in Africa is a game of few, where consolidation is the way forward, and attempting to scale alone would require more capital expenditure and a longer time to execute.

“By teaming up with MFS Africa, and with the strong support of our local commercial banking partners, we can offer more value-added products and services, such as cross-border payments, to support Nigerian SMEs in their growth.”

“We believe that we’ve barely scratched the market’s potential. The deal brings many things that allow us to grow very quickly,” Mr Abudu noted.

MFS Africa intends to build Baxi into a key node on its digital payment network, allowing customers to make cross-border payments to and from Nigeria, similar to what it’s done with mobile money operators across Africa.

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Banking

Nigerian Digital Lender Brass Gets $1.7m to Support SMEs

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Brass

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

Provider of premium banking services for African Small/Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Brass, has raised the sum of $1.7 million in a funding round to strengthen its financial services rendered to local entrepreneurs, traders, and fast-growing businesses across the continent.

Investors who participated in the round included the co-founder of Flutterwave, Mr Olugbenga Agboola, co-founder of Paystack, acquired by Stripe, Mr Ezra Olubi, Hustle Fund, Acuity Ventures, Uncovered Fund, and Ventures Platform.

Brass’ past investors have included Olumide Soyombo of Voltron Capital, Leonard Stiegler, Fola Olatunji-David, Yemi Lawani, and two senior executives from major Nigerian banks.

With the fresh funding, the Nigerian digital bank is set to launch a number of new product categories, which will lead to expanding its credit market presence.

Even as the startup is looking at broadening its customer base, the new financial capacity will facilitate its plans to accelerate its expansion into other African countries such as South Africa and Kenya.

Explaining further on the significance of the fundraising, the Co-Founder and CEO of Brass, Mr Sola Akindolu, who is a former Head of Product at Kudi Bank, noted that the contributions made by these investors, together with their expertise, will not only play a vital role ahead of Brass’s expansion into South Africa and Kenya, but also in the future ambitions outside of the continent.

“The basic needs of Africa’s SMEs are just as significant and unique as those of the customers they serve each day and now more than ever, we need innovative and world-class financial services solutions that meet their expectations.

“These local businesses have supported our economies for decades, forming the backbone of Africa’s success to date, and now is the time to bet on them.”

“At Brass, we’ve made some great strides over the last year in tackling one of Africa’s most critically underserved customer bases but with an estimated $5.1tn credit gap globally, our work is far from over,” he added.

Expressing excitement over the investment, Mrs Elizabeth Yin, General Partner at Hustle Fund, one of the investors, said “We believe Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and fintech sector is witnessing an unprecedented shift, and Brass is at the forefront of that, supporting local businesses and professionals with banking technology to supercharge their growth. We are excited by their vision, and honoured to be joining them on their journey.”

Founded in July 2020, Brass offers full-stack, commercial-grade banking solutions to SMEs cutting across different business classes, allowing them to gain greater clarity and control over their money operations.

Brass online platform provides a wide range of business banking needs, including credit and payment services, payroll and expense management, Application Programming Interface (API) support, and other essential business services.

Having disbursed over $2 million in credit to business since inception, Brass’s recent solution which is ‘Brass Capital’ helps thousands of businesses scale up with its cash-flow financing design.

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Banking

Ecobank Staff, Families Raise Awareness for Mental Health

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Ecobank Day mental health

By Dipo Olowookere

On Saturday, October 23, staff and families of the pan African financial institution, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) across 33 countries of its operations on the continent will raise awareness for mental health.

This is a flagship annual event of the lender tagged Ecobank Day and in Nigeria, there would be impactful discussion sessions and mental health empowerment training programs to further raise awareness and help reduce stigma and discrimination in the country.

A statement issued by the Head of Marketing and Corporate Communication at Ecobank Nigeria, Mr Jide Sipe, disclosed that this year’s Ecobank Day is themed Mental Health – Time to Talk and Act! and it marks the start of the final year of the three-year campaign to raise awareness and help prevent Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Africa.

He further said a hybrid webinar will be hosted to “discuss mental disorders, raise awareness about them, and the care and support options available.”

“We will be encouraging people to talk about their feelings and suggest lifestyle behaviour changes which can also make a difference – like exercising regularly.

“There is often a lot of stigma around mental health. Those affected can face isolation, exclusion from work and family life, increased stress levels, negative addictive behaviours and substance abuse. No one should be made to feel ashamed because of a mental health issue. It can happen to anyone at any time,” he added.

It was gathered that some personalities invited for the programme include Dr Olusola Olowookere, Consultant Psychiatrist/Forensic Medical Examiner; Titilayo Medunoye, founder/CEO, Milky Express; Oluwakemi Akintoyese, Clinical Psychologist; Hadiza Blell-Olo, a humanitarian and artiste known as Di’Ja; Dr Tomilola Oyekunle, a registered psychologist and host of others.

Since the inaugural Ecobank Day in 2013, employees of the bank have supported a variety of causes and shown compassion for the welfare of various local communities.

Previous initiatives have focused on orphanages, cancer screening, education, maternal healthcare, safe water supply and malaria prevention.

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