By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Some entrepreneurs in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria have been equipped with the basic skills they could use to explore the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The small business owners were trained recently by Keystone Bank Limited at a 3-day MSME Masterclass Webinar series themed Taking Your SME Business Across Borders held from June 15 to 17, 2021.
The programme was part of Keystone Bank’s unflinching efforts to continue to support the sector of the economy and empower start-ups with the requisite knowledge about the AfCFTA window and the opportunities it presents to their businesses.
With over 600 participants and 200 registered MSMEs in attendance, the numerous testimonials from participants at the highly engaging, interactive and exciting webinar sessions proved how timely the training was and the need it addressed.
The sessions touched on practical issues relating to international trade with a focus on export transactions. The faculty consisted of subject matter experts with vast knowledge on the topic.
The AfCFTA is a free trade area, outlined in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations. AfCFTA is the largest in the world in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization. The agreement requires members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent.
Dr Emeka Osuji, an associate professor of economics at the Pan-Atlantic University, who also attended the Advanced Management Programmes at Harvard Business School and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A, cracked the mystery around the AfCFTA act and the opportunities for MSMEs to trade freely within Africa.
Other speakers at the masterclass sessions were Somtochi Okwuadigbo, the head of Trade Services at Keystone Bank, and Glory Enyinnaya, an internationally certified management consultant.
While Okwuadigbo shared intricate details on international trade payment methods and the available forex windows which can be explored by SMEs for international trade transactions, Enyinnaya delved deeper into the subject of how SMEs can launch an internationally accepted brand for their small business, and ways to ensure a smooth entry into international markets.
According to speakers, “Small businesses in Nigeria contribute about 50% to Nigeria’s GDP, however, most of them are still unacquainted with the AfCFTA agreement and its benefits.
“The wide opportunities it promises through the newly formed market of 55 nations, 1.2 billion people, and an aggregate GDP of up to $6.7 trillion highlights how SMEs can expand and grow their businesses outside the shores of Nigeria.
“Given the current economic realities in the country, there is a rising need for small businesses to seek avenues to expand into new markets by exploring export options,” they divulged.
Commenting on the programme, the divisional head, Retail, Keystone Bank, Mr Anayo Nwosu, reiterated that the bank is committed to ensuring that MSMEs in Nigeria are empowered and equipped with the requisite knowledge to expand their businesses and even delve into new markets in other African economies.
According to him, “Keystone Bank is an SME-centric bank focused on delivering tailored MSME value offerings and that has continually spurred our involvement in programmes like this.
“MSMEs are the bedrock of any economy. But it’s sad that the knowledge gap remains one of the major challenges facing this sector and limiting them from taking advantage of available opportunities such as the AfCFTA window.
“It is in the wake of this rising need, that the Bank hosted the 3-day masterclass webinar.
“Beyond the training, we also provide great support for MSMEs businesses and handhold them to nurture and grow the entrepreneurial ventures”, Nwosu noted.
The Keystone Bank MSME Online Academy was launched in 2020 as part of the bank’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives tailored to equip MSMEs with the necessary tools and resources required to successfully manage, grow and make their businesses attractive to investors and for profitability.
The lender is one of the financial institutions that have long-running support for the growth and development of small businesses in Nigeria because of the recognition of the critical roles of MSMEs as vital agents of economic development and transformation.
Keystone Bank, a technology and service-driven commercial bank offering convenient and reliable solutions to its customers has a full-fledged SME banking division which over the years, has developed various engagement programmes focused on empowering entrepreneurs.
MFS Africa Expands into Nigeria With Baxi Acquisition
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.
Nigerian Digital Lender Brass Gets $1.7m to Support SMEs
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.
Ecobank Staff, Families Raise Awareness for 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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