For decades, support to start-ups and small businesses (grouped under the acronym MSMEs) in Nigeria has been less than required, owing to a lack of proper bankable business structure, deficient collateral requirement, and low margins needed to attract funding from commercial banks. Wema Bank, however, seems intent on shaping a new reality for small businesses in Nigeria.
Wema Bank, the innovative lender behind Africa’s first fully digital bank ALAT, has over the years been passionate about supporting micro, small and medium sized businesses in Nigeria. But over the last six months, it has reviewed the way it backs MSMEs by delivering sustainable and value-adding support that impacts positively on business growth and profitability.
One of these offerings, the My Business Account Suite, was recently reviewed to improve cost effectiveness and deliver maximum convenience. It is a current account product with a concessionary transaction fee and ‘Zero Account Maintenance Fee’ for Startups and medium-sized businesses. Businesses can also earn interest on funds domiciled in this current account.
The Bank is also bringing businesses together for capacity building programmes, designed to enhance structuring and spur growth. In July, the Bank sponsored several small and medium scale businesses to a session on building sustainable wealth, organized by PwC in Lagos. The training featured experts from key growth sectors as well as business managers and successful entrepreneurs. Discussions and insights were shared, and these experts touched on critical aspects of business building including bookkeeping and accounting to tax efficiency, raising funds for business and much more.
Though these trainings and product offerings help, funding remains critical to growth, particularly for MSMEs. Access to cheap funding continues to limit the ability of small businesses in Nigeria to scale adequately. This narrative can be changed with the new partnerships Wema Bank has entered.
The Bank recently entered into partnerships with Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) to improve access to cheaper funds for small businesses. DBN is a licensed wholesale Development Financial Institution(DFI) set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria in collaboration with other international development partners to alleviate the financing constraints of the Micro Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria.
DBN will fund MSMEs through Participating Financial Institutions(PFIs). Wema is one of those selected. Through this partnership, MSMEs and Commercial businesses of all business segments can be availed up to N153million and N610million respectively. As a bank that prioritizes support for smaller businesses, Wema Bank was the first commercial bank to disburse this loan. The DBN offering is available to both new and existing business customers. New customers can visit any Wema nearest branch for enquiries and loan processing.
A similar arrangement exists with the Bank of Industry BOI to further enhance funding to micro-businesses in the service sector, manufacturing, Agric value chain and to Traders of locally made goods at an affordable rate. Wema Bank also recently secured $35 million from the African Development Bank and ICD to fund small businesses across the country.
While access to cheap funds is great, access to new markets offers even more promise. Expanding into new markets via traditional means requires substantial capital outlay, which most smaller businesses lack. To ensure MSMEs can scale efficiently, Wema Bank has unveiled a simple, self-onboarding payment gateway platform for merchants to receive payments on their website seamlessly. This ensures small businesses can market their products and services to a wider community of potential customers, digitally, without having to incur additional cost on setting up new offices and managing operations from several locations.
The Nigerian economy is driven, significantly, by a vast number of SMEs and as a financial institution committed to wealth creation, the Bank seems keen on changing the prospects of these businesses and appears unrelenting its pursuit to build the smaller businesses of today into reputable multinationals of tomorrow.
Ecobank Clinches ‘Excellence in Fintech-Banking Relationships’ Award
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Another feather has been added to the well-decorated cap of Ecobank Group as it recently clinched the Excellence in Fintech-Banking Relationships award at the Africa Fintech Summit.
The lender received this accolade in Washington DC, United States of America (USA) in recognition of its activities to support and facilitate fintech growth on the African continent.
The Group Executive, Operations & Technology, Ecobank, Mr Tomisin Fashina, who received the award on behalf of the bank, attributed the recognition to the pan-African bank’s unparalleled influence in Africa and its unwavering support and numerous initiatives aimed at fostering relationships with fintechs to jointly win in the marketing place, stressing that the bank has put structures and initiatives in place to collaborate and cooperate with fintechs to facilitate the bank’s vision of financial integration of Africa.
“As a bank, one of our strategic objectives is to bank 100 million Africans, across Africa. We won’t go out there with account opening documents to do this. We believe we can achieve that by collaborating and cooperating across the board, and the fintechs come into that space.
“We came out with Ecobank as a service, this is at the heart of why we published our sandbox to encourage fintechs, big techs and any player that wants to do business in Africa to ride on our platforms and help facilitate our vision of a financially integrated Africa. We see ourselves as a key player in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and we believe we are the ultimate bank to facilitate trade across Africa,” he said.
The Africa Fintech Summit is a global knowledge-sharing platform that connects innovators, regulators and entrepreneurs, facilitating conversations and partnerships that help them explore financial technology solutions to improve African individuals, economies and societies.
It is held twice a year in Washington DC and a selected African country and sees stakeholders from around the world assemble to chart a progressive course for fintech in Africa by mobilizing investments, hashing out enabling policies, and sharing growth strategies.
The programme, which was the seventh edition, also recognized TeamApt for Excellence in Digital Banking, PiggyVest- Excellence in Savings and InvestTech, Flutterwave-Excellence in Fintech Infrastructure, while Excellence in Blockchain Technology went to Appzone Group. Others are Excellence in Fintech investment – Future Africa, Excellence in Cryptocurrency – Paxful, Excellence in Ecosystem Research – Briter Bridges, Excellence in Cross-border Solutions – PAPSS, Excellence in Payments – Paystack, Excellence in InsurTech – Turaco, Excellence in Fintech and Lending – Payhippo, Excellence in Embedded Fintech – Cellulant and Excellence in TradeTech – AFEX.
Ecobank has many initiatives to support the growth of fintechs on the continent. The Ecobank Fintech Challenge launched in 2017 identifies and partners with fintechs that are ready to scale, providing them with mentoring, networking, support, and opportunities to access Ecobank’s 33 African markets, as well as opportunities to integrate with existing Ecobank digital offerings. This has recorded significant results and success stories since its inception.
Court Orders CBN, NDIC to Pay 1,116 Bank Workers N5.7bn
By Adedapo Adesanya
The National Industrial Court has ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) to pay over N5.7 billion as terminal benefits to over 1,116 bank workers affected by the re-capitalisation exercise of 2006.
The money is to be paid within three months from the date of judgment as failure to adhere to this will attract 10 per cent interest until liquidated.
Justice Paul Bassi, at the court sitting in Lagos on Monday, made the order while delivering judgment in the case filed by the 1,116 claimants who had approached the court since 2018.
The court also ordered the CBN and the NDIC to pay another N10 million as general damages to the claimants.
The ruling settles the battle that the parties have fought since the consolidation exercise of 2006 which saw banks recapitalised from N2 billion to N25 billion.
Some banks did not meet the recapitalisation requirements and this led to their banking licenses being revoked by the central bank which appointed the NDIC as the liquidator.
The bank workers then sued the two organisations demanding the payment of their terminal benefits.
The two defendants raised several objections, insisting among other things they were not the employers of the workers and the suit disclosed no cause of action against them.
In his judgment, Justice Bassi dismissed the preliminary objections of the defendants and held while they may have acted for the general good by raising the capital base of banks in the country, it should not be done at the expense of the former employees.
By revoking the banking licenses of the non-consolidated banks, the defendants interfered with the employment contracts of the bank workers, a contract which would ordinarily have run its natural course with the claimants paying their benefits at the end.
The court then ordered the CBN and the NDIC to pay the workers within three months from the date of judgment failing which it will attract 10 per cent interest until liquidated.
Sterling Bank Offers Optometrists Loans at Competitive Interest Rates
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed to automate operations, enhance capacity and provide loans at competitive interest rates for optometrists has been signed by Sterling Bank Plc and the Nigerian Optometrist Association (NOA).
Under the deal, members of the association will be able to borrow from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervention for the health sector at 5 per cent as well as obtain template credit from the bank within 48 hours at a competitive interest rate of 20 per cent, which is below the prevailing rate in the banking industry.
Business Post gathered that Sterling Bank has earmarked N10 billion for the entire health care sector in the country and would accommodate any level of funding optometrists may require.
The Group Head of Health Finance at Sterling Bank, Mrs Ibironke Akinmade, while speaking at the signing ceremony in Lagos, explained that the initiative is part of the lender’s vision to be the leading bank for businesses in the health sector.
The Head of Health Finance said the rationale behind the partnership with NOA is to further position Sterling Bank as the bank of choice for businesses in the health sector, adding that this means more business collaboration and partnership with stakeholders in the health space.
“We have adopted a community approach in engagement with stakeholders in this sector. This will not only give us leverage to develop tailor-made propositions for the community, but it also creates an inroad for engagement of their members through a cluster approach,” she said.
Mrs Akinmade said the bank recently engaged the NOA in a bid to scale on its offerings to the health sector, which includes access to finance (template credit), and access to digitalisation (payment platforms and Electronic Medical Records) as well as advisory services, among others.
Also speaking, Dr Obinna Awiaka, President of NOA, said the association wants a bank that would help its members to grow and discovered that Sterling is the only bank that has a passion for the healthcare sector.
He said the relationship between members of his association and the bank will build the economy because once the healthcare industry is built the economy will also be built.
Dr Awiaka said the NOA is satisfied with the relationship with Sterling Bank because in no distant time the bank, in conjunction with healthcare professionals, will help to develop the sector, which will translate to a better future for the country.
He said the development will make Nigerian professionals that are leaving the country in droves return to the country to practice and this will reduce medical tourism among the country’s leaders, thanking Sterling Bank for coming on board and taking the bull by the horn to support the healthcare industry.
The NOA was established in 1968 and is the prime umbrella association representing over 5,000 doctors of optometry across the 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, as well as all other optometric interest groups in Nigeria.
Since 2018, Sterling Bank has concentrated investment in five sectors of the economy under its HEART strategy in a bid to make an impact on the country’s economic development. The five sectors in HEART’s strategy include health, education, agriculture, renewable energy and transportation.
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