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Looking within: Empowering Nigeria’s Next Generation of entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are driving Nigeria’s next wave of economic growth, and they are looking to banks to help them do it.

Strategic partnerships are how Nigeria’s entrepreneurs are driving the country’s next growth wave

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Championing economic growth with support for entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs are crucial to economic growth, in any country. The best entrepreneurs drive innovation, create high-quality jobs, spread wealth and widen prosperity, contributing to vibrant markets that boost inclusion and sustainability.

Nigeria’s entrepreneurial visionariespossess an untapped wealth of ideas with the potential to transform our economy. Manyare held back by a lack of access to the capital requiredto translate these ideas into successful businesses. This gap in access to finance has becomeamajor hindrance to therapid development of entrepreneurship in the countryover the years.

A recent city-level study on six entrepreneurship ecosystems by Endeavor Insight, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that in Bangalore, Dhaka, Lagos, Nairobi, Kampala, and Dar es Salaam, a large proportion of companies are not only SMEs but low productivity microbusinesses, making no significant impact on local job creation, economic growth or other measures of productivity. Of 800 companies in Lagos (9,500 jobs between them), almost half had fewer than three employees and had never raised capital. The top 10 percent created more than two-thirds of employment and only 2 percent reached a scale of 100 staff.

The average Nigerian entrepreneur has experienced the challenges of entrepreneurship in a developing economy. However, they are motivated by the unexplored possibilities within the space and the opportunities that now exist, thanks to government and private initiatives that are removing the traditional barriers to accessloans and other financial opportunities. Forward-thinking Banks like Access Bank have become firm favourites in this regard.

With the knowledge that Small and Medium Scale Enterprises are important engines that drive economic growth, employment and social cohesion in any country, Access Bank remains committed to its goal of financing and facilitating sustainable growth for entrepreneurs in Nigeriathrough innovation and best class product ideas, which are uniquely tailored to meet the requirements of specific businesses.

Empowering entrepreneurs through foresight and innovation

Lack of jobs and a rise in poverty have turned many away from traditional paid employment and encouraged many to take a stab at private entrepreneurship. Nigeria has never seen so many young people take charge of their destinies, yet, a large number of them possess little to no experience of the many complex decisions that determine the growth trajectory of their businesses. This is where institutions like Access Bank are stepping up, partnering these innovators, andhelping them secure the required funds and mentorship to start, grow and sustain their businesses.

Here are some of the avenues through which Access Bank is empowering entrepreneurs:

W Initiative

Discussions on Access Bank’s contributions to the growth of small and medium scale businesses in Nigeria is incomplete without mentioning the W Initiative, a networking and empowermen platform tailored specifically for women.Since its creation in 2014, the initiative hasremained the home of everything Access Bank has to offer women. It has also helped to solidify the bank’s position as the Bank of choice for women in the markets and communities it serves. In furtherance of its commitment to women’s economic empowerment, Access Bank has deployed several programs through the W initiative which include;

Womenpreneur Pitch-A-Ton

Looking to provide business and financial support to femaleentrepreneurs in Nigeria, Access Bank recently empowered 50 women through its Womenpreneur Pitch-A-Ton, a capacity-building initiative that provided financial grants as well as a mini-MBA in conjunction with the International Finance Corporation (IFC).The three winners who emergedfrom thePitch-A-Tonwere rewarded withN9 million to upscale their businesses.

W Power Loan

The ‘W Power Loan’, is exclusively available to businesses that are managed by women or have at least 50% female ownership. Designed to close the financing gap for female-owned businesses, theW Power Loan provideswomen access to credit facilities at an interest rate lower than the regular market price, and is perfect for women operating in Fashion, Catering/Eateries, Manufacturing, Beauty & Wellness, Hospitality & Tourism, Education, I.T and HealthCare sectors.

Since its launch in July 2018, a total of 2116 loans valued at 14 billionnaira have been disbursed to bridge expansion of operations, acquisition of fixed/capital assets and working capital requirement of female-owned businesses.Access Bank’s commitment to empowering these businesses has contributed significantly to the development of many SMEs in Nigeria with a direct impact on the socio-economic growth of the country.Also worthy of noteis the fact that the Bank has recorded zero percent (0%) non-performing loans to date, which serves as a testament to the financial growth and stability of the beneficiaries (women).

Womenpreneur business workshop

Through the Enterprise Development Center (EDC) certified program, ‘Womenpreneur Business Workshop,’ Access Bank has bridged business and managerial skill gaps amongst thousands of female entrepreneurs. More than 700 families benefited from the educational advisory sessions/fairs, facilitated by world-renowned experts, including Peggy Hanefors of Ascent Education.

Cash Flow – Collateral-free loans for SMEs

One of the key challenges many SMEs face in accessing loans are collateral requirements. In response to this, Access Bank is introducingCash Flow, a specific lending assessment method that enables the Bank offer loans to customers who ordinarily would have been excluded because of their financial standing.The Bank determines each business’s loan requirements, allowing them to access up to N5 million without collateral.

In 2019, Access Bank’s finance support targeted 30,000 Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). In the preceding year, the Bank advanced N37billion new loans to MSME new customers, making them the highest lender to operators in that segment of the economy.

According to Access Bank’s Head of Emerging Business, Ayo Olojede, “We don’t pay lip service to our love for MSMEs. To the extent of how much we want to support them, we have also invested significantly in our understanding of the risk factors as well as the variables in that segment.”

The collateral-free loans are available to businesses in all sectors of the economy.

Beyond banking

To meet the needs of growing businesses, Access Bank partnered with several law firms across the country to register unregistered SMEs at a discount summing up to 70percent of the market rateand afford them the opportunity of owning corporate bank accounts for their businesses.

Seeking tooffer even more value to its customers’ businesses, the Bank also developed several initiatives – trainings, seminars, and workshops with industry specialists– to help entrepreneurs build capacity for business.Furthermore,Access Bankprovides business management and technological support, such as website design and more to MSMEs at highly discounted rates.

 

‘More Access to market’ initiative

To increase the reach and access of entrepreneurs to their target market, Access Bank has also partnered with EbonyLife TV to supportentrepreneurs by way of advertisement. As a result of this initiative, businesses get to enjoy:

·      Exposure to potential customers throughEbonyLife TV on DSTV and StarTimes

·      Sponsored production of 15-second video spots; and

·      Broadcast of the video 3 times a week for the duration of the selected plan (such as quarterly, bi-annually, and annually).

 

With access to SME finance becoming a key priority in developing countries like Nigeria, and the non-availability of debt finance to ensure smooth operations and expansion, Access Bank has been able to prevent the failure of several indigenous businesses, while also supporting their expansion.

The Bank’s efforttowards empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs have brought about social inclusion, socio-economic impact and all-round advancement for business owners in the country, with over 2200 entrepreneurs benefitting actively from the Bank’s entrepreneurship schemes.

It has become increasingly evident that innovative empowerment initiatives will play a major role in positive economic transformation and enablement of the next generation of entrepreneurs in Nigeria. However, there are no doubts that Access Bank has sufficiently restored hope to indigenous business owners, and proven that its value is indeed beyond banking.

 

Ifeoma Okeke

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