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SunTrust walks lending talk as 6 SMEs get 46m each

SunTrust Bank is walking its talk of increasing lending towards Nigeria’s budding entrepreneurship projects with the disbursement of N46 million each in cash and kind to six finalists of the ‘Entrepreneurship World Cup Award’.

The bank which hit the ground running in 2016 has support to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as one of the strategies to achieve its retail banking focus and simultaneously comply with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) directive of ensuring 65 percent of banks’ deposit is channelled to lending.

In partnership with GEN Nigeria, Misk, Saudi Arabia, and the Enterprise Development Centre, six projects of outstanding applicants were sieved from a stream of 11,500 applicants in the global competition.

The finalists will be enabled with requisite financing, capacity development and be guided through a market access path that secures them the off-taking network needed to sustain their product penetration in the market.

Umar Dan’Umma, Sun Trust executive director, bank assurance, said the bank’s realisation that poor access to funding for expansion constitutes constraints for SMEs has shaped the nature of intervention built for this category of business.

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Speaking during the presentation of prizes at its Victoria Island office in Lagos, Dan’Umma noted that issues of collateral demands such as Certificate of Occupancy have been relaxed.

“The business is collateral. So from the beginning, we know where we are going. We will help them with ideas on how to invest the money and also give them ideas on how to expand,” the executive director said. “Sun trust bank from conception has entrepreneurship at heart and we are putting resources to raise entrepreneurs to international level, showcasing what our country can do.”

According to Raliat Oyetunde, head of SME banking, the competition unveiled the creativity hidden in many local ideas and equally demonstrates the resilience and unbending will of Nigerians to break even despite the thorns in the business environment.

She’s convinced that the overall winning idea by Nkechi Idinmachi will win Nigeria the world entrepreneurship world cup at the final stage of the competition in Saudi Arabia.

In July 2019, Idinmachi started Machi Fruits after facing difficulty in accessing cost-effective allergy-free food products that are protein-rich and nutrient-dense for her little son. Finding that the available options were expensive options from abroad, she researched local alternatives and found Bambara nuts to be more nutritious than cow milk and could be processed into plant milk and beans Jollof among other things.

“I feel validated. We are growing into Nigeria’s allergy-free food company, providing safe nutritious and delicious foods for children and adults living with an allergy or dietary restrictions,” elated Idinmachi said receiving her award.

For Detoun Abbi-Olaniyan, group head, Agribusiness Banking, finance alone is not the problem of SMEs like Machi Fruits, it also has to do with the environmental, infrastructure and market access support to ensure that they translate these support into real profit.

“What we do is to look at your product, the market access opportunity and provide you an inroad into that market and do a backward integration from the market into your bank account. Half the time, we found out they don’t need as much as they think,” Abbi-Olaniyan said.

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