By Emmanuel Uffot
As a way of deepening its array of SME products in line with its Corporate Social Responsibility activities that has endured it to the people, Fidelity Bank last week unveiled a platform that will connect Founders and Funders of small businesses.
The programme tagged ‘Entrepreneurship meet capital’ will be held in some locations across the country.
The Bank with penchant for SME support is partnering working with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for the selection processes to ensure transparency.
At the unveiling ceremony in Lagos, Mr Nnamdi Okonkwo, Group Managing Director, Fidelity Bank, said that the bank mooted the initiative to deepen funding, which remained the biggest challenge faced by small businesses.
Okonkwo who was represented by the Executive Director, Lagos & South West, Mrs Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, said the initiative was aimed at providing funding for SMES through the bank’s funding partners, venture capital and Angel investor, among others.
“Fidelity Bank is SME-friendly and we deemed it necessary to do something that directly affects our base as a bank.
“We have a lot of SME customers who we have worked with and some that we are still working with, and a lot of us know that the SMEs are the engine of any economy that is growing,” Okonkwo said.
He said there were over 40 million registered SMEs in Nigeria, noting that SMEs contributed 80 per cent of the workforce and could not be ignored.
Also speaking, the Divisional Head, Managed SMEs, Mr Osaigbovo Omorogbe, said events for the funding of the SMEs would be carried out in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and one other location to be determined by the bank.
Omorogbe said the Lagos event titled ‘Entreprenurship Meets Capital’ or ‘Founders meet Funders’ would take place on August 7. 2019
He said the funding partners would provide equity capital for SMEs to strengthen growth and development.
“We are not launching a fund, we are not looking to sell any fund to SMES on this paltform. We are creating a platform for everybody in SMEs’ ecosystem to participate,” Omorogbe stated.
He said the programme had six focus sectors: manufacturing, technology, entertainment, lifestyles, agriculture value chain among others.
Explaining that the funds would be anchored by PriceWaters Coopers , PwC, stressing that Fidelity Bank was not a funding platform but creating a platform for every SME to meet funds providers.
The Fidelity Bank SMEs Funding Connect has 3,000 participants, 60 fund providers, 60 founders, N12 million in grant, six breakout sessions and three networking cocktails.
Already the bank is reported to have disbursed N2.3 billion under the Central Bank of Nigeria N220bn SME fund programme.
In his remark at the event, the Chief Economist and Partner, PwC (Nigeria) Mr Andrew Nevin, noted that the programme could develop more SMEs, which would in turn contribute to the development of the economy.
“For the past two years, the Nigerian economy has suffered and it has been difficult for banks to lend to the private sector but Fidelity Bank has risen up to the occassion and should be given credit for what they have done in the SME sector, which is the engine room of every economy.
“From the PwC perspective, we are proud to be part of the initiative and we would also want every state involved to be successful, and not only Lagos, so that they can contribute to the growth of Nigeria,” Nevin said.
Under the partnership arrangement, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is the strategic partner for the programme.The organization will be in charge of the selection process that will produce the finalists that will pitch to judges. Winners will receive N4 million grants from Fidelity Bank.
The grant competition will focus on five sectors, namely, manufacturing, information technology, healthcare, agriculture and the creative industry. Besides the grant competition, the event will also feature exhibitions by SMEs and development financial institutions such as the Bank of Industry and the Development Bank of Nigeria, as well as private equity firms, venture capitalists and angel investors. It will also feature break-out sessions for capacity building, panel sessions and a networking cocktail, panel sessions, breakout sessions and networking.
Also in attendance at the unveiling ceremony was Head, Brand and Communication of the bank, Charles Aigbe.
Since the coming on Board of Nnamdi Okonkwo as Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank, the bank has distinguished itself in the area of SME through products and empowerment which has singled it out in that area in the industry.
In 2017, Fidelity Bank won the “SME Friendly Bank of the Year” at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry Awards. This was in recognition of its support for the micro, small and medium enterprises.
In 2018, it held an SME fair similar whereby an estimate of N500 million financing was accessed by the SMEs that participated.
Before the latest initiative, the bank had last April unveiled the Fidelity Bank SME Forum tagged Whogohost Partnership
The Fidelity SME Forum is a weekly radio programme organized by Fidelity Bank Plc to educate, inform, advise and inspire budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria with knowledge and expertise that will enable them build sustainable and successful businesses. The interactive radio programme features subject matter experts and model entrepreneurs as guests on a weekly basis to share their insight and unique success stories.
Other notable SME products of the bank include Fidelity Small Business Account which is a low cost current account products, Commercial Support Short Term Loan and loans and finance solutions to SMES.
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