AUDA-NEPAD Partners Ecobank Group To Launch MSME Academy

With the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) subsector being the most impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and given its strategic importance to the economy and the need to revamp it, Ecobank Nigeria has pledged support for the subsector.

Speaking during the virtual launch of the first Pan-African MSME Academy in Lagos on Thursday, Patrick Akinwuntan, Managing Director of the bank maintained that MSMEs are the drivers of post COVID-19 economic recovery of Nigeria.

He spoke of the need for the sub sector to take advantage of technology, financial services, and support from the government to drive the survival and growth of their businesses.

Akinwuntan explained that the MSME Academy, an initiative of the African Union Development Agency – AUDA-NEPAD, in partnership with the Ecobank Group, provides easy access to practical training and resources on financing opportunities in various countries.

Continuing, he said, “as an MSME friendly bank, we have been helping them with capacity building; providing simple and easy access to loans  in various sectors including agriculture, creative industry, healthcare and commerce amongst others; access to markets via our e-commerce solutions and simple but robust digital platforms for collections and payments.

“We have also provided a channel to enable MSMEs open various accounts via self-service on our webpage. I encourage all MSMEs in the country to avail themselves of this opportunity to grow their business. ”

Also speaking, Amine Idriss Adoum, Director, Programme Delivery & Coordination, AUDA-NEPAD explained that the Academy aims to build the capacities of MSMEs across Africa through a combination of relevant content library, a network of institutions specialized in MSME support such as incubators and accelerators, and a community of peers, mentors, and advisors.

The key objectives of the academy, he stressed, include the need to radically expand access to finance by aggregating smaller financial institutions such as micro-credit institutions and credit unions that have access to micro-enterprises, standardising their processes, and building trust in their capabilities.

“The MSME Digital Platform is a one-stop-shop for all MSMEs across Africa to access all these three programmes which jointly address MSMEs’ challenges with access to capacity building, markets, and capital,” he stressed further.

In a presentation on “How MSMEs can access funding – opportunities from financial Institutions/banking sector,” Managing Director, Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), Tony Okpanachi, said MSMEs must have accurate financial statement, collaterals, good credit history, viable business model and sound corporate governance, to be bankable.

He listed funding sources for MSMEs to include equity, grants and credit, emphasizing that, “the AUDA- NEPAD and Ecobank partnership must be lauded as the entrepreneurial potential and critical role of MSMEs in economic growth and development in Nigeria is clear. We will continue to collaborate with other financial institutions to assist them with all necessary support to play their role to the economy.”

Also speaking, Director of Development Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Yusuf Philip Yila, said the apex bank had put in place several funding support initiatives to enhance the survival of the sub-sector during an beyond the pandemic.

For this important sub sector to survive the current COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, the CBN and the Bankers Committee have put in place various stimulus packages to support MSMEs in the country.

He noted that the CBN’s N50bn Target Credit Facility (TCF) has been raised to N100bn with the interest rate slashed to 5% from 9% to keep them in business, while encouraging players in the subsector to take advantage of the various CBN funding windows to meet the demands of their businesses, as government is striving to revamp the economy as soon as possible through their efforts.

The academy, the bank said in a statement, provides easy access to practical training and resources on financing opportunities in various countries in Africa, how to build a digital presence for businesses and how to adapt business operations in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also offers free access to market intelligence, mentors with diverse experience, and assisting with access to funding opportunities.