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Fidelity held SME Funding Connect Lagos, targets 2 more states before year end

Fidelity held SME Funding Connect Lagos, targets 2 more states before year end

COMFORT EKELEME

As part of efforts to bridge funding gap in the Small and Medium Scale (SME) sector, Fidelity Bank Plc, Wednesday held it’s SME Funding Connect Lagos.

The regional conference which brought together over 3000 operators in the sector is aimed at deepening funding, which remained the biggest problem facing SMEs in Nigeria.

This is coming on the heels of the bank’s resolve to recommence its erstwhile regional SME conference, leading to the birth of the Fidelity SME Funding Connect series.

Speaking at the conference, Managing Director of the Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo noted that Fidelity Bank does not in any way despise little beginnings, adding that the essence of the conference it to bring fund providers together with those who need the funding.

He said, “At Fidelity, we are inclusive and that is why we are focused on SMEs generally, and that is why we are focused on SMEs generally because SMEs needs that inclusiveness. One thing that we did was to work with PWC, one of the top four consulting firms.

“I inherited this culture of supporting SMEs when I joined the bank in 2012. When the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), started the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), Fidelity Bank was one of the banks to access it. So far, we have been able to disburse over N2.23billion of that fund. We have as at today disbursed about N6 billion of the Bank of Industry’s (BoI) SME fund and N9.6 billion of the Development Bank fund. All of these are at single interest rate.

“When people call us the SME funding bank, we respond with joy. As an institution, we do not despise small beginnings.

“Apart From Lagos, the regional SME conference will also be held in other locations such as Port Harcourt and kano in the course of this year and at a designated time in 2020. We hope to use this platform provided by the event to connect existing businesses with local and international fund providers, thus drawing widespread attention to the plight of MSMEs in Nigeria,” he said.

In his keynote address, Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, was of the view that the future of Nigeria and the youth depends on effective growth and development of MSMEs, adding that MSMEs played a big role in the vitalization and development of national economy.

He said, “It is important to understand the role of SMEs. My understanding is that we have about 1,500 or thereabout SMEs that can connect or interact with investors. A lot of people rely on SMEs directly or indirectly because entrepreneurs no matter how small or big, will play roles to contribute to labour, poverty alleviating and revenue generation.

“So, SMEs around the world play big roles in the vitalization and development of national economy. By creating jobs, they promote stability and develop regional economies. We know that many good ideas have died because they lack funding. So, access to capital or more importantly, lack of access to capital is the biggest threat to entrepreneurs around the world,” he said.

According to him, Lagos State was setting aside N25 billion for Small and Medium businesses so that at least it would encourage them to do their businesses.

“The future of our country, the future of our young people depends on us growing SMEs. It is extremely important,” he maintained.

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