In what appears like good news to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) across Africa, Access Bank said, with the support of development finance institutions (DFIs) in Africa, it is committed to provide a $1 billion lifeline to boost their businesses for the good of the continent.
Seyi Kumapayi, Executive in charge of the Africa subsidiaries, Access Bank Group, disclosed this at a two-day African MSMEs Immersion Roundtable with the theme; Enhancing the Capabilities of MSMEs Across Africa organised by the bank in Lagos for MSMEs in the country and across Africa, DFIs and managing directors of the bank’s subsidiaries in the continent.
He said what the bank is trying to do with the programme is to really look its vision, which essentially is to be the world’s most respected African bank and use it to create a lasting impact by supporting women, entrepreneurs, youths and enterprises.
He said: “For us to be able to do that, we are looking at the impact not just in Nigeria or Africa, we are looking at global impact. In Africa, we have about 1.4 billion people, which is 17 per cent of the world’s population today. However, from a GDP standpoint, you only have 2.5 per cent of GDP, it means that we are not producing enough. It then means where do we go to. We are asking ourselves, you know what ,the SME space is underdeveloped and what we should do is to ensure that as a bank we create the necessary impact in that field.
“And we have said to ourselves, what do these people lack? They lack basically two things that are connected. One is access to finance and the second is also affordability and the third is the capacity to manage businesses themselves.
“For us over the next five years, we would make an impact in about 10 million SMEs across Africa. There are about 90 million SMEs across Africa. The other is that we are also looking to commit $1 billion in over the next five years to support SMEs across Africa”.
Mr Victor Etuokwu, Deputy Managing Director, Retail North, Access Bank said the bank has over the years demonstrated the love it has for the SME segments of the market, because it is the segment that is the engine room of the economy as it contributed over 70 per cent to employment in this market and markets across the continent.
He said: “So, here in Nigeria, Access Bank is a proud supporter of SMEs and will do so, in three areas. These are, access to finance, access to knowledge and business intelligence, and access to markets. These are the three areas that really are challenging to anyone playing in this market, but because we want to be drivers of the economy, we pay particular attention to this segment.
“This year alone, we must have provided finance of over N40 billion to them across the country. Hundreds of 1000s of them, but that’s not enough because we have a large population. We have over 40 million SMEs in Nigeria, and want to do a lot more but not just in Nigeria, but across the continent.
“So, one of the things that we have done is to deploy emerging business teams across the continent, so that we can begin to impact those markets in the countries where we have a subsidiary. But today, we want to start what we call the Africa immersion program by pulling together lots of development finance institutions (DFIs) to see how we can raise money for funding of these segments.
“So, here we have the AfDB, FMO and almost ten DFIs present here. We are also looking at Nigeria DFIs available here in Nigeria to join hands with us to look for ways to provide the funding that the segment needs to truly kick-start the economy.
“We all know what happened during the pandemic where most of them lost a lot of their businesses. So this is a time when we need to get them up and running again to begin to contribute to the economy. And that’s what we’re doing here.
“So, the idea here is to create what we call the African immersion facility intervention program, which will be used to drive SMEs across the continents”.
Commenting on responses from Africa, Etuokwu said, “ Well, we have managing directors from our 12 countries here and we have some of the DFIs in those countries here and the idea here is to bring together both the private and public sector and people in government to work together to have a program that is effective. The intent here is to create impact and the impact can only be in driving the businesses, making sure they are sustainable, making sure the mortality rate of these businesses is reduced and making sure that they are able to withstand economic shocks that we know now are so common.
“In the past these shocks were cycles of 10 years but now the shocks are almost every year. So every business needs to be a bit more robust, not just in finance but in understanding the market, the risk in the market, the environment and also being able to have business protection bundles to protect your business and having the knowledge to anticipate these risks and get ready for them. That is the only way the business can survive”.
Going forward, Etuokwu said, “We will begin to see a lot of adoption and take up of these facilities by next year, 2023 and we hope that a year from that we will begin to see impact in the market. Our goal in Nigeria, for example, is to be able to move over 100,000 microenterprises onto millionaire status. Move them up from being small businesses onto being still small businesses, but at least they have turnover running into millions of naira on a monthly basis”.
In her contribution, Ayodele Olojede, Group Head, Emerging Market, Access Bank Group, said , “At Access Bank, we love MSMEs and whatever it takes for us to be able to help them and support them, we will do it, it is not hard work.
“This is ground-breaking. Do you understand what we are trying to do here Across Africa? Access Bank is present in about fourteen countries and so what it is that we’re trying to be able to do here on a holistic basis, which I believe we are going to get right, is going to transform Africa. At the beginning of this session, Seyi told us that Africa’s contribution to the world GDP is 2.5 per cent and that is shameful. Now, what is the reason for that, the powerhouse of GDP is the MSMEs and yet they are all struggling. So if we are coming together like this to be able to sing the same song across Africa to support the segment, then I think this sky is just the beginning of what it is that we can achieve. And that’s really truly exciting for us and for me especially”.