What started as a personal gesture by acclaimed public speaker and media entrepreneur, Japheth Omojuwa, to share a sum of N500,000 as support grant to about 10 businesses has scaled up to be the most successful social media inspired crowd-funding venture for small businesses in Nigeria.
The decision to support 10 businesses with the N500,000 grant was announced by Omojuwa via his personal Twitter account on December 31, 2016. However, his clout and credibility, and the transparent selection process designed for the scheme inspired other donors to contribute to the fund. A total of N2.7 million was raised within 48 hours, all on social media.
Aptly named the Small Businesses Support Fund, 36 businesses selected based on the merits of their applications will benefit from the first batch of N2.7 million fund. Each of these businesses, with the exception of one, received cash grants of between N50,000 and N100,000, being either the sum requested for or the amount arrived at based on evaluation. It is worthy of note that 25 out of the 36 businesses selected for the support fund are owned by women.
Widely acknowledged as one of Africa’s most influential social media personalities, Omojuwa while announcing the winners stated that in addition to the varying amounts of cash won, each of the businesses selected will benefit from online promotion for one month, courtesy of his media agency, The Alpha Reach. He further stated that the fund will not be a one-off thing as the goal is to support at least 100 businesses this year.
Access to credit is one out of the myriad of problems facing business owners in Nigeria with loans from commercial banks attracting interest as high as 20 per cent. Last year the World Bank ranked Nigeria in 169th position in its Ease of Doing Business index.
Observers on social media have called the Small Business Support Fund an innovative financial model which has potentials to revolutionise credit access for small businesses in Nigeria. The second batch of the fund is scheduled for mid-2017 with at least N5 million as target.