Francis Bishop in Abuja
Access Bank Plc disclosed at the weekend that it has so far secured at least $250 million from multilateral agencies for financing as low interest funds to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sub-sector of the Nigerian economy.
The bank therefore expressed its readiness to provide funding support as well as qualitative capacity development backing to viable economic sectors which offer significant opportunities for employment and wealth creation.
The bank said investment in such sectors would culminate in value accretion which is in tandem with its corporate ideals.
Speaking in Abuja at a breakfast meeting with stakeholders in small and medium (SMEs) and associations in the agricultural sector, the bankâ€™s Executive Director, Business Banking, Titi Osuntoki, said Access Bank participates in other agricultural schemes, such as Nigeria Incentive Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Funds (ACGSF).
Osuntoki said: â€œWe indeed provide funding for all agricultural activities along the entire value chain. Through this kind of interaction, our customers have gained significant business insights that have enhanced their businesses considerably.
â€œIndeed, our partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) over the years and more recently the Bank of Industry (BoI) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF) is aimed at promoting the growth of this important economic sector.
â€œWe have secured not less than $250 million from these multilateral agencies aimed at channeling low interest funds to the MSME sub-sector of the Nigerian economy.
â€œWe will provide funding support as well as qualitative capacity development support to viable economic sectors that offer significant opportunities for employment and wealth creation. Our investment in these sectors will lead to value accretion which is in congruence with our corporate ideals.
â€œIt is vital that these integral sector of the economy gets all the support required to drive growth and development. The future outlook for the agricultural sector is encouraging provided that the challenges that have militated against the achievement of sustained growth in Nigeria are resolved. We appreciate the opportunity given us in Access Bank to collaborate with you in your bid towards the social and economic transformation of our country,â€ Osuntoki who was represented on the occasion by Mr. Usman Mohammed said.
Access Bank, he added, has been at the forefront of sustainable partnerships for developments, reforms and all activities geared towards building a more self-sufficient Nigerian economy, noting that as our nation desires to diversify its economy, agriculture has become the new focus of government and the private sector and as such, the bank was well positioned to provide necessary support in this sector.
According to him, SMEs are recognised as one of the key drivers of economic growth by virtue of their contribution to employment and wealth creation; income generation as well as their strategic linkages with large companies across economic clusters.
â€œAs in most developing countries, the SMEs sector in Nigeria forms a significant part of the economic activities. Nevertheless they face a number of problems, including limited access to finance from formal sources.
â€œSimilarly, Agriculture is a major contributor to Nigeriaâ€™s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the first quarter of 2017, Agriculture contributed 18% to nominal GDP which is lower than the rates recorded for the first and fourth quarters of 2016 at 19.19% and 21.35% respectively. Agricultural Sector in Nigeria is undoubtedly the highest employer of labour, employing about 70 per cent of the Nigerian Labour force.
â€œThis sector has also suffered low output which has led to massive importation of food items to feed the ever increasing populace. Some of the challenges afflicting the sector include poor infrastructure, dormant research facilities, lack of proper storage facilities, inability to have access to funds, lack of information and the expertise to run the agricultural business,â€ Osuntoki said.