John Shiklam in Kaduna
Baobab Microfinance has disclosed that it disbursed N30 billion as loans to 120,000 customers operating micro, small and medium scale businesses in the last 10 years.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the bank, Dr. Olanrewaju Kazeem disclosed this in an interview with journalists on the sidelines of an interactive forum with customers of the bank in Kaduna.
He said, over the years, the bank had grown 70 per cent of its customers from small business owners to multi-million naira business owners.
Kazeem, added that microfinance banks should thrive better in the face of economic downturn, as many people would drop from the top to the bottom and would need loans to finance small businesses
He said the bank presently has 20 branches across the country with six in Kaduna, three in Abuja and 11 in Lagos.
He also disclosed plan to expand its branch network later in the year.
“As a Microfinance Bank, we render financial services, covering loans and advances, savings and deposit, insurance and fund transfer.
“We render financial advisory services to our clients not withstanding that they are micro” he said.
Responding to questions on the challenges in the financial sector, he said like any other financial institution, the bank has its challenges, stressing that the financial institutions has continued to serve its customers despite the challenges.
“We have faced so many challenges, but that notwithstanding, we have been able to serve 120,000 customers. We have 30,000 on our loan book. We have been able to disburse in excess of about N30 billion in the last 10 years.
“Really, this is not up to what we had planned to do. The challenges are the limiting factors. Before now, we had a state license and we were only operating from Kaduna, it is just in 2016 that we were able to get the national license to enable us have branches outside Kaduna. So, today, we are present in Kaduna Lagos, Ogun states and FCT.
“Some of the challenges are just related to common challenges of infrastructure, power supply and others things that would have reduced our cost of doing business, that were not really there.
“But generally, we have adapted ourselves to the environment and we are trying to overcome the challenges” he said.
He maintained that despite the economic challenges, he expects microfinance banks to do better.
“I expect that microfinance banks should thrive better in the face of economic downturn because, the bottom is where people will drop to at the end, and since we serve the people at the bottom, we have a lot of people to cater for, since people will return to small businesses,” he added.
He explained that the products of the bank were designed specifically for people at the bottom.
He admitted that the flow of fund has been very slow because of the economic downturn, noting that, “the fact that everybody comes back to the bottom eventually if there is no place to go, means that, market is always there for us.
“That is why our products are designed in such a way that, you can get a loan as low as N10,000.
“Our interest rate depends on the products. It is driven by so many things, like the risk appetite. If you consider your business very risky, you will pay a premium for that, and depending on the product,” he added.