Okonkwo Calls for Increased Support for MSMEs

Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo

Hamid Ayodeji

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo has called for increased support for micro, small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) in the country in order to simulate activities in the non-oil sector of the economy.

Okonkwo, said this in Lagos, during the Fidelity SME Funding Connect held in Lagos on Tuesday.

“Today, MSMEs have continued to contribute their fair share to the development of the country. In spite of the huge potential of MSMEs to create employment opportunities for the country’s youth population, they remain largely bedevilled by a number of problems with limited financing options being one of the main drawbacks they face.

“In continuation of our support for MSMEs and as part of efforts to bridge the funding gap and other issues in the sector, we have decided to recommence our erstwhile regional SME conferences, leading to the birth of the Fidelity SME Funding Connect series.

“Our short term goal is to become the most innovative SME banking business in Africa whilst helping our clients build sustainable businesses of the future. While our long term goal is to see some of these SMEs transformed into major enterprises.”

He added: “As an entrepreneur you should be passionate about what you do and have the ability to conceptualise what you want to accomplish and produce as well as being consistent towards attaining their goals.

“Meeting the supply demand of Nigeria can be tasking for an SME, so we have put measures such as this grants of N2 million we are offering to the best SME business plan, and N1 million to the second and third place and N500,000 to the remaining finalists.”

In his remark, the Deputy Governor, Lagos State, Obafemi Hamzat, said lack of access to capital by MSMEs is one of the biggest threats to any economy in the world.

Owing to this, he said Lagos State was clearly in support with Fidelity Bank towards driving the development of MSMEs.

The Lagos Deputy Governor pointed out that SMEs provide, “the largest numbers of the workforce in our economy which is one of the factors driving the Lagos state government as they continuously assist the SMEs develop and export their ideas and enterprises.”

According to him, “the importance of this sector must be recognised and utilised effectively by all stakeholders like what Fidelity Bank is doing.”

Hamzat explained, “Lagos State government understands this, thus, we are creating an SME enabling environment. We have set up a microfinance bank as well as the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund that provides loans as low as five per cent interest spread over four years to businesses.

“This government would disburse its resources in order to ensure that SMEs get an enabling environment and facilities that enhances their sustainable development.

“We are going to address the challenges that affect the growth rate of SMEs, such as lack of access to capital, Lack of understanding of the fund providers frame works and regulatory, and high interest rates.

“We urge stakeholders to key into SME development schemes that are being implemented by the Lagos state government and other stakeholders like Fidelity Bank is doing.”