The Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, has restated the commitment of the bank to support the federal government’s diversification drive through capacity building, lending and development of agro-allied value chain.
Awosika disclosed this yesterday in Lagos at the 2019 edition of ‘Food Souk’ organised by First Bank in partnership with Eventful Limited.
She said the bank would continue to support the agricultural value chain from production to consumption to create opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the food sector to create job opportunities.
She also noted that it was critical to encourage the Small Medium Scale Enterprise (SMEs) sector across various industries, noting that the bank was focusing on the food souk because of its desire to diversify the economy aggressively.
The First Bank Chair explained that the desire was to support nation building, by encouraging small, medium and big enterprises in different sectors of the economy to help create jobs.
“If you think that 65 per cent of the population is persons under 40 and the highest unemployment rate is within the segment of 25 and 35, so you need to create jobs. But you only create jobs, when you create entrepreneurs. As you create more businesses, you are creating more opportunities. So our effort in the food souk is to help support the growth of the economy and benefit from as a provider of financial services to the economy,” she said.
She added that the bank focused on supporting the growth of the economy and hoped to in turn benefit from it as a provider of financial services to the economy.
“As we grow the economy, as we build lives of Nigerians, as we support the government’s investment in the diversification of the economy and help to create jobs through the enterprises we will ultimately benefit,” Awosika stated.
Awosika hinted that the souk provided opportunity for investors to see the trends, the companies that need nurturing, support how to support them, “as the largest retail bank in the country would continue to support growth and development of SMEs.”
According to her, “The bank is heavily investing in the agro-allied value chain yearly by organising the agric-expo event to show the various value chains. When you gather people within an industry together, they will begin to see where they could service each other and opportunities for investment. It is also an opportunity to educate ordinary Nigerians about the agric-value chain, and I think we are the biggest lender to the agric sector, either directly or working with BOI or through various schemes that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is providing in that sector. We are actively engaged in building the agro economy of Nigeria across the board. There are the big, and medium players. But you also need group small line players who will then be able to scale up. What we are trying to do is to attack from the different ends of it in order to help different segments of the economy in line with the different policies of government.”
One of the food vendors, the Chief Executive Officer, JEM N Iris, Ms Ijeoma Ebeneme, commended FirstBank for putting the event together.
Ebeneme said she was at the fair to boost sales, meet new clients as well as create the needed publicity for the brand.