IFC, Union Bank to Support SMEs, Women-led Businesses

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The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, yesterday, announced a $25 million local-currency investment in a risk-sharing facility to expand Union Bank of Nigeria’s lending to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria.

The facility, which would cover as much as 50 per cent of the risk of the bank’s loans to entrepreneurs, aims to help Nigerian businesses grow and create jobs.

According to a statement, with IFC’s support, the bank plan to offer more products and services to women-owned businesses, especially in Nigeria’s conflict-affected Northern and Delta regions, where entrepreneurs face particularly difficult challenges accessing finance, and more than half the population is excluded from the financial system.

Speaking about the partnership, the Chief Executive of Union Bank, Emeka Emuwa, said: “Union Bank continues to develop sustainable products and services that promote enterprise and address poverty and financial inclusion. This is in line with our commitment to support the communities within which we operate. The IFC facility is a welcome development which will further deepen our efforts to support Nigerian SMEs and women.”

Also commenting on the initiative, IFC’s Country Manager for Nigeria,

Eme Essien Lore, said the, “IFC’s risk sharing facility will help Union Bank increase its focus on Nigeria’s underserved areas, positioning it as one of the leading banks that provides customised services to SMEs that are driving job creation and growth across the country.”

The new facility is part of IFC’s Small Loan Guarantee Program (SLGP), which is easing local-currency lending to SMEs in frontier markets.

SLGP is backed by the International Development Association’s (IDA) Private Sector Window, which is providing a first-loss guarantee, allowing IFC to scale up its support to underserved and unbanked SMEs.

“Union Bank has continued to support SME and empower women-led businesses through tailored products and services. The bank recently unveiled Alpher (α), a dynamic proposition aimed at uplifting Nigerian women through customised financial services, capacity building opportunities and competitive interest rates on loans.

“The partnership with Union Bank underscores IFC’s growing commitment to Nigeria. IFC has invested in several projects in heavy manufacturing, technology and financial services amongst other key sectors in the country.

“Nigeria has been one of IFC’s fastest growing country portfolios, making it one of the organisation’s top ten country exposures,” the statement added.