By Bolaji Israel
The Chief Executive Officer of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, has restated the strategic importance of small and medium enterprises SMEs to the growth and development of the national economy.
Adeduntan said the path to the growth of Nigerian economy lies in growing the SME sector, and that informed why First Bank has deliberately provided robust support platforms for the critical SME sector.
Speaking during the plenary session at the 8th Ehingbeti/Lagos Economic Summit on Tuesday, 16 February 2021, the First Bank CEO said, “The path to the growth of Nigerian economy is by growing the SME sector.
SME is a very important aspect of what we do at FBN because of its importance to the overall growth and development of the economy.”
Adeduntan disclosed that ”By March 2021 First Bank will be 127 years old, and is by far the oldest and largest bank in Nigeria.
The reason we continue to thrive and endure as an institution is our support for businesses that are relevant to the overall growth and development of the economy and the SMEs is a practical example. Our portfolio of SME is quite sizeable, giving the history of the FirstBank and Nigeria.”
Enumerating the bank’s support for the sector, he explained: “At FirstBank, we have a dedicated portal called SME Connect running for about 6 or 7 years through which we provide support for SMEs.
We offer advisory services to ensure we up their skills and capabilities in either preparing basic accounts statements, choice of technology, and supporting them to work through the system.
We have continuously refined the SME Connect platform to conform with latest standards. For example, we updated it with relevant adjustments to the new Company and Allied Matters Act CAMA Law.
In some practical terms, we provide term loans, overdraft and all types of structured debt instrument to our SME Customers.
Dr Adeduntan further added that, “Very importantly, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as part of its economic stimulant plan provides more liquidity for banks to enable them lend more to SMEs. FirstBank is active in that space, and so are other banks too.
“The Bankers Committee which consists of CBN Governors and CEOs of Banks also collectively decided and intervened on SME. We set up a fund with 5% of Profit After Tax to create a pool of fund which is available for funding SMEs.
We understand their importance in keeping the economy growing to ensure we have a positive economy.”
“I am always inspired when I meet businesses that are now relatively big or sizeable telling me how 20, 30, 40 years ago FBN helped in supporting them to pick up from the ground” he concluded enthusiastically.
The three-day summit held virtually from February 16-18 themed “For a Greater Lagos: Setting the Tone for the Next Decade”, with about 150 speakers, drawn from across the world speaking on various issues, including Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the newly appointed Director General of the World Trade Organization, President Mohammad Buhari and Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, president, African Development Bank (ADB).
The Ehingbeti Summit is a great recent tradition in Lagos State which has served as the bedrock for developmental discourse, a platform for engaging a wide range of stakeholders in the Lagos success story and an invaluable tool for molding our growth over the past 20 years.
Jointly created by the private and public sector of Lagos State, Ehingbeti is not merely a platform for discussions but also a veritable tool for driving socio-economic and infrastructure development in the State.
The Summit aims to generate and implement tangible ideas and innovations, many of which have been successfully executed by Lagos State to the benefit of all.