International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, yesterday, announced a $25million local-currency investment in a risk-sharing facility to expand Union Bank’s lending to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria.
The facility, which will cover as much as 50 percent of the risk of the bank’s loans to entrepreneurs, aims to help Nigerian businesses grow and create jobs.
IFC is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. Commenting on the initiative, IFC’s Country Manager, Nigeria, Eme Essien Lore, said: “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.”
Although small businesses provide over 80 percent of Nigeria’s jobs, a recent World Bank survey found that only 15 percent of SMEs in the country reported have a bank loan or line of credit.
It also found that more than half of the women-managed firms surveyed named access to finance as a major obstacle to growth. The new facility is part of IFC’s Small Loan Guarantee Programme (SLGP), aimed at 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.
IFC’s investment also includes support from the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), in the form of performance-based incentives for increased lending to women-owned SMEs.
With IFC’s support, Union Bank said it plans 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, 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.”Union Bank has continued to support SMEs 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.
In 2017, the Bank also introduced an innovative business acceleration programme, ‘Start up Connect’ which enables Nigerian businesses creating technology-based solutions to be more competitive in the rapidly expanding African technology market.
The partnership with Union Bank underscores IFC’s growing commitment to Nigeria. IFC has invested in many 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 organization’s top ten country exposures.
Culled From guardian.ng