The African Development Bank (AfDB) on Friday officially inaugurated a one billion naira loan through Fortis Microfinance Bank Plc to help boost Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) development in the country.
Mr Ilan Wolkov, a Consultant with AfDB told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the inauguration that the disbursement would be done through four branches of the bank in Abuja.
Wolkov, the Team Leader of Frankfurt School of Finance Management said,“this is the official opening of the pilot phase that we are setting up in four branches in Kubwa, Dei-Dei, Mararaba, and Utako’’.
“The fund is meant to specifically fund businesses of SMEs customers, and what is important today is that we are officially signing our first Fortis/ AfDB pilot client under this scheme.
“We believe that funds will greatly increase customer’s experience with possibly larger loans with its flexible conditions for collateral and guarantees.’’
NAN recalls that AfDB and Fortis Micro Finance Bank Plc had in Sept. 2016 signed an agreement for a one billion naira credit facility for onward lending to SMEs operators in the country.
The partnership was meant to boost Nigeria’s private sector development through the financing of projects that are strategically aligned to the country’s development agenda.
Also speaking, Mr Adewale Aderounmu, the Executive Director, Development Finance of Fortis reiterated that the fund was to primarily support the development of small businesses in the country.
According to Aderounmu, small businesses are the engine of growth for any economic development both in developing countries and even the developed world.
“So, the AFDB in support of the SMs sector in Nigeria evaluated the bank and deemed it viable to partner with us as our developing partner in developing the SMEs sector in Nigeria.
“Up till now, more than 600 customers have benefited from the AfDB loan and after this event we still expect to disburse a number of additional loans under the SMEs funding from AfDB.’’
On criteria for accessing the fund, Aderounmu said the applicant must already be in business as the fund was not meant for a startup but for business owners to take their businesses to the next level.
He noted that the facility was open to both already existing and new customers of the bank.
According to him, the bank has assigned officers who not only market the loan to customers but also ensure that the loans are paid back as at when due.
He said the loan officer or relationship manager as they were being called, were attached to every loan beneficiary to continuously engage the customers to ensure continuity of the business relationship.
A beneficiary of the facility, Mrs Nkiru Nwabueze commended the management of Fortis bank for the good work they had been doing over the years in assisting small businesses in the country.
Nwabueze expressed delight at the facility she was given and urged other customers to develop the culture of borrowing money and paying back when due.
“We should be more honest in doing business with the banks as they are willing to give loans and we need to develop the culture of paying back loans as it is the only way to grow the economy.’’