First Bank Plc. on Sunday announced that it has joined the SME Finance Forum, with a call for the promotion of financial inclusion for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) so as to grow the nation’s economy.
Mr Gbenga Shobo, Deputy Managing Director of First Bank, made the announcement via a statement in Lagos.
“We are excited to join the SME Finance Forum, especially at this time when the sustenance of businesses is essential to mitigate the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
“This membership is in recognition of the leading role we play in enabling SMEs in Nigeria.
“This role is hinged on our heritage of over 126 years; our experience and continuous reinvention, which we bring to bear in empowering other businesses, aimed at contributing to the economy.
“Without a doubt, outliving the pandemic is the responsibility of everyone.
“First Bank has been nimble at promoting a digital economy in Africa and has issued over 10 million cards.
“The bank’s financial inclusion and cashless transaction drive have resulted in over 228 million users on its USSD and over 4.1 million users on Firstmobile platform, its digital banking application,’’ he said.
Shobo said that since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, First Bank has organised six virtual SME centric webinars, aimed at getting business owners informed and educated on how to withstand the economic shocks caused by the pandemic.
He said had in April, the bank offered a 90-day moratorium on SME loans and introduced special waivers on repayment fees on its credit cards, as part of the palliative measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in the country.
The deputy managing director said that in September, First Bank partnered with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) in a N6-billion matching fund scheme.
He said that the scheme was aimed at cushioning the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on low-cost private schools by ensuring lending at an attractive interest rate.
Mr Matthew Gamser, Chief Executive Officer, SME Finance Forum, said that the aim of the forum was to expand access to funds for small businesses.
“The SME Finance Forum comprises financing experts from more than 80 countries, who share the common goal of expanding access to finance for small businesses worldwide, through knowledge exchange and innovation.
“Forty per cent of SME businesses worldwide struggle to get access to credit and capital that they need to grow their enterprises.
“We are delighted to welcome First Bank to our network of 200 members, who are working to eliminate the finance gap for SMEs,’’ he said.
The SME Finance Forum was established by the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) in 2012 as a knowledge centre for data, research and best practice in promoting SME finance.