First Bank Nigeria has joined the SME Finance Forum as the newest member of the global membership network of 200+ members who are working to eliminate the finance gap for SMEs.
SME Finance Forum members are SME Financing experts from 80+ countries who share the common goal of expanding access to finance to small businesses worldwide, through knowledge exchange and innovation.
Matthew Gamser, CEO of the SME Finance Forum ,in his statement while welcoming First Bank to the forum, said “40 percent of small and medium businesses worldwide struggle to get access to the credit and capital that they need to grow their enterprises. We are delighted to welcome FirstBank to our network of 200 members who are working to eliminate the finance gap for SMEs,”
FirstBank has been nimble at promoting a digital economy in Africa and has issued over 10 million cards. The institution’s financial inclusion and cashless transaction drive have resulted in over 228 million users on its USSD banking service through the nationally acclaimed *894# banking service and over 4.1 million users on First mobile platform.
Since the last nine months of the COVID-19 impact, FirstBank has organised six virtual SME centric webinars aimed at getting business owners informed and educated on various ways to withstand the economic shocks caused by the pandemic. In addition, in April 2020, FirstBank offered a-90 day moratorium on SME loans and introduced special waivers on repayment fees on the Bank’s credit cards as part of the palliative measures it employed to reduce the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria. Recently, in September, FirstBank partnered with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) in a 6 Billion naira matching fund scheme. The scheme aims to cushion the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on low-cost private schools by ensuring lending at an attractive interest rate.
“We are excited to join the SME Finance Forum, especially at this unprecedented time, when the sustenance of businesses is essential to mitigate the adverse effect 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 the 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 through this sensitive time. Without a doubt, outliving the pandemic is the responsibility of everyone” said Mr Gbenga F. Shobo, Deputy Managing Director, FirstBank.
The SME Finance Forum was established by the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) in 2012 as a knowledge center for data, research, and best practice in promoting SME finance. As an implementing partner for the GPFI, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) was tasked with managing the initiative.
First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) is the premier Bank in West Africa, sustaining its development-oriented services for over 126 years as the region’s foremost financial inclusion services provider. They offer a comprehensive range of retail and corporate financial services through more than 57,000 business outlets to over 17 million customer accounts.