Fidelity Bank Plc is collaborating with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to provide funding for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) operating in Nigeria.

Mr Nnamdi Okonkwo, Managing Director, Fidelity Bank, said in Lagos on Wednesday that the bank came up with the initiative tagged, ‘SME Funding Connect,’ to deepen funding, which remained the biggest headache of SMEs.

Okonkwo who was represented by Executive Director, Lagos & South West, Mrs Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, said the initiative was aimed at providing funding for SMES through the bank’s funding partners, venture capital and Angel investor, among others.

“Fidelity Bank is SME-friendly and we deemed it necessary to do something that directly affects our base as a bank.

“We have a lot of SME customers who we have worked with and some that we are still working with, and a lot of us know that the SMEs are the engine of any economy that is growing,” Okonkwo said.

He said there were over 40 million registered SMEs in Nigeria, noting that SMEs contributed 80 per cent of the workforce and could not be ignored.

Also speaking, Mr Osaigbovo Omorogbe, Divisional Head, Managed SMEs, said events for the funding of the SMEs would be carried out in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and one other location to be determined by the bank. Omorogbe said the Lagos event titled ‘Entreprenurship Meets Capital’ would take place on Aug. 7.

He said the funding partners would provide equity capital for SMEs to strengthen growth and development.

“We are not launching a fund, we are not looking to sell any fund to SMES on this paltform. We are creating a platform for everybody in SMEs’ ecosystem to participate,” Omorogbe stated.

He said the programme had six focus sectors: manufacturing, technology, entertainment, lifestyles, agriculture value chain among others.

He, however, said the funding would be anchored by PwC, stressing that Fidelity Bank was not a funding platform but creating a platform for every SME to meet funds providers.

The Fidelity Bank SMEs Funding Connect has 3,000 participants, 60 providers, 60 founders, N12 million in grant, six breakout sessions and three networking cocktails.

Omorogbe said the bank had disbursed N2.3 billion under the Central Bank of Nigeria N220bn SME fund programme.

On his part, Nigeria Chief Economist and Partner, PwC, Mr Andrew Nevin, noted that the programme could develop more SMEs, which would in turn contribute to the development of the economy.

“For the past two years, the Nigerian economy has suffered and it has been difficult for banks to lend to the private sector but Fidelity Bank has risen up to the occassion and should be given credit for what they have done in the SME sector, which is the engine room of every economy.

“From the PwC perspective, we are proud to be part of the initiative and we would also want every state involved to be successful, and not only Lagos, so that they can contribute to the growth of Nigeria,” Nevin said.

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