BOI, Western Union, others foster financial growth for SMEs
by HOPE MOSES-ASHIKE
November 7, 2013 | 12:30 am| | | Start Conversation
The Bank of Industry, Western Union, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the US Department of State have reiterated commitment towards exploring ways to expand financial opportunities for the next generation of African Businesses
More than 100 business leaders from Africa’s Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) have presented their innovative business plans to leading Nigerian and Pan-African banks at the 2nd annual SME Live Banking Panel.
The event was organized by the Bank of Industry, in partnership with The Western Union Company and USAID African Diaspora Marketplace in Lagos, with the goal of expanding access to financing opportunities for African entrepreneurs.
Evelyn Oputu, managing director of the Bank of Industry (BOI), highlighted the importance of the initiative, stating that, “BOI has been working with SMEs for more than a decade and has continually underscored their key role in not only driving growth, but also job creation. This 2nd annual event is unique, bringing together great banking partners who have recognized the role of SMEs in development and are willing to help address issues they face in accessing financing.”
“When our customers’ businesses grow, national and regional economies benefit,” said Aida Diarra, Regional Vice President, (North Central and West Africa) for Western Union. “Western Union strives to equip individuals with the tools and resources that they need so they can achieve growth. The sacrifices that many of our customers make to startup a business can be lost without the tools to maximize their investments through remittances, diaspora investors or institutional partners.”
SMEs representing key sectors such as information and communications technology (ICT), agri-business, manufacturing and renewable energy were among those being reviewed by approximately eight to twelve Nigerian and pan-African banks. Training workshops to help further develop SME capabilities are part of the initiative.
“Developing new approaches and opportunities that generate sustainable financial empowerment requires coordination and alignment across all sectors,” said Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders. “A partnership between the Bank of Industry and the African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM) links the private sector, government leaders and global community to collectively make a significant and positive impact to help SMEs.”
Recognizing the impact of women entrepreneurs, the initiative will emphasize financial opportunities and mentorship for women business owners, including participants from the US State Department’s African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program. Studies by USAID reveal that “$1 in female hands is worth $10 (and in some cases $20) in male hands.”
The United States Department of State is a supporting partner of the African Diaspora Marketplace and the program is being implemented by the Small Enterprise Assistance Funds.
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