From zero to hero: with support for SMEs to MNCs, Zenith is unlocking Nigeria’s potential

'In every sector… you'll be sure to find partnership with Zenith,' says Dr Ebenezer Onyeagwu

September 20, 2023

In Nigeria, small and medium enterprises contribute 48 percent to GDP, and account for 80 percent of employment and self-employment – and Zenith Bank, the leading non-oil export bank in the country, is very deliberate in its support for those businesses. Group Managing Director and CEO Dr Ebenezer Onyeagwu discusses the many support programmes Zenith offers SMEs – from getting them off the ground with IT offerings and training workshops, to growing into a thriving export business.

World Finance: Ebenezer, how does Zenith support SMEs?

Dr Ebenezer Onyeagwu: We are very deliberate in terms of our support for SMEs. We developed a product that we call SME Grow My Business to provide opportunities for them to leverage on our digital licences that we have with the major OEMs and IT companies, to expose their products digitally.

We also have SME Hustle Academy, targeted at teaching SMEs on specific digital applications and knowledge that they require to run their business.

We also have the monthly SME Training Series, where we focus on the key problems and challenges that face SMEs.

We also provide loans for SMEs at discounted interest rates, and to enable us to address women in business we created Z-Woman, which gives loans at subsidised rates to women.

In the export space we created another product we call From Zero To Hero – it provides opportunities for SMEs who have never done export before to be exposed to the rudiments of doing export business. Starting from how to source the export products, how to do the documentation for export, and also helping them to develop export markets abroad and financing.

World Finance: Of course it’s not just about supporting businesses; in order to completely unlock Nigeria’s economic potential, you need to bring the whole population into the banking system.

Dr Ebenezer Onyeagwu: Yes, that’s very important. We do that under the financial inclusion agenda, through collaboration with the central bank. We have our financial literacy campaign, where we engage different sectors of the society, the underserved and the unbanked.

We also have youth engagement where we go to schools and secondary schools, creating awareness on the use of banking products and services.

We have a product for schoolchildren – Zenith Children Education account. We also have another product for those teenagers at university, we call it Zenith Aspire account. So we engage all of them to learn financial literacy, the rudiments of investment, and in our own way we think the advocacy is paying off.

World Finance: Finally, what do you see as Nigeria’s economic potential? And what role should Zenith play in unlocking it?

Dr Ebenezer Onyeagwu: So Nigeria is a huge market. Whichever sector you look at – are you talking about the gas reserves that we have untapped? Are you talking about agriculture? Manufacturing? Non-oil exports? Every part of the country, every state, has at least two exportable items.

Look at the recently released statistics that show that Nigeria still remains the biggest economy in Africa – yet we are not as productive. So we need to increase the productive base of the country.

Zenith has been very very audacious in terms of addressing some of this potential that has made us the leading non-oil export bank in the country. Zenith is also supporting SMEs, where we are not shy about lending to them. And major projects that are making impact in the country, you are going to find Zenith as a number one or number two bank.

So in every sector it depends on who comes, and what your business proposal is – you’ll be sure to find partnership with Zenith.