Zenith Bank can ‘grow the next champions’ by mentoring Nigeria’s SMEs

Ebenezer Onyeagwu explains how Nigeria's leading banking group is going above and beyond to support African businesses

September 22, 2022

Nigeria’s economy remains hugely dependent on its oil and gas industry – but thanks to tailored and innovative support for SMEs from commercial banks like Zenith, the country is slowly diversifying and becoming more economically stable. Ebenezer Onyeagwu explains how Zenith Bank is helping young businesses and start-up entrepreneurs. Watch the other parts of this interview in our Zenith Bank playlist.

World Finance: Let’s go back to the sectors you were talking about that are up and coming; how is Zenith Bank supporting all of those industries?

Ebenezer Onyeagwu: The first thing we are doing to support the industries is that we are providing credit facility for all of them, by way of working capital, by way of term facilities. We are also helping most of them to access the various intervention programmes that have been put in place especially by central bank, that comes as long-term subsidised rate.

We are also innovating. SMEs, we are very particular about them, we see them as where we grow the next champions. We are looking forward to them one day being listed on the stock exchange. So we have a programme, we have the SME Grow My Business, we provide credit facility for them. We expose them to financial accounting and record keeping. We also provide mentorship for them.

Beyond that, in the tech space we started with a tech fair. The essence of that tech fair is to enable us to identify up and coming digital entrepreneurs through showcase. And at the end of the day the finalists, apart from providing cash award for them, we take them under our wings. And right now I think we have about 20 of them under our mentorship.

Then we also have some creative sector, CBM initiative programme, that provides credit facility, long term also at subsidised rates. We are giving them access to those facilities as well.

World Finance: And what about for companies that are just starting up? How is Zenith Bank investing in the future of young African entrepreneurship?

Ebenezer Onyeagwu: First we onboard you, we situate you and understand your business plan. You know, in some cases, some of them well… out of passion they have this very big, bogus ambition. But we are able to get them through a first plan that will enable them to scale.

Then we make sure that when it comes to funding, we sit with them, because most of them – yes, they have the business idea, but they have never borrowed before. So we take them through the rudiments of accessing facilities and doing it in such a controlled and coordinated manner that they don’t get their fingers burnt.

So we take them through, especially those who are in the fintech space, who don’t understand issues around compliance, around governance. We provide a model for them. And also help them in terms of training their team.