The Minister for Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, has called for new strategies to support Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) in the country. This, the minister noted would positively impact on the growth of the Nigerian economy. A statement yesterday said the minister made the call while receiving top executives of Diamond Bank Plc. Speaking at the event, Aganga said: “The SME sector in Nigeria currently employs about 25 million people and accounts for about 40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. Despite recent growth in the economy, government realises that economic growth that does not reach the SMEs cannot make any meaningful impact.” He said Diamond Bank had played an important role in their support for SMEs, adding that government was willing to partner such an institution to provide more support for SMEs. While presenting the bank’s blueprint on improving access to finance to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Diamond Bank, Dr. Alex Otti recommended that a fund should be set up to take care of identified equity finance gaps. He also called for a risk-sharing guarantee to support the unsecured lending portfolio of banks that have established methodologies for assessing, disbursing, monitoring and collecting such loans. According to him, “Over the past five years, Diamond Bank’s strategic focus on financing MSMEs had led to significant investments in structures and processes dedicated to this market.” These, he said included building a dedicated team of MSME experts, development and acquisition of MSME lending methodology, sustainable provision of non-financial services to MSMEs such as access to market initiatives and promoting MSME focused CSR projects. “Our commitment to the MSME sector has yielded the following results: disbursement of over N100 billion gross loans to over 60, 000 MSMEs since 2009, expertise in MSME lending that is scalable as we enter new markets, recognition as Nigeria’s MSME bank, a diversified loan portfolio and access to financial services by previously excluded MSMEs,” Otti added. On his part, the Executive Director, Retail Banking, Diamond Bank, Mr. Uzoma Dozie called for a lessening of barriers to business financing in order to help MSMEs access long-term working capital.
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