Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and youths who desire to start businesses in Abia State now have a huge opportunity to actualise their dreams. This is because First City Monument Bank (FCMB) has partnered the Abia State Government to provide financial and other technical support to existing and potential owners of SMEs in the State under the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YEDP).
Under the partnership, FCMB is offering loans and technical support to eligible existing and aspiring young entrepreneurs who have viable business ideas. An individual can access up to N3million, while group projects jointly owned by 3 to 5 qualified beneficiaries can access up to N10million, payable in three years at an interest rate of 9 percent. Target beneficiaries are members of NYSC (or those who not more than five years post-NYSC), those who possess a verifiable tertiary institution certificate and artisans with First School Leaving Certificate or a technical certificate or accredited proficiency certificate from the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
To ensure ease and convenience in accessing the facility as well as overall success of the partnership, FCMB has developed a product under the YEDP and has developed a website, HTTPS://yedp.fcmb.com, where applicants can log in, fill a form and provide all requirements to benefit from the funding and other benefits associated with the programme. Successful applicants will receive training on business success and development, courtesy of FCMB and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Speaking at the Abia Mega Youth Summit held in the State on March 15, 2018, where the partnership between FCMB and the State Government was launched, the Executive Director, Business Development of the Bank, Mrs. Bukola Smith, described the financial institution’s intervention as another demonstration of its commitment to empower SMEs and youths in order to up-scale their contributions to the development of the country.
According to her, ‘’We recognise the role of SMEs as drivers of Nigeria’s development and how youths can key into the opportunities. The YEDP is a major platform to address the challenges of unemployment among youths, as it will go a long way to ensure availability and affordability of capital required by entrepreneurs and start-ups. With our partnership with the Abia State government, as well as the product and website we have developed for the YEDP, we are offering youths in the State multiple opportunities to get empowered and become successful business owners. As a forward-looking and inclusive lender with a desire to create opportunities and help others to succeed, we will continue to support Nigerians to realise their individual and business aspirations. We, therefore, urge young people to take advantage of the unique opportunities in the FCMB developed YEDP product and website as a springboard to take their businesses to the next level’’.
In his address at the ceremony, the Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, said the YEDP in the State has been designed to change the old ways of empowering youths by partnering with strong institutions and provision of rights supports that would help them become better equipped, productive and contribute significantly to the well-being of the country in a sustainable manner.
Governor Ikpeazu commended FCMB for its numerous support to the State, including the YEDP partnership. He emphasized that, "with FCMB, we now have an opportunity to give our youths a very credible platform put together and presented to them by the Bank. I say to our youths to come up with beautiful and well-articulated business ideas and FCMB is ready to go with you all the way".
The YEDP is an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and Entrepreneurship Development Centre (EDC) aimed at discovering and deploying the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Nigerian youths for maximum economic development through empowerment in SMEs. This is in recognition of the fact that youths have what it takes to propel the country to economic diversification and prosperity.
FCMB has over the years played pivotal roles in the growth of SMEs in Nigeria. For instance, the Bank is one of those appointed by the CBN for the disbursement of the N220billion Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) fund provided by the federal government to support such businesses. It has so far disbursed over N6billion to SMEs and farmers, including women-managed businesses, across the country, under the scheme.
FCMB also offers several products and services tailored to meet the needs of the various segments in the SME space through its various touch points, including electronic banking platforms. These include the FCMB Business App, a mobile banking solution designed for SME customers to carry out interbank transfers of up N100m daily and up to N250million on intrabank daily. There is also the FCMB e-invoicing, a unique electronic invoice payment service to ensure business owners make and receive payments effectively and monitor their accounts. FCMB equally offers internet banking products for SME operators and has equally introduced free banking transactions for a period of three months for new-to-FCMB customers operating in the SME segment.