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Collins Nweze

Providing adequate funding for entrepreneurs remains a priority for Heritage Bank PLC. The lender has not only partnered the Bank of Industry (BoI) to promote wealth creation and curb unemployment among the youth, it has also secured $150 million support from the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to boost the financing of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) expected to quicken economic recovery, writes COLLINS NWEZE.

Every lender with eyes on the future and commitment to getting the economy out of the woods thinks entrepreneurship and wealth creation.
The need to stimulate the economy has become more pronounced now than ever, after the price of the country’s mono product, crude oil, crashed in the international market, throwing the economy into its first recession in over 25 years.

But banks have critical roles to play in reversing the trend, and putting the economy on a sustainable path of growth, via entrepreneurship development and funding.
For Heritage Bank PLC, entrepreneurship development and funding, are at the hallmarks of its market growth plan. The lender has, therefore, sought critical partnerships and collaborations to realise its vision for the economy and commitment to entrepreneurship, seen as the engine block of all thriving economies.

For instance, Heritage Bank and the Bank of Industry (BoI) have sealed an entrepreneurship deals that would promote wealth creation and curb unemployment among the youth. The bank also secured $150 million Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) funding support from African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank), a frontline African financial institution.

Afreximbank says it believes in the uniqueness of the business strategy of Heritage Bank, especially the Small Growing Business focus of the lender which aligns with its founding mission.

Speaking at the opening of Live Well Bia Foods Outlet in Surulere, Lagos, the Managing Director of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, said both institution’s support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)-supported programmes would take the country out of ongoing recession.
Represented by the bank’s consultant on SMEs, Mrs. Raliat Oyetunde, Sekibo explained: “It is in time of recession that new millionaires emerge. This is an opportunity for the young ones between the ages of 18 and 35 to key into the various financing channels provided by Heritage Bank and BoI.”

According to him, the documentation and financing of this project were concluded with due diligence within six weeks. “We need more young entrepreneurs, such as the Managing Director, Bia Live Well Outlet, Fadesola Adedayo, to take Nigeria to the next level because the outlet will be opened in 47 other locations across the country,” he said. He added that passion, mentorship and finance were critical to budding entrepreneurs.

BoI’s Acting Managing Director, Waheed Olagunju, affirmed that the support of BoI and Heritage Bank to further empower young entrepreneurs would lead to the recovery of the economy.

He said improved investment would activate a quick recovery of the economy that has been in a state of decline. According to him, supporting young entrepreneurs through funding is necessary to improve the quality of life of many Nigerian youths with desire to be self reliant.

“BoI will continue to support youth with innovative projects like this venture because he has not just created a job for himself but for many others in the value chain. The visionary and talented youths with viable business plans would be supported by banks to drive the industrialisation of the country.

In a statement announcing the Afreximbank deal, Heritage Bank’s Divisional Head, Corporate Communications, Olusola Longe-Okenimkpe, said: “HBCL Investment Services Limited (HISL), a major shareholder of Heritage Bank Limited, has executed the term sheet for the issuance of guarantee for its $150 million Convertible Bond with the African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) to support Heritage Bank PLC in its next phase of growth.’’

Support for budding entrepreneurs
A budding entrepreneur with unique business idea of turning trashes into beautiful furniture, Mrs. Marvis Marshal-Idio has won the Heritage Bank’s sponsored entrepreneurial competition show, Next Titan Season 3. The star prize was N5 million from Heritage Bank, which is the official sponsor of the competition and a brand new car from Coscharis Motors.
The Next Titan is Nigeria’s entrepreneurial reality TV show, a brain child of Mide Kunle-Akinlaja, where ambitious young entrepreneurs compete for a grand prize of N5 million and a brand new car to start his dream business.

At the grand finale in Lagos, four finalists: Ronald Ajiboye, a first class graduate of a Russian University; Marvis Marshal-Idio, who came with a unique business idea of turning trashes into beautiful furniture; Victoria Mamza, founder of Wangarau Foods and Sunday Ewolabi, founder of Naija Peanuts, competed for the star prize N5 million and a brand new Ford Eco Sport.

The panel of judges made up of Chris Parkes, Chairman/CEO, CPMS Africa, an integrated marketing communications firm; Tonye Cole, CEO of Sahara Group and Lilian Olubi, CEO of Primera Africa Securities Limited evicted Ajiboye and unanimously upheld Marshal-Idio as the star prize winner.

The four finalists emerged from the top 16 contestants with the brightest ideas that were shortlisted from 50 aspiring entrepreneurs that were selected from auditions held in Abuja, Port-Harcourt and Lagos.

The 16 contestants lived together and competed among themselves by carrying out weekly business tasks and challenges around Lagos for nine weeks on television and with weekly evictions in the boardroom by the judges.

Divisional Head, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) of the bank, Mrs. Ori Ogba, said Heritage Bank sponsored the project because of its unrelenting desire to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit in Nigerians, adding that the bank which is just three years old, started out by recognising talents in youths.

She said besides the Next Titan, the bank was also working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Youth Service Corp (NYSC) on the Youth Innovative Entrepreneurship Programme (YIEDP).

The YIEDP is aimed at empowering youths between 18 and 35 with particular focus on serving National Youth Corps members (NYSC) and post-NYSC members (not more than five years post service) towards harnessing the latent entrepreneurial drive among the youth.
Mrs. Ogba said about 310 applicants have been approved by CBN as beneficiaries of the programme in this first phase of the scheme.

Lender takes empowerment of Rivers
River State government praised Heritage Bank for its role in enhancing youth entrepreneurship development and engendering self-employment through its various initiatives and products.

The government lauded the bank’s effort at administering and management of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s N3 billion Youth Innovative Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YIEDP) and its partnership with the Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL), which recently graduated 100 young entrepreneurs in the CVL Young Entrepreneurship Training Programme (YETP).

Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Ipalibo Banigo stated this at the one-day Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Development (LEAD) Summit, hosted by the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) in partnership with the Second Opportunity Africa Foundation and Heritage Bank Plc.

Speaking on the summit, titled: “Youths leading entrepreneurs in non-oil economy,” Banigo said Heritage Bank has shown good faith to the youths which goes on to portray the welcoming nature of the Rivers man personified in their son, Ifie Sekibo.

The wife of the Governor, Justice Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, affirmed that the LEAD Summit was the first in the state. She commended the bank for its support to youths.
Sekibo, represented by the General Manager, South Bank, Davidson Regha, said the drive to continue in the support of youths was to create, preserve and transfer wealth across generations.

He explained that the entrepreneur schemes of the bank in the support for business had always focused on dependable job-creating sectors, such as agricultural value chain (fish farming, poultry, snail farming), cottage industry, mining and solid minerals, creative industry (tourism, arts and craft), and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Moody’s, Augusto okays Heritage Bank’s capitalisation
Moody’s and Augusto & Co. have affirmed that Heritage Bank’s capitalisation remains sound in relation to its low asset risk model and can generate income from its core business and settle its obligation as at when due.

According to Moody, under the new methodology, the bank’s credit metrics’ ratings remain consistent with an a3 BCA when measured against Australia’s macro profile.

In a statement, the bank said this was meant to furnish investors with objective analyses and independent assessments of its securities, bonds and credit assets. It was also meant to engage the services of Moody and Augusto & Co. to provide superior information on credit risk and other investment instruments.

“The international and local ratings investment metrics is a welcome development to the bank and, in light of this sterling achievement, we swiftly need to improve on our performances in order to boost our subsequent ratings,” it said.

Also, Agusto & Co, Nigeria’s first Credit Rating Agency and a Pan African leader in credit ratings and credit reports, affirmed same rating with Moodys on all rated assets and instruments.

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