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‘BoI will sustain growth initiatives for SMEs’




In this concluding part of the interview with the Executive Director of Bank of Industry, Waheed Olagunju, he explained the nexus between strategic focus on small businesses and sustainable economic growth and development. Besides, Olagunju narrated his journey from journalism to the banking profession. He spoke with Business Editor, ADE OGIDAN.

With the rising profile of MSMEs, the current sources of funding, despite their respective depths, may be insufficient in the nearest future.Is the bank planning to diversify its funding sources’ base?

Yes, that has always been on our operational agenda. In diversifying BOI’s sources of finance, we are already mobilising more funds from the private sector and foreign development finance institutions to finance our robust MSMEs’ initiatives. We are on the verge of drawing down on a $100 million line of credit dedicated to financing mainly export based SMEs. In the course of the year we plan to co launch MSME dedicated funds in collaboration with our potential legacy development partners.

The Dangote Foundation was BOI’s first legacy development partner. As earlier stated, the two development partners in 2010 jointly launched a N10 billion MSME Development Fund that attracts a highly subsidised interest rate of five per cent per annum. So, we are in the process of replicating this model in conjunction with public-spirited high networth individuals who are committed to supporting developmental schemes with high employment generation potential.

How do you plan to further stimulate high quality deal flows that could also reduce turnaround period for small businesses’ finacing programme?

Towards stimulating high quality deal flows, we have stepped up our interaction with such customer and organized private sector groups as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) and National Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI) at all levels across the country. Similarly we have intensified our communication campaign to market BOI’s products and services using the mass media and some select social media platforms. They include radio stations that have wider reach and web broadcasts.

Appreciating that all the bold initiatives that are being embarked upon have resulted in raising volume of business, the bank has upgraded its information technology system as well as commenced the automation of its operations and processes. It is now possible to apply for loans online. An SME application is also being developed. We are committed to reduction in turnaround time in all our operations. In this vein, we have committed to a two to four week turn around time for well prepared loan applications that contain all the information required for us to carry out thorough appraisal. Our internal processes –from end to end- have similarly been reduced in terms of the time it takes to disburse approved loans.

The lender and borrower have roles to pay in this process. For aspects that fall under BOI’s purview we have put in place internal service level agreements under which some process have been reduced from 90 to 19 days. We are actually putting in place a Quality Management System that is consistent with the requirements of the ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System. The Bank looks forward to being ISO certified shortly. This would be coming after our recent highly impressive A- rating by Agusto and Co.

You can see that from all indications. BOI is taking all necessary steps to rapidly step up its lending and advisory services to MSMEs across the country through its corporate transformation programme and increased collaboration with its domestic and foreign development partners with the ultimate objective of creating more jobs for Nigerians and deepening the Bank’s developmental impact on the whole nation.

We cannot conclude this interview without discussing “Waheed Olagunju” which is a household name in Nigeria and even beyond our shores. This is because of your antecedents as a television personality. How did you make the successful switch from broadcasting to banking ?

One must certainly give glory to God for many reasons. Ranging from family background and upbringing, to the quality of education received all in Nigeria up to masters degree level at the University of Lagos, on the job training and retraining received since graduation in 1981 as well as capacity building programmes attended within and outside Nigeria in addition to considerable international exposure opportunities offered by broadcasting and development banking.

In the two callings, I was able to successfully take on additional and higher responsibilities due to divine preparation for those challenges by preceding assignments.

For instance, the switch from broadcasting to banking. That journey actually started in 1985 with my reassignment from NTA Sports as Head of the Communications Desk in the course of which I met Mallam Ibrahim Aliyu who was then the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communications when Colonel Tank Ayuba was Communications Minister. I got along quite well with both of them because they felt I was very hard working and displayed insatiable quest for knowledge.

I was later appointed Head of the Economy Desk in 1989 at a time when Nigeria’s economy was being deregulated and liberalized. Because the transition from a controlled economy to an open one required a lot of public enlightenment, I had to educate myself extensively as well as interact and consult with relevant Ministers and high ranking officials in the public and private sectors including the international development community even beyond the shores of Nigeria.

In that capacity i again worked with Mallam Ibrahim Aliyu who as Permanent Secretary, Economic Affairs in the Presidency was member of the Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commerialisation headed by the late Dr Hamza Zayyad with Dr Shamsuddeen Usman as Director General. I similarly worked very well with the trio as they felt I handled quite well the public communication campaign of Nigeria’s Privatisation and Commercialisation programme.

Mallam Ibrahim Aliyu was later appointed Managing Director of the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB). Soon after which I met him in Washington during the 1989 Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the IMF that I went to cover for NTA News. That was when Mallam Aliyu offered me the NIDB job as he felt they could not successfully undertake the Bank’s developmental mandate without effective communication. Incidentally Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi who was a regular guest on my NTA Business News segment was NIDB’s Chairman at the time. Hence I joined BOI’s precursor institution, NIDB in August 1990.

Prior to joining NIDB, without knowing what the future had in stock for me, I undertook crash programmes in development banking between 1989 and 1990. As Head of Economy desk at NTA News, I conducted a lot research particularly in the area of development financing during which I undertook study tours of the International Finance Corporation while Sir William Ryrie was Chief Executive, the World Bank then headed by Barber Conable and the International Monetary Fund under the leadership of Michel Camdessus.

I then crossed over to the African Development Bank in Abidjan when Babacar N’diaye was the President. The interviews i had with the four CEOs and their very senior management staff gave me considerable insights into the workings of the four international development finance institutions and how they assist member countries including Nigeria.

I was also opportuned to cover the implementation of the Lome Convention that governed the economic corporation between the European Union and the African Caribbean Pacific countries. I also understudied the operations of the European Investment Bank that happens to be one of the instruments of corporation.

With all these exposure, when I joined NIDB in August 1990 I hit the ground running knowing how DFIs functioned at national, continental and global levels. These antecedents explain the apparent seamless switch from broadcasting to banking and the circumstances under which I embarked on my 25 year career at NIDB/BOI in the course of which successive Managements and Board of Directors assigned me higher responsibilities rising from Senior Manager in 1990 to Executive Director in 2012. On my way to the Board I served as Company Secretary for more than 15 years and was also concurrently General Manager Strategic Planning, Corporate Communications and Corporate Secretariat.

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