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Addressing funding, skill challenges of small businesses

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A survey by Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) estimates the number of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country, which Taiwo Oyedele, tax lead at PwC Nigeria, said could reduce the unemployment rate by more than half if there is a new policy that would enable them to employ engage one additional employee.

Such policies, the Managing Director of Wema Bank Plc, Ademola Adebise, does not necessarily have to be restricted to funding, saying, “I have seen many MSMEs with access to funds struggle as a result of the absence of skills to manage business enterprises and poor knowledge of the market.”

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Adebise, thus said, said skill acquisition and access to funding are of equal importance in unlocking the potential of SMEs in creating the needed jobs and contributing to the economic development of the country.

Sadly, there is a disproportionate emphasis on funding as the most important factor in growing the industry, leaving some business owners with the impression that access to finance is the only factor they need to be successful. Adebise said this has created a gap in the market, which Wema Bank, under its advisory service, wishes to fill to support the economy and its customers.

The yearning to provide more entrepreneurs with the soft skills to manage successful businesses, he said, has made the bank create an SME business school in this regard.

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Wema Bank believes that the Business School will not only empower SMEs to see and do things differently, it will also enable them to achieve radically different solutions that offer better outcomes for lower costs,” the chief executive said at the unveiling of the programme, which is billed to operate at a zero cost to the trainees.

The MSME academy, according to the bank, will provide easy access to practical training and resources on financing opportunities in various countries, building a digital presence for businesses, and adapting to business operations in changing times such as in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The SME academy offers free access to market intelligence, a host of mentors with a diverse experience while assisting with access to funding opportunities,” he said.

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Education and innovation are the heart of the knowledge economy as well as modern exceptional service delivery. Enterprises that are not committed to using the power of innovation to solve social challenges have always generated less-than-awesome outcomes.

Research has shown that most of the pressing problems SMEs face are a fallout of a lack of knowledge/information. Wema Bank’s boss said the project would equip SMEs with the capacity to respond to many of such challenges and rise to the emerging demand.

“Wema Bank’s SME Business School will equip SMEs with the basic management knowledge required to guide them in the effective running of their businesses. The school curriculum has been designed to close the knowledge gap that plagues most SMEs, leading to poor business structure and management.

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“As an SME-friendly bank, we understand that starting and running a business is no small feat, and there are lots of challenges that SMEs face. We have launched the SME Business School to equip them with relevant and practical knowledge to guide them in the effective running of their business and to surmount any challenge they encounter.

“We realized we can tackle problems such as access to finance, market access, dealing with tech disruptions and multiple taxations. We decided to drive this with the Business School. The idea is to provide advisory services and equip them with fresh ideas and insights to take their business to another level,” the Retail Divisional Head, Dotun Ifebogun, stressed.

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He said the programme’s curriculum has been kept relevant, practical and is a direct offshoot of the bank’s in-depth understanding of SMEs and its experience working with experts.

Speaking more on the operation, Ifebogun said: “The business school is supported by the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, Germany. Top-notch facilitators for the business school have been selected from within and outside of Nigeria and will facilitate a selection of relevant courses. Although the business School has been designed and developed to serve and support SMEs who bank with Wema, there are slots to accommodate SMEs who do not have accounts yet. The SME Business School aims to educate 3,000 SMEs in the next two years.”

The SME business school, the first of its kind in Nigeria, will run for five days and hold twice a year across the country regions, starting the bank’s training facility in Lagos.

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