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Exclusive Interview: Microfinance Bank As Catalyst for MSME Development in Nigeria

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Yusuf Gyallesu

NAMB National President, Yusuf Gyallesu Speaks with Business Echo Publisher, Olushola Okunlade

The growth of microfinance banks in Nigeria is phenomenal with over 800 licensed institutions mostly operating in urban and rural areas. Though some microfinance banks have come and gone, there are still some vibrant ones providing services to their clients. Where is the strength of this industry in Nigeria?

Olushola Okunlade in an exclusive interview with Yusuf Gyallesu, the President, National Association of Microfinance Banks (NAMB), highlighted the challenges, opportunities and government’s role in this industry.

How would you rate the Microfinance industry performance, in terms of its financial interventions in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sub-sector of the economy?

Well, thank you very much for this question. Microfinance Banking has fared well in the last few years despite the challenges that stared its face.

You know prior to this time most banks were not digitalized, but with the advent of technology, which brought in BVN and other technologies, most banks have measured up.  They are effectively rendering services to customers even at the grassroots. Therefore, I think there is great development, and great achievement for us. Lets not forget that technology evolves every times, so, we keep to the times.

What are the challenges?

The major challenge in this Microfinance Banking sub-sector, naturally, is funding. Liquidity is not always there, and you know we service the MSMEs, which is the engine room of any economy in the world. Therefore, we feel we don’t have the required funds and liquidity to service them effectively, which could help these MSMEs to contribute effectively to the economy.

Meanwhile, sourcing deposits and raising funds into Microfinance industry is very expensive, this is why our interest rate is usually high when we give out loans.

Similarly, we are different from the Commercial banks where everyone who has surplus money goes there to deposit.

There is this misconception about our industry; many people think that Microfinance Banks are just there to give out loans. This is a layman’s belief. We don’t just give out loans like that. You must attract the savings anddeposits first, so from there you can now start to give out loans.

Actually, we found out that some of our customers take loan from us and deposit it with Commercial banks i.e the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs). These people put it (the fund)either in savings or fixed deposits with the Commercial banks, but when they are looking for loan they don’t go there, they come to microfinance banks. The question is where are we going to get the funds to give them?

But the ideal thing is that they should bring their deposits to us too, so that we can give othersloans from that deposit.  

What is CBN doing concerning this?

CBN cannot do anything about this because it is a free market. This issue is affecting the entire microfinance banks in the country. What we want is that people with excess funds without immediate need for use should bring it to us for saving in whatever form; either as fixed deposits or ordinary savings. Then people having businesses requiring funding can come to us to take loans from the money deposited by these people. That is what banking is all about.

Furthermore, CBN expects that if we float our private businesses as banks we should be able to source for deposits from the public and at the same time find channels to give out loans to people.

So, CBN cannot intervene in this. However, there was a time when N220billion was set aside to fund MSMEs in the country. This fund was meant to be accessed by Commercial banks, Microfinance banks and even state governments.State governments could access up to N2billion from this MSME Fund.

However, for us to access this money and lend to our customers, the terms and conditions set by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) were so stringent that we were unable to access it.

As I am talking to you now, less than 5% of the N220billion has been accessed by the Microfinance sub-sector because of the strict conditions that were set. We have been talking and advocating for CBN to relax these conditions so that we can access the money and lend to our customersthat the money is meant for.

There have been consistent clamor by the NAMB for a level playing ground for operators, Could you shed light on what you really mean by this?

You see, sometimes in 2018 or thereabout, CBN came out with an idea of establishing a National Microfinance Bank, while already we had nine (9) licensed National Microfinance Banks.

So, we said if government is floating a bank, then frankly speaking, there won’t be that fair level –playing ground.

By our understanding, government has no business in doing business. The government’s responsibility is to provide an enabling environment for all stakeholders and players to do their businesses.

However, when we learnt of their intentions we wrote a letter to CBN to express our fears. But we later gathered that they have succeeded in floating the Microfinance bank.

But how can a regulator become an operator? Who will regulate that regulator? We complained, hoping that they will reason with us in what we were talking about. Rather, we were told that it was the Bankers’ Committee that floated the bank.

But who are members of the Bankers’ Committee?

These are the Managing Directors of the Deposit Money banks with the CBN Governor as the chairman.The Microfinance banks are not represented on that Committee at all.No wonder, most of the key staff of the new bank were seconded from CBN.

How do you reconcile that?

The newly floatednationalMicrofinance bankis partnering with NIPOST and is expectedto have branches in all the 774 Local Government Areasof the country.

We saw the whole idea as an emergence of a government bank to compete with privately owned banks. Like I said before, government has no business in doing business.If it were a private body floating that national bank we wouldn’t have any fears at all.

Now they call it NIRSAL Microfinance Bank which is also a member of our association. With this, we now have 10 licensed National Microfinance banks.

Our fear was proven, when the government brought out palliative of N50b. The whole amount was given to that one bank leaving out the other 873 licensed Microfinance Banks. That confirmed our earlier fears because this is government’s money, it is a post Covid-19 intervention meant to support every person and business in the country that was affected by the pandemic.

They know that they own a bank, so the whole amount was given to their ownmicrofinance bank.

Don’t forget that this bank was established barely three years ago.  Furthermore, the experience, professional training and certification most of us have their staff don’t have. The Managing Director and other top Management team were from CBN. So westill see it as a government owned bank.

Do they have the reach and branch network to disburse N50billion across the country?

They don’t have. They are new and lack the required microfinance banking experience to effectively disburse and efficiently manage such funds.

We feel that they are overwhelmed by this huge amount to manage. There is no way they can effectively and efficiently handle this intervention money. So, what weafearis that there could be a serious problem in the implementation of the government support to the people.

Also, in reference is the Anchor-borrowers’ fund where the same government brought out money to assist the rice farmers.  The Microfinance banks that are there dealing with farmers at the rural communities were not involved in the scheme at all. They channeled the funds through the Deposit Money Banks and that is the story now. There is a very high percentage of default in this scheme.

Obviously, the idea is that any time the government has anyintervention money for the poor people; they prefer to give it out directly throughother channels without involving the microfinance banks who are closest to these people at the local community levels. For instance, if this N50billion intervention had been given to some of the sound Microfinance banks scattered across the country, the effect would have been excellent. Also, the money would have been relatively safe as the microfinance banks would take it as loans for on-lending under some terms and conditions.

So the government would not be worried because they are dealing directly with licensed banks that would ensure full recovery of the funds.The microfinance banks will disburse and ensure they follow due diligence and apply strict credit risk management on whoever they are disbursing the money to. But the way they are disbursing through NIRSAL Microfinance bank who the people see as a government bank, will not yield the desired result. Most beneficiaries will see it as a grant and or national cake that do not need to be repaid. We fear that they cannot effectively monitor the beneficiaries to ensure that they are putting the money to use and to ensure recovery.I am not a prophet of doom, but I can assure you that at the end of the day the level of default would be high.

So,what we are advocating to Central Bank of Nigeria is that, since this N50b has not been completely exhausted, other sound microfinance banks should be involved with the disbursement of this palliative.

We are partners in progress and also stakeholders in the financial system and would want the government to succeed in its policies that affect the poor population at the grassroots levels,

What are the initiatives you intend to set up to pilot NAMB forward during your tenure?

Am sure you are aware that I was part of the last regime in the capacity of the First National Vice President.I worked hand in hand with the then President todevelop sound programs for the association.

Therefore, for continuity, wehave to implement uncompleted programs of the last regime and then introduce new onesfor development and progress of the association and its members. I hope that whoever is succeeding me after my tenure next year will equally continue with my uncompleted programs like that..

Ours is a professional association and we ensure that at any given time the leadership will always have programs that will protect the interest of the members and uplift the statusof the body and sector as a whole.

But to answer you, one major campaign promise we made was a commitment toensure that we have sound, functional and compliant Microfinance banks in the country.

We are also conducting membership verification across the country to establish and determine the actual numbers of our members that are functionally active and those that are not. This will assist us in planning for effective membership services and budgeting. We discovered that payment of annual dues and other financial obligations by members are not adequate compared to the number of 874 licensed banks.Also, attendance to any official function of the association is always very poor. You will find that the attendance to functions and payment of annual dues usually hovers around 400 out of the 874 registered banks. So, what is happening to the other 400 members?

We know for sure that most of these remaining 400 members are just members on paper as they only have the license from Central Bank Nigeria to render services to the public but are not doing due to one reason or the other. Some may be facing someserious challenges affecting their operations while some  have willingly closed shop and refused to surrender their licenses back to Central Bank of Nigeria. These banks are still being regarded as active members. So we are trying to reach out to all our members to ensure that we have the correct figures so that CBN will know that out of the 874 only 500 or soare actively doing the business.But each time we interact with CBNit keeps making reference to 874 as our membership strength. This figure actually distorts our compliance levels with the regulators.

We are therefore, conducting an online membership census which will later be validated by on sight physical visits.

There are 4 functional administrative levels in the NAMB structure, comprising of the Board of Trustees, the National Working Committee, the Zonal and State Chapters. These levels are necessary to ensure effective and efficient administration and delivery of services to the members.

We ensure that every state and zonal chapter holds regular meetings,as dictated by the constitution, where they discuss issues affecting the association and the sector in general. The chapters periodically update the national secretariat with their actual membership strengths.

It is from these chapters that the payments of dues are being coordinated.

How is NAMB’s collaboration with the Nigerian Exchange Limited (“NGX” or “The Exchange”). How will this impact on MFBs?

Actually, in 2019 I was part of a team that went to the Stock Exchange for a collaborative engagement. We had a very fruitful discussion where we saw the need for the association to collaborate with them. We saw this as an avenue where our members could raise the required funds to meet up with the new minimum capital requirement.

Most of our members will not be able to raise funds from the private sources, So we saw the need to approach the Stock Exchange.

We also went round the geopolitical zones of the country on sensitization and creating awareness to all the stakeholders on the various investments and funding options available for us. This is a continuous exercise until funding and liquidity is stable in our sector.

NAMB plans to float a Microfinance Development Company to serve as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for funding the microfinance sub-sector. Have you been able to achieve this?

Yes, this company is a child of necessity. Like I told you from the beginning of this interview the major challenge we have in this sub-sector is funding. We saw that we are not actually being able to generate enough deposits to enable us offer our normal banking services, and getting funds straight from the government with all these stringent conditions is not forthcoming.

Also, individual microfinance banks will not be able to meet the requirements set by these government agencies. Therefore, we resolved that as an association we should float a company that will be responsible for accessing funds either locally or internationally, for on-lending to our members. That company has been floated and it commenced operations since October last year and is wholly owned by Microfinance banks.

We have clear and simple modalities and requirements on how to invest and access funds on that platform.  A lot of our members have seen the wisdom in floating this company because, if nobody wants to give us funds, why can’t we raise it ourselves?That was why we as an association formed that company.

As NAMB President, what were your experiences during COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 Pandemichas come and is still very much around. It is being experienced by everyone as it has affected all spheres of life, not only here, but all over the world.

All our members have been affected negatively as movements were restricted forcing businesses to completely shut down. We could not render services to our customers and at the same time could not recover our loans that fell due for repayment. –

But for us as the umbrella body of all the Microfinance banks what we are doing is advocating with Central Bank of Nigeria to allow our banks to reschedule and extend the loans tenors for most of our customers who were unable to repay as and when due.Because during this Covid-19 period most our customers couldn’t do anything, they were struggling to survive and stay alive not to talk of doing business torepay their loans.. So we are appealing to our members to be soft on their customersby  givingthem some moratorium and extend the re-payment periods. Let them give the customers time to come back to their businesses.

So this is what the association is advocating to our members.

How would you rate the performance of your Microfinance Bank in terms of deposit base, core banking services and expansion trajectory?

Well, with regardsto the microfinance bank where I am the Board chairman, even though we have just taken over the bank, we are still trying to re-engineer the bank so that, being the President’s bank, whatever requirement is expected of a Microfinance bank we should be able to have. We are hoping  tomeet  the new minimum capital requirement before the dateline.

The bank is already on the NAMBUIT platform that CBN is mandating all microfinance banks to key into, even though the association is advocating that it should not be by compulsion. Banks should be allowed tomake a business decision in selecting their preferred IT platforms.

We are doing everything possible as an association to see that this IT platform works, so that our members who do not have robust banking software can key in and do their banking business.

Therefore, we are trying as a bank to measure up and ensure that with the available resources we are able to meet up with all the requirements expected of any microfinance bank.

What roles do you think this bank will play in leveraging your members’ operations and by implication, stabilizing the MBF sub-sector?

JOSAD MFB is just one of the 874 licensed microfinance banks operating in the country. We are located in Karu, Nassarawa state. I believe there are lots of commercial activities there.it is a virgin  market and we will do our best to take advantage of the potentials that abound and may be in about 2 or 3 years’ time it will be a success story.

What is your reaction on CBN’s new 60% Loan Deposit Ratio (LDR) policy for banks?

Yusuf Gyallesu, the President, National Association of Microfinance Banks (NAMB)

To me, what they mean is whatever amount of deposits you have, at least 60% of it must go out for loan disbursements. If you understand what that means, for me it is okay.

However, getting the deposits is the problem. Like I told you earlier, in banking whatever deposits you are able to mobilize, youmust channel such fundst to loans. It is your working capital which you have sourced at a cost. If you mobilize deposits at a cost and you don’t use it to give out loans,then you are failing as a bank. You must give out loans in order to generate enough income to recover your costs and make some profits.

So the 60% ratio they are putting is reasonable and okay.

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is responsible for formulating policies and guidelines to regulate and control the banking system. It is their duty to continuously be changing the policies so that they suit the economic agenda of the government at any particular time.

How is NAMB members handling clients and what are the guidelines NAMB has put in place to ease clients’ loan facility during pandemic?

It is Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that comes up with policies to guide the banking activities in the country; while our duty as an association is to ensure that our members adhere and comply with the policies and regulations.

Where do you see NAMB in five years?

In five years’ time, I see NAMB as a self-regulating association with little or no interference from CBN except on policy matters. I see a very close collaboration with all relevant stakeholders to ensure vibrant and sustainable banks in the sector

In fact, self-regulation is one of the 5 cardinal pillars of our association. To actualize this, we embarked on a study tour to Ghana where their rural banking is being self-regulated. We have also been on study tour to Germany and Luxembourg to understudy the international best practices in microfinance banking. Microfinance banking is being practiced in Germany in the form of Cooperatives and Savings Societies for over 200 years.

To achieve this self-regulation, we have to embark on serious sensitization and capacity development of our sector to regain the lost confidence of the general public and our regulators.  We must clean and put our house in order to restore our good reputation. 

If we are able to achieve this, we can then honestly do our business with very minimal regulation from the authorities. It is only then that you will see real development in microfinance banking sector.

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Stanbic IBTC Bank Appoints Sola David-Borha As Chairman Of Board

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Mrs. Sola David-Borha, Chairman of Board, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc.

…Stanbic IBTC Bank Announces Appointment of Sola David-Borha as Chairman of Board

Olushola Okunlade Writes

The Board of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc has announced the appointment of Mrs. Sola David-Borha as Chairman of the Board, effective 26 November 2021.

Sola recently retired as Chief Executive, Standard Bank, Africa Regions. She was previously Chief Executive of Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC and prior to that, was also Chief Executive of Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC.

Mrs. David-Borha had an extensive career in the financial services industry which has spanned over three decades. Her executive educational experience includes the Advanced Management Program of Harvard Business School and the Global CEO Program of CEIBS, Wharton, and IESE. She is an Honorary Senior Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and winner of the CNBC African Woman of the Year Award for 2016.

Together4ALimb: Stanbic IBTC holds Seventh Edition

While commenting on the appointment, Mr. Wole Adeniyi, Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, stated, “Mrs. David-Borha has held several leadership roles over the years in the group and once again, we are privileged to have her as the Chairman of the Board of Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC. The Bank will definitely benefit from her wealth of experience as she brings to bear her decades of experience and wealth of knowledge in the financial services industry”.

Mrs. Sola David-Borha takes over from Mr. Barend Kruger who resigned as Chairman of Stanbic IBTC Bank on 21 October 2021. Kruger, however, remains on the Board of Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC as a Non-Executive Director.

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CIBN President, Olugbemi Says eNaira Will Deepen Financial Inclusion

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CIBN President Says eNaira Will Deepen Financial Inclusion

“Equally worthy of note is the improvement, though slight, being witnessed in the exchange rate of the Naira

Olushola Okunlade Writes

The President of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Dr. Bayo Olugbemi has commended the introduction of the country’s first digital currency, eNaira, saying it was part of measures to deepen financial inclusion and integrate millions of unbanked Nigerians into the banking system.

Dr. Olugbemi, who spoke at the 56th Annual Bankers Dinner of the institute, noted that while the modality for the operation of the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) is being finetuned, the launch of the electronic currency was a step in the right direction.

He commended CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele for the innovative introduction of eNaira, saying” I have no doubt in my mind that it is a welcome development and a step in the right direction.

“Equally worthy of note is the improvement, though slight, being witnessed in the exchange rate of the Naira. I wish to call for its sustenance. We are certainly working in interesting times with global growth rate at its lowest and traditional norms being challenged on a daily basis.”

Olugbemi, who was attending his last CIBN dinner as the president of the institute as he would be handing over the mantle of leadership of the institute by May 2022, noted that his tenure builds “on the solid foundation laid by our predecessors, rooted in the tradition of constantly leaning forward into the future.

He thanks members of the Institute for their support in the implementation of the A-TEAM Agenda of his administration. “I want to assure you that the Institute will continue to devote its resources to the development of competencies whilst strengthening observance of ethics and professionalism in the banking industry.

He said traditionally, the Annual Bankers Dinner is the “CBN Governor’s Day” because it affords stakeholders’ the rare privilege of interacting and listening to Mr. Governor as he examines critical issues and fundamentals which have affected the banking industry within the year.

In his keynote address, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele who was the Special Guest of Honour stated that “In less than 4 weeks since its launch, almost 600,000 downloads of the e-Naira application have taken place. “Efforts are ongoing to encourage faster adoption of the e-Naira by Nigerians who do not have smartphones.

“The support of the financial industry will be critical in the ongoing deployment of the e-Naira and efforts are ongoing to encourage continued partnership between the CBN and stakeholders in the financial industry,’’ he said.

The CBN governor noted that building a robust payment system that would provide cheap, efficient, and faster means of conducting payments for most Nigerians have always been the focus of the apex bank.

Emefiele said that total transaction volumes using digital channels more than doubled between 2018 and 2020, as volumes rose from 1.3 billion to over 3.3 billion financial transactions in 2020.

He said that Digital payment channels also helped to support the continued conduct of business activities during the lockdown.

He said the banking sector’s robust payment system has continued to evolve towards meeting the needs of households and businesses in Nigeria, reflective of the confidence in our payment system, indicating that between 2015 and September 2021, about US$900 million has been invested in firms run by Nigerian founders.

Mr. Emefiele also stated that the policies created to ensure stability in the exchange rate saw more transactions flowing through the official Investors & Exporters FX window (I&E FX Window) which raised its average daily Fx turnover to $250 million from $40 million in April 2020.

Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu in his remarks stated that bankers “must ensure that the fundamental economic indicators, both micro and macro, of our economy, are a true reflection of what the realities are in the various sectors of the economy.”

Sanwo-Olu said, “We will certainly need to review the traditional economic and monetary models in the face of changing realities and the desire to achieve maximum impact and outcome vis a vis our policy objectives.

“But even as we do this, we must never lose sight of our primary mandates as institutions and organizations. He said the fund’s banks deploy must create jobs, boost exports, build capacity, and guarantee prosperity for significant numbers of our population.

The Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, and Chairman North Central Governors Forum used the forum to donate a facility in Minna, the state capital to the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Nigeria (CIBN) to serve as the North Central Regional Office in other to strengthen the relationship between the Banking industry in Nigeria and the North Central part of the country.

Highlights of the event was the presentation of the various awards to Next Generation Class of 2021 which recognizes a class of young bankers who are excelling and have contributed exceptionally to the industry and economy with your institution; X-factor Award which recognizes a leading female banker breaking the glass ceiling and inspiring a more gender-inclusive Industry was awarded to OlaronkeKing; Affiliated of the year Award which recognizes an industry affiliate/agent whose performance has enhanced the Industry’s goal of financial inclusion was Award to Paystack Payments Limited; Next Generation Customer Award which recognizes a business in an identified strategic sector that has been catalyzed by the industry’s support was awarded to Faith Agro and the COVID-19 Response Banker of The Year Award which recognizes employees that innovatively stepped up beyond the call of duty in the fight against Covid-19, to ensure business continuity despite the scourge of the pandemic was jointly awarded to Ameachi Okobi of Access Bank and Dr. Segun Oghuan of FBN Ltd

The Group Managing Director/CEO of Wema Bank Plc, Mr. Ademola Adebise served as the Chairman of the Organising Committee of the event.

The Annual Bankers Dinner had in physical attendance Commissioner’s of Finance and Budget and planning of various states, Chairmen of Banks, British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, President, IoD; Deputy Governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria; President of Professional Bodies; Director-General, SEC and his Commissioners; MD/CEOs of banks; Past Presidents and Registrars of the Institute, Diplomats, Captains of Industries, Business leaders, and financial analysts.

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2021 NCOY: FirstBank Partners Junior Achievement Nigeria, Reiterates Commitment To Innovation, Education

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*894# USSD

2021 NCOY: FIRSTBANK PARTNERS JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT NIGERIA, REITERATES COMMITMENT TO INNOVATION AND EDUCATION

Olushola Okunlade Writes

For 11 years, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial inclusion services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has partnered with Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN) to host its annual flagship event.

The National Company of the Year competition (NCOY), which convenes winners of the JA Company Regional Competitions across Nigeria to compete for the National Company of the Year Award.

This year, the event will bring together outstanding ‘student business teams’ across Nigeria to compete for prizes and an opportunity to represent the country at the national competition – the JA African Company of the Year Competition (ACOY). The 2021 edition of the NCOY competition will be held virtually via Zoom meetings at 10 am on Saturday, 27th November 2021. 

Interested participants are to register via the link https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEtd-qvqz4pE90NXOHcy-tve6aEXpY_yYAE

The competition themed ‘Innovation with Grit’ will have 12 teams from 12 schools pitch their innovations to a team of 5 guests judges. The schools at the competition are ‘The Seer company from Alvana High School; Sonic Informatics company from Heritage Global Academy; Nexus Queens company from Queens School; JA Stars from Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN); Amazing Amazon Students from Government Girls’ Secondary School, Abaji; KereTerra Company from Secondary School Etoi, Uyo and The Exploit thinkers from Taidob College’.

Other teams competing include: Mystic Global Company from Rosa Mystica High School, Agulu;  PetraMech Tech from Petra Schools; The Amazing Inventors from Government Secondary School Tudun Wada; Blue crystal company from Methodist Girls school and the Artisans from Igbobi College.

Judges at the event include: Oludolapo Adigun, Group Head, Retail Banking Lagos & West First Bank of Nigeria Limited; Chidimma Juliana Okparah, Project Management Consultant (PMIEF); Sheila Ojei, Head of Communications Jobberman;  Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative and Simbo Olatoregun, Policy Programs Manager for Facebook in Africa. In attendance also is the Honourable Commissioner for Education Lagos State, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo as a Special Guest.

The 2021 National Company of the Year Program will also feature SPARK Competition. SPARK as an initiative of First Bank of Nigeria Limited is an acronym for Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness. SPARK reiterates the Bank’s commitment to institutionalise kindness in Nigeria by encouraging and amplifying a culture of kindness.

The SPARK competition will feature 15 finalist schools across Nigeria, whose CSR projects align with the Bank’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability pillars of Education, Welfare and Health, Financial inclusion, and Responsible Lending and Procurement.

Speaking on the event, the Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications, Folake Ani-Mumuney said “FirstBank’s partnership under its Future First initiative with JA Nigeria Company programme has positively impacted over 100,000 people in different locations across the country in preparing and teaching them how to generate wealth, effectively manage it and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Our commitment to fostering entrepreneurial development amongst youths is mainly the driving force behind our support of the National Company of the Year (NCOY) and Africa Company of the Year (ACOY) competitions in past 11 years”.

According to the Executive Director, JAN, “the National Company of the Year Company competition provides our students with a platform to show how innovative they are while displaying their dexterity and grit especially as it relates to creating sustainable business solutions to problems in their immediate community. The students have learned critical skills during the implementation of the Company Programme and we are proud to celebrate them as they compete in the National competition. I would like to specially appreciate FirstBank Nigeria for its continued support and belief in the boundless potential of young Nigerians’’.

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