Nigeria: Leveraging Youth Passion for Financial Inclusion

The United Nations Population Fund reports that there are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, with 89 per cent of them residing in less-developed countries in a report released recently.

In 2012, Nigeria introduced the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) and promoted it as a key driver in becoming one of the world’s largest economies.
The goal of NFIS is to decrease the number of Nigerians without access to financial services from 46.3 percent to 20 percent by 2020. These developments present an exciting opportunity for young entrepreneurs to participate in the banking system.

Despite being Africa’s largest economy, the number of Nigerian adults that have bank account is still low.
One major reason for this is simply that numerous initiatives by financial institutions focus largely on urban centers and major cities in Nigeria.
This is seen more in northern parts of Nigeria, where the percentage of financial exclusion is significantly higher than in the southern or eastern parts of the country. The welfare and general well-being of these youths who are largely unbanked and uninformed regarding finances can be significantly improved via access to banking services such as deposits, savings, loans and secure remittances.

That is why initiatives such as music concerts, fashion shows, food carnivals have now formed a basis for youth engagement by financial institutions.
While this is commendable, one is left wondering if these initiatives are more effective at keeping the youths who are already banked and somewhat knowledgeable about finances in the loop as against bringing those who are unbanked into the banking system.

These initiatives are based on trends and passion points that the youth are currently interested in and love to engage in.
Stanbic IBTC, Access Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Diamond Bank, among others, have continued to engage youths via various initiatives leveraging on their passion points.
A good example of such initiatives which lends itself to engagement for participation and inclusion especially amongst youth is the Higher Institutions Football League, Termed HiFL; an annual football competition sponsored by Stanbic IBTC, designed for higher institutions in Nigeria, particularly universities.

It is a football talents competition that stimulate healthy rivalry and engage youth in different locations across Nigeria in the unifying spirit of sportsmanship while enlisting the assistance of a professional and competent body like National Universities Games Association’s (NUGA) collaboration for seamless coordination. This event provides a unifying platform and vehicle for students of the higher institutions via one of the most popular and followed sports in the world; football.

The event is divided along the Sahel (North) and Coastal (South) conferences. The top 16 universities from 79 NUGA-member institutions play in 30 games over a period of 14 weeks in a return leg elimination style culminating with the Final Four hosted at the Agege Stadium in Lagos with funfair, pump and pageantry.

Sports is one of the best ways to attract youths and coupled with financial knowledge being strategically and tactically disseminated by Stanbic IBTC Bank staff and its financial services agents who were ever on ground at all the venues throughout the fourteen weeks the tournament lasted. Intangible knowledge on business, finances and a host of other key life lessons was often also learnt and being inculcated in the future leaders.

Interests vary, and the average attention span of a young individual is limited as they have a lot of information to process via a selection of means ranging from TV, radio, social media to virtual reality. Any attempt to get their attention must be creative and innovative, which is what Stanbic has done with HiFL, engage them via their passion points.

Another of these efforts by financial institutions that are capable of ensuring more youths are brought into the financial net is the Art X Lagos event. This is an important creative enterprise considering that art cuts across all social classes and is one of the ways youths are able to express themselves. Art X gives youths the opportunity to have their craft seen by the world thereby providing them with access to network and learn, regardless of educational or social background.Since its inception in 2016, over 15,000 people have visited the fair including youths from all over Nigeria. Art X is a private initiative with the backing of Stanbic IBTC and Access bank.

Food and drinks festivals are now a big trend as young individuals are increasingly taking up various interests around food, catering, cocktail mixing, and the likes. Even though professional catering schools have been around for a while now, many more of such are springing up and more parents are now more open to the idea of enabling the children and wards explore their passion in food and drinks as a business. More and more youths are proudly answering the name Chef and it has been discovered that organising food festivals also helps in stimulating and encouraging these young individuals as entrepreneurs and considering starting and running their small businesses.

This is most likely the reason why Stanbic IBTC sponsored the Eat Drink Festival and Guaranty Trust Bank set up the GTBank food and drink fair.
Remarkably, these food fairs and festivals have not only spawned young food entrepreneurs but also educated them on how to run a business successfully.
Another initiative worthy of note is the recently concluded innovation challenge by Stanbic IBTC which aimed at developing solutions to improve service offerings and delivery through collaborations with a host of young techpreneurs in the digital technology and innovations space.
Also, through its ‘Born in Africa Festival’ Access Bank fused music, fashion, arts and film with an aim to draw the attention of the global community to Africa’s true culture and lifestyle.

In a bid to positively impact the narrative associated with Africa, Access Bank launched the Born in Africa Festival (BAFEST). The festival leveraged the vehicles of art, music, film and fashion to create an all-encompassing, electrifying event. The event took place in Lagos last December.

The Group Head, Communications & External Affairs, Access Bank, Amaechi Okobi said through the initiative, “Access Bank is championing a change in the African story that has been told for a long time now because we know there are many wonderful things about this beautiful continent. We also know that once Africa’s beauty comes to light, economic empowerment is sure to follow. The Born in Africa Festival highlights the creativity, beauty and contributions that originate not only from Nigeria, but from Africa as a whole.”

Also, the GTBank Food And Drink Fair one of the most anticipated food events of Nigeria. Last year, the financial institution paid attention to opening the Nigerian ‘food market’ to huge and diverse consumers while also promoting enterprises in the most appealing way. In addition, the GTBank Fashion Weekend is today the premier consumer-focused event that places African fashion on the global stage and helps small businesses in the local fashion industry thrive.

The Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank, Segun Agbaje, said “Beyond empowering small businesses with the expertise and networks that they need to thrive, the GTBank Fashion Weekend has become a major event in the social calendars of people across the continent and beyond, and as a bank that is passionate about enriching lives, we will continue to drive initiatives that add value to our communities and deliver amazing experiences for our customers.”

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What the Big Banks Won’t Tell You About Business Loans


By Leigh Buchanan


An SBA-backed loan could be a great option for your business. But you can’t count on big banks to help you, new research shows.

Last year 2018, SBA administrator Linda McMahon told Inc. magazine that her agency is “the best kept secret in the country.” If entrepreneurs keep going to the wrong banks, it may stay a secret.

Large banks like Wells Fargo are often lauded as active Small Business Administration lenders. And, in fact, they do process a significant volume of SBA-backed loans, which offer entrepreneurs lower interest rates and down payments, and longer repayment terms than ordinary bank loans. But the large banks’ numbers are less impressive when compared with much smaller banks, some of which specialize in such loans.

After the recession, many large banks stepped away from small-business loans, although they have been returning to that business over the past few years. But small-business loans are less profitable and riskier than larger loans made to bigger businesses.

“Large banks don’t have to lend to small businesses to survive,” says Ami Kassar, CEO of MultiFunding, an Ambler, Pennsylvania, business that helps small and midsize companies find debt financing. (Kassar is also an Inc.com columnist.) That means some big banks are less likely to introduce and explain SBA-backed loans to clients, says Kassar. Since most small-business owners get lending information from their bankers, and many patronize local branches of large banks, they may never even learn such loans are an option.

To illustrate the disparity, MultiFunding recently conducted a study of SBA lending activity that uses the number of a bank’s branches as a proxy for its size and reach. Among the 10 largest banks based on assets, TD Bank generated the most 7(a) loans (the SBA’s most popular program) in 2017, with an average of three per branch. Wells Fargo ranked second, with an average of one SBA loan per branch in 2017.

“It’s important to note that SBA lending is only a portion of our total small-business lending, and retail branches are just one of Wells Fargo’s delivery channels to serve the lending needs of small business owners,” says Jim Seitz, Wells Fargo’s communications manager for small business and business banking. “Wells Fargo is committed to SBA lending in every market we serve, with a dedicated SBA lending team to meet the needs of small businesses across the United States.”

Bank of America ranked last among large banks on MultiFunding’s ranking, producing on average one SBA-backed loan for every 30 branches. Don Vecchiarello, a spokesman for Bank of America, also emphasized that the company is very active in the small-business market generally. He says the company’s SBA loan business represents just 5 percent of its substantial small-business offerings–and that it is a growing part.

“Since 2015 we have tripled the number of people we have working in our SBA group,” says Vecchiarello. “As far as the 7(a) product, in 2016 we have nearly doubled the amount of loan production.” The company is also a perennial top five lender in the SBA’s 504 program to finance the purchase of fixed assets.

Still, compare those results with three single-location institutions: Celtic Bank, in Salt Lake City, which approved 1,417 loans in 2017; Independence Bank, of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, which approved 1,141; and Live Oak Bank, in Wilmington, North Carolina, which approved 1,055. Several non-bank lenders, such as Newtek and Readycap Lending, also outperformed big banks.

Live Oak Bank, founded in 2008 to provide SBA loans to veterinary practices, is online-only, which MultiFunding counts as a single branch. Today, the company serves 19 vertical niches, and about 63 percent of its loans are SBA-backed.

“There are some industries where business owners have historically received SBA loans, and so in those industries they have a little bit more knowledge,” says Mike McGinley, group general manager for Live Oak Bank. “In our average industry, though, we have to do a lot of education.” Health care, accounting, and agriculture businesses are among those often in need of introduction to the SBA program. The company also created an online tool to significantly streamline the process.

For its part, the SBA has been trying to make its loan programs more visible. McMahon recently finished a tour of communities around the U.S., during which she promoted the SBA’s products and services, including the loan programs. And the agency launched an online tool to match small-business owners with SBA lenders. But “the SBA can’t really control what Bank of America does or does not tell their clients,” says Kassar.

Of course some small-business owners who know about SBA-backed loans choose not to pursue them because they’re put off by the paperwork.

“It can be a real pain in the rear end,” says Kassar. “But if you can get 10 years, rather than five years, to pay back a loan, and it takes you a few extra hours of paperwork, that is probably worth it.”

In the end, the message isn’t small-banks-good/big-banks-bad, says Kassar. Rather, it is find the right bank for you. That could be a large provider. “We are big fans” of SBA loans, says Tom Pretty, head of SBA lending for TD Bank, where 7(a)s make up 41 percent of small-business loan activity. “We go out of our way to show customers all the different options.”

Small-business owners should ask about a potential lender’s experience with SBA-backed loans and how many they approve, Kassar recommends. And avoid throwing in the towel too early. “Don’t assume that just because one bank did not mention the SBA or told you that you were not qualified that that is gospel,” says Kassar. “If you were told that by five banks, then that is probably not for you.”


This article was first published at Inc