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Bank Disburses N100bn Loan To SMEs In 2022 

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Fidelity Bank Plc said it has disbursed over N100 billion loans to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the real sector in the first half of the year.
The bank said it also leveraged its lending framework to partner with several Development Finance Institutions (DFI), such as Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), Bank of Industry (BOI), and African Development Bank (AfDB) to make low interest prices credits available to SMEs in Nigeria.
Group Head, SME Banking Business, Fidelity Bank Plc, Ms. Esther Obiekwe, while speaking on the sideline of the recent Lagos State Trade Fair, said in view of the giant strides achieved in the growth of SMEs in Nigeria, the bank was named best SME supportive institution by the DBN, having disbursed over N50b under the DBN on-lending scheme
According to her, the bank is aggressively leveraging cutting-edge digital solutions to improve customer experience in risk asset products to deepen its penetration in the SME segment and boost market shares in the industry.
She said the bank is currently building SME advisory hubs across the country where existing and aspiring entrepreneurs (both our SME customers and non-customers) can come in and receive business management knowledge and advice free of charge.
Additionally, Obiekwe said the bank is also building an SME on-line hub that will serve as a one-stop shop for its business advisory services for Nigerian SMEs.
She bemoaned the challenges confronting the SMEs sector in Nigeria, despite that it potentially constitutes the most dynamic firms in emerging economies, limiting their expansion capacity and impeding development.
She explained that the issue of lack of funding in SMEs “should not even exist given the attractiveness of the sector, especially the technology firms. The sector contributes 50 per cent of GDP and generates up to 90 per cent of employment”.

According to her, with a 50 per cent contribution to GDP and 90 per cent employment generation, the issue of lack of funding in SMEs should not even exist given the attractiveness of the sector.

“Once the government gets power right, SMEs can save cost and other unnecessary wastage, improve efficiency, grow production capacity and overall output.

“From our experience over the years, there are two broad categories of challenges SMEs face in Nigeria, and they are Funding Issues and Non-Funding Issues.

“Critical amongst the non-funding issues are the dearth of infrastructure such as roads, power, ICT, as well as government policies which are required to encourage the growth of SMEs in Nigeria.

“For the bank, its long-running support for the growth and development of small businesses in Nigeria stems from its recognition of their strong roles, as critical agents of economic development and transformation in Nigeria,” she said.

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Waterways Disaster: NIWA Institutes Insurance Cover For Goods, Barges 

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As a result of heavy losses of lives and properties by the operators of water transportation, the Nigeria Inlandways Authority has announced its readiness to roll out insurance cover plans to ensure that importers who patronize barge operators do not lose their investments.
Managing Director of NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu, who disclosed this to newsmen at a media parley in Lagos, said his agency has held discussions with the barge operators for a suitable insurance cover for all goods on board barges.
He noted that this was simply to protect investments of importers who use waterways to transport their goods to their final destination
The NIWA boss described movement of goods by barges as a prime project in order to decongest the nation’s ports and also reduce pressure on the roads.
The roads,  Moghalu said, were not designed to carry as much as they do currently, adding, “if so, there is no way our infrastructure will last.
“So, whatever we can do to reduce such pressure, we do it… in civilized societies, bulk cargoes go on waterways”, he said.
He further explained that having concessioned Onitsha Port, others will follow with time, adding that government will use the same template used in Onitsha concession as a guide to Baro, Lokoja, Oguta and any other river port.
Recall that the former Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, had said that Onitsha River Port has a lot of economic benefits to the country.
Saraki said the port will generate about N23billion to the Federal Government in 30 years as part of the concession agreement.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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Bakers Plan Fresh Price Hike, Cite Cost Of Materials 

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Bakers, under the aegis of the Premium Bread-Makers Association of Nigeria (PBAN), have warned of another inrease in prices of bread due to the skyrocketing cost of baking materials.
President of the association, Emmanuel Onuorah, who disclosed this to The Tide’s source in an exclusive interview, said the recent developments in the global marketplace had not translated into a better operating environment for local bakers.
Accordiy to him, the planned hike follows a recent strike action by PBAN, and the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria (AMBCN), which culminated in a 15 per cent hike in bread prices barely two weeks ago.
Onuorah said many members of PBAN had been forced to shut down business operations this year due to the skyrocketing cost of doing business.
“The price of bread is going up again. The millers just increased prices by N2000. Sugar refiners increased by N2000. We had a N10,000 increase between last week and this week. We are increasing prices again.
“Preservatives increased by N2000, and butter increased by N2000. So, we have to respond. For us as an industry, our own is garbage in, garbage out. If the price of wheat comes down today, and the price of fuel comes down, certainly we will look at the price of our products and act accordingly”, he said.
He also urged the Federal Government to open up a forex window for industry players, particularly the flour millers.
This, he said, would significantly address the indiscriminate increase in the prices of flour in the market.
“When we went on withdrawal of services, flour was N28,500. Today it is N30,500,” Onuorah said.
In July 22, 2022, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement to free more than 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
The agreement, brokered with support from the United Nations and Turkey, was projected to have major implications on global food security and food prices.
The inability of Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports had severely reduced the supply of food to import-dependent African and Middle Eastern countries.
Before the war in Ukraine, Ukraine had been a bread basket, providing wheat, maize, and barley to countries throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
According to a recent publication by the World Bank, export prices of cereal indices were stable over the past 2 weeks, with the agricultural index closing at the same level as at two weeks ago.
The export index went up by two per cent, but the cereal index went down by one per cent.
The war in Ukraine is having extreme impacts on the world’s poorest countries. The countries at highest risk of a debt crisis are experiencing the additional threat of a food crisis.
A recent World Bank blog described the dire situation that many poor countries had been facing since the start of the war, with surging food import bills resulting from high grain prices caused by the war.
According to World Bank data, import bills for wheat, rice, and maize are expected to rise by more than one per cent for low-income countries at high risk of a debt crisis, more than double the increase from 2021 to 2022.

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Safety Compromise, Reason For Nigeria’s Depressed Economy 

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A retired diver, Engr. Tapenu Tobi, has blamed waterways operators for compromising safety in the waterways, which, he said, has resulted in Nigeria’s depressed economy.
He said the result is that  at the end of the day, it has forced many of them to  defer or skip maintenance, cut corners on mandatory training and operate wooden boats.
Engr. Tobi, who said this in an exclusive interview with The Tide in Lagos, noted that Nigerian Inlandways Authority lacked the resources needed to conduct a safe water operation in terms of funds, organisation and skilled personnel, a development which he said could make the operators to compromise safety.
He also stated that the regulatory mechanism required to enforce safety rules are non-existent in some States and simply  disintegrating and collapsing in others, as well as absolutely being ineffective in many.
Water transportation, according to the expert diver, is capital intensive as it involves a lot of expenses.
Such expenses, he explained, include ferry purchase/lease payment, high cost of acquisition of new boat, sea crew training (including simulator), and maintenance.
Others are “spare parts to support safe operation, jetties infrastructure facilities, provision of communications, navigational and landing aids and the provision of skilled and experienced manpower for the water safety regulatory body”, he said.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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