Banks kick-start Agric SMEs equity fund with N26bn

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Commercial banks in the country have raised a total of N26 billion as part of their commitment to finances agro-based small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).

This was disclosed by Mrs. Bola Adesola, the Managing Director of Standard Chartered Bank while briefing newsmen at the end of the bankers committee meeting in Lagos, on Thursday.

The contribution follows the directives of  the Central Bank of Nigeria to all commercial banks to set aside and remit 5 percent of their annual after-tax profit in support of a scheme as part of the guidelines for the  Operations of the Agricultural/Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS).

The banking regulator said the directive was a follow up to the 331st Bank’s Committee meeting, held on February 9th this year, where members approved the program. The  AGSMEIS  is designed to support the federal government’s efforts aimed at promoting agricultural businesses/SMEs as a vehicle for sustainable economic development and employment generation.

Mrs Adesola said: “We are working on the framework for the investment that would help to catalyze growth, ease financing, crate jobs and improve prosperity.

“However, once our customers meet the eligibility criteria, we will start investing.”

Speaking on the development around the foriegn exchange market, Dr Demola Sogunle, The Managing Director of Stanbic IBTC said: “ We have acknowledged the positive development in the forex market which has seen a gradual convergence between the parallel market and the special foreign exchange window for investors and exporters.

He said confidence is beginning to return to the Nigerian economy and the improvement in inflation rate, exchange rate and increase portfolio investment in the Nigerian stock exchange are all positive pointers

“Over $2 billon has been registered as inflow. Year to date, we have seen over $5billion intervention from the CBN and with the new window, over $2 billion which is just about 30 per cent of the liquidity in that market. We have achieved convergence on the basis of demand and supply mechanism not by fiat” he added.

On the money been charged by operators of Micro finance banks for BVN registration by its customers, the committee decided that any individual can work into  any bank of his or her choice to register a BVN without any charge.

The Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo said: “We took the decision in the interest of the public because we felt it could jeopardize the financial inclusion drive of the sector.

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