Forex regime: FirstBank challenges SMEs on emerging opportunities

FIRSTBANK of Nigeria Limited, in partnership with the Lagos Business School, has called on operators in the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) sub-sector, to seize the opportunities presented by foreign exchange policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) to produce and make profit, since imported products are now more expensive.
Speaking at the 2017 SME Conference themed: “Made in Nigeria: Driving Productivity & Competitiveness,” Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, Chairman, FirstBank of Nigeria Limited, said challenges in the business environment only push discerning entrepreneurs to begin by setting things right and sourcing appropriate raw materials at lower cost.
Specifically, Awosika said: “We have a golden opportunity now. The collapse of foreign exchange rate has made imported products more expensive. People are now searching for alternatives. Now that people are searching for alternatives, prepare your business and product delivery to provide the alternative at a better price. ”
She urged participants to start their businesses on the right path because it helps to arrive at appropriate prices that will compete favourably with imported products.
“When you are starting a business, don’t start anyhow; don’t treat customers anyhow hoping to improve when you grow bigger. This is an opportunity to deliver right product quality and appropriate price that can compete with foreign –made goods. When you are producing for the Nigerian market, you are at advantage because you will be more specific and you can use the opportunity to build a business that tells the world who you are,” Awosika stated.
Similarly, Peter Bankole, Director, Enterprise Development Centre, Pan African University while encouraging SMEs to step up local manufacturing and consumption of Nigerian-made products, observed that no nation grows to be great if it does not produce locally, what their population consumes.
According to him, “productivity and competitiveness is a love affair. Competitive economies are productive economies. No nation becomes great if it depends on import for the food it consumes. Greatness only comes when production and consumption are localized.”
Similarly, the Deputy Managing Director, First Bank Nigeria Limited, Mr. Francis Shobo advised aspiring entrepreneurs not to depend wholly on loans, but to start small with the little money they have because it is easier for operators to get loans from banks when the business is already running and the lender can see the cash flow. They should ensure build capacity and ensure that they know how to allow their buying and selling passes through the banking system.
Although he added, banks can make a lot of money by lending right to SMEs; such can only be possible when the business’s cash flow shows that the bank can recover its money.
Shobo regretted that one of the reasons why SMEs find it difficult to get loan from the banks is that most of them come with only ideas that they have not tested. ”They have not sold before, but they want loan to go and buy and sell; they have no cash flow and they want loan. No bank will lend you money without being sure of your cash flow,” he stated.