Winners have smiled home in the Lagos edition of the Fidelity Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Funding Connect with Yetunde Ayalowo clinching the ultimate grant of N2million. The first and second runners-up were rewarded with N1milion each, totaling N4million grants.
The programme tagged Entrepreneurship Meets Capital was designed to discover new entrepreneurs and give them financial support to further their business ideas. Three cities – Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano – were to benefit from the programme.
Yetunde emerged winner out of the 2,500 participants. The participants were screened out of which 50 were selected and later pruned down to the best 12.
During the grand finale held at the Landmark Event Centre, Oniru, five of the 12 were selected and made to present their ideas to the audience. At the end, a panel of judges adjudged Yetunde the winner for her ‘Market Doctor’ idea and was rewarded with N2million grant. However, there was wild jubilation when the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, announced a reward of N500, 000 each for the 4th and 5th positions, and N200,000 each for the last 12 participants.
Speaking as the Keynote Speaker, Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, lauded Fidelity Bank for the initiative, which has been running for 12 years, promising that the state government under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is also passionate about the growth of the small and medium business owners in the state.
“I would like to thank Fidelity Bank for doing this. It is important to understand the role of SMEs. SMEs play a big role in revitalisation of the economy through the creation of jobs. In the United States of America, the SMEs are about 28 million and account for 28 percent of jobs created there. SMEs allow big companies to survive. We must diversify our economy but lack of access to capital is the biggest threat to the survival of SMEs. Most times, they don’t have collaterals that banks request, likewise high-interest rates charged by banks. This programme highlights continuous need to have a clear path for SMEs to succeed. The SMEs provide vital platforms so it warrants adequate attention from all stakeholders. Therefore, Lagos State under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will create enabling environment that allows SMEs from being a mere sector to job creation,” he said.
Mr. Okonkwo said the bank’s name is synonymous with SMEs, adding that the bank has spent billions of naira to empower the small and medium enterprises.
“When people call Fidelity Bank, they call SMEs. We do not despise small beginnings; that is why we set out to support SMEs. When the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) started N200 million fund, Fidelity Bank was one of the banks to access it. About N9.6billion of Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) funds to SMEs have been disbursed by Fidelity Bank, while African Development Bank, (AfDB) has given $50 million for SMEs with the provision that 30% of it should be given to women entrepreneurs. At Fidelity, we have gotten to this level because we support SMEs,” he said.