Keystone Bank educates MSMEs on opportunities in AfCFTA window

In its unflinching efforts to continue to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria with knowledge to manage and grow their businesses, Keystone Bank Limited recently trained start-ups with the requisite knowledge about the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) window and the opportunities it presents to their businesses.

The 3-day MSME Masterclass Webinar series tagged “TAKING YOUR SME BUSINESS ACROSS BORDERS” held on the 15th to 17th of June 2021.

With over 600 participants and 200 registered MSMEs in attendance, the numerous testimonials from participants at the highly engaging, interactive and exciting webinar sessions proved how timely the training was and the need it addressed. The sessions touched on practical issues relating to international trade with focus on export transactions. The faculty consisted of subject matter experts with vast knowledge on the topic.

The AfCFTA is a free trade area, outlined in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations. AfCFTA is the largest in the world in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization. The agreement requires members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent.

Dr. Emeka Osuji, an associate professor of economics at the Pan-Atlantic University, who also attended the Advanced Management Programmes at Harvard Business School and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A, cracked the mystery around the AfCFTA act and the opportunities for MSMEs to trade freely within Africa.

Other speakers at the masterclass sessions were Somtochi Okwuadigbo, the head of Trade Services at Keystone Bank, and Glory Enyinnaya, an internationally certified management consultant.

While Okwuadigbo shared intricate details on international trade payment methods and the available forex windows which can be explored by SMEs for international trade transactions, Enyinnaya delved deeper into the subject of how SMEs can launch an internationally accepted brand for their small business, and ways to ensure a smooth entry into international markets.

According to speakers, “Small businesses in Nigeria contribute about 50% to Nigeria’s GDP, however, most of them are still unacquainted with the AfCFTA agreement and its benefits.

“The wide opportunities it promises through the newly formed market of 55 nations, 1.2 billion people, and an aggregate GDP of up to $6.7 trillion highlight how SMEs can expand and grow their businesses outside the shores of Nigeria.

“Given the current economic realities in the country, there is a rising need for small businesses to seek avenues to expand into new markets by exploring export options,” they divulged.

Commenting on the programme, the divisional head, Retail, Keystone Bank, Mr. Anayo Nwosu, reiterated that the bank is committed to ensuring that MSMEs in Nigeria are empowered and equipped with the requisite knowledge to expand their businesses and even delve into new markets in other African economies.

According to him, “Keystone Bank is an SME-centric bank focused on delivering tailored MSME value offerings and that has continually spurred our involvement in programmes like this.

“MSMEs are the bedrock of any economy. But it’s sad that the knowledge gap remains one of the major challenges facing this sector and limiting them from taking advantage of available opportunities such as the AfCFTA window.

“It is in the wake of this rising need, that the Bank hosted the 3-day masterclass webinar.

“Beyond the training, we also provide great support for MSMEs businesses and hand hold them to nurture and grow the entrepreneurial ventures”, Nwosu noted.

The Keystone Bank MSME Online Academy was launched in 2020 as part of the bank’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives tailored to equip MSMEs with the necessary tools and resources required to successfully manage, grow and make their businesses attractive to investors and for profitability.

The lender is one of the financial institutions that has a long-running support for the growth and development of small businesses in Nigeria because of the recognition of critical roles of MSMEs as vital agents of economic development and transformation.

Keystone Bank, a technology and service-driven commercial bank offering convenient and reliable solutions to its customers, has a full-fledged SME banking division which over the years, has developed various engagement programmes focused on empowering entrepreneurs.