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FirstBank Offers Support To SMEs in Education Sector Through the Pandemic

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By Chinyere Nwokeoma, NAN

First Bank of Nigeria Limited has offered to give financial support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Education Sector to cushion the effects of the COVID -19 pandemic. Mr. Bankole Adediran, Head, Transaction Banking Products, FirstBank, made this known at the Bank’s SMEConnect webinar with theme: “Managing Your School through the Pandemic: Engagement and Retention Strategies”.

Adediran said that the Bank was ready to partner with SMEs in the education sector through the period of the novel coronavirus pandemic to sustain their businesses.

“FirstBank, as an institution, is very passionate about education, and will continue to support the sector,” he said.

He said that the Bank would continue to reinforce its leading role at enabling the growth of the educational sector in the country.

Adediran said that the Bank had an array of financial products that could be accessed by SMEs in the educational sector in the period of COVID -19.

He said SMEs in the sector could key into FirstEdu Loan targeted at private nursery, primary and secondary schools to assist the schools in achieving their desired growth in medium and long terms.

According to him, the product provides funding advancement of up to N20 million for schools with a minimum of 100 students with school fees collection domiciled at FirstBank.

Adediran said that, with the product, school owners/proprietors could stay ahead to make learning easy and conducive for students.

He said the Bank had launched various interventions and initiatives to support the sector to navigate through challenges occasioned by COVID -19.

He noted that FirstBank recently launched an e-learning initiative aimed at reaching out to one million students across the country to ensure they would be academically engaged while at home.

Adediran also said that the Bank supported 10 universities and three secondary schools across the country with major infrastructure projects.

He added that the Bank donated 20,000 e-learning devices to the Lagos State Government to promote online learning for students in the public schools.

Adediran urged schools must learn from the COVID -19 pandemic by embracing automation to plug leakages in the sector.

Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, Commissioner for Education, Lagos State, who was a panelist at the webinar, commended the Bank for donating 20,000 devices with six months data, to the state for e-learning.

Adefisayo said the state reached out to many companies for support at the wake of the pandemic and that FirstBank came to its aid.

She disclosed that all the schools were not prepared for the situation, noting that most children in public schools did not have device and data for online learning.

“This pandemic has been a terrible thing, and one lesson from it is that we have not invested enough in solutions we can deplore at a time like this,” Adefisayo said.

She said that the pandemic had forced Nigerians to be more creative and innovative, adding that schooling would no longer be the same again.

Adefisayo called on teachers to change their teaching and learning strategies, saying that COVID -19 had changed learning.

Also, Dr. Yomi Otubela, President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), said the association had responded greatly by interfacing between government and its agencies since the beginning of the pandemic.

Otubela said the Central Bank of Nigeria was working out modalities for palliatives for schools and teachers who had not been receiving salaries since the pandemic started.

He noted that there had been an increase in rape, kidnapping and robbery as a result of COVID -19.

Mr. Wale Abioye, Team Lead, Customer Practice in Management Consulting (KPMG), said the pandemic had impacted negatively on many sectors of the economy, especially education.

Abioye highlighted some of the negative impacts of the pandemic to include financial/economic, structural, social and policy challenges.

He said many SMEs in the educational sector could be out of business due to the pandemic, thereby increasing unemployment rate.

Mr. Babatunde Vaughan, Education Lead, Modern Classroom, Microsoft Nigeria, said the company had introduced a lot of products to make online learning easy and interesting.

“COVID -19 is a very unique period for everyone, change has come and we will continue to experience change.

“We must be more proactive than reactive,” Vaughan urged.

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Business

Nigeria Joins League of Nations with Professional Association for CSR and Sustainability

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The Association of Sustainability Professionals of Nigeria (ASPN) will host an industry conversation to discuss the urgent need for attaining an inclusive economy in Nigeria and the roles that Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professionals can play in this regard on Thursday, November 26, 2020.

The dialogue, which doubles as the formal launch of the professional group, will explore the need for synergy among sustainability experts, subject-matter specialists, and advocates to support the efforts of government and drive private sector leadership for social inclusion as well as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) in line with the beginning of the Decade of Action. After many years of mainstreaming CSR and Sustainability through various initiatives, milestones, and adoption of all major international conventions on Business Sustainability, Climate Change, Environmental Standards, and other development agendas; Nigeria formally joins the league of nations with professional associations specially set up for the practice of CSR and Sustainability.

ASPN is a non-profit organisation founded in August 2019 to redefine and improve the practice and profession of Sustainability and CSR in Nigeria. Through various strategic partnerships, policy formulation & advocacy activities, ASPN seeks to set standards for professional ethics, best practices and long-term systems thinking amongst individuals and businesses to foster the sustainable development of Nigeria.

To formally unveil the ASPN, the event will feature discussions on the theme: Professionalising Sustainability for an Inclusive Development and has been slated to hold on Thursday, November 26, 2020. Professor Wayne Visser, Founder, CSR International will participate as the Guest Speaker whilst other speakers will include: Professor Chris Ogbeche, Deputy Dean, Lagos Business School; Solape Hammond, Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on SDGs; and Dr. Aisha Mamood, Sustainability Director, Central Bank of Nigeria. Also, in attendance at the event will be government and regulatory agencies, sustainability experts, corporate organisations, and industry experts, non-governmental organisations and the public.

Nigeria, like most present-day societies, has adopted various measures to minimize pollution and promote environmental, social, and economic sustainability as a fundamental component of socio-economic development. For example, the last decades of the century witnessed increased concerns – with the private sector at the forefront, about climate change. Therefore, the need to develop, implement and drive cohesive policy, that would go a long way in meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future to meet its needs is paramount. Consequently, a need to have a body that drives cohesive policies seeking sustainable development and growth in the country in a more coordinated manner is essential.

According to the ASPN President, Prof. Kenneth Amaeshi, “We are excited about the formal launch of the ASPN because we have existed for so many years as a community of passionate and committed advocates. We look forward to strengthening our alliances and contributing significantly to Nigeria’s active role in the Decade of Action”. The ASPN is led by passionate and renowned professionals with many years of experience committed to practicing advocating teaching and mentoring on sustainability-related issues within Nigeria and internationally. These professionals are Ini Abimbola, Founder, ThistlePraxis Consulting. Ismail Omamegbe, Head, Media & External Relations; Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability, FirstBank; Bekeme-Masade Olowola, Chief Executive, CSR-in-Action; Ken Egbas, CEO, TruContact CSR Nigeria; Eunice Sampson, Head, Sustainability, Dangote Cement Plc; Ibrahim Salau, Managing Director, Environmental Accord; Bolanle Victor-Laniyan, Head, Sustainability, Access Bank and Kenneth Amaeshi who serves as Chair in Business and Sustainable Development and Director of the Sustainable Business Initiative at the University of Edinburgh.

To join the conversation and participate in this event, please visit: https://bit.ly/ASPNUnveiling or follow ASPN on social media on @ASPNigeria on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For more information, please visit the ASPN Website: https://aspn.org.ng  or email, info@aspn.org.ng or call: 0706 752 3702.

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Nigeria Slides into Recession, the Worst Since 1987

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Nigeria has officially slid into its worst economic recession in over three decades, TheCable can report.

According to gross domestic product numbers released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Saturday, the nation recorded a contraction of 3.62 percent in the third quarter of 2020.

This is the second consecutive quarterly GDP decline since the recession of 2016. The cumulative GDP for the first nine months of 2020, therefore, stood at -2.48 percent.

The last time Nigeria recorded such cummulative GDP was in 1987, when GDP declined by 10.8 percent.

According to World Bank and NBS figures monitored by TheCable, this is also the second recession under President Muhamadu Buhari’s democratic reign — and his fourth as head of state.
TheCable

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Unity Bank Posts N33.9bn Gross Earnings in Nine Months, Grows Assets Base by 44%

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Unity Bank Plc has declared gross earnings of N33.906 billion for the nine months’ period ended September 30, 2020 and also recorded a 44% asset growth during the period.

A review of the unaudited results released to the Nigerian Stock Exchange showed that the gross earnings of N33.906 billion represents an 8 per cent growth from N31.256 billion recorded in the same period in 2019.

The lender’s total assets rose significantly to N420.870 billion in the nine-month period ended September 30, 2020, from N293.052 billion in the corresponding period of 2019, representing a whopping 44% growth.

This is even as the Bank grew its bottom-line by 6% as Profit Before Tax, PBT moved up to close at N1.710 billion from N1.611 billion in 2019.

Profit After Tax, PAT equally grew by 6% to N1.573 billion compared to the N1.482 billion recorded in the same period in 2019.

Specifically, in the Q3, the lender declared a N590 million Profit Before Tax, PBT, representing another 6% increase from the N559.381 million recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2019.

This performance comes on the heels of the unmitigated impact of the global pandemic on the economy, which lingered throughout the quarter with its attendant headwinds that slowed down economic activities.

The lender also substantially grew its customers’ deposit portfolio to N332.362 billion from N257.691 billion for the same period in 2019, creating a 29 per cent increase, affirming the confidence reposed by its wide spectrum of the banking public. The lender, it was gathered, rolled out massive customer-centric products to the public especially in the retail space which accelerated the banking patronage during the period.

Commenting on the result, Unity Bank’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mrs. Tomi Somefun welcomed the steady growth of the balance sheet especially from both assets and liability side of the business and across key performance indices.

She said that this has had sustained impact on the bottom-line, even as the Bank continues to innovate in its e-business product bouquet to target and support value chain business with robust technology and thus diversify its earnings base’’.

Looking ahead, Mrs. Somefun stated that “One of the areas that will define our strategic direction going forward is investment in alternative channels leveraging further deployment of resources in technology. COVID-19 gave us a chance to test the integrity and scalability of our technology, the IT infrastructure, and the electronic banking channels, and provided us an opportunity to see where we needed to improve and strengthen, knowing that the future of sustainable banking business is in alternative channels”.

The results can also be attributable to the Bank’s growing brand profile and leadership in agribusiness, especially having provided loans and financing to over one million smallholder farmers especially those in primary production and other value chain businesses in the agricultural sector.

During the period under review, the Bank enhanced and deepened its collaboration and partnership with major commodity associations including the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Maize Farmers Association of Nigeria and the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN) to finance over 400 smallholder farmers’ crop production with its overall strategic intent of fostering food security, employment generation and aggregate economic welfare of citizens across the value chains.

The Bank also worked with processors and members of Millers’ Association of Nigeria to provide working capital through the CBN’s various intervention funds, while providing credit facilities to large number of input suppliers and vendors through the Anchor Borrower’s Programme.

In recognition of the above, Mrs Somefun added that the Bank will continue to focus on agriculture, while deepening business in various new markets that have been developed alongside to pull more resources and enhance multiple streams of income.

In the view of analysts, the consistent upward trajectory in the performance of the Bank as shown in Q1, H1 and Q3, 2020 results continue to reinforce growing market confidence as well as demonstrates the commitment and drive of the management to enhance shareholder’s value.

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