By Amaka Agwuegbo
Following the need to build capacity in the microfinance banking sector, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), last Friday, concluded a three_week certification programme for the first batch of microfinance bank (MFB) operators.
Determined to fill in the gaps that abound in the MFB sector, the CBN had earlier this year, said the certification programme is aimed at serving the institutions better by building capacity and competence so that people with basic requisite skills can run the sector.
According to the CBN, â€œThis is much like any professional examination like ICAN, so their training can be taken wherever they like, but we expect that this would be a benchmark qualification to operate in the MFB sector and which would enable us to get that critical mass.â€
After three weeks of training, Vanguardâ€™s investigations reveal that MFB operators are confident that the needed capacity in the sector would be achieved with the CBN filling up the knowledge gaps in the sector.
Pointing out that the programme has been informative, the Managing Director of Integrated MFB, Mr. Adamu Ibrahim, said operators have gained an insight on how microfinancing should be done.
â€œIt has been very informative and has given us an insight into how microfinancing ought to be done to impact positively on the active poor. The CBN realised the existence of knowledge gaps in the sector and this prompted them to first organize the â€˜train the trainersâ€™ programmeâ€™ that are now part of the facilitators of this certification programme.â€
For the Managing Director of Petra MFB, Mrs. Angela Iroh, the programme would have helped prevent some of the present problems encountered in the sector had it been introduced when the MFB policy was launched.
â€œThe programme is very good though it would have been of more benefit had it been organized after the launch of the MFB policy. This is because going through it would enable us cater to our customers better and run our operations more efficiently.
â€œGenerally, we are better informed on what microfinancing is all about, those things we ought to do and those not to do, especially not running after the customers of commercial banks.
â€œI realized that we have been chasing the customers of commercial banks because we are supposed to be looking for that pepper seller who wants a loan of N10,000 for her business as our customers are supposed to be those seeking loans between N10,000 to N50,000 which they will be able to pay back without stress.
â€œMicrofinancing would be more effectively done because we would be encouraging them to cultivate saving habits rather than just seeking loans, especially as most of them have a lot of money stashed under their mattresses or buried in the ground. We would be on our way of eradicating poverty if we implement the double bottom line whereby active entrepreneurs who would like to grow their businesses would be given all the help they need.
â€œWe would try and influence the government to create an enabling environment for MFBs to operate in as this will assist government in kicking out poverty and growing the nation. The reason is because government will come and go, but MFBs are going to be around for a long time to come.â€
Vanguard gathered that the certification programme was organized to enable the CBN build capacity in the MFB sector so as to have a critical mass of knowledgeable and skilled personnel that would drive the sector.
â€œThis is as a result of the present situation we have in which operators in the sector are from different backgrounds and have various degrees. As a result, most of them not to understand the concept of micro-financing, which is responsible for their operating like commercial banks and this is not helping the sector.â€
This, the Managing Director of Meridian MFB, Mr. Innocent Ezema, agrees with as this is one major reason for the failure experienced in the sector. â€œThe programme is most timely and would positively affect the running of MFBs. CBN realised that with the operators having diverse backgrounds, there would be knowledge gaps which would be best filled by organizing this programme to educate us.
â€œThere are bound to be definite and positive changes because what we have been doing all along was banking not microcredit, given the banking background of some operators, and this has been responsible for the numerous problems and closures we have been having.â€
But according to observers in the MFB sector, asides trainings, regulations and monitoring should be improved on so as to achieve the desired result of sanitizing the sector. They believe that the certification programme alone would not take them far if the operators fail to strictly adhere to regulations and are not properly monitored by the relevant agencies. This, they maintained, would ensure that the best hands are the ones running the sector, especially at the top echelon of management.