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The African Start-up: A new approach to funding SMEs development

By Babajide Komolafe

The story of Olumide Olusanya, as revealed on ‘The African Start-Up’, will make you want to become an entrepreneur, despite the daunting and frustrating challenges. But, Olumide was also confronted by the challenges.

A medical doctor, who founded the first online Nigerian grocery store, also encountered and suffered vast and varied challenges which impedes, hinders and sometimes nullify the fulfilment of the dream of many entrepreneurs.

In Africa, the challenges range from lack of infrastructure, funding and access to market, as well as low capacity. In addition to these is the unstable political climate and war like situations in many African countries, which makes it difficult to even live not to talk of starting a business.

Olumide did not allow these difficulties to frustrate his vision, he rather overcame them. The same goes for Bankole Cardoso, founder of Eazy Taxi, Fomba Trawally a Liberian businessman who started his career as a street vendor and just recently opened Liberia’s first paper and toiletry product manufacturing company.

African countries need more of these individuals who can defy the frustrating difficulties of turning ideas into goods and services via the vehicle of entrepreneurship. They are needed to address the problem of youth unemployment across the country.

They are needed to boost productivity to enhance national growth and development.  Small and Medium Enterprises are critical to the development of every economy. They are the ones that produce most of the goods and services that are either consumed by individuals or serve as raw materials by big companies. We can’t do without them.

Thus African countries must devise ways  to produce more successful entrepreneurs. One of the ways of doing this is to inspire  aspiring and existing entrepreneurs with the story of  Olumide  and Fomba. That is what First Bank of Nigeria, in Partnership with Cable News Network (CNN) International hopes to achieve with, The African Start-Ups, a  30-minute documentary which follows entrepreneurs across African countries to see how they are working to make their dreams become reality.

In addition to Olumide, Cadoso and Fomba, the programme has featured start-ups like Isaac Oboh who started Media 256 a raising film and production company in Kampala, Uganda as well as a new digital store where Nigerians can access local music called founded by Tola Ogunsola, Damola Taiwo and Dolapo Taiwo.

The programme, which is funded exclusively by First Bank, explores how ideas are generated, formulation of business plans, and access to capital and product development amongst other things.

The African Start-Up offers viewers the opportunities to see entrepreurship in a more detail view with each show dedicated to an entrepreneur taking viewers through daily challenges, where the rules are not defined, the setbacks are frustrating and the opportunities are for those with vision and creativity.  Each segment is aimed to inspire the viewers as they witness these determined individuals defying the odds.

Beyond the inspirational impact on viewers, The African Start-Up, represents a new vista in the quest to boost SME development in Nigeria and in Africa.

SME operators need many things, but they also need inspiration, the encouragement that comes from knowing that the challenges they face are surmountable, and have been surmounted by somebody.

This is  rarely acknowledged in many funding support for SMEs. FirstBank has not only acknowledged this critical need it has also make it an important ingredient of its model of helping SMEs across Nigeria.

“African Start-Up” is a firm commitment of our drive to sustain the development of SME’s in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. “We are proud to sponsor ‘African Start-Up’ on CNN International”, said Folake Ani-Mumuney, FirstBank’s spokesperson and Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications,

“SMEs play a critical role as the engine of growth in the economy, providing employment to thousands of people and contributing significantly to GDP.

This segment is a critical platform for repositioning the national economy for sustained growth, and one which aligns with FirstBank’s position as the No.1 SME Bank in Nigeria.

“Having supported SME’s in Nigeria for over a century with first class products and services, CNN’s African Start-Up aligns with our commitment to drive and sustain the growth of SME’s in Nigeria”, she said.

“We’re delighted that FirstBank has chosen to connect with CNN’s global audience of key business decision makers and opinion leaders around the world via ‘African Start-Up”, commended Celine DeCarlo, Account Director CNN International Ad Sales.

FirstBank’s funding of the programme is part of deliberate strategy developed to  support the growth of SMEs.

The strategy is driven by a focus on helping SMEs develop capacity needed to achieve their goals.  This is reflected in the maiden edition of its SME Conference titled “SMEConnect” one of its SME’s value propositions to focus on empowering small and medium enterprises and SME entrepreneurs.


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