26 Aug

Introduction
Globally, MSMEs are regarded as one of the pivots of economic development, especially in developing and underdeveloped nations. They are pivotal to economic growth and development through employment generation, capacity building and improve standards of living.
With an estimated 50million Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria, business owners in this segment are finding it very difficult to effectively play their primary roles of employment generation, poverty alleviation and sustainable economic growth due to limited access to finance.
According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), SMEs constitute over 90% of enterprises in the world and account for about 55% of employments generated. In the same vein, EFInA 2014 survey specified that 98% of MSMEs in Nigeria are made-up of Microbusiness, while Small and Medium enterprises constitute the remaining 2%.
N220bn MSME Development Fund: Posterity Beckons In The Woods For Women
Expectedly, with Nigeria’s drive to be one of the top 20 economies in the world in-line with its Vision 20:2020 blueprint, it cannot afford to be an exception in developing its SMEs segment.
Thus, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), introduced the N220billion MSME Development Fund (‘the fund’) in 2014. The fund is one of the several intervention funds totaling about $4.69bn targeted at this segment of the economy.
The fund is expected to cover funding gaps in the critical sectors, i.e. Manufacturing, Agriculture, Oil and gas, Services etc, of the economy where large numbers of un-served and under-served enterprises existed. Remarkably, of the total fund 60% (i.e. N132billion) was set aside specifically for women-owned enterprises.
A 2014 survey by EFInA indicated that 42.7%, i.e. 21.4m of Nigerian women are financially excluded. Notably, a substantial fraction of these women are mostly traders or business owners who require money to either start or expand their various businesses.
Hence, there are ample opportunities with the huge funding gap that exist in the MSME segment, especially with the renewed focus on financial inclusion for women.
The Pink Network: Taking A Lead Role In Women Financial Inclusion.
The Pink Account is an initiative of Keystone Bank which is a gender specific platform designed to meet the needs of female entrepreneurs, sit-at-home moms, Professionals and/or service providers, the working class and SME customers. This network provides account holders with access to CBN’s MSME loans, the Pink network, Consumer loans, SME tool kits, and discount from partner stores.
Keystone Bank, through the platform gives opportunities for women of all walks of life to be the woman they really want to be by providing access to online resources for capacity building and partnering with them in their business path. The Pink Account is aggressively promoted via Keystone Bank’s e-commerce hub which is one of the platforms for empowering, interacting and showcasing the product’s various value propositions to its target market.
Taking a clue from CBN’s position on MSMEs, especially women entrepreneurs, the bank launched ‘’ The Pink Network’’ on the 18th of March 2015, – an online interactive forum providing access to both customers and partners to exploit several opportunities.
With the introduction of the Network, Keystone Bank became one of the few financial institutions in Nigeria to have a clearly defined product and platform for women to optimally benefit from financing opportunities and e-commerce while a number of other commercial banks have already taken bold steps in this direction. About four (4) other banking products, from other banks, are targeted at inclusion for financial excluded women and also boost access to credits via various intervention programs.
Conclusively, Keystone Bank has upped the ante in MSME development and financing in Nigeria with the launch of its Pink Network as it intensify efforts at increasing entrepreneur participation, especially women business owners, with its footprint in about 179 branches across the country. Thus, its coverage is important to making sure MSMEs have easy access to bank credit irrespective of their locations.

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