Fidelity Bank Plc said it plans to launch the GreenMall, an online market place with fully integrated e-commerce capabilities for online payment engine, delivery logistics, advertising boards, and business networking opportunities, for SMEs. This was disclosed by the Executive Director, South, Fidelity Bank, Aku Odinkemelu, at the bank’s South-East Regional SME conference recently.

Odinkemelu, noted that the numbers of SMEs in Nigeria has increased from 17 million in 2011 to 37 million as at 2013. According to her, the sector now employs 60 – 80 per cent of the workforce while contributing over 60 per cent to the country’s GDP.

She expressed concern that SMEs in Nigeria were faced with key challenges. These challenges, she enumerated to include, low level of business management capacity; inadequate business processes; inadequate research/market information to determine business viability; poor access to market; limited access to the export markets; inadequate record keeping; absence of proper business planning; lack of long term strategy and poor business model; low technology leverage; key man risk, etc.

She stated that the Fidelity approach comes handy. According to her, the bank work with a network of pre-qualified SME-friendly professional services firms who provide business management capacity building support and services to our SMEs at discounted rates. “We have developed a partnership with Sage to develop FSBA+, a product that integrates Sage One Accounting Software to the FSBA to enhance recording for our SMEs,” she maintained.

Continuing, she explained that funders should allow nil/low-cost of banking transactions to enable MSMEs build up relevant transactions/activity history to position them more strongly for formal lenders (e.g. Fidelity Small Business Account); de-risk the sector by developing and offering customised product paper loans that could take the following forms: Cluster Lending Programmes that identify industry and market peculiarities ( Fidelity Aba Leather Cluster Credit Product Paper, Obosi Industrial Cluster Credit Product, Credit Product for Medical Doctors and pharmacists, Fidelity Commercial Support Short Term Loans for identified business cluster, etc), among others.