Pan African financial institution, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc and the Agence Française de Development (AFD), France’s public and solidarity-based development bank Wednesday signed the final documents facilitating the financing of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups across the 20 countries where UBA operates in Africa.

Early last year, UBA Plc and Agence Française de Development, entered into a framework agreement to utilise the EURIZ and ARIZ schemes offered by AFD to facilitate the financing of the Small and Medium-scale Enterprises and start-ups across the 20 countries where UBA operates in Africa.

(From the left) Babatunde Ajayi – Technical Adviser Consumer & Retail Banking, Olamipe Seriki – Head Bilateral funding & Business Partner, Jean-Michel Koffi – Investment Officer Proparco, Kennedy Uzoka – Group Managing Director, Thomas Husson – Regional Director Proparco, Emmanuel Onokpasa – Group Treasurer, Kubi Momoh – Chief Risk Officer, Olusola Babatunde – Head Global Financial Institutions

The partnership which was signed by both organisations is an off-shoot of the strategic relationship both institutions have entered into last year and is for the execution of the facility agreement for the EURIZ Guarantee – a scheme launched in May 2019 to facilitate MSMEs’ access to credit which will enable them play their essential role in economic growth and job creation in the continent.

UBA is the first beneficiary of AFD Group’s (AFD and its private sector financing arm Proparco) new EURIZ guarantee mechanism in Africa. It is issued with the support of and funding from the European Union in the context of the EU external investment plan.

Speaking during the signing ceremony, which was held in UBA Head Office in Lagos, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, said the partnership expected to enhance UBA’s capacity to finance SMEs, whilst ensuring AFD uses the financial structure availed by UBA to reach out to many SMEs across Africa.

He said, “We are here to conclude on a journey that we started a couple of years ago that will lead to the development of the market, particularly Small and Medium Scale businesses. These are businesses that will not ordinarily be bankable, but with this partnership between UBA and AFD, we can now make it happen.

“As you know, UBA is a financial institution that is well known across Africa and we believe that a major area of development for any economy, is the empowerment of SMEs. An economy such as ours can only be said to succeed when these businesses succeed. It is our belief that this is just the take-off point and as the business succeeds, there will be need to review this portfolio,” the GMD continued.

The Regional Director, Proparco, Mr Thomas HUSSON, who spoke at the event, noted that the purpose of EURIZ scheme is to encourage investment in EU partner countries, to strengthen partnerships and contribute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, helping to address some root causes of migration.

According to him, the new risk-sharing mechanism EURIZ will help UBA finance entrepreneurs incubated by the Tony Elumelu Foundation, in view to support their developmental impact.

“We are pleased to sign this facility, and this is even better because we share UBA’s commitment to empowering SMES in Africa. Over the years, we at AFD have been willing to work with this bank owing to the role and importance that this financial institution plays in Nigeria and in Africa. And so, we look forward to strengthening the partnership with UBA Group which is the Nigerian head-quartered bank that has the most success in Africa and beyond,” Husson said.

He noted that “EURIZ will cover up to 70% of local bank loans granted to MSMEs operating in sectors with a high social impact. “The scheme also includes a technical cooperation component that will support these partner institutions to best serve these companies,” he added.

United Bank for Africa Plc is a leading pan-African financial services group, operating in 20 African countries, as well as the United Kingdom, the United States of America and with presence in France.

UBA was incorporated in Nigeria as a limited liability company after taking over the assets of the British and French Bank Limited who had been operating in Nigeria since 1949. The United Bank for Africa merged with Standard Trust Bank in 2005 and from a single country operation founded in 1949 in Nigeria – Africa’s largest economy – UBA has become one of the leading providers of banking and other financial services on the African continent. The Bank which was awarded the Best Digital Bank in Africa by the Euromoney awards in 2018, provides services to over 17 million customers globally, through one of the most diverse service channels in sub-Saharan Africa, with over 1,000 branches and customer touch points and robust online and mobile banking platforms.

The shares of UBA are publicly traded on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Bank has a well-diversified shareholder base, which includes foreign and local institutional investors, as well as individual shareholders.