By Ayo Alonge
Not less than 200 graduates have emerged from a startup financing programme organised by the Ecobank Group and the African Union Development Agency New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD).
Recently, the pan-African bank and the AUDA-NEPAD held a virtual graduation ceremony for more than 200 alumni of the inaugural Ecobank’s MSME Training for Financing Programme.
The graduates were drawn from the eight countries in the pilot phase of the MSME Academy namely — Nigeria, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, Rwanda and Togo.
The MSME Academy, launched by the Ecobank Group and AUDA-NEPAD in 2020, in the midst of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, is part of AUDA-NEPAD’s transformational ‘100,000 MSMEs’ initiative, a continental response to COVID-19. The academy provides entrepreneurs, owners and managers of startups with coaching, mentoring and business skills training courses.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, the Chief Executive Officer, Ecobank Group, Ade Ayeyemi, said: “We had no hesitation in supporting AUDA-NEPAD’s ‘100,000 MSMEs’ initiative. The framework we designed collectively hinges on three critical pillars needed for MSMEs to build resilience in such unprecedented times, being access to capabilities, access to finance and access to markets. The graduation ceremony is another milestone achieved in our journey and commitment to supporting MSMEs and helping them to grow into tomorrow’s larger businesses. My very hearty congratulations to the MSME Training for Financing class of 2021. This is the beginning of wholesome success for your businesses and Ecobank is here to support you in evolving into a major business owner on our continent”.
In his words, the Chief Executive of AUDA-NEPAD, Ibrahim Mayaki, noted that “this graduation comes at an opportune time, after the first anniversary of the 100,000 MSMEs Initiative. The ceremony builds on other important milestones achieved so far, including the launch of the initiative in 13 member states, reaching out to more than three million participants, mostly micro entrepreneurs, who learned about the potential the MSME Academy platform offers.”
About 3,000 MSMEs applied to the MSME training for the Ecobank Financing programme, out of which 850 were shortlisted in the eight pilot countries.