To provide supporting technology solutions at discounted rate to over 40 million Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), First Bank of Nigeria, a Nigerian multinational bank and financial services company headquartered in Lagos and American multinational technology company, Microsoft, have entered into a partnership.
Speaking at the Firstbank-Microsoft SME Partnership Launch held in Lagos, the Deputy Managing Director of First Bank, Gbenga Shobo said the bank wants to lift SMEs by encouraging them to embrace technology in their operations.
Shobo, who spoke on the theme: “The Accelerating impact of Digital Transformation on Business Growth in Nigeria” said that the target was to reach out to about 40 million SMEs and interested individuals. The event was attended by SME operators whose businesses have benefitted from use of technology solutions.
Shobo said the bank is connecting the SMEs with Microsoft to enable the operators improve their operations digitally.
According to him, “the SMEs can buy some of the Microsoft solutions at discounted rates, pay in naira as against the dollar, thereby removing the stress of exchange rate which is sometimes a challenge for the SMEs. They now have a portal where they can ask for advice on the products and some extra sales support we can also get Microsoft to give them”.
The Deputy Managing Director revealed that the SMEs may not have been able to get the Microsoft solutions and products on their own, but the bank has managed to put them together.
He said “we feel that SMEs are the major drivers of the economy in Nigeria today, because of the challenges of jobs creation and so most people are setting up businesses. The SMEs segment is so important to the livelihood of many Nigerians, and we have seen that SMEs have the ability to grow”.
The Director of Small and Medium Business Middle East and African Headquarter at Microsoft, Arjan Kotte, who also spoke at the launch, said the world is going digital, and that SMEs cannot be left behind.
Kotte said one million new devices will be coming online in 2020 while 60 percent of computing will be in public cloud in 2025 adding that 25 percent of workers’ time is wasted by information overload.
According to the Director, “the partnership between Microsoft and First Bank was meant to help the SMEs take their operations higher in terms of technology and use of the company’s product”.
He said the company considered First Bank’s reach and customer base as critical in reaching more SMEs that would need Microsoft solutions.