Zenith Bank plc last Thursday scored another historic milestone in Nigeria’s financial services sector when the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, announced an investment of up to $100 million in the bank.
The fund is to increase support for the bank to clients and companies whose cash flows have been disrupted by challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bank’s Group Managing Director in a sharp reaction pledged that the additional funding will help the bank the bank respond to challenges coming from the pandemic.
Industry players and stakeholders will also see the IFC’s support as a consolidation of the ranking of the top lender in Nigeria’s financial services sector.
The facility to Zenith Bank is the first investment by the IFC in Africa through its COVID-19 fast-track financing support package, an $8 billion package directed towards shoring up businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fund will help Zenith, an existing IFC client and Africa’s sixth-largest bank, to overcome challenges resulting from ongoing limited access to foreign currency, working capital, and trade funding.
With the package, Zenith is expected to support businesses in Nigeria’s health, pharmaceuticals, food, and trading sectors, allowing them to strengthen operations, maintain employment, and access critical imports of goods, commodities, and raw materials during these challenging economic times.
Ebenezer Onyeagwu, the Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank, speaking on the development said the “IFC’s support is essential and will help us respond to challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It will allow us to support compelling export initiatives and trade financing for critical goods and materials, especially for the medical and pharmaceuticals sectors. Our partnership with IFC is strong and we are committed to its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) requirements.”
Eme Essien Lore, IFC’s Country Manager in Nigeria, speaking on the development said, “IFC’s support for Nigeria’s banking sector will help keep the wheels of Nigeria’s economy turning at a time when it is facing a major challenge from COVID-19.
“Our experience from past shocks, including the global financial crisis in 2008, has taught us that keeping companies solvent is key to saving jobs and limiting economic damage.”