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Naira Rain At Zenith Bank: Techies, Advance!

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‘‘People talk about the fact that we are in the fourth industrial revolution. If you reflect on each of the revolutions from Number 1 to Number 4, you will realise that at every point in time, when a revolution comes up, it disrupts the convention with which things have been done. But there is still one aspect of the convention that none of these revolutions has been able to disrupt. That is financing. The first industrial revolution needed finance to succeed. The second needed finance to succeed. The third also required finance to succeed. The fourth will also need finance. We are here to assure the digital community that we are all out to support the funding initiatives of their agenda.’’

These are the words of Ebenezer Onyeagwu, Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank, in his closing remarks at the first Zenith Bank Tech Fair at Landmark Event Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, on Wednesday, November 27, 2019.

Given the references to the four industrial revolutions by Mr. Onyeagwu, fondly called the Global CEO by his colleagues, it is helpful to understand the possibilities he is talking about.

Let’s begin with the term industrial revolution, before exploring the four industrial revolutions under reference. An industrial revolution is the emergence of new technologies and new realities, which fundamentally transform the world’s existing economic and social structures. The world has, through history, witnessed four distinct industrial revolutions, including the on-going fourth industrial revolution.

The first industrial revolution, the age of mechanisation, used water and steam power to mechanise production. Beginning around 1760, through invention of the steam engine, steam powered everything from agriculture to textile manufacturing. Steamships, railroads, machine tools and factories transformed agrarian existence to urbanisation, and revolutionised the movement of men and materials. Cities, industries grew and economies started growing.

The second industrial revolution, the age of science, used electric power to create mass production. Science brought key inventions like gasoline engines, airplanes, chemical fertilisers, etc. Most notably, it brought the assembly line, which effectively powered mass production in factories. As people followed jobs, the early 1900s accelerated movement of people from rural to urban areas, and ushered in the modern world with such life-transforming conveniences as electric lighting, radio and telephones.

The third industrial revolution, the digital revolution, used electronics and information technology to automate production. Starting from the 1950s, the third industrial revolution introduced semiconductors, mainframe computing, personal computing and the Internet. This shift from analog electronic and mechanical devices to digital technology dramatically disrupted the global communications and energy industries. It continues to change how the world lives, works and communicates.

Where are we now? No prizes for guessing right. The fourth industrial revolution is well underway, and technologies that were science fiction in the 1950s and 1960s are now realities. The fourth industrial revolution, building on the third (the digital revolution), merges technologies that now blur the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres. It is extending the third industrial revolution and transforming entire systems of production, management and governance. It is connecting billions of people via mobile devices, with hitherto unknown processing power and access to knowledge, and breeding breakthroughs in such fields as robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, the internet of things, 3-D printing, biotechnology, nanotechnology, energy storage, materials science and quantum computing.

In helping us make sense of where we have been, where we are heading, and what it could mean for business and finance, Mr. Onyeagwu notes the objectives of the Tech Fair as follows:

  1. To refresh the passion of Zenith Bank for Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
  2. To promote awareness about digital literacy, and pass the message that digital literacy is for the young and the not so young, because they all have to learn and adapt so that they do not miss the ICT train.
  3. To make the Zenith Tech Fair all-inclusive by bringing together the stakeholders in the ICT ecosystem.

Zenith Tech Fair, christened ‘‘Future Forward’’, a ‘‘showcase of leading technology innovations across all aspects of life’’, is a pet project of the bank’s Founder and Chairman, Mr. Jim Ovia, who Zenith bankers reverentially call ‘‘the Visioner’’ and ‘‘Nostradamus of our time.’’

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Presenting Zenith Bank’s value proposition to the technology industry, Mr. Onyeagwu says: ‘‘The bankers committee has set aside N23 billion to finance SMEs at single digit, with 80 percent of this amount set aside for ICT and related businesses. These funds are available, and you can access them through Zenith Bank. Interest rate is single digit, with tenor of one year to 10 years. If it is taking a long time for CBN to make the funds available, Zenith Bank will bridge it for you at the same single digit. Therefore, don’t waste time. The time for action is now. We are ready. We want to assure you that you have our full support. We will work with you and enable your audacity to move forward. Today, Zenith Bank is telling you to have the courage to be audacious. Get up, and take action. We will back you up.’’

After handing out cheques of N10 million, N6 million and N5 million to the first, second and third place winners, respectively, during the bank’s first hackathon (Zenathon 2019), after giving N1 million to each of the remaining seven start-ups that reached the final stage, Mr. Onyeagwu virtually loosened the purse strings of Zenith Bank, saying: ‘‘Let me begin by announcing that for the 10 of them who made the presentations, your funding is ready with Zenith Bank at single digit. For all those who registered, we have set aside the sum of half a billion Naira to promote the funding of the digital initiatives that we are talking about.’’

You have heard it. More than ever before, from direct lending, equity financing and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Creative Industry Financing Initiative, there is now greater access to financing for your technology project,

To access the Creative Industry Financing Initiative, your business must:

  • Be in information technology, music, movies, fashion or a related business.
  • Be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
  • Submit a bankable business proposal.
  • Have clean Credit Bureau Report, free of obligations.
  • Have satisfactory Credit Risk Management System (CRMS) report of Owners, Sponsors and Directors.

Do you need help to access the creative industry fund for your business? Contact Us Now or email ted.iwere@smefinance.org.

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