By AYO OLAOLUWA
A stunning edition of the UBA Market Place 2019 exhibition, which held on the sidelines of the TEF Forum, climaxed in Abuja with a new record in visitor and exhibitor numbers from across Africa. The exhibition, an entrepreneurial fair, which held at the UBA Pavilion inside the prestigious Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, was organised by the bank to boost the growth and development of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Africa. The fair was the first of its kind in the country
Featuring over 5,000 exhibitors from over 20 African countries and welcoming over 250,000 visitors from several countries, the two-day fair was the biggest, boldest and best yet staged by an organisation in the history of the nation.
Apart from the usual entrepreneurs from far and near who won free retail stalls at the event, entrepreneurs who were beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation also got the opportunity of pitching their businesses with other to challenge for the grand prize of a grant, courtesy of UBA.
With a dazzling array of exhibitors along with superb shows reflecting the hottest trends in food, fashion, beauty, arts, home/interior and gadgets, the exhibition was the place to be for everyone.
The pavilion was divided into five major sections for easy accessibility, namely: the Food Court, Red Zone, Games area, Fashion Runway and the General section.
Apart from the colourful display of products by exhibitors, the glitz and glamour from side attractions introduced by the organisers to lighten up the event were simply breathtaking.
On hand was the bank’s award winning online network, REDTV, which kept visitors and participants entertained during the two-day event with exciting acts, including fashion shows, movies, and live interviews with celebrities and industry players.
Ten leading African labels, including The Fashion Show and Belores, were on hand with beautiful models who graced the red carpet to showcase their eye-catching designs.
During one of the life interview sessions on REDTV, Star musician, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, popularly known as Wizkid, sat with UBA’s Group Managing Director, Kennedy Uzoka, in a fireside chat with the theme: ‘Stars & Suits: Afropop meets High Finance’.
Later in the day, top Nollywood icon, Richard Mofe Damijo, was paired with Cote D’ivoire’s darling; Cynthia Nassardine, top movie producer/director, Tunde Kelani to discuss ‘The Big Picture: Business of film making’ and how entrepreneurs from Africa can benefit from the enterprise during a movie panel session. The panel was moderated by REDTV’s Executive Producer and Group Director for Communications at UBA, Bola Atta.
Also on hand were Dj Cuppy, Dj Neptune and Pheelz the Producer who spoke on the theme ‘Booth to Bank: How the beat becomes the profit’. The Executive Director of Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Olusegun Awolowo, chaired one of the plenary sessions where he discussed on the small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) sector and the relevance of financing.
While speaking at the event, the Group Managing Director, UBA, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, said the bank aims to create Africa’s version of Alibaba and ebay by supporting the entrepreneurial potential of African youths.
He said Africa’s youths were full of ideas that could change the standard of living and reduce poverty on the continent and that was why the bank was passionate about supporting Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs).
“UBA Market Place has brought together under one roof more than 5,000 SMEs from across Africa. We want to create a platform in Africa similar to Alibaba and ebay.
“We bank a lot of customers across the continent and in doing that we have discovered that there is a gap in the business value chain.
“That void we discovered is how to bring more buyers and sellers together and that is what we have done today. We are bringing a long standing operation over the years because we are systematically important in the countries we are operating in,” Uzoka said.
In order to do this, the UBA Group boss disclosed that the bank had offered to free up more funds to support the growth and development of SMEs in Africa. He said that the desire to make more money available to SMEs by the bank was taken with a view to stimulating and deepening the African economy.
Also, the UBA Group Head, Retail Banking, Mr. Jude Anele said that 10 per cent of the bank’s total balance sheet has been earmarked to support SMEs in countries where the bank operates in Africa. The countries are Nigeria, Chad, Cote D’ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Congo Brazzaville, France, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, and Mali.
Others countries are Sierra Leone, Zambia, Cameroon, Congo DRC, Gabon, Mozambique and Tanzania.