After high impact 2022, LAPO enters 2023 with confidence
By John Ogo Okereke
For LAPO Microfinance Bank, 2022 was a typically busy year, marked by sustained value delivered to the millions of low-income earners which make up its customer base, positive impact in society through social initiatives, and endless recognitions for its excellence in various areas.
LAPO’s highlights of 2022 tell a story of consistency in service delivery, social responsibility, and overall high achievement.
For instance, during its annual media forum in February last year, the organization demonstrated its dedication to supporting farmers, and encouraging Nigeria’s agricultural development. It announced that it had committed the sum of 19.9 billion naira to boost agricultural investments of clients through the LAPO Rural Development Initiative (LARDI) in the 2021 financial year. The figure represents 64 per cent growth compared to N12.2 billion disbursed in 2020.
Also in February 2022, LAPO MFB signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mercy Corps to provide access to farmers and micro-enterprises in North Eastern Nigeria. Mercy Corps is a leading international non-governmental organization, that prioritizes agriculture as part of its approach to building resilience of people in Nigerian communities where it operates.
The scheme was designed to make credit facilities accessible to 90,000 low income households comprising smallholder farmers and microenterprises, in the Northeast states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Gombe.
Agriculture is the dominant sector for many households in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas where it employs almost 84% of households and accounts for 56 percent of rural net income. As such, the MoU with Mercy Corps is a sustainable intervention in perennially afflicted communities in the North, distinct from emergency humanitarian interventions by government, development organizations and other stakeholders. Besides farmers, another demographic that LAPO MFB prioritizes is women, as seen in various statistics: its customer base is 92 percent female, its workforce is 56 percent female, its board is 50 percent female, and of course, LAPO MFB has a female managing director, Cynthia Ikponmwosa.
LAPO MFB lived up to its reputation as a women-centric bank committed to gender equity, as it celebrated International Women’s Day in March 2022.
As part of activities to mark the day, LAPO gave out the sum of 1.8million naira to reward six women for their outstanding contributions to the economic development and growth of Nigeria.
Still in March 2022, LAPO collaborated with Wevvo Nigeria, a community-based platform that supports female breadwinners, such as widows, divorcees and single mothers, across Nigeria, by providing access to finance, capacity development, and safe spaces. The initiative between LAPO and Wevvo includes a loan for female breadwinners that offers 2.5 percent monthly interest, and access to up to three million naira without collateral.
In April 2022, LAPO trended on social media as one of Nigeria’s top five employers based on a report by Statisence. In the analysis, LAPO MFB came in at number five with 7,320 employees, ahead of cement giant Dangote Cement PLC (seventh with 6,176 employees), as well as popular commercial banks like Access Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank and some companies from the country’s labor-intensive private security industry.
But LAPO is not only a major employer. It is also an organization that prioritizes capacity building of its employees. This was exemplified in its three-month intensive Advance Management Program (AMP) which its senior staff which commenced in April 2022 at the LAPO Institute of Management Studies in Benin City.
Also in April 2022, LAPO MFB honoured 468 of its employees, for their dedication to duty, at the annual Long Service Meritorious Award Ceremony. The recipients had completed 10 to 30 years of continuous service across the LAPO ecosystem.
Over the years, LAPO MFB has a reputation for attracting coveted honours from within and outside the financial sector. 2022 was no different.
In May last year, the Benin City branch of LAPO emerged the Industrial Trust Fund (ITF) Best Organization in Training Contribution for the year 2021. The award recognized LAPO MFB’s excellent record of prompt payment of the one percent training contribution to the ITF, as well as LAPO’s continuous interest in human capital development.
There were more awards and other accolades to come in the year.
Still in May 2022, LAPO Micro Finance Bank took the lead in disbursing the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF loan) with a target of 25,000 beneficiaries. The fund is dedicated to investing in the innovative ideas, skills and talents of Nigerian youths, between the ages of 18 and 35, with the aim of turning them into entrepreneurs, wealth creators and employers of labor contributing to national development.
Then, in July last year, LAPO MFB was named the best supporting Financial Institution at the CBN’s ACGSF Awards, in Ogun State. Coincidentally, the award for Overall Best Farmer at the event went to a LAPO MFB client.
Throughout 2022 demonstrated its commitment to empowering people to succeed through training programs.
One clear demonstration of this commitment was LAPO’s Business, Money, and Lifestyle series (BML), where leading industry experts in Business, Financial literacy, healthcare, Education, share their knowledge via webinars.
The organization also partnered with Stallion Autos to train 22 prospective female Tricycle Riders as part of its Women empowerment programs.
As the organization continued to serve its clients and the larger society, it continued to rake in accolades and awards.
In October 2022, the prestigious Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) Awards, LAPO won five awards in different award categories. The awards were:
1) MfB with the Highest Impact on Women MSMEs.
2) MfB with the Highest Impact on MSMEs in Nigeria.
3) MFI with the Highest Impact on the South-West Zone.
4) MFI with The Highest Impact in the South-South Zone.
5) DBN Platinum Service Ambassador- Bank Category 2021”
That wasn’t all. LAPO MfB emerged “Microfinance Bank of the Year” 2022 (for the 9th consecutive time) at the Banks and other Financial Institutions (BAFI) awards.
And another one: LAPO MfB also won the award of “The Best Financially Inclusive MfB of the Year 2022 at the maiden edition of the International Financial Inclusion Conference organised by The National Financial Inclusion Steering Committee (NFIS) supervised by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
2022 was indeed another busy, productive and impactful year for LAPO Microfinance Bank. As these highlights demonstrate, LAPO MfB’s commitment to the social and economic empowerment of its target market and the transformation of society remains robust.
Okereke is a Lagos-based policy analyst.