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10 funds options for entrepreneurs in 2018

Funding is a critical part of every business. Even though experts generally agree that it is not the biggest problem facing entrepreneurs, many of them still believe that it still ranks among the first five.

In line with Start-Up Digest’s mission of identifying opportunities and letting the readers take advantage of them each year, we have presented 10 funding options that Nigerian entrepreneurs can explore to grow their business.


Like everything in life, these funds have criteria that must be met. Most corporate bodies listed here fund already established businesses. Some of them finance business ideas but this is only in very rare cases. It is generally easier to get funding for business expansion than for a so-called exciting business idea, which may or may not turn into a success.

As a basic criterion, you need to have a bankable and viable business plan. The entrepreneur should be clear on where he wants to be in the near future and must also be able to describe the market for his or her products. From experience, lucrative businesses get easy funding than enterprises with few patrons.


Lagos State has N25 billion dedicated to funding SMEs. The fund is divided into two categories: micro and small businesses. Under the micro, businesses can access up to N500, 000 loans with an interest rate of five percent and a tenor of one year. For the small business category, businesses can get up to N5 million for a tenor of three years.

Many small businesses operating in Lagos obtained loans from LSETF last year and many more will get this year.

Speaking with Start-Up Digest recently, Uchechukwu Abiakam, who runs a fashion business and produces a sportswear brand, got N5 million from LSETF.

“I must tell you it was amazing how that happened. I approached the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) few weeks before October this year. I submitted my application and it was as if everything was timed. After a couple of weeks, I was contacted and they came to inspect my premises. After some time,  they told me to come for training. After the training, they asked me to come and take my offer letter. In October this year, they told me the fund would be disbursed at a certain time and it was done.”

On why she got that loan of N5 million, Abiakam said:

“I think they saw the kind of business we are doing. We have a proper structure. We showed them our track record and they saw the products displayed on online stores. They also saw what we already had without funding.”

This is a lesson for entrepreneurs seeking funds.

BoI Funds

If there is anywhere entrepreneurs can get cheap or single-digit funds (often at nine percent lending rate), it’s from the Bank of Industry (BoI).

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The criticism against BoI is that it does not fund small businesses and that its processes are long. However, there have been testimonies of small businesses funded by the bank. A typical example is Stanley Chukwuemeka Obinwugo, CEO of Zobo Cola in Onitsha, who expanded his ‘zobo’ business on the back of the loan he got from the bank.

The BoI has a number of funds that entrepreneurs of all levels can access. First is the Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund (GEF), which is meant for serving members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Candidates are allowed to submit their business ideas, which are then reviewed by a team of experts. The NYSC members whose ideas are marketable and bankable are then selected, trained for four weeks and then given between N500, 000 and N2 million.

There are also the Cottage Agro Processing (CAP) Fund for small and medium agro processors; Nolly Fund for players in the Nollywood industry, as well as Fashion Fund for designers and other players in the value chain.

The bank has other matching and managed funds, including a fund for the automotive industry. Through 122 business development experts, it has become easy for entrepreneurs to access funds.

The bank also has a N5 billion fund from Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote to finance SMEs at a single digit rate.


Tony Elumelu Fund


Tony Elumelu Foundation has $100 million for 10,000 African entrepreneurs. This will continue to be available for another six to seven years. If you are in agriculture, fashion and design, light manufacturing, ICT, and solid minerals, among others, then you may apply for the on-going Tony Elumemu Fund.  You can be one of the 1,000 lucky entrepreneurs to be shortlisted.


Through the Elumelu fund, Momarr Mass Taal, the CEO of Tropingo Foods in The Gambia, who got $5,000 seed capital in 2015, turned his enterprise into a $1.2 million revenue business.

GroFin Fund

GroFin, a development financier, has committed over $500 million to funding Nigerian micro, small and medium business (MSMEs) across the country.

The firm has five different types of fund: the Aspire Nigeria Fund, the Growth Africa Fund, the Small Growing Business Fund, the Aspire Small Business Fund and the Aspire Growth Fund.

The Aspire Nigeria Fund, the Growth Africa Fund and the Small Growing Business Fund cater for all parts of Nigeria except the Niger Delta.

The Aspire Small Business Fund provides a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $1.5 million to SMEs in Nigeria.

The Aspire Small Business Fund and the Aspire Growth Fund cater for the Niger Delta.

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The Aspire Small Business Fund provides between $10,000 and $100,000 to small business owners in the oil-rich region, while the Aspire Growth Fund frees between $100,000 and $3 million to businesses to stimulate growth in the area. GroFin provides its funds mostly for a maximum of six years.

Social Intervention Fund of FG

Some money has been allocated to the 2018 budget under the Social Intervention Fund. The criteria for accessing the fund include membership of a business organisation. The fund is for artisans and owners of micro businesses. The artisans of business owners can only access a maximum of N100, 000 at three percent interest rate on a year tenor.


Microfinance banks usually provide funds for entrepreneurs. One of the basic criteria here is that you must open an account and maintain it within six months or one year before asking for a loan. MFBs can offer up to N5 or N10 million to tech start-ups and creative entrepreneurs.

NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW) has a microfinance bank that funds small and micro businesses run by women in the country.

According to Lola Okanlanwon, president, NNEW, the criterion to access the single-digit loan, which is open to all sectors, is a good bankable business plan.


Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs (A.Y.E) is currently accepting applications to fund small businesses in 2018.

AYEEN is looking to finance small business in various sectors of the economy. Winners will be given grants (not loans) and will be monitored for one year. The only criterion is that the applicant must be a Nigerian and the business must be located in any of the 36 states of the country.


LeadPath provides $25,000 to $100,000.00 as seed capital to small businesses in Africa.  It works basically with technology entrepreneurs, focusing on those that solve real problems.

It funds enterprises in high growth technology areas such as software, web and mobile technologies.

Shell LiveWire

The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited has a number of funds for young entrepreneurs, including women.

Through the programme , Shell provides support, access to training, guidance, and business mentorship for young entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35.

The programme operates mainly in the Niger Delta region and aims to inspire, encourage and support young people to start up their own businesses through the provision of finance and training for young entrepreneurs, according to Shell.



Zedvance is an online loan provider. It grants loans of up to N3 million to individual, groups and offer point of sale finance for consumer goods and appliances in partnership with retailers across Lagos.

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