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How to Get a Small Business Loan in Nigeria

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Nigeria’s economy, providing jobs for millions and contributing significantly to economic growth. However, limited access to financing remains one of the biggest obstacles for many aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners in the country. This comprehensive guide aims to demystify the process of securing loans in Nigeria to help more small businesses access the funding they need to start, sustain and expand their operations.

Understanding Small Business Loans in Nigeria

Small business loans refer to financing options available to entrepreneurs, startups and small firms to cover various business needs like starting capital, working capital, asset purchases and business expansion plans. These loans are critical for the growth of SMEs in Nigeria which often struggle with limited personal finances and cash flows.

There are several types of small business loans offered by banks and other financial institutions in Nigeria:

  • Term Loans: Medium to long term loan facility that can used for any general business purpose and paid back over an agreed timeframe between 1 to 7 years.
  • Lines of Credit: A revolving credit facility that business can repeatedly draw from and pay interest only on the amount utilized. Helps meet working capital needs.
  • Microloans: Small short-term loan up to ₦500,000 with minimal eligibility criteria aimed at micro enterprises and informal businesses.
  • Asset-Based Loans: Utilizes assets like inventory, accounts receivables or equipment as collateral to obtain financing.

Access to adequate and affordable credit is linked to higher revenues, job creation and success rates for small businesses. It allows them to better manage cash flows, operate more efficiently and capitalize on growth opportunities.

Eligibility Criteria and Requirements

To qualify for a small business loan in Nigeria, there are some basic requirements that all lending institutions and banks look for:

  • Legally registered business entity of at least 2 years
  • Audited financial statements for past 2 years
  • Collateral such as property, equipment or assets
  • Good credit score and history – above 650
  • Feasible business plan with projections

Aside from the documents listed above, specific loan types may also require supplementary materials like cash flow statements, business permits, site leases, inventory lists etc.

Understanding credit health using CBN’s credit scoring system is also key before applying for funding. Poor scores below 500 reflecting past defaults or arrears can lead to loan rejection.

Preparing Your Business for Funding

An eligible business plan and financial position is central to securing loan approval. Here are some tips to prepare:

1. Formalize your business

Choose suitable legal structure like sole proprietorship, partnership or private limited company based on business goals. Ensure all permits, licenses and certificates are up to date.

2. Maintain organized accounts

Have well documented bookkeeping with sales records, bank statements, tax returns for the last 2-3 years demonstrating healthy cash flows.

3. Craft a winning business plan

Creating projections for next 5 years showing positive outlook. Include competitor analysis, marketing plan and funding requirements.

4. Build up your credit score

Pay all outstanding debts, avoid excessive new credit inquiries, ensure credit card balances are low and no late payments.

Choosing the Right Lender

With various loan options available, it's vital to pick the most suitable financing source aligned with your funding needs and repayment capabilities:

Commercial Banks

Offer the most competitive rates but have intensive eligibility checks. Best for established businesses seeking >₦5 million funding. Top options: Access Bank, GTBank, UBA

Microfinance Banks

Cater to small scale entrepreneurs with limit up to ₦500,000. Unsecured loans possible for nano enterprises.
Top options: LAPO, Accion, LFDFT

Fintech Lenders

Emerging online lending platforms using analytics models to offer quick short-term loans. Convenient but very high interest rates. Top options: Paylater, Renmoney, Carbon

Compare interest rates, fees, loan amount and tenure before deciding on the most affordable financing option for your business.

Each of these funding options has its unique features and benefits, making them suitable for different types of businesses in Nigeria. It's important for entrepreneurs to carefully assess their business needs and choose a loan provider that aligns with their financial requirements and business goals. nairaCompare has a wide range of loan options you can compare and choose from.

how to get a small business loan
Compare loans on nairaCompare now!

Streamlining the Application Process

Here is a step-by-step overview of the loan application process:

1. Determine Funding Needs: Decide loan amount based projected financial needs for next 12-18 months

2. Select Lender: Approach shortlisted banks/MFIs to enquire about loan products

3. Submit Application: Provide required documents like business plan and financial statements

4. Appraisal: Bank will review application and analyse eligibility over next 7-14 days

5. Approval: You will receive term sheet outlining the loan terms if satisfied

6. Documentation: Process security documents, bank guarantees and sign agreement

7. Disbursement: Loan amount to be credited within 5 days of completed documentation

Some common mistakes like unrealistic projections, disorganized documents and poor presentation can negatively impact your chances during the application process.

Alternative Financing Options

If traditional loan application gets rejected, there are a few alternative funding avenues small business can tap into:

  • Government SME Schemes: CBN and SMEDAN run dedicated programs to aid with affordable loans and grants.
  • Crowdfunding Platforms: Create campaign to pool micro investments from public supporters via local platforms.
  • Angel Investors: Pitch your business to high-net-worth individuals willing to invest equity capital.

Getting professional guidance from financial advisors and SME promoters can help identify the optimal fundraising strategy for your enterprise.

Managing Your New Business Loan

Understanding loan repayment obligations and having a plan to meet those deadlines is essential. Plot realistic sales forecasts, trim excess costs and ensure sufficient operating profits to repay the principal and interest comfortably.

Staying on good terms with your financier also keeps the door open for additional loans for expansion phase. Mostly importantly, invest capital drawn down wisely to grow your revenues.

With some diligent preparation and the right guidance, small businesses in Nigeria can secure the funding required to turn their entrepreneurial aspirations into reality. Evaluate the solutions outlined above to find the approach best suited for your needs.

Here are the additional sections for the blog post:


Accessing loans for small businesses is challenging in Nigeria but remains integral for growth and competitiveness. This guide has provided extensive details on the common loan types, eligibility norms, application procedures and financing sources available locally.

With the right business structure, financial planning and credit health, entrepreneurs can unlock formal bank loans, microloans, government schemes and alternative funding platforms. Compare interest rates and terms prudently before taking any credit decision.

Most importantly, invest borrowed capital judiciously into avenues generating healthy ROI through sales, marketing and operational productivity gains. This will ensure businesses have the cash flows to comfortably meet repayment obligations.

Equipped with this practical knowledge, both existing SMEs and aspiring startups can now approach funding options more confidently. Wish you the very best!


What collateral options do banks accept for small business loans in Nigeria?

Banks prefer fixed assets like property, inventory, machinery or personal assets backed by guarantors. Some microloans up to ₦500K may be unsecured based on strong credit record.

How can a startup or new business with no financial history qualify for loans?

Focus on microloans and government schemes for new entrepreneurs without financial statements. Build a strong business plan highlighting projections and growth path. Offer personal assets as security.

What interest rates can small businesses expect to pay on loans?

Rates vary from 12% to 30% p.a based-on lender and loan tenure. Banks offer lowest rates around 12-15% for established SME clients. Microloans and online lenders charge higher rates up to 25-30% p.a.

What are some tips to improve poor credit score?

Avoid missed payments on existing loans, reduce credit card balances due, limit new credit checks and most importantly pay all EMIs and credit dues on time going forward.

How soon can a small business expect to receive funds after loan approval?

Disbursement timeline after loan approval usually ranges from 1-week up to 1 month depending on processing documentation completions and technology infrastructure of lender. Most banks now offer quicker disbursals within 5-7 working days.

We encourage all aspiring and struggling entrepreneurs to carefully evaluate the small business funding solutions highlighted in this guide. Use nairaCompare to compare different business loan offers before selecting what fits your needs.

To your funding success!

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